Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: A Sixteen-Year-Old’s Review from a Ten-Year-Old’s Perspective

December 11, 2017

When I first read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, I could not fathom how a single book could contain the wonders of the Wizarding World. The intricacies of the ever-evolving plot, the simplistically powerful diction, and the quickly-developed depth of characters was far beyond that of anything I had read before. As a ten-year-old, my Hogwarts letter was only one year away, and I couldn’t wait to be swept away from my muggle life into a life of magic and discovery.

The wonder with which Harry beheld the magical world mirrored my own, and, while he was far from my favorite character, he served as the person through which I was able to explore the newness of the Wizarding World—that is, until I became Hermione around chapter nine. I experienced the wonder and the excitement of magic with Harry, I encountered the intellectual challenges and need to better myself with Hermione, and I enjoyed a delicious Christmas dinner and an itchy, initialed sweater with Ron. I loathed Snape, admired Dumbledore, and aspired to grow up to be McGonagall. The fact that six books followed the first book—through which I could complete my Hogwarts education—made me eager to continue to read through the series. I was already an avid reader, but this book was unlike anything I had read. It even topped the book that had been my favorite for over a year: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

One can only imagine how overjoyed I was to finally be able to watch the film adaptation after I had finished reading this life-changing book. My sister, an avid Harry Potter fan herself, was nearly as excited as I was—as far as she was concerned, this was an extremely imperative rite of passage. As we sat down together to watch the movie, I was ecstatic to see the Warner Brothers logo and watch the name of the movie appear upon the screen. From that point on, it all went downhill.

The Great Hall at Christmastime in the film.

Now, before I continue, I would like to interject my current opinion of the film adaptation. As I now see it, Chris Columbus did a stellar job of casting the main characters, and the way in which the movie was produced was very true to the book in the appearances of magical locations. More than anything else, I truly love this movie for the way that it embodies Harry—it truly shows the child-like wonder with which Harry views the Wizarding World.

The Christmas dinner scene is a particular example of this—the way in which Harry views the Great Hall as snow falls from the ceiling and tall trees are alight and garlands hang overhead is truly a genius of production and an amazing feat of the child actor, Daniel Radcliffe. I will still say that, if you are like me and cannot accept when a film adaptation strays away from the prose, the movie does fall short of remaining true to the book. However, from as objective of an outlook as I can muster from my current place as an avid fan of the books, the film in and of itself as an independent element is lovely.

As a kid that grew up with Harry Potter already largely being a part of popular culture, I was aware of the casting of the characters before I watched the movie (and even before I began the first book), so I did not have much trouble connecting each actor to the character in the book (a problem I often run into when watching film adaptations of books that I like). The first thing that bothered me was the extent to which the more extreme characteristics of characters were emphasized—particularly those of Hermione. While Hermione was stuck-up and finding herself with a strong motivation to prove herself to others in the book, I felt that the movie overplayed this element and made it the major character profile of Hermione.

As a person that appreciated the way in which characters were deeply developed in a short time within the book, seeing that the film attempted to simulate this quick development by simplifying the characters upset me from the early stages of the movie. The middle of the movie did not necessarily do anything more to anger me (but I was still fuming over their inability to portray the multi-faceted nature of each character, and this continued to grow as more and more characters were introduced). However, the one thing that angered me most in the movie was one of the final scenes—or, rather, lack thereof.

By far, my favorite part of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was the scene where Hermione does a puzzle to help lead them to the Sorcerer’s Stone. After Ron is left behind with the Wizard Chess set, Harry and Hermione are left to find out how to continue through the following puzzles on their own. Hermione uses her ability to discern the solutions to riddles and her knowledge of the properties of potions to solve the puzzle presented to them in the following room. She is able to identify the potion that will allow Harry to proceed through the purple flames before them; however, since there is only enough of the potion for Harry alone to proceed, Hermione then identifies a second potion that will allow her to go back so as to not be left in the room.

As someone that had identified with Hermione’s wishes to prove herself and her inability to fit in, this scene in the book meant a lot to me. For the first time, Hermione was using her intellect not just to prove herself or to show off—she was using her knowledge to let Harry go forward. She allowed herself to be instrumental to a cause greater than herself, and she did not seek recognition or validation for her ability to solve the riddle. Seeing this subtle—albeit major—change in Hermione’s character and motive for her skills truly stood out to me as I read the books, and to me, it was an essential scene in explaining Hermione’s character flaw and to give insight as to how she may begin to change over the course of the books.

Instead of including this scene, in the movie, Hermione chose to stay behind with Ron with the Wizard Chess set while Harry moved on. Firstly, the thought of removing Hermione from her important and transformative role was upsetting to me. However, what bothered me almost more than this was the illogical nature of how they replaced Hermione’s scene. In what world is Ron falling from a Wizard Chess piece enough reason to stay behind with him and leave Harry to face whomever it was ahead of them (as far as they knew that that time, Snape)? Harry was left to face Voldemort on his own because Hermione chose to stay behind with Ron after he fell from the Wizard Chess piece—there was no nobility in her decision, no logic behind it, and no reason for Harry to move forward on his own. The break in logic and lack of thorough explanation was the last straw to the anger I already harbored for the omission of my favorite scene.

This may have been the second most disappointing thing that happened to me the summer after fourth grade. The only thing capable of topping it was the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

 

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2 Comments

2 Responses to “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: A Sixteen-Year-Old’s Review from a Ten-Year-Old’s Perspective”

  1. Mr. Maerzke on January 25th, 2018 9:42 am

    This basically encapsulates my feelings about every book-to-movie adaptation that has ever existed. It is also why I resisted seeing the movies for so long (I finally saw them all this year because my wife forced me to). I agree with the author’s assessment here that it is hard to blame movie directors for making tough calls in the editing stage. After all, what we all want is an enjoyable movie that is under 4 hours in duration — a feat that Peter Jackson has yet to master. Unfortunately the silent victims of movie production are often favorite characters, internal monologues, unexpressed emotion, and sometimes even crucial plot points intended by the author that are misinterpreted or misrepresented by the screenwriter. Obviously this process CAN go well for some movies (Jurassic Park is arguably a better movie than it was a book), but these are exceptions to the rule.

    Great article! I look forward to reading your thoughts on Goblet of Fire.

  2. Mr. Maerzke on January 25th, 2018 10:32 am

    Speaking of the Harry Potter franchise, the thing that bothered me the most about the movies was that they started filming them when the book series was only half-written. That always struck me as reckless, especially when dealing with writers like Rowling who often hide plot points only to unearth them later, and at the appropriate time. One example to prove my point is (oh, and… spoiler warning, I guess?) the whole Pettigrew/Scabbers story arc. Scabbers is a completely inconsequential character for several books, and then suddenly becomes incredibly important. As a filmmaker whose sole focus is on creating the first movie, without even knowing where the stories may turn later, characters like Scabbers or Neville or the Malfoys could have been written out entirely, causing major problems down the road. As it turned out, the movies were fine, I just always thought it was super risky to start making the movies before the book series was written.

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