Sunday, July 5, 2009

Through the Mirror of Erised

(This is the first in a series of retrospectives looking back at the first five films in the Harry Potter franchise.)

I was eleven years old when the first Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, graced theaters. At that time I was already a big fan of the books, which had been published two years prior, but I still would not have considered myself a diehard fanatic just yet.

I remember the day I first heard about this film. I read an online article about how the director, Chris Columbus, was beginning a worldwide search for a child to play Harry Potter. All you had to do to audition was to send in a videotape describing why you think you'd be a terrific Potter. Of course one thing lead to another and my mom wouldn't let me audition. I was very mad. When the first trailers for the film were released I was so frustrated that I couldn't enjoy myself cause I kept on thinking of how much of a better Harry Potter I would have been than Daniel Radcliffe.

The day finally came for the film's release, I'll never forget it. Even though I was still quite agitated about not getting to audition, I loved the world of Harry Potter and was not going to miss this film for anything in the world. When I came home from school I bugged my mom for nearly an hour, asking her to take me to see it. She refused, but she managed to convince my older brother Jonathan to take me to see the film. He reluctantly agreed. We went to the very last matinee showing, it was probably about five o'clock, and what followed was one of the most magical movie-going experiences of my life.

Up till that point I could not remember a movie that swept me away in its world quite like this one did. As much as I hated to admit it, Daniel Radcliffe was a superb Harry, far better than I could have ever done. When I left the theater that cool winter's night, I had officially become what you would consider a die-hard Harry Potter fan (an obsession in which is still as strong this very day).

Since then nearly a decade has passed, the series of Harry Potter books have concluded, and five films have preceded this first one. Like with many films of your childhood, they very often do not hold up as you grow older, but that is not the case with this particular film. I feel that I have grown fonder of this film as I've aged and my taste in movies has become more sophisticated.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
is a genuine masterpiece, in the same vein as children fantasies like The Wizard of Oz and E.T. This film still manages to capture my imagination nearly ten years later. The direction by Chris Columbus is impeccable. The casting of Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson for Harry, Ron, and Hermione (respectively) was spot on. Everything was done right with this particular film, which is an oddity in film this day and age. I cannot stress enough how much I still love this film. It has moments that are tense and frightening, moments of simple awe and wonder, and some genuine moments that make you feel all warm inside. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is a fantasy adventure that manipulates your emotions better than just about any other film in existence. It's a genuine classic, one that should live on forever.

(Stay tuned for part 2 featuring a retrospective of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.)

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