It is amazing that after 20 years, Harry Potter still has its share of fans. The amount of memorabilia/attractions I see are on par with Star Wars. Even as a kid, I would have never guessed that this series of films would leave its mark in the annals of pop culture history as much as it does today. People still talk about it, and it even has its own cinematic universe known as Wizarding World with the Fantastic Beasts movies to ensure that the flame of J.K. Rowling’s beloved works does not die out. Though through recent controversy, her spark may have died, yet the books and films still live on in the hearts of the fans. While I may never have read the books (though I have dabbled a bit in the first book), I was there when the first film came out. I was seven years old when Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was released in theaters. My fondest memory was going to the theater one night to see it with my parents. Of course, it was a school night so I was not sure about staying up just to see a movie in the theater, but seeing as I always loved going to the movies, I was glad to oblige. As late as it was after we left the theater, I knew I saw something special for I instantly fell in love with Harry Potter.
While I cannot say that I am a die-hard fan like most, the child in me reminisces about those experiences at the movies with my family (I even remember my first jump scare being at a showing of Chamber of Secrets a year later in which the popcorn I was holding nearly flew everywhere, but that’s a different story) and being surrounded by HP memorabilia which has lived in my mind (and heart) rent-free only to show up when I need to think about a simpler time in my life; though I still have not found it in me to take a look in a book as I am not much of an avid reader. The one testament to my sweet childhood nostalgia is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, which I consider to be my favorite of the lot.
The films in the Harry Potter franchise are notable for maturing with its demographic, as each installment gets darker and creepier (Goblet of Fire was even the first film to get a PG-13 rating, solidifying its step into darker territory), yet Sorcerer’s Stone is the lighter and child-friendly of the bunch. Of course, there are moments of terror and peril at every turn, but it has that childlike whimsy; fascinating to the senses and warm to the touch. It makes sense that a director like Chris Columbus took on the material when adapting the material. He is known for the first two Home Alone movies and has even directed Mrs. Doubtfire, so he knows how to appeal to the kid in all of us. It was a shame that his last film in the series was Chamber of Secrets (though it makes sense being that Prisoner of Azkaban is its jump towards dark). What better to add to the jingles of childhood innocence quite like composer John Williams, who did the music for Home Alone. Thinking about Williams doing the score for Sorcerer’s Stone is strange to say the least since epic sweeping scores come to mind (Think Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Jurassic Park to name a few). Here, it sounds like something the late James Horner would compose. However, just listening to Williams’ score, along with that iconic theme that could still be hummed today, fills my heart with emotion, henceforth reminding me of my first experience in the theater.
What I really love about Sorcerer’s Stone is the lighting and color. It is still as crisp and welcoming as it was back in 2001, as are a lot of the effects. While there are some scenes where the CG is dodgy (mainly where someone is flying a broomstick in a frantic or frenzied manner; more so noticeable in its iconic Quidditch sequence), the magic effects are spectacular. I still find myself amazed at the floating candles in the Great Hall, the levitating of the feathers, or even the scene where Harry Potter wears the invisibility cloak. As an adult watching this, I appreciate the effort the crew put in to make a movie appealing for kids and adults. The fact that it didn’t get Oscar nominations for Production Design, Makeup, and Visual Effects is a disappointing shame.
While a lot was put into Sorcerer’s Stone, the heart of it all is the three main leads, Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger. Their dynamic is enjoyable with a bit of a humorous side that makes them relatable. The chemistry the three actors share is that of how friends would be toward each other. It is not surprising that Daniel Radcliffe (Harry), Rupert Grint (Ron) and Emma Watson (Hermione) became friends in real life. These three are the glue that holds this movie (and its sequels) together. While they have all moved on to more things in their careers, they will forever be associated with these roles; it is hard to separate them. The cast of the teachers is perfection. The late Richard Harris’ warmth as head master Albus Dumbledore, Maggie Smith’s no-nonsense attitude as Professor Minerva McGonnagal, the scowl of the late Alan Rickman’s complex Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher Severus Snape, and Robbie Coltrane’s friendliness as giant Rubeus Hagrid, who serves as Harry’s tutor. It is hard to imagine anyone else as these professors, though due to Harris’ death, he had to be replaced by Michael Gambon, who inserted more urgency to Dumbledore.
Upon revisiting Sorcerer’s Stone, it is clear to see why this series resonates with so many people. I may end up revisiting the further sequels as each film reaches its twentieth anniversary, but it truly felt nice to revisit such a defining moment in my childhood.