Review: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

chamber_of_secrets_cov.jpgYear: 2002
Director: Chris Columbus
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Richard Harris, Kenneth Branagh, Jason Isaacs, Robbie Coltrane, Alan Rickman
Kaboom Review Action Movie Rating: 83

Plot
Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts only to find the school threatened by an evil force.

Quick Review
On the whole, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is a strong step in the right direction for the series. The main actors are growing into their roles, the emphasis on story lifts the film to a higher plane, and the presentation of the world of Harry Potter is outstanding. However, some clunky acting moments, some sluggishness in pace, and several sub-standard action sequences hold this film back from greatness.

Full Review
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone did an admirable job of introducing the world of Harry Potter, but faltered in spinning an engaging tale. The second movie in the series, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, does an equally chamber_of_secrets_4.jpgadmirable job of depicting the world of Harry Potter. The film also does a significantly better job of story telling. There are several weaknesses that keep the film from greatness, but on the whole this film makes for a solid evening of entertainment, and is much-improved over the first film.

Visually, this film is a treat. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets literally puts you in the world of Harry Potter, and does so with style and grace. The sets are spectacularly rich and vivid. Once again I was especially impressed with Hogwarts. This film captures the mood, weight, and history of the institution perfectly. But what really makes this world sparkle is the fantastic casting. From Hagrid to Dumbledore and from Harry Potter to Severus Snape, these actors fit their roles marvelously. It’s hard to overstate how much pure fun it is to watch J. K. Rowling’s characters come to life on the big screen.

Enhancing the effectiveness of this film is the much improved acting of the main three characters. In the first film, you could feel the rawness and lack of range of Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley) and Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter). Emma Watson (Hermione Granger), in particular, missed the mark. Here, however, Radcliffe and Grint are more convincing, and Emma Watson has lost the bitchiness that marked her role in the first film. Watson brings out the gentler side of Hermione, and chamber_of_secrets_3.jpgthis alone markedly improves the film. There is still much room for improvement here, however. Grint, in particular, has a habit of overreaching on some of his expressions, and Radcliffe occasionally comes across flat.

In more minor roles, there are disappointments as well, and once again these center on the younger actors. Bonnie Wright, as Ginny Weasley, is robotic in her role. Tom Felton, as Draco Malfoy, looks the part perfectly and delivers solid one liners, but stumbles badly when asked to handle longer dialogue. Both of these actors will need to mature into their roles effectively as the series moves forward. Elsewhere, however, the acting shines. Jason Isaacs plays a remarkably sinister Lucius Malfoy. I was also particularly impressed with Richard Harris (Albus Dumbledore), Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid), and Alan Rickman (Severus Snape).

Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone’s greatest weakness was an overemphasis on portraying the world of Harry Potter at the expense of crafting a solid story. In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, however, the emphasis shifts to chamber_of_secrets_1.jpgstorytelling, and this lifts the film to a higher level. On the whole, the plot presents the main details logically, moves forward consistently, keeps the viewer engaged, and sticks to the premise established in the book. At two hours and 41 minutes, however, this is a long film, and at times the movie stutters and wander a bit. In particular, I felt the pacing a bit sluggish in the middle third of the film.

Supplementing the story are some effective yet inconsistent action sequences. In much the same way as Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone, this second film does a wonderful job with the imagery of Harry’s world, but struggles when elements in this world are fighting with and slamming into each other. In particular, the great spider Aragog looked laughably cheap and artificial. The flying car scenes, as well, struck me as toy-like and clunky. Fawkes, Dumbledore’s phoenix, looked ridiculously mechanical in many scenes. In a film so rich with imagery, these elements stand out like a zit on Emma Watson’s nose, and they pull you sharply out of the world of Harry Potter. To the film’s credit, however, there are many well presented sequences. Spellcasting sparkles with life. Stunts and falls are sparse but effective. The monster chamber_of_secrets_5.jpgof the Chamber of Secrets—who seems to have drawn more of the budget—moves and strikes in a moderately convincing action sequence. Still, for a series as visually magnificent as Harry Potter, it’s a shame the action elements on the whole are not on the same level.

As for our babes and hunks rating, once again I’m close to pleading no comment. I’ll pass on commenting on the child actors, and elsewhere there just isn’t much to speak of. There are essentially no actors that fall into the babe category in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. In the hunk category, we have a strikingly handsome Jason Isaacs, and a moderately good-looking Christian Coulson as Tom Riddle, but their roles are minor.

On the whole, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is a strong step on the right direction for the series. The main actors are growing into their roles, the emphasis on story lifts the film to a higher plane, and the presentation of the world of Harry Potter is outstanding. However, some clunky acting moments, some sluggishness in pace, and several sub-standard action sequences hold this film back from greatness.

Fun Fact

Fourteen Ford Anglias were demolished during the making of the scene where the car crash lands into the Womping Willow.

Score
Pace: 69
Plot: 87
Action: 59
Consistent Premise: 96
Script/Quotes: 83
Characters: 97
Acting: 79
Villain: 78
Body Count: 0
Time to First Dead Body: None
Babes: 0
Hunks: 51
Explosions: 31
Special Effects: 79
Stunts: 31
Ending: 83

Overall: 83

Related Reviews: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

[tags]Harry Potter, Chamber of Secrets, Chris Columbus, Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Richard Harris, Kenneth Branagh, Jason Isaacs, Robbie Coltrane, Alan Rickman, action movie, movie review[/tags]

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