Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)

Based on the record-breaking bestselling series of children’s books, Harry Potter lives with his annoying family once more and is visited by a house elf called Dobby (voiced by Toby Jones) who warns Harry not to return to Hogwarts because of ensuing danger; Harry does not heed his warnings and returns once more to discover a dark force sabotaging the beloved members of the school’s faculty and freezing its victims to stone. Now Harry and Ronald must discover the source before it’s too late.

I really enjoyed this film as I did the first; I often find the world of Harry Potter to be intoxicating and very entertaining. Chris Columbus manages to remain aggressively faithful to the books managing to show great respect to the core audience of the Harry Potter books. Though I was never much of a fan of his films, he manages to display a sense of true awe and imagination when approaching the land so present in the Harry Potter books. It’s evident when beginning on this film that you’re pretty much lost unless you saw the first film. Columbus wastes no time in re-capping the previous story for the audience, nor does he set the characters up once more and trusts that the people who are watching this have seen the first. J.K. Rowling creates a magical and incredible world nearly rivaling J.R.R. Tolkien’s in “Lord of the Rings”.

There is a lot of great creatures and scenery in the film including that of Aragrog the gigantic spider who has a connection with Hagrid. The scene where Harry is talking with the spider and Ronald begins noticing the spiders rapidly surrounding the two had me laughing. Nearly the entire cast is back for this film including Daniel Radcliffe who reprises his role once more as Harry Potter and gives the same everyman quality as he so adamantly instilled in the first, Emma Watson returns as Hermoine Granger and is possibly one of the best characters in the story, and Rupert Grint is great once more as Ronald Weasly reclaiming his inept comedic relief that made him so amusing in the first film. Grint seems to have a real knack for slapstick comedy and often inept comedy with his constant goofy faces and squeaky voice. There’s a lot of other cast additions to the film including the great Jason Isaacs as Draco’s father who begins a conspiracy within the Hogwart’s magic school causing some trouble.

Though his scenes are rare, he’s very commanding and his eyes are creepy as the villain Lucius Malfoy, the great Kenneth Branagh (Rabbit Proof Fence, Frankenstein) gives a hilarious and welcomed role as the narcissistic wizard celebrity Gilderoy Lockhart. His scenes are great often as the ego-centric wizard who scoffs and shines his pearly whites at every convenience but ducks out whenever real danger ensues. You can tell that the other better wizards know he is a fraud but never tell the students. Some of the best British actors return to reclaim their roles; Sir Richard Harris in one of his last roles returns as the admirable Dumbledore, Dame Maggie Smith returns as Professor McGonagall in a truly memorable role, and the most memorable are the great character actor Alan Rickman as Professor Snape in his intense and memorable performance, and Robbie Coltrane as the loveable Hagrid. The story is much more complicated than the first one. The plotline becomes a lot more intricate and difficult as it becomes a sort of murder mystery, though there’s no actual murder.

When I first saw “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” I raved about that film; I thought it was incredible, magical, adventurous, and extremely entertaining, nearly becoming a masterpiece. Naturally, when this film arrived and I was finally able to check it out, I was psyched, but then I saw the entire film and discovered something: I didn’t like this film as much as the first. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but there was something definitely missing from this film that was present in the first and that’s the element of awe and wonderment. It’s conspicuously missing from this film right off of the beginning; at first everything is fine and the pace is exactly as the first’s was, but then it just seems to rapidly diminish as the film progresses. Right off the film begins to become grim and give a tone of dread and murk somehow making it less accessible for the child in me. The tone of the film is almost cynical as if the writer and director attempts to pull the rug out from under the audience.

The movie starts off on a grim note as he house elf Dobby warns Harry about going to Hogwarts, and then there’s simply nothing but darkness as the movie ensues. The tone is much darker and basically takes away what the first set up so skillfully. First, Hogwarts seems darker throughout the entire film, then the characters seem tired and angrier, the actors portraying the three title characters lack the exuberance that made them so memorable in the first place. The film plays as a sort of fantasy murder mystery with signs etched in blood warning the students of the school, then there’s the “petrifacation” of the victims by the evil being at the scenes of the crimes which come too closely to murders and instantly made me uneasy as to where this film was going. There’s no excitement to the film anymore; even when Draco and Harry duel in the wand defense class it’s so anti-climactic that I felt disappointed, even the most exciting aspect to the first, the Quidditch match is noticeably cut short and is completely focused upon Harry and Draco’s battling on the field. What makes this film less enjoyable is that it almost completely focuses on Harry rather than the two other characters Ron and Hermoine who I often find more amusing and deep than Harry.

Emma Watson’s presence is also less involving and she’s not in the story as I’d hoped; often she’s at the side and to make it worse is taken out of commission halfway through the film so it became daunting that she wouldn’t be shown anymore, which pretty much annoyed me. Watson is too talented, and Hermoine too much of a great character to just be pushed aside. There are other numerous incredible actors that are sadly put to wasted in this film with little to no purpose to the story whatsoever and it’s a shame. The great Alan Rickman’s character Professor Snape is given very few lines, the late Sir Richard Harris as Dumbledore is scarce in appearance and impact, Dame Maggie Smith as Professor McGonagall is barely in the film except for a powerful monologue in the middle about the chamber of secrets, and Robbie Coltrane as Hagrid, one of my favorite characters is not in the film as often as I’d liked. I’m not sure if I liked this as much as I did the first film, but nonetheless despite it’s faults, this is a good entertaining film with a lot of imagination, and is better than anything else you might find nowadays.