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HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS ,2002
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HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS MOVIE POSTER
HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS, 2002
Movie Reviews

Directed by Chris Columbus
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Richard Griffiths, Fiona Shaw, Kenneth Branagh
Review by Emma Hutchings



SYNOPSIS:

Prior to Harry’s second year at Hogwarts, he is visited by a house-elf called Dobby, who tells him he must not go back to school. Ignoring his warning, Harry returns and before long members of the school are found petrified, Harry is hearing voices and a message, scrawled on the wall in blood, reveals that the Chamber of Secrets has been opened...

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REVIEW:

Poor Harry is having a terrible time. All he wants is to go back to Hogwarts, the school which feels more like a home to him than living with his Aunt and Uncle, who despise him. He hasn’t heard from his friends all summer and his owl is upset with him because he can’t let her out of her cage. Then he gets a surprise visit from a strange house-elf called Dobby, who talks about himself in the third person and constantly beats himself up for saying things he thinks he shouldn’t have said. Dobby warns Harry not to return to Hogwarts because he is in grave danger. When Harry refuses to comply, Dobby wreaks havoc downstairs by levitating a cake and dropping it onto a guest. This gets Harry into trouble with his Aunt and Uncle, who tell him he can’t go back to school (you’d think they’d be glad to get rid of him). So, Harry is stuck in his bedroom (well, his cousin’s second bedroom, who has kindly given it up so Harry no longer has to sleep in the cupboard under the stairs) with bars on the windows and nothing to look forward to.

But a late night visit from Ron and his brothers in their flying Ford Anglia means freedom for Harry. Now nothing will get in the way of his return to Hogwarts...or will it? Actually yes, because when Harry and Ron turn up at Platform 9¾ they find the portal impassable and can’t get to the train. Luckily, the Ford Anglia is parked outside so they are able to fly to Hogwarts. Although this in itself is no easy task, as they are almost killed by the Hogwarts Express and then the Whomping Willow tree. When they finally do get inside Hogwarts, they are almost sent home straight away. Professor Snape is not impressed by the fact they were sighted in a flying car and caused damage to the Whomping Willow. However, Professor McGonagall decides to let them stay.

As events unfold however, it appears that it may have been better for them if they had gone home. A number of students, as well as Mrs Norris the cat and Nearly Headless Nick, are discovered petrified. The heir of Slytherin has returned to Hogwarts and has opened the Chamber of Secrets, setting free a dangerous creature to purge its halls of Muggle-borns. Harry, Ron and Hermione must uncover the entrance and stop the heir before school is out...for good.

This film, the second in the series, has the same main fault as the first in that it is very faithful to its source material. However, it’s a better film than the first because improvements have been made in all areas and it is both darker and more dramatic. It is possible to see it slowly gaining a life of its own and moving away from the novels, something the third film improves upon immensely.

One criticism I would like to make, one that isn’t actually a weakness of the films, but of the novels, is deus ex machina. Too often Harry is saved from a dangerous situation by something extremely improbable happening. In the first book and film, Harry is faced with death at the hands of Quirrell but then we discover that his touch can apparently fatally wound evil people (an ambiguous power he never uses again). In this second film and its source material, Harry is completely out of his depth against a huge basilisk. He has nothing to fear though, as he is saved by Fawkes the phoenix, who seemingly comes to the aid of those who show loyalty to Dumbledore (this is never fully explained). He pecks the basilisk’s eyes out and gives Harry the sorting hat from which he draws Godric Gryffindor’s sword (that’s one clever bird!). Later, when Harry gets himself poisoned by one of the basilisk’s fangs, Fawkes returns to heal him and carry everyone to safety. The phoenix truly is the real hero of this story.

The introduction of new characters is always something to look forward to in the Harry Potter films. It is a case of seeing brilliant British actors showing off their talent and having a great time. This time around we have Kenneth Branagh as the comical and egotistical new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher Gilderoy Lockhart (you’ll notice this position in the school has an extremely high turnover). He is clearly enjoying himself and is a definite scene-stealer. Another new recruit is Jason Isaacs as Draco Malfoy’s father Lucius. An excellent actor, I always prefer watching him play the bad guy, and here he is obviously relishing his role.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is definitely aimed more at fans of the book than those new to the series, which makes financial sense because there is a huge built-in audience to target. Ultimately though, this means the film suffers in terms of creativity. It is a dedicated adaptation that will thrill fans young and old alike, although the very young may get scared of the huge spiders and the basilisk. Visually, it is a treat, and the crew who created this magical world seem to know no bounds. At 161 minutes the film is much too long, but those who love Harry Potter probably aren’t going to notice. Bring on the next one!

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