Harry Potter Weaves a Perfect Spell

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is a creative, heroic and inspiring movie that faithfully reproduces the book of the same name on the big screen.

The heroics begin with the opening scene as we meet the baby Harry Potter, known in sorcerous circles as “The Boy Who Lived”. Harry arrives as an orphan, his wizardly parents having been attacked and killed by a great, terrible and exceptionally evil wizard. This wizard tried to kill Harry as well, but something stopped him, leaving Harry with a lightning bolt scar on his forehead. The attack also left Harry an orphan, but not unprotected.

The Potters had powerful allies, who knew that Harry’s fame in their world for stopping the evil wizard would ruin his chances for a normal childhood. They decided to leave him with his aunt and uncle, miserable folks who didn’t believe in magic. It would be a difficult life, but it would keep him humble. When the time was right, the wizards would return for Harry to introduce him to his birthright and train him in the ways of magic.

Harry grows up and is subjected to daily abuse by an obnoxious and bullying cousin and indifference from his aunt and uncle. At age 10 though, all that changes. Harry receives a letter — a blizzard of letters actually — informing him that he has been accepted to Hogwart’s School of Wizardry and Witchcraft. His guardians, recognizing the school even though Harry does not, flee from the letters, forcing the wizards to send a courier to personally deliver the message to the boy on his birthday.

From the moment Harry opens the letter, he is introduced into a world of magic and wonder. He learns of his own unique legend, the legacy of his parents, and the dangers lurking in the dark side of magic … as well as a dangerous conspiracy that haunts his new school.

I am of the firm belief that to deal with the daily struggles and challenges of life, everyone needs a suit of psychological armor. For me, that armor comes from a certain core philosophy (the details I won’t get into in this review, but that’s reinforced in part by my favorite movies. Watching a movie like The Matrix is an uplifting experience, one that reinforces the values I hold dear, like individuality, courage, and strength of character. The same goes for my other favorites, like Star Wars, Aliens, Back to the Future, Unbreakable The Shawshank Redemption, and now, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

The first time I saw the movie I found myself mentally transported back to my childhood, particularly watching Star Wars on HBO while eating my mom’s chocolate pancakes. The opening 20 minutes or so of the film — in which we meet Harry and learn of his current predicament, are slow, but there is a gradual and significant build up in the sense of wonder surrounding Harry’s world. By the time Harry has purchased his unique school supplies, and is on a boat slowly sailing to his new home, our amazement has matched his. The school rising up from the sea, the main hall filled with candles floating of their own accord, the illusionary ceiling filled with wispy clouds filtering a sky full of stars — these are visions that grab the mind and put a knot in one’s throat.

It’s magic, in every sense of the word.

Even better, this is a movie in which the heroes are really heroes, and the bad guys are really bad. We’re told almost from the word go that “not all wizards are good”, and there is absolutely no doubt that the wizard who killed Harry’s parents was truly evil. Nor is there any doubt that Harry himself has a hero’s heart — he consistently does what’s right, stands by (and fights for) his friends, doesn’t back down from a challenge (be it the aerial dogfights of a Quiddich match or hunting a unicorn-slaying monster),

The three primary child actors do an incredible job in making their novel counterparts come to life. They don’t seem like actors — they seem like the actual kids from the book, sharing a genuine friendship filled with the misadventures of youth … only theirs involve trolls and haunted woods.

One of the things that greatly impressed me about Harry Potter was how it was not a sugar-coated representation of a kid’s world. Harry’s parents didn’t die of natural causes, they were murdered. And Although Harry’s school is something of a sanctum, the kids are constantly aware of the threat of death around them. This is something that was present in the childhood classics of my youth — Star Wars, Star Blazers and Robotech all treated the subject of death seriously, not whitewashing it for their youthful audiences. It serves to teach that actions have consequences far more than the old “laser stun guns” from GI Joe ever did.

Plot and adventures aside, this is a gorgeous movie. Unlike some recent fantasy movies (i.e. Star Wars: The Phantom Menace), Harry Potter’s special effects meld seamlessly with the traditional shots. Everything in this movie feels real, and it bodes well for the future of the genre.

Harry Potter is one of the best movies I’ve seen in a long time, and is easily one of the best fantasy movies ever created. It easily matches Lord of the Rings in its power and presentation; in my book, the two hold the dual rank of “best fantasy movies of all time”.

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