Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)
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Steven Kloves, J.K. Rowling
Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Richard Griffiths, Fiona Shaw, Harry Melling, Toby Jones, Jim Norton, Julie Walters, Mark Williams, Bonnie Wright, James Phelps, Chris Rankin, Oliver Phelps, Veronica Clifford
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|Movie Review by AJ |
April 13th, 2006
If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
That seems to be the primary force guiding this sequel to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, which happens to be quite a bit better than the already sensational original. Chris Columbus returns to helm Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (which was shot back-to-back with the first), Steve Kloves returns as the faithful adapting screenwriter, and just about the entire cast of the first entry returns to further develop their well-established characters. Nothing needs to be fixed from Sorcerer's Stone, so the formula is pretty much the same, and there's the same sense of magic and color that Columbus infused the original with.
This time out, we find our intrepid young hero Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) returning for his second year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, whose staff is headed again by Albus Dumbeldore (Richard Harris in his very last role). However, something is certainly amiss, as a house elf named Dobby (the voice of Toby Jones) repeatedly tries to stop Harry from getting to school, even hiding letters sent by Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) so as to discourage him from returning to Hogwarts Castle.
When Harry, Ron, and Hermione are finally at school, something terrible happens. The mythical Chamber of Secrets is opened, and Muggle-born students start popping up Petrified...like little statues in a wax museum. It's up to the trio of friends to get down to the bottom of it all to save the student body from fatality and Hogwarts from permanent closure, with Harry once again learning more about his connection to the evil Lord Voldemort.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is certainly one of the best of the five novels currently out (with two on the way) by J.K. Rowling, being much darker, more intriguing, and more complex than the first. Steve Kloves has again served Rowling's vision well, but once again with some oddly-worded dialogue (I guess these things just can't be helped in a movie with a mostly all-child cast). The story is definitely heavier and scarier than that of the original, and Christopher Columbus does his best to capture that mood throughout the film. Columbus still doesn't seem to have improved upon his directorial abilities, and it seems as if he knows it, completely letting the charm of the writing, performers, and magical creatures take the reigns and guide him through the project.
The biggest improvement in Chamber of Secrets is the special effects, which were nice but left a little something to be desired in the original. This time out, however, they are in full swing and, well, just really cool, if I do say so myself. There are many wonders that seem to come straight out of Rowling's novel, such is the brilliance of Industrial Light and Magic (magic...get it?). Of particular notice is this entry's Quidditch scene, which is rather fantastic. The Quidditch scene in Sorcerer's Stone was one of the movie's highlights, and here it's even better, because it looks really real. Though some of the elegance of Rowling's sport has been lost in the transfer from page to screen, it takes on the best of heavy-duty American sports...basically embracing the motto of the NFL: "Let's beat the crap outta people!" It's one of the most entertaining things I've seen in a long time. The terrifying creature near the end of the movie, which I won't spoil for those of you who haven't read the books, is one of the best CGI creations since the Tyrannosaurus Rex in Jurassic Park back in 1993.
The acting has also been improved upon, most noticeably in the three children leads. Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson have all grown up a tad since the filming of the last one, and it shows in their performances. Tom Felton, playing Draco Malfoy, Harry's least favorite student, and who somehow managed to escape mention in my review of the first film, is still kind of annoying, but Jason Isaacs as his father, Lucius Malfoy, is a real treat. However, he still doesn't manage to be as sinister as Alan Rickman in the role of Professor Severus Snape, one of the series' best characters.
Richard Harris is noticeably ill in his final performance, and it's very sad to see such a great actor pass away after breathing life into a brand new character through which he could've made a real impact on young audiences. Maggie Smith also does a fine job as the master of transfiguration at Hogwarts, Professor Minerva McGonagall, as does Robbie Coltrane, reprising his role as gamekeeper Rubeus Hagrid.
Flying cars, malicious trees, giant snakes, elves in pillowcases, competitive sports on broomsticks...imagination runs rampant in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and the audience is the one reaping the rewards.
Not to mention the studio executives.
--Courtesy of REELPICKS.CJB.NET--
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