Before she became one of the most rich, powerful & influential writers of her generation, J.K. Rowling was struggling to financially support herself and her daughter. One day, she decides to lighten up the mood to keep her daughter happy by writing a first draft about a young orphan boy who goes to a boarding school learning how to use magic from wizards, making new friends & solving the mystery surrounding a stone connected to his tragic past. In June 1997, after numerous publishers rejected her book, J.K. visited publishing company, Bloomsbury to distribute the book titled, “Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s Stone” worldwide. J.K.’s book immediately became an instant hit among many critics and book readers from across the globe.
The Philosopher’s Stone’s success helped J.K. obtain money allowing her to move to a proper home with her daughter. Her occupation as an established author encouraged her to expand the book into a series over the years ranging from The Chamber Of Secrets to The Deathly Hallows. Each book received critical acclaim, a dedicated fanbase, merchandise among many others accumulated J.K.’s net worth as one of the richest billionaires on the planet.
When The Philosopher’s Stone published in 1997, British film producer, David Hayman, searched for a book worth entertainment value in the hopes of adapting it into as a hit. He read The Philosopher’s Stone, guess what happened? He enjoyed the narrative. David visited movie studio Warner Bros. (WB for short) to pitch his generous proposal to adapt the book. The studio executives said yes.
In 1999, the year Stanley Kubrick passed away, J.K. sold the first four books for approximately $1 million. Before WB commence development, J.K. demands creative control such as the characters must be played by non-American actors, remain faithful to the source material, locations must be intact etc. She made the right call, because Hollywood is known for rearranging story element unintentionally making fans of a certain novel angry.
WB contacted Steven Spielberg to direct the movie, but he declined in favor of finishing Stanley Kubrick’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence. Well known directors including Terry Gilliam, Ivan Reitman, Rob Reiner, Jonathan Demme, Tim Robbins & M. Night Shyamalan were all considered to direct the film. Think of it as American Idol: Director’s Chair Edition. Film producer, Lorenzo Di Bonaventura, (Transformers movies) handpicked Chris Columbus (The Goonies, Home Alone, Mrs. Doubtfire) due to his experience in films focusing on a kid protagonist.
After Mr. Columbus got hired, veteran actors including Alan Rickman, (god bless his soul) Robbie Coltrane, Maggie Smith, Warwick Davis, John Hurt, John Cleese & Richard Harris signed in supporting roles. Other American actors such as the late Robin Williams & Rosie O’Donnell, wanted to be in the film without a paycheck, because their kids are fans of the books. Following J.K.’s “no American actors rule,” Chris politely said no to them.
Here’s a shocking fact. The sole reason why Richard Harris (who was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease) wanted to play Dumbledore is because his granddaughter threaten to never speak to him again unless he participates in the film. It was sort of like John Cazale’s last role in The Deer Hunter. He did the right thing to make his granddaughter happy again.
After the adult actors entered the castle, Haley Joel Osment was originally gonna portray the title character, but dropped out to work with Steven Spielberg in A.I. Artificial Intelligence. Inspired by the auditioning process from Christopher Reeve’s Superman, WB & J.K. decided to open auditions for newcomers to see who will play Harry, Hermione & Ron. Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson & Rupert Grint best out many hopefuls. Thus, filming officially started in 2000.
After six months of filming, post-production started to add many details as possible. A trailer was released in March 2001, everybody was excited to see Harry Potter on the big screen they had to wait until November. The hype was everywhere worldwide featuring countless merchandise.
As we were very eager to see the movie. Something tragic happened on September 11, members of Al-Qaeda hijacked airplanes crashing towards landmarks such as The Twin Towers, The Pentagon & the passengers sacrificed themselves to prevent the terrorists from crashing into The White House. As we mourn for the loss of our loved ones, movies were financially collapsing at the box office, PSAS were everywhere as we gather to pay our respects to the firemen, police officers & citizens who sacrificed their lives to protect us.
Us Americans begin to loose our happiness, until a miracle happened, many families finally get to see Harry Potter and suddenly, a spark of light begins to shine.
Harry Potter & The Sorcerer’s Stone was released on November, 2001. It became a massive success both critically & financially ranked as the biggest movie of the year grossing $974,800,000. The film went on to earn numerous award nominations including three Oscars for “Best Costume Design,” “Art Direction,” & “Best Original Score.” (John Williams) To this day, I’m appalled that Sean Penn earned an Oscar nomination for I Am Sam instead of Daniel Radcliffe’s performance as Harry Potter.
Now that Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald is out in theaters, I want to share my real thoughts on The Sorcerer’s Stone.
Today’s review doesn’t contain any important SPOILERS. If you’ve never read the book or watched the film, feel free to read this non-spoiler article. As a passionate fan of Harry Potter, this is my very special 300th review.
Magical & Cursed Aspects
Magical: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson & Rupert Grint all did a fantastic job for their respective performances as the trio.
Other Cast Members including Alan Rickman, (may he Rest In Peace) Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane & Richard Harris (Gladiator, Unforgiven and also sings “MacAruthur Park” ) all did an awesome job for their respective performances. God I miss Mr. Rickman, he deserves an Extra Point for his legendary role. Snape is the equivalent of former Vice President, Dick Cheney.
Chris Columbus did an excellent job for directing.
Action Sequences were decent. The Quidditch Scene kept me entertained.
John Williams orchestrated music for the film.
Practical Effects were used to bring magical elements to life including Set Pieces for interior design of Hogwarts.
For those who are scratching their heads on why “Philosopher” is replaced with “Sorcerer” is perhaps people might get confused with a bad guy monologuing all the time.
An animal at the zoo foreshadows the second installment’s recurring motif.
Harry is 11 in this film. In real life, Emma Watson turned 11 before the film came out. Five months before 9/11.
The film takes place in 2001-2002. As Harry’s broomstick’s is labeled with the year 2000.
Harry’s back story parallels family members who’ve lost their relatives after 9/11 while Voldemort is a metaphor for Osama Bin Ladin. Harry is also based on George W. Bush who managed to dodge a bullet from Al Queda who failed to assassinate him. He was visiting a school reading a children’s book, until someone told him what happened during that fateful day.
John Hurt (the chestburster guy from Alien) makes a brief appearance as a wand merchant. J.K. must be a fan of Ridley Scott and the Alien franchise. Ridley’s film Hannibal came out the same year as Harry Potter.
John Cleese makes an appearance as Sir Headless Nick. J.K. is a fan of Monty Python. His cameo is pretty tame compared to Chris Rock’s cringeworthy cameo in A.I. Artificial Intelligence. Could be worse, if my sworn enemy, Meryl Streep appeared in Sorcerer’s Stone.
The film may have some hidden pop culture references without nobody batting an eye. Hear me out, some are just coincidental.
Hermione’s knowledgeable personality & skills are similar to Drix from Osmosis Jones. Both of them at first didn’t get along with the title character, as the story progresses, they become friends/allies.
Harry & Ron’s chemistry is similar to Jackie Chan & Chris Tucker’s partnership in Rush Hour 2.
Warwick Davis (Wicket The Ewok, Leprechaun) appears as a teacher. He resembles a human Yoda dressed in green. His character was heavily redesigned in the third movie as a conductor to prevent a lawsuit from George Lucas.
A talking hat foreshadows the second movie’s plot device.
McGonagall transforms into a cat. Rob Schneider’s character, Marvin Mange from The Animal, has animal parts that make him act like any random creature. The Animal came out the same year as Sorcerer’s Stone. What do they both characters have in common? They become one, except Rob has traits in him.
At one point, a baby dragon is shown. Remember that time Shrek came out in 2001 with a dragon as an obstacle?
A troll shows up. Coincidentally, The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring featured a cave troll in battle.
Another Lord Of The Rings reference shows a mysterious figure wearing a black cloak. Do Ringwraiths/Nazgul’s ring (no pun intended) any bells?
Hagrid mentioned a future character from The Crimes Of Grindlewald. Cue the line, “I should’ve not said that!”
Dumbledore mentioned sacrifice & love. What he said interprets a subtle reflection of the people who sacrificed their lives in United 93 for their loved ones to prevent terrorists from fulfilling their goal. It’s not really shoving the power of love in your face, it’s basically telling us movie goers that maybe, just maybe, a beacon of hope in the future. A love letter to humanity. I’m giving this scene massive Bonus Points as a thank you note for J.K. Rowling along with The Cast & Crew for making us Americans we’re not alone, friends and surviving relatives will always be on our side.
Cursed: C.G.I. such as blue screen effect, a troll, The Qudditch Match among other crud didn’t age pretty well for a film that came out in 2001. Let’s face it, this was back when Visual Effects were advanced at the time as they resemble as PlayStation 2 game.
Nobody noticed Harry & Ron entering platform 9 3/4 quarters. Not to worry, there’s a spell to remove a muggle’s memory from witnessing shenanigans. (a la Men In Black)
The Final Verdict: A-
Harry Potter & The Sorcerer’s Stone is an amazing movie responsible for kickstarting turning a book series into a franchise gaining notoriety from non-book fans converted as longtime fans. If you want to introduce your kids to Harry Potter, I highly recommend the book or watch the film.
J.K. Rowling, Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson & The Cast & Crew of the movies, if you’re reading this review? Thank you for introducing me to this movie that changed my negative attitude of feeing safe with my friends & family due to 9/11. I was afraid that my friends, family & I will one day meet a similar tragedy. As long as we stick together, nothing will perish. No matter what, love will always shield us. Harry Potter & Sorcerer’s Stone is the ultimate love letter to humanity. To this day, I’m proud as a fan of the series and a human being. Harry Potter will remain as the Star Wars of my generation.
Sincerely, Nick Kohler