Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone–After You See It

                                                                                                                           3:14 a.m.         12/22/23/04

Ok.  Since I am obsessed with Jason Isaacs and Alan Rickman, I decided I needed to watch the first and third Harry Potter again.  I mean, before, I didn’t recognize the hotness that is Snape-ok, that is Rickman playing Snape-and I actually thought there could be too much Snape.  What rot and nonsense!  Through my new lens of perception, there is no such thing as too much Snape.  Hell, they should have made it all Snape all the time.  Naked Snape!  Such hotness.  Ok, I got carried away.  I am back now, and ready to review Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.  It should be Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, but some American publisher decided we Americans were too stupid to appreciate philosopher and inserted sorcerer instead. 

Anyway, I watched this on DVD when it first came out, and I hadn’t read the book yet.  While watching it this time, I didn’t remember much of the beginning.  In fact, the whole sequence with Harry and his family looked completely unfamiliar to me.  It made me wonder if I had, indeed, seen the movie before or if I had just dreamt it.  Then I remembered that I had more important things to which I was paying attention-someone’s ass-than the movie, so I might have skipped a scene or ten.  When Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) comes to find Harry, it starts to look familiar.  Once we are at Hogwarts, then the memories start rushing back.  Not completely, but at least enough to recognize the movie I am watching.

The first thing I think of while watching is how impossibly young the kids look.  I mean, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) looks like he’s seven or eight-with the voice to match-and Ron (Rupert Grint) is so innocent and naive.  Then, Draco (Tom Felton)!  What a little doll.  I just want to pinch his cheeks and talk baby-talk to him.  Which makes him a bit difficult to accept as a menacing figure, believe you me.  He’s just so impossibly cute and angelic-looking, even with his hair slicked back.  I have a hard time taking him seriously.  I want to pat him on the head and tell him what a darling little boy he is.  Of course, he’d probably bite my hand off, but still.

The next thing I realize is how sorry I feel for him.  He can’t help being the bigot he is given his family background.  I mean, later, when we meet-sigh-his father, Lucius, it’s all too clear where Draco gets his meanness from.  Look, his two bodyguards are adorable as well.  It’s impossible to take any of them seriously when they’re so young.  Back to Draco.  It’s clear that he hungers to belong, to be the best, to have someone tell him what a clever boy he is.  I’m not so sure I’d like Harry all that much, either, if I were Draco-given Harry’s response to him.  Of course, Harry’s response is proper, but I’m just looking at things from Draco’s point of view. 

Another thing I realize while watching-my mind can wander because I know what the hell is going on this time.  Again, however, I don’t remember enough of the book to let it spoil the movie for me.  I have to mention that I hate the fact that when I read the books the characters from the movie appear in my head.  Now, however, I won’t mind picturing Lucius and Snape.  Anyway, back to my realization-is that the adults are awfully daft for such smart folk.  It’s a tricky thing because obviously, the kids are the heroes of the stories as they should be, but Dumbledore (the late, great Sir Richard Harris) is supposedly the smartest wizard in the world.  Half the time, he just kind of wanders around spouting words of wisdom.  I have a big problem with him in book five, but that’s neither here nor there.  It’s counterintuitive that Professor McGonagall (Dame Maggie Smith) wouldn’t listen to the three kids when they’re trying to tell her the sorcerer’s stone is in danger.  Of course, if she did, the movie would be over right then and there.

I have to give a big up to how the movie diverts the eye from the real culprit to Snape (Alan Rickman).  It’s a little heavy-handed in making it appear he’s to blame, but the clues are there for the astute as to the identity of the real culprit.  This time around, knowing for sure he isn’t the bad guy, it’s interesting to listen to what he says in a whole different light.  I think Snape is also one of those characters who reminds us that appearances can be deceiving.  He looks for all the world like he should be a bad guy, and yet, so far, he isn’t.  The thing I like best about Snape is that I’m never sure which side of the fence he really is.  Most of the time, I’m convinced that he’s for good-but once in a while….Then there’s the fact that he’s been a Death-Eater but now supposedly isn’t.  I have my own theory about that, but I’ll save it for later.  I also think I know why he’s not allowed to be Professor of Defense Against the Dark Arts, but I’ll save that as well.

I digress.  I just want to point out what a nuanced character Snape is in comparison to most of the characters, and how devastatingly sexy he is when he’s explaining what he can do in Potions class.  I know, it’s very bad of me to fantasize about him while watching what’s ostensibly a kid’s movie, but so what?  Look!  There’s a flash of his leg!  While I love the long, sweeping cloak and all the black, a little less clothes would not be a bad thing.  I’m just saying.  Somehow, I can’t imagine Snape in anything less, though.  In his case, the sexiness definitely comes from wondering what’s under all those layers. 

I digress again.  Ok.  Back on track.  Back to the story.  I have to admit that I find it a bit draggy at times.  I like the Quidditch match, and, yes, seeing Hermione (Emma Watson) set Snape’s cloak on fire.  I like watching Snape chant the countercurse-oh hell, I like everything about Snape so we’ll just take that for granted and move on.  The scenery is eye-catching, and I’m amazed at how seamless everything appears.  I remember, though, the first time I watched it, being confused.  This is really a situation where  it’s better to read the book before watching the movie.  Again, the movies are Cliff Notes to the books. 

So the chase.  Let’s get to the chase.  The three kids going through room after room.  I remember when I read the book that the scene where they’re trapped by vines and can’t get free that Hermione frees them with a spell in the book-not by telling them just to relax and fall through.  I have no idea why they changed it for the movie because they are pretty faithful-if not glib-to the other details.  Then, we reach my favorite scene-the chess scene.  Of course, it’s portended by Ron and Harry playing chess during the Christmas break.  Not only is it a grand-looking set, the pure spectacle of wizard’s chess is great.  However, a couple questions crop up.  How come there are-conveniently enough-two pieces missing on the black side?  Why does Ron become one of the pieces instead of replacing one as Hermione and Harry do? 

Small quibble.  Another quibble-I wish it went on longer.  I know the movie is well over two hours already, but this is the coolest scene in the whole damn movie.  Plus, I like Ron getting the center stage once in a while.  I could have watched at least five more minutes of him playing chess-ok, partly because I like watching the pieces demolish each other.  Is that so wrong?  However, I have a big gripe with this scene.  I felt it the first time I saw the movie; I felt it when I read the book; I feel it this time.  Ron should have died when the queen speared his horse.  If he is the piece, then he should have been destroyed as well.  I can just hear the angry protests now.  I’m not saying I want him to die because he’s my favorite of the three kids, but it makes logical sense for him to die there.  That’s all I’m saying, and I won’t go any further with it. 

I’m also struck with how raw the kids are in this first movie.  They seem like real kids, and some of their line-readings are awkward.  Some of that has to do with the music which is way too heavy-handed.  I hate the way it screams, ‘something important is happening’ instead of just allowing me to figure it out on my own.  Such as when Ron is explaining to Hermione and Harry what he is going to do on the chessboard.  The music is swelling in the background, making a damn production of it.  It’s powerful enough what Ron is doing-sacrificing himself-without the racket in the background.  Trust the story-don’t bury it in loud noises.

The denouement scene is great because I didn’t guess it was Professor Quirrell (Ian Hart) the first time around.  That’s very unusual for me because I can usually guess the villain of a piece about ninety percent of the time.  In my defense, I would have been able to figure it out from the book.  The movie glances over him in favor of establishing the kids-as it should.  In doing so, however, it doesn’t give a fair shake to figure out who besides Snape might be the baddie. 

Anyway, this is an enjoyable if forgettable movie.  That’s how I feel about all the movies and the books.  I enjoy them immensely while watching or reading, but forget them nearly as soon as I’m done.  The fact that I couldn’t remember if I’d seen this movie before, well, let’s just say that rarely happens to me.  However, I still recommend it for your Netflix Queue.  It’s good, clean, harmless wizardry fun for the whole family. 

Oh, one last thing on Malfoy Junior-his hero-worship of Snape starts from the beginning, and it’s obviously clear that he needs a father-figure to look up to.  Too bad for him he had to pick one who’s as withholding as his father.  Poor, poor Draco. 

Oh, oh, oh!  I forgot one thing about the movie which really, really irks me.  The last scene.  Where Dumbledore gives extra points to Harry and friends, putting them ahead of Slytherin.  I know the points are arbitrary, but I didn’t think it was right.  Especially not as they already had the house colors for Slytherin up.  I think Slytherin should have won, teaching Harry and gang that while you saved the school, you lost the competition.  That’s life.  Poor, poor Draco.  That’s going to be my new theme.

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