Monday, May 14, 2012

You know what's a good movie? (Part 8) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Welcome back to the "You know what's a good movie?" column. It's when I talk about movies that are connected in some way.  Maybe they share a director, maybe they share a starring actor or actress, or maybe there is a common theme?  Let's review:

Part 1: Forrest Gump

Connection: Tom Hanks

Part 2: Toy Story

Connection: Pixar

Part 3: The Incredibles

Connection: Superhero Films

Part 4: Batman (1989)

Connection: Jack Nicholson

Part 5: The Departed

Connection: Matt Damon

Part 6: Good Will Hunting

Connection: Robin Williams

Part 7: Mrs. Doubtfire

Connection: Chris Columbus

Part 8: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

It's been almost 15 years since Chris Columbus agreed to adapt a best selling novel to film.  Warner Brothers won the film rights to J.K. Rowling's series of novels about a boy who discovers he is a wizard, and destine for something amazing.  That wizard is Harry Potter, and the first film was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.

I think the most impressive aspect of this film, is its casting.  Columbus needed to cast young actors that would not only do well in one film, but in future films as well.  The actors needed to grow, as their respective characters grew up as well.  The three actors he cast, have become synonymous with their characters.  Daniel Radcliffe was cast as the titular character of Harry Potter, an orphan wizard who must uncover the clues to his destiny.  Emma Watson plays Hermione Granger, a brilliant wizard and the brains of the trio.  Rupert Grint plays Ron Weasley, a lovable loser of sorts.  He and his family unofficially adopt Harry Potter in the films.

All three of the child actors became international superstars after Sorcerer's Stone.  With all the fame and recognition in the world, the actors never got complacent; in fact, they all got better with the future films.  We all have Columbus to thank for casting this incredible trio of wizards.

The casting of the three main characters was indeed impressive; so too are the supporting actors and characters.  Richard Harris was cast as Professor Albus Dumbledore, the main man at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  Although Harris past away before the entire series was complete, he made a lasting impression in Sorcerer's Stone.  Also cast were Maggie Smith as Minerva McGonagall and Robbie Coltrane as the lovable Rubeus Hagrid.  Casting we could not picture any other way.

The world created by Rowlings and brought to the screen by Columbus is an amazing place.  The magic, the world, even the dialogue takes the audience to a world we wish we could occupy.  Everything from the train station scenes to the chess game that comes to life; the imagination and special effects in the film are something to behold.  Many of the decisions Columbus and crew made, paved the way for the rest of the series.  Again, something we owe him thanks for.

Chris Columbus has given us so many great movies.  Adventures in Babysitting, the Home Alone films (1 and 2), Mrs. Doubtfire and of course the first Harry Potter film.  You know what is the constant in all of those films?  Family.  The director has a great gift in storytelling, especially when it comes to characters belonging to a family.  Now that the franchise has come to a glorious end (check out my review for the final film here), we now know how important Columbus was to the success.  No one could have predicted the 8 films, based on 7 books, would have made as much money as they did.  But one thing is for sure; hiring Columbus was the best investment Warner Brothers could have made in kicking off this amazing film series.

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