Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Film Review: Harry Potter & The Chamber Of Secrets

"Harry Potter & The Chamber Of Secrets" *** 1\2 (out of ****)

As Harry Potter's adventures come to an end I have decided to go back and re-watch the Harry Potter series, many of these films I will be watching for the first time. "Harry Potter & The Chamber Of Secrets" (2002) was Harry's second adventure.

After watching the first Harry Potter film, "Harry Potter & The Sorcerer's Stone" (2001), I wrote the film was filmed with a wide-eyed child's fascination. The world presented to us was filled with wonderment and joy. "Harry Potter & The Chamber Of Secrets" is a much different film. This time around the adventure is much darker. The film centers around death and as a result I don't think is for the same audience that watched "The Sorcerer's Stone". This one might scare the youngsters. But as I understand it, this film kind of set the tone for the following films. As Harry and his friends grow older the adventures become more dangerous.

"Harry Potter & The Chamber Of Secrets" makes direct references to the first film and feels like a sequel, a continuation of Harry's first adventure. At the end of the first film Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) battles the ultimate evil, a wizard who must remain nameless. But that evil wizard, Harry is told, will come back to stop him. At the start of "The Chamber Of Secrets", Harry is warned by an elf-slave, Dobby (voiced by Toby Jones) he must not return to Hogwarts. It is too dangerous. Someone (or something) wants to kill Harry Potter. But Harry doesn't heed this warning. Hogwarts is the only place Harry is happy and the only place Harry feels he can be himself. Living with the Dursley's, his non-wizard Uncle (Richard Griffiths) and Aunt (Fiona Shaw) and their spoiled son, Dudley (Harry Melling) is too complicated for Harry. They still mistreat him.

Once Harry arrives at Hogwarts trouble begins. Harry keeps hearing a strange voice which talks about blood and killing. But only Harry can hear the voice, which worries his friends, Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson). It seems even in the wizard world, hearing voices is a bad thing. But this voice is said to be responsible for attacking several of the students at Hogwarts. It seems something called the chamber of secrets has been opened and many believe it is Harry that opened it. Harry must clear his name and find out the secrets of the chambers of secrets.

In Harry's second adventure we hear a lot about muggles, which are non-wizards, and mudbloods, wizards born to non-wizards parents. You see, whatever is attacking these students is out to get mudbloods. This spirit believes that Hogwarts should only be a school for pure bloods. This leads Harry and the gang to suspect their old nemesis Malfoy (Tom Felton), who never liked Harry and his friends. And we learn Hermione is a mudblood.

While a majority of the cast from the first film has returned there are some new additions. The best new character is Professor Gilderoy Lockhart (Kenneth Branagh) a celebrity, best-selling novelist wizard, who is a big hit with the ladies. He tells of great adventures he has been on however, we suspect he may be exaggerating or perhaps flat out lying. His scenes supply the movie with a good amount of humor. The other new character is Dobby. One of the film's few wrong steps. Dobby is not a lovable character. He gets Harry into a lot of trouble all in the name of "protecting" Harry. Quite frankly, I was starting to wish Harry would cause some permanent harm to Dobby. He is an extremely annoying character. I hope he is not in any films after this one.

Director Chris Columbus has also returned. This would be the last film in the series which he directed. As I said it is a remarkably different film in tone despite Columbus at the helm. And Steve Kloves adapted J.K. Rowling's novel once again. Kloves has adapted every story in the series except for one. He must have done a very good job with these adaptations because I am unaware of any backlash against the film by fans of the novels.

Part of me likes the first film a little bit more because the film seemed to take more delight in introducing us to these characters and their world. Like Harry we were seeing all of this for the first time. It was more magical (no pun intended). However this time around the story is a little stronger. It is much more suspenseful. The plot caught my attention more this time around. The first film impressed me more with its visuals and good nature.

This darker tone though may have been the reason the film actually grossed less than the first film. This time around "Harry Potter & The Chamber Of Secrets" grossed $261 million, less than the $317 million of the first adventure. And didn't receive any Oscar nominations like the first one did. Though supposedly Daniel Radcliffe has said "The Chamber Of Secrets" was his favorite book in the series.

Still I'm looking forward to finding out what happens to Harry and where the events of "The Chamber Of Secrets" will lead him. From the look of things it seems more danger lurks ahead. Good luck Harry.