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Fun with Franchises: Final Thoughts on Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

All right… the final article on our first film. This feels… actually not as exciting as you’d think. Since we have seven more films already banked up and are working on another (undisclosed, because that would give away what franchise is coming next) amount. But still, it’s momentous. So that’s something.

I’m drunk. Just go with it.

So we went through the entire film and did our thing with it. And it was great. And then we picked out our favorite images from the film. So now all that’s left is us summing up our thoughts about the film as a whole.

So without wasting time (something I am very good at doing), here are our final thoughts on Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone:

As per usual, I put Colin’s thoughts first. Mostly because he usually has more to say. I’m usually like, “I said everything I needed to say in the articles,” and struggle to write shit. So I let him say what he has to say and mostly respond to that. I’m better when I’m responding to stuff anyway.

Or, you know, I could explain it as being classy and letting him go first because I’m a gentleman, but let’s be honest — it’s for completely selfish reasons. I just hope he doesn’t pull any B-Rabbit shit on me.

(Unrelated note: How fucking great is that movie?)

Final Thoughts on Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone:

Colin:

I must say…I’m disappointed. Not so much in the film itself (though I was disappointed with a lot of the acting and the effects) but in the story and how weak it feels in comparison with the later books. There will always be old school purists who like to talk about how this series peaked early and was downhill from there. Those people are wrong. This book and the next one are only really good when you’re of that target age. If you look back at this and ignore the plot holes and inconsistencies, you’re not nostalgic about classic Harry Potter — you’re nostalgic about that age when you were dumb enough to just roll with stuff like this.

I’m a fan of the franchise to some extent — as much as the average person, anyway, and I must have read this first book twenty times. But looking back now, this movie has major issues and some stuff that they didn’t even cover.

First, Snape and Quirrell. We talked about this a few times, but the whole Snape – Voldemort relationship is one of the foundations of the whole franchise, and it’s blown wide open from day one. What was the dynamic here? What were Snape’s and Voldemort’s respective motives, and how aware of each other were they? I can’t imagine a reasonable answer for these questions that someone wouldn’t be pulling out of their ass after the fact. 

Second, this is way too heavy on exposition. They’re introducing a whole universe, so it’s understandable that we’ll have a lot to cover. But I’d like to readdress the fact that in a 150 minute film about a boy who finds out he’s a wizard, that boy is seen doing ZERO spells. Ron does a few spells, and Hermione does several. But Harry’s wand — after it picks him — is an afterthought. For all they give us, we end up with a lot of expository dialogue, some sleuthing and some broomstick riding.

My last major point is that it’s hard to reconcile this film with the later ones in which Harry is an accomplished wizard who’s up against legions of enemies trying to kill him. Mike pointed out how in the later films, the dueling doesn’t even involve spoken spells anymore; it’s just point and shoot action. What was the deal with the end of this film? Voldemort orders Quirrell to kill Harry, so he lunges at him? How about you shoot him in the fucking face? This showdown didn’t make any sense at all. There should have been no physical contact. I’d expect that Quirrell’s first reaction after watching his hand crumble away would be to THEN shoot him. But no.

And this brings me back to my point about Hermione staying with Ron. If Hermione had gone in with Harry — which seems like the logical thing to do — Voldemort would have pulled a “kill the spare” moment and she’d have been killed. They wanted to avoid this or magical action of any sort, so they just decided Harry had to go it on alone. But take this Voldemort and compare him with later Voldemort. He should have had no misgivings about shooting Harry on the spot. This is like a video game where your enemies get steadily more difficult as you progress, which is why this Level 1 Boss Fight was so pitifully easy. That ain’t how it works in the world.

I guess I can’t bitch about these things too much because it’s a book for ten year olds. This would have been slightly more acceptable if they had STAYED books for ten year olds, but for whatever reason, JK Rowling decided that this franchise was for kids exactly my age, and so they got darker and darker until we’re seeing people murdered left and right and tortured all the time. This first film doesn’t feel like the same franchise as the last one, in terms of tone or appearance. This was…not as good as I remember it being the last time I saw it, in 2001. I don’t flat out dislike it, but it’s dropped down the list.

My Final Thoughts:

I enjoy the movie. It will always have a special place in my heart because it’s the first one and has the magic of childhood and everything. I think it would be easier for me to be lenient about it if the second one weren’t also like this. Since then it’s the only one, and you can go, “Oh, well, they were just getting you all set up into the world and making it all magical and wondrous.” I could deal with that and not dock it for anything. But since they basically do the same exact shit for the next one (not exactly, but mostly), it’s hard for me not to see the negatives in the film.

Though, I’ll admit, Colin is right. Most of the reason I’m giving this a pass is because I’m trying to go back to a time when I was dumb enough to roll with stuff like this.

The film has obvious problems — the opening act is a mess. They don’t explain shit and just motor through the early scenes so they can get to Hogwarts. Some of the sets and effects are horrendous. That opening scene is so bad, and that flashback scene could have been so much better. I don’t care so much about the effects, but some of them are really noticeable (like that troll scene). I would rail against them, but it’s like going back to look at PS2 graphics today. That’s just where they were at the time.

Most of the other stuff I could find fault with comes back to the books and back to Rowling. Like Snape and Quirrell. I truly have no idea what’s going on between the two of them and how this doesn’t sour Snape’s relationship with Voldemort later. There’s truly no way for it to be explained reasonably. (Trust me — we’d have found something. Our discussions will almsot always end with one of us positing some scenario that makes at least a halfway bit of sense. I got nothing for this one.)

And Colin’s other point is good, about Quirrell not using a wand at all to attack Harry. It seems kind of a workaround for the fact that Harry doesn’t use a single spell throughout the film. All he really knows how to do is ride a broom (and they sure as shit exploit that skill).

I thought they did a good job of establishing all the supporting characters, even the minor ones, like Seamus. My only real gripe about them is how they’re used from here on out. It gets uneven at times. Some of them get cut out of some films almost entirely. It’s weird how they do it. But I think they did a great job all around there. Maggie Smith and Alan Rickman were perfect casting. Richard Harris as Dumbledore is a tough one. I like his presence as Dumbledore a lot, but Michael Gambon’s Dumbledore fits a lot better with the tone of the franchise from there on out. It’s really hard for me to choose between either of them. So I’m just gonna leave it alone.

Quirrell felt really badly underdeveloped. He actually comes off as a Scooby Doo villain, in that he gets like two scenes and then is revealed as the bad guy at the very end. It’s kind of bizarre. I haven’t read the book in years, so I don’t know if that’s how it plays there or if it’s just a movie thing.

The Quidditch game was well done. I really liked that. Uhh… oh, that fucking points system makes absolutely no sense to me at all. But that’s minor stuff we deal with in the article. I should probably stick to macro.

Yeah — I don’t know — I like the movie. It sets the right tone for the beginning of the franchise. I think the real mistake was continuing that tone for the next film, where things get darker. Otherwise, it would be difficult to start like the way they did Azkaban and get a bunch of 11 year olds into it. If they did it that way, I feel like we wouldn’t have liked it as much when we were younger, but would have grown into it. I think they struck the right tone with it. It might be a bit too Chris Columbus at points, and the John Williams Home Alone score gets overbearing at points, but by and large, I think they struck the right tone, and a lot of the narrative deficiencies come straight from the book. It’s not that long, so it’s not like they had to cut stuff out. I think, for what it’s worth, it’s a really strong film. The only real drawback to it is that they made the later ones bigger and better and had the benefit of us growing up with the characters and having real emotion attachment to them. And they made the mistake of trying to repeat the first one again with the second one. But on its own, I think it works.

I can’t find too much fault with it, since I do like a lot about the movie, and like I said, I’m perfectly willing to give it a pass for being the first one and being so tied to my being around that age  when it came out. I still don’t think I can reasonably put it among my favorite films of the franchise (which is only relative to the franchise, of course), but I certainly can’t drop it to the bottom, either. It’s probably right in the middle there, I feel. It has its issues, and some of the later ones just have it beat purely on pure accomplishment, but I definitely have an affinity for this one.

– – – – – – – – – –

Now, normally this article would go up on Sunday, with the screenshots article having gone up on Saturday, But this week (and next week) are special, since these films only have four parts to their articles. So we had to figure out what to do with the two extra days.

So what we decided to do is, this week, bump the two up a day and do them Friday/Saturday, and then do something classy to honor a good man.

So, this week, in honor of the late Richard Griffiths, there will be no post on Sunday.

– – – – – – – – –

(See the rest of the Fun with Franchises articles here.)

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