Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Kenneth Branagh, Richard Harris, Robbie Coltrane, Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, Warwick Davis
Directed by: Chris Columbus
“Harry Potter must not come back to Hogwarts this year!”–Dobby the House Elf.
Of course, however, after the first movie became the second highest grossing film of all time behind that flick about the sinking boat, there was no question that we were going to return to Hogwarts again. Unlike the first movie, however, I did not read the novel before seeing the movie, and so perhaps this review is a little more biased toward looking at the movie as a film rather than an adaptation of a book. I probably will obtain and read the book at some point, however.
The basic milieu of Harry Potter is likely very well known to the readers of this Blog. To recap in the shortest space possible, Harry Potter, in the first film discovered he was the child of magical parents, and the first movie documents his adventures in the first year at a boarding school that provides a magical education, Hogwarts. In this second movie, there are immediate parallels with the first movie. Harry’s muggle parents try to precent him from going to school, there is a visit to Diagon Alley. The details of the second movie are different, of course, and there are a couple of interesting sequences before we even get to the school, including a look at a more seedy area of the famed Diagon Alley.
Once inside Hogwarts, which Harry has maintained time and again is his real home, things rapidly turn bad for our hero. A Quidditch game turns even more violent than usual, and Harry is the target of an apparently tampered blodger ball. Harry’s rival in the first movie, Draco Malfoy, gains in power, both in the presence and personage of his father, and the fact that he has joined his own House’s Quidditch team. He does seem to be Harry’s counterpart now, a true rival.
We get a couple of new Professors as well, a botanist with a specialty in Mandrake root by the name of Professor Sprout, and, more notably, Kenneth Branagh as the bombastic and undertalented Professor Lockhart. The visual gags in his office, in his classroom were amusing, as well.
The basic plot of the movie is a mystery…Where is the titular Chamber of Secrets, Who can open it? and What is inside it that is apparently petrifying people in the school? I do not want to divulge spoilers here, but needless to say, at a running total of 2 hours and 40 minutes, we have plenty of time in the movie to discover and solve these questions. The length of the movie is a factor in the first half…in the third act, the movie changes into very much an action film,and that does help dilute the running length. Its not that gratiuitous, the action sequences, although it does stand in marked contrast with the ultimate villain and his passivity in the final scenes, which I found rather strange even given his nature.
As far as the actors, Harry and his friends do well in their roles, as does their nemesis Draco. Of the older actors, the frailty of Richard Harris is evident. Maggie Smith is not given enough to do, and Alan Rickman seems bored with Professor Snape. I would have liked more contrast between Snape and the elder Malfoy, they seemed too similar for my taste.
Final rating: 3 and a half popcorn kernels out of five.