Aug 10, 2012

[Movies] Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)

I'm enjoying how Fridays have become more than just "old" movie review days but also a time when I get to celebrate some of the major franchises of movie history. I've already posted reviews for the likes of Star Wars, Star Trek and recently Back to the Future and now I'm completing my set of Harry Potter movie reviews.

And don't even get me started on the books - my backlog queue for things to review is pretty formidable since I'm catching up with, well, all of my life.

Now I have to set this disclaimer - originally I found Chamber of Secrets to be my least favorite of the Harry Potter Books. Of course with the benefit of hindsight, I didn't immediately realize where the book would stand in terms of the greater scheme of things. But that's besides the point - like any other review, we'll need to weight this book based on the merits of the movie on its own as independent of all other related works or off-shoots.

That's the part of this "job" that makes writing these reviews so much fun.

Synopsis: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is the sequel based on the second Harry Potter book of the same name. Like the first movie, it had been directed by Chris Columbus again with screenplay written by Steve Kloves. And least we forget, the books were created by J.K. Rowling to begin with.

Eagerly looking forward to the start of his second year at Hogwarts, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) is trying to remain on his best behavior to avoid any more stress from the Dursleys. But then Harry meets Dobby (Toby Jones) the house elf, who has come to warn Harry about some danger that awaited him at Hogwarts. And in his efforts to protect Harry, he decides to stage a variety of magical pranks in order to make it appear that he was performing underage magic and thus ought to be punished by the Ministry of Magic.

Eventually Harry escapes the Dursleys with the aid of the Weasley brothers - Ron (Rupert Grint), Fred (James Phelps) and George (Oliver Phelps) along with a flying car. But getting back to Hogwarts is an adventure in itself. And just as he had been warned, Harry finds that Hogwarts isn't necessarily safe either. Something is attacking the students of Hogwarts - and the rumors indicate that the infamous Chamber of Secrets has been opened. But what this means is anyone's guess at this point.

This second movie sort of started a latter trend in Harry Potter adventures of Harry not being able to return to Hogwarts as any other normal wizard or witch would. Instead he has to get thrust into another adventure, and Dobby is quite the adventure all on his own. And I have to admit that I was rather impressed with the quality of the animation that went into the crafting of Dobby - so kudos to the special effects team indeed. And there was a lot of good special effects to go around ranging from the dangers of the Whomping Willow and of course for the big villain at the end.

To be fair, the movie cast some interesting folks to support the core cast. Chief among them is none other than Kenneth  Branagh as Professor Gilderoy Lockheart, the self-absorbed and most famous of wizards. Branagh is someone we're more used to seeing in period movies or adapting yet another Shakespearean play for the big screen. And thus he shines as the almost hammy Lockheart, which works tremendously well.

I also liked their casting selection for Moaning Myrtle (Shirley Henderson), the infamous ghost that haunts one of the girls bathrooms. This may seem like just another bit role that helps flesh out the universe, but Henderson made sure that she'd leave a much more lasting impression.

On the whole, this movie is quite the faithful adaptation of the book. But more than that, it also helped take what was initially a somewhat lackluster adventure for me in terms of the original book and turned it into quite the compelling movie. It's still not quite my favorite movie in the franchise, but it's hard to say that it's my least favorite either.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is a great follow-up to the first movie and it helps set the stage for many more Harry Potter adventures to follow. Plus it's yet another step in the growth of the three lead actors as they get better at bringing their characters to life, which makes the rest of the movie a lot better for all of us. Thus it rates a great 3.5 surprise feats of magic by Dobby out of a possible 5.

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