Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (PG)
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This came out in 2001, and I think I must have seen it not too long after that, on TV or something. I mean, I remember the idea of having seen it, but when I watched it again in 2018, on DVD, nothing about it was really more familiar to me than it would have been just from having seen bits and pieces in commercials or whatever. That's just how bad my memory is. Anyway, it's the first movie in a major franchise, based on the first book in the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, none of which I've read (though I really should). It was directed by Chris Columbus, with a score by John Williams. And of course, some of its stars were already famous, while others quickly became famous because of this franchise. Also I should say that I was aware that the book on which the movie is based was called "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" when first published in the UK, but changed to "Sorcerer's Stone" for its US publication. However, I don't recall being aware (though I may have been at some point) that the movie also had the title "Philosopher's Stone" in the UK. I was a bit surprised to discover that after watching the DVD, when reading about it online, since the characters actually said "sorcerer's stone" numerous times in the movie. But apparently the actors filmed the lines both ways. Weird.
Anyway, it begins with a couple of professors from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry walking along an ordinary street in the ordinary world. Well... one of them, Albus Dumbledore (Richard Harris), has a magical device that lets him turn off street lights, or whatever. And the other one, Minerva McGonagall (Maggie Smith), is a cat when we first see her. But she soon transforms into human form. And they're both soon joined by a half-giant named Rubeus Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane), who flies in on a moped, or whatever. And he's brought a baby with him, Harry Potter, who has a scar on his forehead. They leave Harry on the doorstep of his aunt and uncle, Petunia and Vernon Dursley.
The story then flashes forward to when Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) is ten years old. He's basically treated like Cinderella by his aunt and uncle, as well as by his cousin Dudley (who, by the second time I watched the movie, had become familiar to me from this meme, although somehow I thought the kid in the meme was from Willy Wonka). They even make Harry sleep in a very small space under the stairs. And then one day, a letter arrives for Harry (delivered by owl). His uncle takes it and destroys it before Harry has a chance to read it. Soon more letters come, and he keeps destroying them. But eventually the house is flooded with letters, so Vernon decides they must all move somewhere else... very remote, so they can't be found. But of course, you can't hide from wizards. So on Harry's eleventh birthday, Hagrid shows up and takes him to Hogwarts. Well, first he takes him on a shopping trip in Diagon Alley to buy school supplies, and to provide him with some of the fortune his late parents had left him. Harry also gets a magic wand, from a master wandmaker named Mr. Ollivander (John Hurt). And Hagrid gets Harry a pet owl, as a birthday present. (Wikipedia tells me the owl's name is Hedwig, but I don't believe I ever heard anyone mention its name in the movie.) Harry learns that he is famous among the wizarding community, because he had survived an attack when he was just a baby, by an evil wizard named Voldemort.
Hagrid then leaves, so Harry must take a train to Hogwarts by himself. But during the trip, he quickly befriends two other first-year students, Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson). When they arrive at Hogwarts, they meet other first-year students, including a stuck-up boy named Draco Malfoy (who considers his family superior to others, especially the Weasleys). Also, all the new students get sorted into different "houses." Harry, Hermione, and Ron all end up in Gryffindor, while Draco ends up in Slytherin. (The other two houses are Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw.) And there's another Gryffindor student named Neville Longbottom, who is of secondary importance to the plot, at best. Other than that, we don't get to know the other new students yet. (Though we do see a bit of some of the older students.) But there are a few important professors. (Dumbledore is the headmaster.) There's a Potions teacher named Severus Snape (Alan Rickman), who is also the head of Slytherin House. Harry and his friends don't trust him, because he seems rather creepy. And there's a Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher named Quirinus Quirrell, who seems very nervous and meek all the time. And there's a Flying (on broomsticks) teacher named Rolanda Hooch (Zoe Wanamaker). And there's a Charms teacher (and head of Ravenclaw House) named Filius Flitwick (Warwick Davis). I think those are the only teachers we really see much of in this movie, but there's also a cantankerous caretaker named Argus Filch (who wouldn't seem out of place in a Scooby-Doo cartoon, IMHO).
Well, various things happen throughout the students' first year at Hogwarts, and we learn various terms, such as "muggle" (non-magical person). And we see a sport called Quidditch. Harry has an important position ("seeker") on Gryffindor's Quidditch team. I don't want to get into details, but I will say that from the way the rules of the game are described, I honestly have no idea what the point of any of the other players is, since it seems like none of the points scored by anyone except seekers even end up counting, in the end. But I dunno. It's still a fun sport to watch. We also see just a bit of the classes the students take. And there's a giant three-headed dog. And a troll. And Harry, Ron, and Hermione investigate a mysterious secret artifact called a sorcerer's stone (or philosopher's stone, depending on which version of the movie you watch, though personally I kind of like "sorcerer's stone," just so as not to confuse it with the philosopher's stones from Fullmetal Alchemist). And... they find more reason to distrust Snape. Oh, and Harry gets a cloak of invisibility. And Harry eventually has to face someone who is working with Voldemort (who is currently too weak to do his dirty work, himself). Of course there's ultimately a happy ending... but it's still just the beginning of the Harry Potter saga.
I've tried my best to leave out any really spoilery details about the movie. I mean, I've given away almost the whole plot, but that's still just the basics, and it doesn't give you a very good idea of how much fun it all is. Although I must say, even at two and a half hours, the movie felt sort of rushed, to me. Crammed full of things happening, with little indication of the actual passage of time (though at one point it's Halloween, and shortly thereafter it's Christmas). And it just seemed like there must be a lot of stuff left out of the plot, which makes me eager to read the books and get a fuller understanding of the characters and everything about Hogwarts. But I'm not sure when that will happen. For now, I've gotten all eight movies in a box set, so I'll be watching them before I read any of the books. Oh yeah, and I forgot to mention that John Cleese has a minor role as a ghost called Nearly Headless Nick. (His role in the film really is not big enough to warrant the high placement of his name in the credits, but whatevs.) Anyway, I liked the movie a lot, but I couldn't manage to love it. I definitely liked the characters, especially Hagrid and Hermione. And it's really good to see it again (hopefully this time I'll remember it better). Because, this whole franchise is such a major cultural touchstone for so many people. I've been at least passingly familiar with so many terms like "muggle" and all the house names, and the major characters, for nearly two decades now, but it's always felt like I was seriously missing out on a lot, by neither reading the books nor watching most of the movies (and not even remembering the one I did watch... or think I watched). Lord knows how many personality quizzes I've passed up just because not knowing anything about the houses beyond their names meant whatever result I might get would have been meaningless to me. So now I'm really looking forward to the rest of the movies, which I think I'll try to watch all of throughout this December. (I watched this one at the end of November.) It'll be kind of weird seeing all the kids grow up that quickly, I suppose, but at least I won't have time to forget a ton of plot points between movies. And I'm sure the stories will get better, once they can focus on something beyond just introducing us to the whole world Rowling created. This one really felt more like a primer than anything else....