by Warner Bros. 

November 2002

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

“Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” the second film in the Harry Potter franchise again manages to capture the feel of the books, beginning with the casting of the three main characters, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint), and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson).    While Steven Kloves’s screenplay of necessity simplifies the plot, he does manage to condense in ways which maintain internal consistency in the story for the purposes of the film.

Focusing on the second year of Harry Potter’s academic career, the film hardly portrays anything of his classes, except for a brief scene learning about Mandrake (which raises the question of how the earmuffs can block the screams of the roots, but not Professor Sprout’s voice) and another sequence in the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom.  A quidditch match, which is probably a necessity for the film, at first looks like it will be redundant due to the presence of a match in the first film, but quickly goes its own route, becoming more interesting that initially presented.

While the cast from the first film is a known quantity, the additions to the cast should be noted.  Christian Coulson does a wonderful job in depicting Tom Riddle, in all his various incarnations, and the scenes set around Riddle fifty years before the present are done quite well in muted colors and providing the feel for an earlier period.  Kenneth Branagh’s portrayal of blowhard Gilderoy Lockhart, while accurate to the books, makes the character even more annoying when seen on screen.  The viewer wonders how Lockhart managed to land the position as a professor at Hogwart’s when it is clear from their reactions that the faculty, and student body, sees right through him.  Bonnie Wright, as Ginny Weasley, is central to the plot, but actually given very little to do, and the new female actress who does make a difference in the film is Shirley Henderson as the ghost Moaning Myrtle.

Most of the special effects in “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” are well done, although a few of them just don’t look right.  Perhaps most egregious of these are the scenes which feature the Weasley’s Ford Anglia.  Whether flying or rampaging through the Dark Forest, the car looks more like a model than an actual auto.  This one effect, however, is more than made up for by the expertise used to create Dobby, the house elf (voiced by Toby Jones) or even by many of the apparently simpler special effects throughout the film.

The main plot of “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” is a mystery, notably who the heir of Slytherin.  Although there are several possible suspects, Harry and is friends focus on only a single possibility, Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton), while the rest of the school decides it must be Harry himself, a consideration which Harry briefly entertains.  The mystery would have worked better with a few more red herrings and building up the ultimate culprit’s relationship with Harry more throughout the film.

“Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” manages to hit exactly the right balance between darkness and levity in its presentation of the events from J.K. Rowling’s second novel.  There is a mostly coherent internal consistency, although on occasion it lapses and the filmmakers expect to be able to rely on the viewers knowledge of the first film in the series for background.

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