Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (USA, 2001)
Directed by Chris Columbus
Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Richard Harris
When a film series has achieved international recognition and enjoyed enormous commercial success, it becomes very easy to believe that its eventual standard was replicated throughout its history. The appeal of Star Wars, Indiana Jones and James Bond is so widely spread throughout our culture that the individual films begin to blend into a single entity; the notion of Star Wars as a very good thing makes us forget the shortcomings of the individual films.
Brazil, but the studio opted for Chris Columbus following the director's two-hour pitch to executives. Columbus' track record with family-friendly hits like Home Alone and Mrs. Doubtfire went down much easier than Gilliam's history of quarelling with studios and his multiple (but undeserved) box office failures.
Percy Jackson & the Lightning Thief, I spoke about Columbus' conservative approach to the source material and how this hurt the finished product. In both cases, he opted to stay extremely faithful to the original novels, personally going through the script with Rowling to ensure that all the minor details were intact. While attention to detail is always welcome, with Columbus it manifests itself in literally putting the page on screen, in a manner which makes the whole experience much less cinematic than it could have been.
The Lord of the Rings, Peter Jackson sought to be as faithful as possible to J. R. R. Tolkien's work while acknowledging the need to keep the plot moving and make changes to keep casual fans interested. Columbus has neither the skill nor seemingly the desire to pull this off, appearing to settle for dramatic longeurs to avoid upsetting fans of the book.
The Fellowship of the Ring may be the gentlest instalment in Jackson's trilogy, and it does have to set up a lot of things, but it's still a rivetting thrill ride whose dynamism pulls all its interesting ideas and themes to the fore.
Oliver Twist in his chosen cinematography, while comparing the colour palettes to those in Oliver! and The Godfather.
the late Richard Griffiths, it still feels too chocolate-box to cut the mustard. While the film does have a loosely Dickensian feel, it is not the Dickens of Lean, with its bleak shadows, striking expressionist angles and emphasis on social inequality. It is instead the Dickens of many American versions of A Christmas Carol, in which all the edges have been taken off and even the least fortunate people look like they've been well-fed for years.
Click here to read my WhatCulture! article on the best Charles Dickens adaptations, featuring both versions of Oliver Twist cited in this review.
NEXT REVIEW: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)