Review: "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone"
An unsurprising children’s fantasy relating to the British fairy tale, mining gold from the tradition while failing to introduce anything new with it.
There is already a visible emerging of the series’ shortcomings. It adopts the abusive family trope despite it being clear Rowling lacks a gift for complex characterization and does not possess a firm understanding of the darker parts of human nature to have it resonate. Rowling’s writing was absent of any standout character or style, and the same can be said for this film. Then again, massive success often requires leaving truly unique elements behind. So there is reliance on character stereotypes kept afloat through the kind of grinding, repetitious plot one would commonly find in a book from an airport bookstore.
The plot borrows from the old British tradition of 'children lost in a fairyland', often present within early fantasy, which Lewis Carroll made use of. Unlike Carroll, however, Rowling’s account of the emotional and intellectual journey of a young outcast is predictable, with the exception of some insightful angst shown in the fifth film.
Much of the directing is devised well and the special effects are quite believable. The musical score is often memorable and tremendously original. The plot twists disappoint because they aren’t built on a progression of events but on emotional red herrings. It is not the deliberate simplicity Carroll had achieved by expressing intricate ideas in a playful manner, rather an indication of a creator whose unsophisticated voice prevents her from ever vaulting to impressive heights. Simplistic elegance is difficult to achieve, however, so it’s hard to blame the film too much for this.
It’s the introduction to a standard series, but there's no need to start any earlier than with the third film, where it improves in pace and begins to lean more heavily into darker fare, which helps to hide its faults.