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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone(2001)
Harry Potter is a ten-year-old orphan who has been living under the stairs in the house of his cruel and abusive aunt and uncle. But on his eleventh birthday, Harry receives a letter informing him that he has been accepted into Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where he learns not only that his parents were wizards, but also that he is destined to become a powerful wizard himself. Along with his new friends Ron and Hermione, Harry hones his magical powers and uncovers the secret of the Sorcerer's stone, which leads him into a confrontation with the evil wizard who murdered his parents.
For more about Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone Blu-ray release, see Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone Blu-ray Review published by Greg Maltz on December 14, 2007 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Richard Harris, Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane, Saunders Triplets, Daniel Radcliffe, Fiona Shaw
Director: Chris Columbus
» See full cast & crew
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone Blu-ray Review
Compared to "Order of the Phoenix", the first film in the franchise falls a bit flat.
Reviewed by Greg Maltz, December 14, 2007
After reviewing Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, I was expecting great things from the rest of the Potter series on Blu-ray. Unfortunately, The Sorcerer's Stone did not live up to the expectations raised by Order of the Phoenix. The flagship Potter film looks vastly superior to any NTSC version. But it offered no notable improvement over the HD broadcast on network television, which aired in the fall of '07. That broadcast wasn't bad, but it was not as good as the near-reference quality seen on the Order of the Phoenix. Still, Warner's effort to bring the entire Potter series to Blu-ray is appreciated, and there is much to admire in the 1080p presentation of The Sorcerer's Stone.
The Potter saga begins with the young wizard living life as a muggle (non-magical person). He is a virtual prisoner. His parents dead, Potter was sent as an infant to live with his aunt and uncle, Petunia and Vernon Dursley. They treat him like an animal, locking him in a tiny closet under the stairs while bestowing all their love on their boorish son, Dudley. But young Harry Potter soon shows signs that he has magical powers.
The faculty at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry--most notably Albus Dumbledore (Richard Harris)--is familiar with Harry, having trained his parents and rescued him after he was orphaned. In fact, all of the wizard community seems to know more about Harry than he knows about himself. Letters of invitation begin pouring in from Hogwarts, but Vernon Dursley will not accept wizardry and adopts a policy of throwing away Harry's mail. Vernon even moves his entire family to escape the agents of Hogwarts. Ultimately the school sends groundskeeper Hagrid to fetch Harry, remove him from the Dursley's cruel grasp and help the young wizard get school supplies. During the errands, Harry learns the fate of his parents. They were killed by an evil wizard named Voldemort. Harry begins to discover his self-worth when he realizes that, as an infant, he was the only person who Voldemort could not kill. The murder attempt left a scar on Potter's forehead.
Harry is on the train to Hogwarts when he makes two friends: Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson). The trio would become somewhat inseparable throughout the Potter saga. In The Sorcerer's Stone, they uncover a plot wherein Voldemort's attempts to return to human form using a powerful stone hidden in an underground chamber at Hogwarts. Harry, Ron and Hermione decide they must preempt Voldemort's acquisition of the sorcerer's stone. The film follows their first year at Hogwarts as they attend classes, master the art of broomstick flying, face detention in the Forbidden Forest and play a high-stakes game of wizard's chess.
Unable to accommodate all aspects of J.K. Rowling's Potter novel, The Sorcerer's Stone focuses on key developments of the plot in a simple, straightforward narrative. Some elements of the book are chopped out. Generally, the writers and editors did a good job with those decisions, but the film still feels a bit light. Worse, Radcliffe's acting is rather stilted and wooden, in sharp contrast to Watson and Grint, who turn in warm performances and seem to have a gift for timing and delivery of their lines. The film gets away with it because Potter was raised in an emotionally repressive environment and Radcliffe is well advised to underact the role than overact. But it would have worked better to turn on the emotional warmth more readily.
Another letdown lies in the special effects. While they are engaging, and rendered without pixelation, they appear quite two-dimensional. From John Cleese playing a semi-decapitated ghost to cheap CGI figures crashing into buildings as stunt-doubles, many of the effects have the look and feel of cheap parlor tricks. Others are a bit more convincing, such as the battle with the troll and the incarnation of Voldemort himself. Overall, the effects add to the enchantment of the film, but they seem amateur at times.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone Blu-ray, Video Quality
While The Sorcerer's Stone yields good detail and has some film-like qualities, one word came to mind as I analyzed the picture: soft. While Order of the Phoenix was crisp with good contrast and inky black levels, the first film in the series appears more diffuse. While the resolution is 1080p and some film grain and noise is visible, it takes on an almost digital sheen--a quality I found lackluster. Granted, these observations are by degrees, and overall, The Sorcerer's Stone is significantly more detailed than the DVD.
Part of the problem, as stated above, lies in the development of visual graphics and special effects, and their integration of CGI elements into the picture. Simply put, it was not done with the utmost care or quality, compared to other films in the series, let alone films placing similar emphasis on CGI in children's fantasy (e.g., Bridge to Terabithia). Maybe the relatively small budget of the first Potter movie had something to do with that.
One example of the video falling flat in the integration of CGI effects is the scene where Harry and his classmates first learn to fly on broomsticks. One of the students loses control of his broom and goes flying over a field, finally crashing into a Hogwarts tower and sliding to earth behind a banner. The animation during this sequence was poor. There was no attempt to address realistic body motion or physics, including gravity, let alone a digital figure that resembled the boy on the broom. The wild ride ends when the figure is awkwardly represented by a descending bulge falling to the ground.
While the battle with the troll somewhat redeemed the lackluster special effects, other visuals, like John Cleese appearing as a nearly decapitated ghost at Hogwarts, looked little better than a two-tone projection on a wall, superimposed into the picture. The amateur appearence of the graphics is technically not a problem with the BD, but in scenes heavy with CGI, it certainly adds to the general two-dimensional nature of the imagery. We've all seen films with much more impressive effects, including the subsequent Potter episodes, and it's hard to understand how anyone but children could be awed by these cheap parlor tricks of cinema. Then again, children are the target demographic.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The audio, too, is less than ideal. While not laden with reverb or smearing, voices and music do not have the precise, crisp definition associated with most Blu-ray content. Like the video, it has a soft, foggy quality. The use of surround effects is good, and some content is fairly innovative, such as the quidditch game played on broomsticks where students from different Hogwart dormitories face off in not-so-friendly competition. Listen to the sound of the golden, winged ball that Harry must chase down. It hums, buzzes and blips with fairly engaging audio resolution. However, the broomsticks sound more like jet engines, often with heavy LFE content. Again, the production was held back by some amateur decisions and cannot quite achieve the magic it so desperately tries to depict. Insofar as the Blu-ray production is concerned, it feels like Warner's choices also held it back, as there is no high bitrate PCM track.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The supplementary material on the BD are the same that Warner produced for the original release on DVD in 2002. The lack of new content is not surprising, but it would have been nice to at least see it included in high resolution. The bonus content includes seven additional scenes, a total of nine minutes. I immediately understood why each scene was deleted, though they were clearly shot in an attempt to stick to the novel. Also included is a featurette entitled, "Capturing the Stone". Clocking in at a quarter of an hour, it shows an interview with director Chris Columbus and screewriter Steve Klove. They provide some interesting insights into their decisions in the screen adaptation from the set of the second film in the series, "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets"
Rounding out the bonus material are some standard definition throwaways. "Yearbook Character Clips" shows trademark moments of ten different characters, including Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley, Draco Malfoy, Oliver Wood, Seamus Finnigan, Neville Longbottom, Percy Weasley, Madam Hooch and Filch Stone. "Around the World: Multi-Language" shows the poor lip-synched alternate language versions of a scene. "Lessons in Quidditch" attempts to familiarize viewers with the broomstick team sport, involving flying balls. Trailers in standard definition are also included.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Warner has adopted a policy of providing reviewers with only a copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, but not The Sorcerer's Stone. After viewing both, I wasn't surprised. While Sorcerer's Stone was the story that started it all, and proved a good adaptation of the book, with interesting sets and effects, the film is a bit of a let-down in both technical and non-technical ways. While many of the actors shine, Radcliffe does not. The attention to detail in the production is often lacking. Even the scar on Potter's forehead, which is an important element of the plot, is not given the attention it deserves from the makeup team. It looks an amateur tattoo artist's attempt at the gatorade logo. Granted, The Sorcerer's Stone is a low-budget effort compared to subsequent films in the Potter saga and compared to other epic series like Lord of the Rings. And it shows. Still, it is an important story of self-discovery and of magic burgeoning in an 11-year old boy, and effectively kicks off one of the most successful series brought to movie theaters.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: Other Editions
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