Review: WB celebrates "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" 20th Anniversary with "Magical" Edition
It’s been twenty years since a gentle giant told an eleven-old-boy that he was truly special in the big screen adaptation of a beloved novel.
“You’re a wizard, Harry,” Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) declared to the title character in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the first entry in the eight-film series. As a child, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) believed that he was simply an inconvenience to his family, an unloved youth who spent his life in a cabinet underneath a staircase.
When Hagrid declared the news to Harry about his real background, Harry was surprised while audiences – many of whom adored the J.K. Rowling book series about the beloved wizard — were enchanted. With the anniversary of the film’s release coming up in November, Warner Brothers has now released a new copy of the feature with a Magical Movie Mode.
The 20th Anniversary edition includes the original film, which holds up as a wondrous introduction to the beloved characters. In the film, Harry Potter discovers the truth about his parents — who were murdered years prior by Voldemort — and learns about his abilities. After being summoned by Hagrid, Harry enrolls in the wizarding school of Hogwart’s, where he quickly befriends the mischievous Rob Weasley (Rupert Grint) and star pupil Hermione Granger (Emma Watson).
Directed by Chris Columbus and adapted from the novel by Steve Kloves, the feature magnificently brings J.K. Rowling’s world to life.
Rewatching it recently, I realized that the conflict in the story isn’t as important as the character-development and the creation of this vibrant onscreen world. The conflict revolves around the three teens learning about the sorcerer’s stone and ultimately seeking to keep it out of Voldermort’s hands. Much of the film isn’t about that though. It’s really about the budding relationship between the three youngsters and the introduction of Rowling’s unique vision to the viewing audience.
It’s remarkable to see how the film manages to include so many unique elements of Rowling’s book into the story. From the importance of the Sorting Hat to the unique game of Quidditch to Harry’s relationship with Albus Dumbledore (Richard Harris) and Professor Snape (Alan Rickman), the adaptation nicely sets up the series (and the relationship that are explored in future adaptations) while also telling its own standalone story.
After twenty years, there are elements of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone that don’t work as well as they once did. For instance, some of the visual effects are clearly out-of-date (for instance, the backgrounds in the Quidditch scenes) and there's a lack of seamlessness between the action in the foreground and the background. Other effects — like the Sorting Hat and the majestic setting of the Great Hall — hold up far better.
In addition to the main feature, the Blu-Ray special edition includes a Magical Movie Mode version of the film. While watching the feature in this mode, trivia and questions about the feature appear onscreen while director Chris Columbus provides commentary. Fans of the feature will likely be pleased watching this version of the film, which provides some great insight into the making of the film that successfully launched Harry Potter's big-screen career.