“The Chamber of Secrets has been opened. Enemies of the heir, beware.”
I remember the months before the release of Chamber and how it was branded as a darker movie than the first. As became the trend with this series, the second instalment ramped up the mature tone, with children getting petrified, threatened with death, duelling each other, killing roosters and then writing messages in blood, and on top of all that, dealing with racism. What Chamber of Secrets has over its predecessor is that it evolves the world of Hogwarts and injects personalities into its lead characters. Harry develops a dry wit which is a refreshing change of pace from the moping teenager being persecuted for attacking students, he later becomes during the middle of the film. Ron and Hermione continue to prove their usefulness in the story, and the scenes where they are simply hanging out and scheming continue to develop their on screen chemistry.
As a kid, I remember going bonkers over the Quidditch sequence and the final battle against the basilisk, and what continues to impress about this series is how well the special effects hold up. As a walking and talking fully CGI character, Dobby feels like he is a part of the world, more-so if you avoid concentrating on Daniel Radcliffe’s eye line, which does somewhat break the illusion. The final battle between Harry and the giant snake mixes CGI with practical effects to create an impressive action sequence.
The problem I have with this movie is that I always feel that the first and second acts seem to drag on quite a bit, with the school becoming more and more suspicious of Harry and the mystery of what is the Chamber of Secrets, and who is the Heir of Slytherin not holding much intrigue, especially on repeat viewings. While Philosopher’s Stone had the job of introducing the wizarding world to us muggles, Chamber of Secrets felt very similar without offering too much more. Chris Columbus does a fine job of directing, especially given the amount of pressure that was on the movie to be a success following the first. The addition of Kenneth Branagh as Gilderoy Lockhart is little more than a sometimes comedic nuisance, he does a great job but his role in the story offers nothing of real value. Richard Harris’ final portrayal of Dumbledore as a softer spoken and caring headmaster is a perfect capper for his tenure and fits the tone of the film.
The added theme of racism between pure bloods and muggle born adds a maturity to a children’s film which is admirable, especially in a major blockbuster such as this. The faces of the negative side are the Malfoy’s. Jason Isaacs’ vile Lucius Malfoy explains why Draco is such a little shit. And speaking of the younger Malfoy, he reaches peak dickishness in Chamber of Secrets, yelling out racial slurs in public and committing petty crimes while wishing the death of his classmates. (Deconstructing this film is slightly alarming once you really pay attention to its themes).
Yet, even with these negative aspects, the film flies by with a rather solid third act and Hagrid walking into the great hall and being applauded by everyone is still a tear jerker, no matter how many times I watch it. Seriously, I am literally watching right now and I am on the verge of blubbering like a damn baby. (“There’s no Hogwarts without you Hagrid”).
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is certainly not my favourite of the series but that doesn’t make it a bad movie. With the franchise on the verge of a darker facelift with the next instalment, the film introduces a few mature themes while keeping the sense of adventure alive. For a fan of everything Potter, the movie is a solid instalment in a series which is about to reach a whole other level of greatness in its third outing.
If you have the choice between watching the theatrical cut or the extended edition, stick to the theatrical cut. The extended edition has very odd pacing and there are only one or two extra scenes that add anything to the plot, the rest are somewhat poorly acted and too melodramatic which detracts from the overall quality.
Seriously, Draco is just shouting out the wizarding equivalent of the N-Word in the middle of large crowds and there are no repercussions whatsoever.
I have always wondered if Tom Marvolo Riddle jumbled up his name and spelt out ‘I AM LORD’ and then used the leftover letters to eventually spell out ‘VOLDEMORT’. Is there a piece of paper out there with other evil names like MOVERDOLT or VELRTDOOM?
Next time on Jeremy’s reviews of Harry Potter: Alfonso Cuarón brings the maturity and a downright brilliant new direction for the series in Prisoner of Azkaban.