Fantasies and fairy tales speak to our spiritual needs

MAGIC is everywhere you look these days. From bookstores to movie theatres, stories about wizards, witches and mythological beasts are all the rage; and for a person like me, who grew up with hobbits, aliens, flying horses and Jedi Knights, the current fantasy craze — and the various Christian responses to it — bring back a lot of memories.

How popular is fantasy right now? The most successful movie of the year (so far) is Shrek, a cheeky parody of the fairy tale genre that turns conventional wisdom about ogres, dragons and beautiful princesses on its head. That film’s box office performance could be surpassed in a few weeks by Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the first film based on J.K. Rowling’s phenomenally popular novels about a young orphan and his classmates at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

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Review: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (dir. Chris Columbus, 2001)

harrypotter1If there is one thing the movie adaptation of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone may prove, it’s that fidelity to the original text isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be. For over a year, director Chris Columbus has assured followers of the young orphan wizard that he intends to stay as true to J.K. Rowling’s phenomenally popular novels as possible — he has repeated this mantra so often he probably says it in his sleep — and to be sure, his film gets many things right. But, with the help of screenwriter Steve Kloves, Columbus tries to cram so many of the book’s subplots into the film that you are constantly aware of how much of Rowling’s original story is missing. This may be heresy to Potter fans, but films and books are very different media, and a more thorough rewrite could have made this a better movie.

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Review: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (dir. Chris Columbus, 2001)

harrypotter1aIF THERE is one thing the movie adaptation of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone may prove, it’s that being faithful to the original text can be both a strength and a weakness.

For over a year, director Chris Columbus has assured fans of the young orphan wizard that he intends to stay as true to J.K. Rowling’s phenomenally popular novels as possible, and to be sure, his film gets many details right. But Steve Kloves’ script tries so hard to cram so many of the book’s subplots into the film that you are constantly made aware of the fact that much of the original story is missing; the film omits many of the little character details that made the book so whimsically appealing, and that made the conclusion to its mystery so compelling.

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