Our point? J.K. Rowling has a leg up on these guys when it comes to Hollywood adapting her work for the silver screen. Let's take a completely random example to show you what we mean: When some big-shot producer says "let's put Demi Moore in The Scarlet Letter and turn it into a feminist statement," Nathaniel Hawthorne has to sit there in his cold, clammy grave and take it. Rowling, on the other hand, can hop on the phone and say, "You best drop that idea or I'll sic my slavering hordes of attack lawyers on you." (Not a direct quote.)
And sure enough, when her bestselling Harry Potter books were turned into a blockbuster movie series, Rowling was in on the ground floor, making sure that everything looked just right.
But there's one problem: her books are bigger than the average movie-going audience member can handle—especially with a movie theater drink big enough to sink a depth charge in and limited time to run to the bathroom. So while the films are usually pretty accurate—or at least Rowling-approved—they tend to see some pretty big cuts. A tendency that holds up even in the relatively short opening novel, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (or Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone for those of you in Merry Olde England).
Director Chris Columbus claims he worked very closely with Rowling to get every little detail right (source), and we believe him. The movie's plot hugs the book so tightly that it even snatches a good deal of dialogue right from the novel itself.
And it's not just the plot that gets the royal accuracy treatment; the visuals stay close to Rowling's descriptions, too—in a Hollywood theme park kind of way, of course. Why? Well, Columbus seems to be on the hunt for realism and believability. Everything has to make logical sense, even if it's a ghost like Nearly Headless Nick or field full of boys on flying broomsticks. So our director takes great pains not only to make every one of Rowling's descriptions come to life, but to light them up like Christmas trees and make sure we get a good look at 'em. Want an example? Just take a look at that famous shot of Hogwarts.
For a two-and-a-half-hour film, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone seems to fly by. But even us Potterphiles are glad it didn't pass the 160-minute mark, so we won't whine over all the major excisions.
Our first missing piece: Peeves, a mischievous ghost who torments the Hogwarts residents, but couldn't avoid the chopping block of the screenplay. (And, of course, since he was dropped here, he stays dropped for the remainder of the films in the saga.) Professor Binns, the schools' ghostly history professor, is gone, too, along with the Sorting Hat's snazzy song. You might not be crying over these omissions, but you probably noticed the bigger cut that goes down toward the end: Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione (Emma Watson) skip over some of the book's major obstacles—like Professor Snape's potion challenge and Professor Quirrell's troll—on their way to the Sorcerer's stone. Make it look easy, why don't you?
Another change? Those of you who like to stare deep into your favorite characters' eyes might have noticed that Harry's, um, aren't green. The filmmakers tried green contact lenses to cover Radcliffe's baby blues, but the actor had a bad reaction (source). The result? Movie Harry is a bit more Sinatra-esque than book Harry. But the show must go on.
And one last thing. You'll hear a lot of Potter people complaining that the movie is a little stodgy because of all the describing and, you know… describing. The film spends so much time explaining what this or that wonderful doodad does—or what Bernie Botts' Beans are good for—that the story get can a little lost in the mix. But we need to remember that this was just the first of a seven-novel epic, and while fans of the book knew what it was all about, tons of newbies still needed to be told what Hogwarts was all about. So The Sorcerer's Stone is just taking one for the team—getting all the plot exposition out of the way so the rest of the movies can properly rock and roll.
So Shmoopers, what do you think? Does The Sorcerer's Stone rock and roll, too? Shmoop amongst yourselves.