Does It Hold Up – Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone

Welcome to the wizarding world of Harry Potter…cue the theme song! Everyone, if not most, know of the boy who lived – the infamous Harry Potter. With the film’s initial release in 2001, it quickly gained a mass following of fans from all walks of life. Would the film still be captivating almost 20 years later? How would this film resonate now as adults compared to watching it during their youth? YouTubers Chris Stuckmann, Aleczandxr, Sean Thompson, and Jeremy Jahns revisit the iconic universe and give a retrospective of the film Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

It’s actually my favorite fantasy world just next to Star Wars. I love the Harry Potter universe!

One of the biggest aspects of the film that is hard to miss is the music. Stuckmann and Aleczandxr both agree that the musical score composed by John Williams has probably become one of, if not the most, iconic part of the Harry Potter franchise. According to Stuckmann, the theme song is so memorable that anyone who hears it would know right away that's Harry Potter. Aleczandxr believes the music played such an integral role throughout the film that in some aspects it was able to carry scenes that were lacking in visual interest.

It’s the primary contributor to the sense of tone this movie has. It has this consistent feeling of magic which is exactly what was needed propelling it into iconic status almost immediately through tracks like the famous main theme.

All of the YouTubers agreed, casting of the film was fantastic. Though still young and inexperienced, Stuckmann thought the casting for Harry, Ron and Hermione were spot on and the actors were really able to bring these characters to life, “these three characters and these three actors are one of the biggest reasons these films were so successful.” The child actors perfectly captured the spirit of their characters, according to Aleczandxr, who did think that in some parts of the movie, it was obvious these actors were amateurs, but overall felt they gave a decent performance, “Daniel Radcliff, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Tom Felton, and Matthew Lewis, seemed to perfectly capture the spirit of their respective characters being able to compensate for their lack of experience with a genuinely great fee for their role.”

Dudley’s character was so well thought out and played, it really gave the audience that feeling of annoyance and dislike for him. Despite only showing up during the beginning of the film, Dudley’s spoiled rotten, ungrateful attitude was portrayed so well that Thompson already knew he disliked that character, “I forgot his name…I really don’t care, maybe something happens to him…but I really hate him.”

They did such a great job casting this entire film, especially Alan Rickman as Snape, who is one of my favorite characters … in all the Harry Potter films. You get this great feeling of dark and slimy intensity. He just pulled it off so well.

Professor Severus Snape, played by actor Alan Rickman was probably the most favorite character casting among the YouTubers. Aleczandxr called it one of the best decisions made. Stuckmann claimed that this was one of Alan Rickman’s best roles by far. Jahns went as far as saying Snape was the most layered character in the entire Harry Potter saga.

Can we give a slow clap for the casting of Alan Rickman as Severus Snape. Was there a better person who could have played that role?

The YouTubers believed that the casting of the film played a major role in bringing the Harry Potter universe to life and was a large driving point of the films success with such a wide range of audiences, “Casting was phenomenal. Ranging from extremely fitting youth to celebrated British talent and much credit has to be given to that.”

Much of the film was busy setting up the world and characters in order for the audience to understand the universe of Harry Potter. In his review, Stuckmann said it took almost 98 minutes into the film before the sorcerer’s stone was even mentioned, “this movie does struggle with the idea of telling a story and being one movie while also setting up a tone of other movies.” Stuckmann felt that because Sorcerer’s Stone was the first of eight films in the series, it had the very daunting task of setting up the entire Harry Potter universe. Although this aspect of the film is important in setting the scene for the rest of the series to follow, he believed it really slowed the film down in terms of following this film’s storyline plot of the sorcerer’s stone.

As the first entry of any long running series … characterization establishment, world building, tone and more, must be laid down.

As YouTuber Aleczandxr explained, the majority of the film really focused on introduction and explanations as to what is what and who is who, that only snippets of the sorcerer’s stone storyline were scattered throughout the film. Along with building the Harry Potter universe, he felt the film seemed to very closely mirror the books, which in turn left the film feeling visually uninspiring and didn’t seem to have too much creative liberties with the scenes.

This film is much more concerned about drawing the audience in through plot character development and atmosphere than it is about genuinely saying something through visuals, which is a bit disappointing.

Being that film is such a creative medium, Aleczandxr felt that the director could have been more willing to take risks or challenges to enhance the Harry Potter universe and go beyond with great visual interest and imagery, but was disappointed that it stuck too closely to the original text.

A major criticism of the film centered on the quidditch match visuals and the usage of CGI, green screen and other digital technologies in the film. As Jahns put it, “that is green screen and I can really tell.” Much of the CGI visuals which were used during the quidditch match scenes were very clearly outdated and not up to par with the standards we would have in todays’ movies. During the time of the film, CGI technology was still quite new and of course not yet perfected. It was very apparent in the film.

By age well I don’t mean the special effects and the visual effects age well, there is CGI in this movie that I’m like yep that is 16-year-old CGI … the quidditch match … that’s dated.

Jahns suggested that if the movie had kept all the visuals the same but enhanced it with today’s CGI technology, the film would have been so much more visually appealing to watch. Stuckmann also agreed that the CGI usage was very outdated watching it back years later. Today’s technology has grown and improved immensely that watching older films with terrible visual effects almost seems cringe worthy.

YouTuber Sean Thompson felt the movie was quite enjoyable but also found it to be very over the top. In one of the first scenes at the beginning of the movie when the Dursley’s had to move to a lighthouse in the middle of nowhere just to get away from any Hogwarts magic, Thompson found it to be comical and at the same time a bit extreme of a move to make – “Wait…he was actually serious, when they were saying we’re going far away…they went in the middle of nowhere in a lighthouse…how did they get food?” In another scene where Harry, Ron and Hermione are playing wizard’s chess, he felt Ron’s reaction to taking a hit on the knight was extremely over dramatized especially when the knight statue was the one that was hit and nothing actually physically hit Ron’s character.

I don’t really get this … why did Ron scream so loud, if it had got his leg, stabbed his leg or something, cool … but it stabbed the horse and he dropped maybe five feet or something … so you drop like five feet, you didn’t get hit … he screamed like he got shot.

Overall Thompson’s critical review on the over dramatization of some of the scenes are a critique of how well the Harry Potter universe was explained. Is it a purely fantasy world? Is it based on some non-fictional elements? It seemed to be unclear to Thompson.

After watching the film for a second time, all of the YouTubers thought Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was a great movie for fans of all ages, claiming that it was more enjoyable to watch now as an adult than as children when it was first released. Their retrospective opinions of the film did dive into critiques of the visual and technical aspects, but they all agreed that overall the storyline and universe of Harry Potter is what really captured the essence of the film.