The Wizarding World films have become a holiday tradition for many since their beginnings in 2001 with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, but Vinny has an unexpected perspective.

Thanks for the intro, writer who totally isn’t me. Let me explain.

Harry Potter (U.S. Cover)

Harry Potter and the Arrogant Punk

In 2000, when Harry Potter fever had begun to sweep the nation, I was thirteen. Many of my friends were reading the series and it had been recommended to me countless times. I was the perfect age to begin the adventures of The Boy Who Lived and there were no hurdles keeping me from doing so.

But I didn’t.

At the time, I had already finished The Silmarillion and Dune. Though I was mistaken, my elitist teenage self saw Harry Potter as something beneath what I had already read. Harry Potter simply wasn’t something of interest to me. This continued into the films, which I never pursued, though my interest in film grew during this time. After High School, I did end up seeing Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, but that was because the Superman Returns teaser ran with it (still sick). As I write this article now, I couldn’t tell you one scene from the film. I missed the whole craze.

Now, in 2018, I’ve finally watched the first film in the series.

Harry Potter: Twenty Years Later

It was an interesting experience. For two decades, I’ve been organically familiarized with the character’s world through references to the series, Potter’s massive pop-culture presence and even a couple of rides at Universal Studios. It must be the same feeling for adults who’ve never actually seen the Star Wars films; many elements are familiar yet the specifics are a mystery. The best part is that I liked it.

What is never conveyed through pop-culture is just how pulpy the whole thing is. There is an admirable simplicity to the first film and the world that it creates. Harry Potter, even at age 11, is already an indomitable hero worshiped by his peers and elders alike. After his brief introduction, the film wastes no time in presenting numerous fantastic concepts and special effects. If there is a weakness, it is that the film takes too much time to show audiences cool stuff instead of focusing on the plot at hand. That said, it is hard to care by films’ end. The movie also engages the audience by setting all of these amazing elements into the familiarity of a school year. The film often pauses to elaborate on seasonal celebrations. The fun of Halloween, the rebirth of Spring and, you knew it was coming, the joy of Christmas. The Sorcerer’s Stone is not only a holiday film by release date, but because some of the most beautiful imagery revolves around yuletide excitement. I’m surprised Harry walking through the snow covered grounds of Hogwarts with Hedwig isn’t a more popularized image. Nothing in the film stood out to me more.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001)

Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter and one of the nine owls that played Hedwig

Final Thoughts

While Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is far from a perfect film, I now understand why it became such a phenomenon. Chris Columbus‘ highest grossing feature is a love letter to fantasy and sets up a world of infinite possibilities. The sometimes inconsistent performances of the young principals are balanced out by the phenomenal adult cast. Whenever the film starts to lose momentum, it regains it. As Star Wars did for many, Harry Potter¬†does as much to encourage imagination as it does to tell a wonderful story. If you missed it in theaters as I have, now is a wonderful time to start.