– Summary –
Director : Chris Columbus
Year Of Release : 2002
Principal Cast : Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Alan Rickman, Richard Harris, Kenneth Branagh, John Cleese, Robbie Coltrane, Warwick David, Richard Griffiths, Jason Isaacs, Fiona Shaw, Maggie Smith, Julie Walters.
Approx Running Time : 160 Minutes
Synopsis: Harry, Ron and Hermione become entangled in the whereabouts of the diary of Tom Riddle, which leads them to the mysterious and mythical Chamber of Secrets, where they learn that Voldemort’s legacy lives on beneath the halls of Hogwarts.
What we think : Stepping-stone sequel to the Potter franchise, has more of the same, stretching out to a fairly bum-numbing 2-and-a-half hours, and while it lacks the immediate charm of the original, begins to layer in the mystery of Harry and Voldemort’s futures that threatens to once again collide.
Laborious, visually rich sequel to 2001’s Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s Stone, which sees Harry, Ron and Hermione return to Howarts for further adventures and discoveries.
Harry, now back living with his awful Aunt and Uncle, and their idiotic child, Harry longs to return to the place he feels most at home: the Hogwarts School of Wizardry, where his friends are. Outside the magical realm, he has nobody, and feels quite isolated.
When he goes to stay with the Weasley family, and then journey on to Hogwarts, Harry accidentally finds himself transported to Diagon Alley, where he meets up with the pernicious Gilderoy Lockhart, a talent-less magician who is more famous for what he say’s he’s done than what he actually has achieved. Back at Hogwarts, he also runs into Dobby, a mysterious House Elf who is hiding a big, big secret. Ron and Hermione rejoin the cast, each with their own problems and issues to deal with: the pre-pubescent angst involved is counter-pointed by the more traditional magical-related issues abounding within the film.
The good thing about Chamber Of Secrets is that the initial set-up of Harry’s world was done in the previous film: now, we’re used to the wizarding world, and all it’s strange and multifaceted creatures. The bad thing about Chamber Of Secrets is the rather laboured attempt to generate tension and fear, is utterly absent with a pretty steady, clean and risk-free screenplay by Steve Kloves. Harry and his friends, Ron and Hermione, have to uncover the answer to a mystery within Hogwarts, who opened the titular Chamber of Secrets, unleashing all manner of evil into the world. People are found petrified, unable to move, as somebody begins to put into action their dastardly plan. Of course, the teachers around Hogwarts all have their won motives, their own agendas, most of the time bringing them into conflict with Harry and Co, however, the forces of Goodness will always triumph over the forces of Bad-ness, apparently.
Darker than the previous film, yet still accessible by young children, this trip into Harry’s world is riddled with a confusing lack of dramatic power, a strange cobbling together of seemingly random ideas, and a payoff that’s only mildly more interesting than the one in Philosophers Stone. The action is still pretty tame by comparison to later episodes, although this is perhaps more to do with the fact that Harry, Ron and Hermione are still quite young and would see things in a fairly innocent, lighthearted way: or then, perhaps not.
Somewhere along the way it was decided to make Dobby, the house elf, a completely digital character, because it worked so well for Jar Jar Binks in The Phantom Menace… Not. Anyway, Dobby is a complete waste of time, his digital-ness subverting what had, until his introduction, been a fairly glitz-free production from Warner Bros. Dobby’s digital inclusion, at the expense of an actual actor in a suit, results in a complete snapping of our suspension of disbelief: we know we’re looking at a digital character, and we can see all the flaws within it.
Dobby aside, the film stumbles along, bringing together seemingly disparate events and characters for the sheer ability to be able to. Chamber Of Secrets see’s a return of the original cast from Philosophers, and throws a few more into the mix, including Kenneth Brannagh, Jason Isaacs and Shirley Henderson (from Bridget Jones’s Diary and Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day). Isaacs, in particular, brings a new level of menace to the story as Draco Malfoy’s evil, white haired father, Lucius. if I ever have a child that’s pure evil, I’m calling him Lucius, it’s such a cool name.
Looking back on Chamber Of Secrets is something of a chore these days, simply because the story goes nowhere fast: the events of this film are merely bridging the gap between film one and Prisoner Of Azkaban, the following film, when things begin to take shape as the cast and story-lines expand to a more epic, broad scale saga. Here, there’s very little for Harry to do but continue to look stupefied by everything he comes across.
You get the sense that Chris Columbus was struggling to find the right balance between action, and character development: it’s hard to find anything positive to say when the supporting cast get more development than the main hero. Here, Harry isn’t proactive in the adventure, he’s reactive, trying to keep his head above water, so to speak, while everything happens around him. This is true of the film except for the final act, the thrilling fight between Harry and a giant Snake in the bowels of Hogwarts: this is genuinely exciting stuff, it’s just a pity that the film took so long to get there. Klove’s script has very little to recommend it, save for the extending of the story with padding and little character arcs that go nowhere, and offer little. There could have been an entire hour chopped from this film, and it would make little difference to the overall outcome.
Still, for those fans desperate to rejoin Harry and his wizard friends, Chamber Of Secrets is a door easily opened, and will hardly offend or alter your expectations.
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