October 28, 2021
The first film in the franchise is re-released into a very different world – but it’s as entertaining and exhilarating as ever
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone review – 20 years on, it’s a nostalgic spectacular
The very first Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (or “Sorcerer’s Stone” for its release in the United States, where audiences were assumed to be unfamiliar with this alchemical term) is now re-released after 20 years, into a rather different world. Sadly, the actors who played the original Dumbledore, Snape, Uncle Vernon and Mr Ollivander – Richard Harris, Alan Rickman, Richard Griffiths and John Hurt – are no longer with us. The Harry Potter franchise itself is still a colossal commercial entity, an IP Shangri La, although its creator JK Rowling is now at the centre of an acrimonious gender politics debate – undreamed of in 2001 – and the world of children’s and YA fiction, which she almost singlehandedly revived all over the world, is strongly policed on just these issues.
It’s amazing and poignant to remember the sheer excitement of that HPATPS premiere in November 2001: I myself called it an “old-fashioned pre-September 11 news event”. Harry Potter emerged into cinemas as we were still all stunned by 9/11, but yet to see the retaliatory “war on terror”. This film, emerging four years after the original novel, marked the birth of a new consolatory pop culture myth, to rival Sherlock Holmes and James Bond, and the circumstances of its own arrival became mythic, from Rowling’s own early poverty to the snapping up of film rights.
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