I still vividly remember the press screening of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald back in 2018 and, actually, I recall it quite fondly.
Not necessarily for the movie, or the screening itself, which was introduced by Ezra Miller vamping for what felt like an hour and Eddie Redmayne delivering a nerdy anecdote about the animation of his character’s tree-dwelling Bowtruckle buddy.
Instead what I remember is the scene in which the film takes us back to the hallowed halls of Hogwarts, complete with John Williams’ indelible Hedwig’s Theme.
Sat in the mammoth Leicester Square Cineworld as a 20-something-year-old professional film journalist, I was transported to the Odeon in Coventry where a seven-year-old me first saw Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone on what might well have been my first ever trip to a cinema.
That was 20 years ago.
Those early Potter films get dismissed somewhat in retrospect as overly simplistic movies. They were adapting shorter, less dense novels and, as a result, they’re far more fastidious to the plot threads and character beats of the books and movies which would follow.
But those early films had the luxury of breathing room, even allowing for the amount of Muggle audience hand-holding they needed to do. There’s a breathlessness to the later movies which just isn’t there in Philosopher’s Stone.
It’s thrilling and exciting, of course – the Quidditch set pieces are great and the gargantuan chess match is still a franchise highlight – but it’s also capable of slowing down and smelling the roses of J.K. Rowling’s rich, textured wizarding world.
In this month’s edition of our free digital magazine The Lowdown, we reflect on the film 20 years later and how it was the start of something very special.