Call me conventional or mainstream or plain simple, but I like it when a book is translated neatly to a screen adaptation, that is, without adding weird elements or subtracting important ones. If you are adding something, it has to be inventive but believable within the world of the book – like with the TV show, The Handmaid’s Tale. And if you are subtracting, you must have good reason for doing so – like the movie Angels and Demons, which did away with the book’s romantic angle between Robert Langdon and Vittoria Vetra would not have added value to the film.
For the reasons outlined above, I have always held the first two Harry Potter films closest to my heart, for these are more in sync with the source material than the subsequent six turned out to be. If I had to pick one among these, I’d pick Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone as my all-time favourite.
The first film, just like the book, introduces us to little Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and his world—both before and after his realisation of being a wizard. In doing so, it gives us our first glimpse of Hogwarts and the Wizarding World—Diagon Alley and its many attractions, the Great Hall at Hogwarts with its enchanted ceiling, spells that make things fly, ghosts who are friendly and not the least bit scary, and most of all, Quidditch. No matter how many times we have seen the film, there is still a childlike sense of wonder attached to it all, as we see everything from Harry’s wide-eyed perspective. We too are eleven-year-olds, accompanying Harry on his magical journey.
Another reason to love Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is the equal footing Ron (Rupert Grint) shares with Hermione (Emma Watson) in this film. The later films are guilty of giving Ron too little importance and giving a lot of his good lines from the books to Hermione. But in Philosopher’s Stone, Ron is the same funny and caring boy that he is in the books, the boy whom Harry came to love like a brother. The Ron of Philosopher’s Stone is a literal knight in shining armour, whose courage and chivalry are amply evident in the scene with the live wizard’s chess match.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is also one of the only two films to feature Richard Harris as the gentler version of Albus Dumbledore. While I think that book Dumbledore was a mixture of Harris’s collected and Michael Gambon’s quirky interpretations of the character, the calm that Harris brought to Professor Dumbledore was apt for the first two films, where Harry only had to interact with the Headmaster occasionally and it therefore made sense that Dumbledore was the tranquil, sagely figure that Harris painted him to be.
For many millennials, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is a reminder of the power of innocence. This instalment of the Potter saga glorifies friendship, bravery and love as qualities that far exceed wealth and fame in importance. The longing in Harry’s eyes as he looks at his parents through the Mirror of Erised pierces the viewer each time far more than the finding of the eponymous philosopher’s stone that promises eternal life and riches. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone invites us to think back about the one thing that was in our lives in abundance in childhood but has been missing for some time now—magic.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.