Warner Brothers Pictures wasted no time getting the 2nd chapter in the Harry Potter Saga made. After “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” was released on November 16th 2001, It went on to gross a little more than 974 million dollars at the worldwide box office and was a hit with critics and fans everywhere. So instead of doing what most films in Hollywood and take 2-3 years to get the sequel made, the next adaptation “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” was released on November 15th, 2002. With everyone returning from the previous film, this is a strong second chapter in the saga. It once again follows the book extremely well and the slightly darker plot and enchanting heart brings audiences into to a realized world that is expanded upon and is now a bit richer.
“Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” picks up the story in what seems like weeks before the new year of Hogwarts is about to begin. Harry Potter, now 12, may have been moved from the closet from under the stares to Dudley’s second room but his Aunt and Uncle have not been any kinder to him. He gets a warning from a house elf that shows up one night in his bedroom to not return to Hogwarts this year because of a terrible plot that has been set in motion that could threaten the entire school’s existence. Not heading the elf’s warning, Harry escapes his Aunt and Uncle with help from his trusted friend Ron Weasley. Barely making it to Hogwarts, the terrible plot that Dobby the house elf warned Harry about was worse than he previously thought.
The first film serves as proper introduction into a fascinating fantasy world, while the second one expands it and gives us all material. The newest script written by Steven Knowles explores more of the history of Hogwarts and makes the movie feel richer and real rather than artificial and derivative. The only other recent fantasy world that is richer than the one than this film (on the big screen) is Middle Earth in “Lord of the Rings”.
Running in at 161 minutes, this is packs in as much they can fit from the source material. “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” stays very close to its source material. The extended cut gets even closer with a much longer 174 minute cut. In such an effort to stay so close to the source material it does drag the film down a little bit more than the first entry in the series. Still for hardcore fans of the books this won’t present itself as a problem.
Chris Columbus once again returns to the director’s chair and keep his tone consistent with the one presented in the first film. The movie is full of heart, fun, fantasy, and a little bit of darkness thrown in there for good measure. “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” is still in that phase of lightness in the series before it starts to get dark. Columbus does a good job as director, once again bringing his best talents to the picture. Columbus is a good filmmakers and storyteller, directs the growing child actors well. Can he make the best action or camera tricks? No, but that doesn’t take away from the incredible task that Columbus did accomplish facing this monstrous production.
All of the main actors return to this second feature. Daniel Radcliffe returns with a slightly deeper voice and a bit of improvement on his acting chops as Harry Potter. Harry is still very new to this world and serves as an important vessel for us as an audience, to understand this complex world. We learn as he learns.
Now in the this film he has to deal with Dobby the House Elf. A fun, annoying but caring little house elf, that is a slave to Draco Malfoy’s family, is trying to do what he can to protect Harry to an almost dangerous level. We cannot help but fall love with his quirky demeanor. A fan favorite, we would not see him back on the big screen for several years but never the less we always look fondly back on Dobby.
Rupert Grint also comes back as the loyal Ron Weasley whom has more than enough problems to deal with, the least of which is his broken wand which provides comic relief. Emma Watson continues to blossom as Hermione Granger. A know it all witch (that people actually like) that’s friendship with Harry and Ron share, serves as an important emotional crux in the story.
The adult actors once again do a great job, Robbie Coltrane, Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith and what would be sadly, Richard Harris final performance as Albus Dumbledore. The actor unfortunately passed away just weeks before the film’s release. As such a pivotal character to the series , he would have to be recast in later films.
The newcomers to this expansive adult cast include the Shakespearian actor Kenneth Branagh comes into to play the new defense against the dark arts teacher, Professor Gilderoy Lockhart. A dim witted man that fakes his way to fame he consistently proves himself useless, but is always assuming. Branagh is clearly having fun in the role and it’s fun to watch as a viewer. The last newcomer is Jason Isaacs. Isaacs plays Draco Malfoy’s father Lucius Malfoy. A man of pure blood and thinks himself above others, Lucius looks down on the Weasley family (to whom we are more fully introduced to) and in wizard world standards, a bigot and prejudice filled man. Isaaces does a wonderful job playing this sly secondary villain and would not be the last we will see of him by the time this series is over.
Like the first, you’ll leave smiling and feeling good about what you just watched. The child actors continue to grow, the adults keep bringing their experienced acting chops to the table, the world is richer and the story is a bit more complex than the first. I do think in trying to stick as close to the book this film gets itself bogged down a little. Never the less this is a good addition to a series that has its best days to come.