Film Review: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – A Suspenseful Sequel
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is the second film in the Harry Potter franchise. By far the longest of the adaptations, it was the last film in the series to try to be as accurate to the book as possible. The growing length of books in the series soon after meant those in charge of the project had to rethink their approach. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is an exciting adventure that successfully builds on the world created in Sorcerer’s Stone.
Harry is spending his summer holidays back at the Dursleys, much to his chagrin. A mishap with a meddlesome house elf forces Harry to find alternative transport to Hogwarts. However, it soon becomes clear that the house elf had a good reason for trying to prevent Harry’s return to Hogwarts.
Harry begins hearing voices, students begin turning up petrified and strange messages are being written on the walls. Messages which are written in blood and warn that heir of Slytherin is back to continue his work. It is beginning to look as if someone has unleashed an ancient monster on the castle.
The younger actors have improved immensely since the first film. This makes their scenes a great deal more watchable this time around. Alongside the already stellar cast, there are few new additions to the second film. Kenneth Branagh is clearly enjoying himself immensely and is suitably over the top as Gilderoy Lockhart. Jason Isaacs takes a delightfully evil turn as Lucius Malfoy, Draco Malfoy’s father. Toby Jones does an excellent job as the voice of Dobby. Also joining the cast is Miriam Margolyes as the perfectly cast Mrs. Sprout.
In film two, we see more of the Weasley family with Mark Williams cast as Mr. Weasley who is delightfully silly in the part. This was, of course, the last film in which Richard Harris played Dumbledore and his portrayal is as good the as his previous appearance if tinged with a certain amount of sadness.
The CGI has improved since the first film. Dobby is completely rendered in CGI and he’s quite impressively convincing for the time. The Basilisk was created with a combination of CGI and practical effects quite successfully. That combined with excellent pacing and ominous music make it a truly frightening creature, which still holds up for the most part.
The sets and the production design are still perfectly atmospheric and immersive. The costumes are even better than those of the previous film, with personality designed into each, especially when it comes to new characters. The soundtrack is still magical, maximising the impact of emotional scenes tenfold whether that be with unease or with joy.
One thing the film certainly is right is its tone. Chris Columbus manages to build suspense while keeping the warm and fairytale-like feel of the first film. There are some surprisingly sinister moments considering the age of the intended audience. Of course, in a way, this was preparing the audience for the darker tone that the later films had.
One of the few drawbacks of this entry into the series, however, is that Hermione is missing for a large portion of the plot. This was unavoidable because of the source material, but it still detracts from my enjoyment of the film. The other problem was the decision to develop Ron into more of a comic relief character. While he is funny, the film dispenses with some of Ron’s deeper and more capable aspects in order to achieve this. Of course, this may simply be due to Rupert Grint’s talent for the comedic. But it still a shame to reduce his character in this way to focus on only one characteristic.
As for the building romance, there’s one small hint in a scene towards the end between two main characters. There is also the groundwork set for Harry’s main love interest in later films. However, there is no actual romance in this installment.
All in all, a competent follow up to the first film, with an added sinister tone that makes for a suspenseful yet fun ride all the way up to its heart-warming conclusion.
Photo Credit: Warner Brothers
Content Note: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is rated PG and has no explicit content. However, some scenes may frighten younger children.
Where To Watch: Amazon Video and buy on DVD.
“You had me at hello.”