Movie Name: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Studio: Heyday Films
Release Date(s): November 15, 2002
MPAA Rating: PG
Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) are headed back to Hogwarts for their second year, and things are getting dangerous again. When people and creatures begin to turn to stone, a message that the legendary Chamber of Secrets has been opened appears. Harry and his friends uncover that only the Heir of Slytherin can open the Chamber of Secrets, and now Harry must find out who it is and stop them before what’s hidden in the Chamber of Secrets escapes.
Christopher Columbus directs the second installation of the best-selling series based on the novels by J.K. Rowling. Following Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (or Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone depending on your country) in 2001, the movie was met with favorable response and record ticket sales.
The second Harry Potter film is better than the first Harry Potter film because there is less tedious set-up involved. The film still could be heavily edited down, but it is very faithful to the novel. Columbus directs the films in a boring, straight forward style that has me wishing for more flare. The visuals and style of the film look a bit better than the first one, but Hogwarts still looks like it has no real texture and depth when compared to later films in the series.
I still have to commend the makers of the Harry Potter films for their casting. Not only do the main children characters continue to develop as actors in this series, but they also always manage to bring in great talent for new roles. Originally Hugh Grant was supposed to play the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher Professor Gilderoy Lockhart, but he had to step down and be replaced by Kenneth Branagh…whose shiny appearance I think fits the character better. The film also marks the last appearance of Richard Harris as Albus Dumbledore. He died soon after filming and was replaced in later films by Michael Gambon. It was impressive that for the most part that this was the only loss over eight films.
Dobby (voiced by Toby Jones) is introduced in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and instantly causes a problem for the filmmakers. After the destructive nature of Jar-Jar Binks to the Star Wars prequels, another animated (and annoying) character was a danger. Dobby is pretty annoying, but they did a decent job animating him. He is too perky and bubbly for a rather dark story of death…of course that blends in great with Columbus’ overly bright portrayal. In the book series, Hermione sets out on a quest to liberate the House Elves. It goes nowhere and is virtually forgotten in the plots of later books…fortunately, filmmakers decide not even to cover this.
I like the mystery a bit more in this film and feel more satisfied by the ending *****Spoiler Alert***** I have a bit of a problem with the whole “I am Voldemort” Tom Marvolo Riddle solution. It works in the fact that these are kid novels (yes, I know that adults seem to be the bigger readers), but there seems to be a bit of confusion to the target audience. If Voldemort had simply been an anagram of Riddle’s name it would be one thing (maybe his middle name could have just been Voldemort…the wizard world would know that Tom Riddle is Voldemort and it probably would have been pretty public), but you’re telling me the kid looked at his whole name and said, “This Voldemort is a cool name but what do I do with the i, a, and m…I know ‘I am!’” Cheesy, poor, and unnecessary…It isn’t a fault of the movie but the book.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is a better movie when compared to the first movie, but pales to some of the later films. The action and acting is better and it is burdened with a slow origin story. Most of the problems in the film come from Columbus’ portrayal of the Harry Potter world and faults inherent in J.K. Rowling’s stories. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was followed by Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkabah in 2004.