The Book: 1997
Written by J.K. Rowling (Bloomsbury Publishing)
The Film: 2001
Directed by Chris Columbus (Warner Bros.)
I have always had trouble choosing my favourite Harry Potter book. I tend to think of them as one giant book with favourite scenes: the graveyard in book 4, the Department of Mysteries in book 5, any scene involving Fred and George. But if pressed, I will tell you that my favourite is Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone for the simple reason that I just love how very magical it is. Everything is new. And every time I read it (I’m up to 8 or 9 times now…) it always feels like that first time—still just as magical.
The same goes for the movie. When that first scene starts to roll with Dumbledore and his deluminator, a transfigured McGonagall and Hagrid on a flying bike, I can’t help but smile. Plus the actors are just so young!
I’m pretty sure that the opening chapter of The Philosopher’s Stone is my favourite first chapter out of anything I’ve read. Just look at that opening line: “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number 4, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.” This stodgy family is just so well developed right off the bat. And when the chapter ends with a toast to the boy who lived, I get tingles. I think the film does a fantastic job of capturing the magic and anticipation I feel when I read the book.
Then there is the cast of characters. This is one of the few book-to-film movies where I have no qualms about the casting. Dumbledore, Petunia Dursley, Snape… Perfect! In the later Harry Potter movies there are characters where I think “Really, that’s who they went with?” (*cough* Umbridge *cough*) But in The Philosopher’s Stone I have no such misgivings. Sure a few special effects are cheesy, like the centaurs and the goblins. But I love them anyway because they belong to something that always fills my chest with little bubbles of joy.
Also, because the book is significantly shorter than the later ones, the film is able to follow the book more closely. Small details are shifted or omitted, but the story stays the same. It is obvious that J.K. Rowling was a diligent contributor to the film’s creation and I am so grateful for that; it ensured that one of my favourite stories remains untainted.
The book is pure magic, but I would say the film is a close second for when you need a quick Harry Potter fix.
“Popcorn and a Book” is a monthly meme where I compare a book with its adapted film, looking at the content, the way it has been visualized, the experience, etc. If you would like to participate in this meme, please visit the “Popcorn and a Book” main page for details.