By Dan Skip Allen
When J.K. Rowling created a book series about a boy wizard it was just that: a book. That is until it grew into a phenomenon that spawned a series of movies, the first of which is called Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone (or Philosopher's Stone in Great Britain). Twenty years ago, this movie series started and it's one of the most popular and profitable in movie history.
From that moment that Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) uttered those famous words, "You're a wizard Harry," in that dank house on an isolated island who knows where, I was all in on this series of films. Of course, I had read the book already by then, so I was excited to see this book I loved being made into a big-budget feature film.
Chris Columbus was already a successful film director by the time Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was going to be in production, but he wanted to direct this film. His career from working with Macaulay Culkin on the Home Alone films, Adventures in Babysitting, and Mrs. Doubtfire prepared him to direct this film about a bunch of kids in a wizarding school. He has great experience making family films of this ilk. He was a great choice to direct this film.
The casting process of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was quite arduous, but David Heyman, the producer, found the perfect three leads to star in this film. Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), and Emma Watson (Hermione Granger) we're all terrific as these three characters. They embodied these three young wizards perfectly. I couldn't see anybody else in these roles.
That being said, the films had other characters that had to be cast and these roles weren't given to newcomers. They were won by some of the great British actors of this era the film came out in. Richard Harris (Albus Dumbledore), Maggie Smith (Professor McGonigal), and Alan Rickman (Professor Snape) were all phenomenal as these iconic characters. I could hardly remember other roles these great actors were ever in. That means they were cast perfectly. I love them all in the roles.
The production as a whole was quite successful. The sets worked as well as they could to embody the place envisioned in Rowling's books. The grand scale of the castle, train station, Gringotts, and various locations in the film looked amazing on screen. The behind-the-scenes people from the set production team, camera people, and costumes, and hair and makeup teams are all first-rate. This film looked amazing from that perspective.
With all the great production value and other crafts departments also comes the music of the film. Herman and Columbus enlisted the talents of probably the greatest composer of all time, John Williams. I'm a little biased on that because I have great memories of him as the conductor of the Boston Pops as a child, as well as some of his most memorable scores such as Jaws, Superman, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Empire Strikes Back, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and Raiders of the Lost Ark which were etched in my brain at that time. He created a wonderful score with great melodies and a beautiful timeless sound to it.
The fact remains that when someone creates something like Harry Potter, such as J.K. Rowling, that millions of people around the world are so enamored with it's hard to create something that lives up to the expectations of what people want to see in this material. All of that is set aside when this film is finally released. This film lived up to the expectations perfectly. It was a critical and financial success by anybody's standards.
Twenty years after this film was released, we've gotten all the sequels and plenty of physical media releases and television airings of this film and the rest of them. They continue to be watched by millions of families all over the world. They have made billions of dollars and spawned a stage production as well. As a fan of watching movies and reading books, I can honestly say this was the perfect combination of a literary work being turned into a great film. I loved this movie and I've watched it countless times. I never get sick of this film.
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