Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets


Daniel Radcliffe as Harry James Potter
Emma Watson as Hermione Granger
Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley
Richard Harris as Albus Dumbledore
Maggie Smith as Professor Minerva McGonagall
Kenneth Branagh as Gilderoy Lockhart
Robbie Coltrane as Hagrid
Alan Rickman as Professor Severus Snape
Warwick Davis as Professor Filius Flitwick
Sean Biggerstaff as Oliver Wood
Shirley Henderson as Moaning Myrtle
Miriam Margolyes as Professor Sprout
David Bradley as Groundskeeper Argus Filch
Toby Jones as Dobby the House Elf (voice)
Christian Coulson as Tom Marvolo Riddle
Tom Felton as Draco Malfoy
Jason Isaacs as Lucius Malfoy
Mark Williams as Arthur Weasley
Julie Walters as Mrs. Weasley
John Cleese as Nearly Headless Nick
Richard Griffiths as Uncle Vernon Dursley
Fiona Shaw as Aunt Petunia Dursley
Bonnie Wright as Ginny Weasley

If you liked the first Harry Potter movie, then you should really enjoy Chamber of Secrets. With more action, more humor, a darker tone, and better effects, it ends up being a more entertaining film.

What’s It About:
Harry Potter is preparing to return for his second year at Hogwarts when he gets an unexpected visitor. Dobby the House Elf arrives with a grave warning. If Harry Potter returns to the school, he’ll be killed by something terrible. When Dobby is unwilling to give specific information, Harry returns to Hogwarts anyway.

Harry has a happy reunion with his friends Ron and Hermione, but things turn bad when Dobby’s warnings come true. Students start to be petrified by an unknown monster and warnings are left written on the walls in blood. They say that the Chamber of Secrets has been opened and the “heir” has returned. It turns out that the Chamber is a rumored secret vault in Hogwarts built by one of its founders to hold a monster. The monster is trained to kill “mudbloods”, wizard students who have Muggle parents. Only the “Heir of Slytherin” can open the chamber, but who is it?

As more students become petrified, the students start to believe that Harry Potter is the Heir of Syltherin. To make matters worse, if the monster can’t be stopped, Hogwarts will have to be closed. It’s up to Hermione, Ron, and Harry to solve the mystery of the Chamber of Secrets before it’s too late.

“Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” is rated PG for scary moments, some creature violence and mild language.

What Worked:
I’ve read all of the books and enjoyed the Harry Potter series very much. After seeing “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” I enjoyed it better than the first film. I think this is because my expectations were more realistically set than they were in Sorcerer’s Stone. I thought this one had better effects, funnier moments, cooler action, and a darker tone that made it more appealing. I saw this film with some friends who were also Harry Potter fans. They enjoyed Chamber of Secrets but still thought the first film was better. It looks like opinions will depend on personal tastes.

Most of the cast from the first film returns for the sequel and they are still in top form. Harry and Ron’s voices are notably changed, but they still deliver great performances. Emma Watson is perfectly cast again as Hermione Granger. Richard Harris, who passed away shortly after filming was completed, delivers a fine performance again as Dumbledore, but you can certainly tell he was a bit more tired this time around. New cast members include Kenneth Branagh as the flamboyant and narcissistic Professor Lockhart. He is so over the top that it’s hilarious. Branagh is exactly like the character in the book and he is fantastic. Jason Isaacs plays Lucius Malfoy and is yet again cast as a perfect bad guy. It’s going to be fun to see what he does in the future sequels.

Another new character is the CG creature Dobby. Annoying and mischievous, he’s going to be inevitably compared with Jar Jar Binks. In a way, it’s an appropriate comparison. Both are annoying CG creatures created by ILM. But while Jar Jar was “cutesy” annoying, Dobby is a bit different. He’s paranoid, comical, and he has a bit of a dark side. In my opinion he’s a better character than Jar Jar. His effects were done pretty well. While he at times looked overly CG, there are other times where he looked like a living, breathing character on the set. CG aficionados will scrutinize him, but he gets the job done.

For the most part, the effects in this film are much better. Those improved effects combined with cooler action also help to make this a better movie in my book. The Quidditch match in this film is much faster and more intense. The flying effects look better, too. You may find yourself ducking as Harry flies under the stands. The Whomping Willow is impressive and intimidating as it beats the flying car to pieces. The scene with Aragog and the spiders is pretty cool, too. While looking remarkably like a scene out of “Eight Legged Freaks,” it still ends up being one of the coolest scenes and chases in a movie this year. The final battle in the end between Harry Potter and the snake-like Basilisk is pretty intense as well. The creature looks like the head of the Dragonslayer dragon on a snake’s body. It ends up looking pretty cool.

One of the other things I liked about Chamber of Secrets is that despite being a darker film, it still offers up some funnier moments. The feral flying car reminds me of Herbie the Love Bug. The Weasley’s house sets the scene for some funny moments between the patriarch of the family and the boys who were just busted and in trouble with their mother. Mrs. Weasley’s “howler” letter offers a fun moment as her message proceeds to chew out Ron in front of all his friends. Their clumsy owl also has some pretty comical and spectacular crashes while delivering letters.

The movie seems to stay very faithful to the book. It has been a while since I last read it, but all the essential elements seemed to be there. The biggest thing missing seems to be Nearly Headless Nick’s Dead Day party. While I would have liked to see it, the movie was almost 3 hours long as it was. I understand why it was cut. I was a bit more satisfied by the ending of this movie than I was by The Sorcerer’s Stone. I guess I liked the killing the monster and saving the girl aspect of it more.

As for other aspects of the film, I felt that the music this time around sounded better than in the first one. I was a bit surprised to see John Williams credited with the music and William Ross being credited with arranging and conducting the music. I guess Williams was busy to handle all of the chores. And if you want to see the ultimate fate of one of the characters in the film, stay till the very end of the credits for a good chuckle.

What Didn’t Work:
My biggest gripe with the film is the length. At 2 hours 40 minutes, it’s a long haul to sit through. In trying to stay as faithful to the book as possible, they tend to drag the movie out. There are a few scenes that could have been cut, but you know the fans of the book would have raised a stink if this were done. As it was, I heard people lamenting about the few scenes that actually were left out. Personally, though, I think it could have been shorter and worked just as well.

The final scene kind of bothered me, too. If you read the book, then you know Hagrid is imprisoned because they believe he’s responsible for the opening of the Chamber of Secrets. In the movie, this was more of a side note than a major plot point. At the end when Hagrid is released, all of the students go into a standing ovation cheering him upon his triumphant return. However, since he left with little fanfare, the screaming and cheering and patting people on the back seemed a little too much when he showed back up.

In any case, I think “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” is a good sequel and should please all the Potter fans who made the first film a blockbuster.