Harry Potter came seemingly out of nowhere over twenty years ago. It was a fantasy series that quickly blasted off in to a cultural phenomenon and began to re-think the whole fantasy genre for a new generation. Say what you want about the “Harry Potter” series. I was never a fan. But the book series and its cultural influence is powerful, as is its long, long (read: long) series of movies that started twenty years ago.
Adapted from the first of J.K. Rowling’s popular children’s novels, Harry Potter is a boy who learns on his eleventh birthday that he is the orphaned son of two powerful wizards and possesses unique magical powers of his own. He is summoned from his life as an unwanted child to become a student at Hogwarts, an English boarding school for wizards. There, he meets several friends who become his closest allies and help him discover the truth about his parents’ mysterious deaths.
Like the books, “The Sorcerer’s Stone” is a fine fantasy movie with Chris Columbus bringing the child like wonder and awe to the big screen for fans big and tall. While Columbus does aim for a child audience, “The Sorcerer’s Stone” is dark and intense just enough to where outsiders won’t be bored. It’s also a launch pad for potential followers of the series. So this is the movie that will either make you a hardcore fanatic, or just leave you moving on to something else. I’m in the latter portion.
That said, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” is not without its charms, as it envisions a pretty complex and unique world filled with immense sights and pretty horrifying predators. “Harry Potter” crashed on to America like an absolute tornado in the early aughts, and it’s fascinating to re-visit the phenomenon twenty years later, even if you don’t care much for Columbus’ treatment. The movies do get better, and darker, and even more artistic, but Columbus’ movie is more of an entry point than a film. This is what ultimately benefits and hurts it.
The cast is immaculate in either case with veterans like Dame Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, Robbie Coltrane, Julie Walters, and John Hurt, respectively. They carry a film that’s reliant on charming prepubescent newcomers Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint, all of whom portray the beloved series’ heroes Harry, Hermione, and Ron. “The Sorcerer’s Stone” is still a charmer of a cinematic adaptation twenty years later, even if it’s never quite as good as the films that follow.
Warner Bros. has unleashed a slew of alternate copies, and special editions of the Columbus movie, including “Magical Movie Mode” which takes center stage here. There are zero special features, sadly, only the Magical Movie mode. If you fancy yourself a completist, this might tickle your fancy. Magical Movie Mode is a mixture of different things that trigger throughout the film, such as trivia bits and commentary from Director Chris Columbus. At the start of the Movie Mode experience viewers are told to choose a House to represent and to give themselves points throughout the movie for each trivia question they get right, or if they happen to see the Golden Snitch in a scene it doesn’t belong in.
You’re given the gist of the gimmick, such as how a magical border will appear during extended or deleted scenes so you know they weren’t a part of the original release. There are various definitions that pop up, little tidbits of info about characters or creatures in the film, spells appear on screen when spoken so that fans can learn to pronounce them correctly, and certain dialogue is animated into the movie as well. Columbus will also pop up in the bottom corner every so often to explain how a scene was done, or why something was done the way it was. I can’t imagine anyone switching to this mode after the first time it’s been experienced, but it’s a neat treat that might function as a stocking stuffer come the holidays.