Both directed by Chris Columbus
So accompanying my run of Harry Potter book reviews (four books in), I’m going to do the poor man’s version too, by which of course, I mean the movies.
I’ve decided to combine these two movies for two reasons, and those are Chris Columbus and Richard Harris, the director and actor for Professor Dumbledore, respectively. Columbus did not return post the second movie, and Harris could not return to anything at all, due to his death.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was released in 2001, and is the second highest grossing movie of the franchise (after the usual last one. People have a thing for final movies in franchises apparently). Does that make it the second best movie though? No. It most certainly isn’t the worst, but it could have been better.
What this movie did really was was capture the spectacle of everything around Harry. Along with the viewer, he took in everything in the world of magic like it was the best thing he ever saw, and I really respect the movie for this.
The movie loses points for me though, in an aspect that should cover the whole series, but I’ll focus on this because it’s the first one. There was no Professor Binns, who would have been an interesting sight, nor (something I am very disappointed by to this day) Peeves the Poltergeist, who would have been something to behold on screen.
Performance-wise, Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint, though they became really good actors as time went by, were a little weak in this movie in my opinion. Perhaps it’s just a child actor thing. Emma Watson though, she did Hermione Granger so well, that I really can’t picture anybody else doing so. And the cast in this movie is just… Sensational. Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, Robbie Coltrane, Warwick Davis, John Hurt… It was basically an ensemble of Britain’s finest. I don’t even need to mention how good they were, because that’s a given.
As I mentioned earlier though, I need to talk about Richard Harris. He was only Albus Dumbledore for two movies, but he was perfect. Michael Gambon isn’t bad, but he isn’t exactly what Dumbledore is. He’s supposed to have that little twinkle in his eye, that childish nature, which Harris captures perfectly. His death was most unfortunate. Nobody else could be Professor Dumbledore. He was great.
For the time this movie was released, the visual effects are actually really good, especially the way the troll is done, along with Fluffy the three-headed dog.
I would have personally had the story focus more on Harry’s time at Hogwarts – as a school and his endeavors with Quidditch – and with Harry, Ron and Hermione’s research for the Philosopher’s Stone, but the movie focused a little too much on the Lord Voldemort side of it, which isn’t what the focus should have been in my opinion. It should have been there, just not as much as it was.
The movie is still good though, and I will rate it as follows:
On a scale where M is the lowest, and R is the highest possible rating, with the highlighted letter being the rating:
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone: MIHIR
Now, given the above, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets would be mediocre too, but that isn’t so.
In fact, straight off the bat, I think this is one of the best – if not the best – movies of the franchise. The lighting, the sets, the effects; everything just fell together beautifully, and I truly admire the way this movie looks. Perhaps that was why I loved this movie so much as a child. It visually appealed to me, even today it does.
With a cast of virtually the same people, I don’t need to say much about the performances, but in any case, Daniel Radcliffe clearly improved a lot from the first movie.
What I like about this movie is that it didn’t deviate much from the source material. There wasn’t really any plot element missing, and it was paced really well. It corresponded well with the book, and in the same way, was darker, funnier and more gripping than the Philosopher’s Stone.
For a movie that, even today, when I’m grown up, holds well to itself, I can’t degrade it for the sake of it. So, I’ll say proudly and gladly:
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: MIHIR