Saturday, July 11, 2009

REVIEW: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Year: 2002
Director: Chris Columbus
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Tom Felton, Richard Harris
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
MPAA: Rated PG

Filming for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets started only three days after the release of the Sorcerer's Stone. Apparently, Warner Bros. knew the series was going to be big and green lit a sequel during post production for the first film. Chris Columbus who helmed the first film, agreed to return for the sequel with most of the other cast members already contracted to return. Actor Hugh Grant was first attached to star as Gilderoy Lockhart, but had to drop out due to his busy schedule. He was replaced by Kenneth Branagh on October 2001. Actor Richard Harris, who portrayed Albus Dumbledore in this film and the first film, died 2 weeks before the release of this film.

Plot Outline:
Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) is in his second year of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. He is visited by a house-elf named Dobby and warned not to go back to Hogwarts. Harry ignores his warning, and returns. He is still famous, although still disliked by Snape (Alan Rickman), Malfoy (Tom Felton), and the rest of the Slytherins. But then, strange things start to happen. People are becoming petrified, and no-one knows what is doing it. Harry keeps hearing a voice.. a voice which seems to be coming from within the walls. They are told the story of the Chamber of Secrets. It is said that only Salazar Slytherin's true descendant will be able to open it. Harry, it turns out, is a Parsel-tongue. This means that he is able to speak/understand snakes. Everyone thinks that it's him that has opened the Chamber of Secrets because that is what Slytherin was famous for.

The film is based on the second book titled "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" by author J. K. Rowling. Just like the first film, this film stays pretty faithful to the novel and like the first film, it also changes some things around. The Chamber of Secrets easily feels like a worthy sequel and in many ways, it is. It seems like director Chris Columbus was finally able to give us his "true" version for what was his last outing as director of this series. I always believed that the first one felt more constrained and this was mostly due to the fact that it was the first film, and probably the hardest one to fully adapt onto the big screen. Since the main characters were already established, it definitely feels like he put some of his creative skills onto the screen. The Chamber of Secrets still retains the humor and charm that made the first one so great, while going a step deeper into the darker parts of the Harry Potter universe. Even with the darker approach, the Chamber of Secrets still remains as entertaining and fun as the first film. The story is told in a more film nor type style which is really effective and engrossing. The film also runs about 10 Min's longer than the Sorcerer's Stone and at times, it tends to feel a bit long. The action scenes are more spread out this time compared to the first film, but the second half still feels superior to the first half. The special effects are much more polished this time around and the set pieces still continue to amaze me.

Daniel Radcliffe returns as the boy wizard, Harry Potter. The cast definitely feels like their at home this time around especially Radcliffe. Radcliffe is much more centered and focused compared to his first outing in the Sorcerer's Stone. I enjoyed him more in this film and hes definitely starting to grow on me with his acting. Rupert Grint also returns as Harry's red haired friend, Ron Weasley. Grint is just as amusing as he was in the last film, but his jokes are more limited this time around. Hes still fun to watch, but just not as enjoyable as he was in the last film. Emma Watson is another one who returns to her role as Hermione Granger. Just like the previous cast members, her acting also feels alot more stronger this time around. She still remains as the smart one in the group and I still enjoy her wonderful smile. We also have Tom Felton returning as Draco Malfoy. For some reason, I felt less satisfied with Felton's performance this time compared to the first film. He still remains as Harry's bitter rival, but I just don't believe the anger hes supposedly expressing. The late Richard Harris returns once more as Albus Dumbledore, in what was his last film before his unfortunate death. Even though Michael Gambon gives a good performance as Dumbledore in the later films, I always felt Harris was the better one. Hes just more fitting for the part and Ill truly miss his version of Dumbledore.

The special effects in the Chamber of Secrets is a step up from the Sorcerer's Stone. Even though the film is only a year apart from the first film, the effects look more polished this time around. The CGI animation looks more fluid and the Quidditch scene actually looks less fake. While the special effects are better than the first film, they still don't hold a candle to some of the stuff out in theaters like Transformers 2. The films source is an good condition and theirs less grain here compared to the first film. The image remains mostly smooth for the most part, but does get alittle flat during the spider encounter scene. Colors also seem more muted this time mostly due to the darker change in the atmosphere. Hardly any scene is bursting with vibrant colors and everything seems more darkly lit. Black levels are strong and inky. The darker scenes don't suffer too much in terms of shadows and drop in detail. Flesh tones are warm and spot on perfect. You can easily make out everyone in the film. Detail is also better and more clear. Close up shots show more sweat and pores. The Chamber of Secrets is hardly the most detailed film I have seen, but it still looks great and is an improvement over the first film.

The soundtrack in the Chamber of Secrets is just as beautiful and fun to listen to as the one in the Sorcerer's Stone. John Williams returns once again to compose the music for the film. William Ross, another talented composer was lucky enough to help finish John's score since he was unable to finish it due to his busy schedule. I really didn't notice a difference and most people probably wont either. That same great Harry Potter theme is back and still manages to stick to your head. The bass in the Chamber of Secrets is also a winner. The sequel is definitely alot more action packed and the bass doesn't disappoint. Its more spread out this time , but still remains mostly front centered for some reason. The dialogue is clean and clear. While I still wouldn't call the Chamber of Secrets pure reference material, it still sounds wonderful and is definitely going to sound good on your home entertainment system.

Even though the Prisoner of Azkaban remains as my favorite book in the series, the Chamber of Secrets comes in at a close second. I enjoyed this movie alot more than I did the first film simply because it felt like a worthy successor. The story is more engrossing and the characters are well developed. Everything seems to be heading in the right direction and the sequel definitely feels like the film the director wanted to make with the first film. The cast is great and most of the previous members from the first film are back. I also enjoyed the acting more this time than with the first film. The special effects are much more polished and look more fluid. The soundtrack is still a winner and still very wonderful to listen to. The bass delivers on most fronts and the second half sounds pretty awesome. I can recommend this to those looking for a good Friday night popcorn movie. Its better than the Sorcerer's Stone and feels like a step in the right direction.

Grade: B-


Andrew The Dark said...

agree, it was much better than the first film. Cant wait for your review of Prisoner of Azkaban and Goblet of Fire.

micky said...

dis movie was awesome when i saw it in theaters and def. darker. good review farzan

strike said...

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets movie is a family and adventurous movie...Not only has he had to put up with his overbearing Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon and their dread of his magical abilities, but it seems as if Harry’s best friends Ron and Hermione Granger have forgotten him – as they haven’t replied to a single one of his letters. Then, suddenly and mysteriously, house-elf Dobby appears in Harry’s bedroom you love to watch Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets movie from this website....