It’s time to continue with the series of reviews about the Wizarding World of Harry Potter! The follow-up to the extremely successful (and pretty great) Philosopher’s Stone was once again directed by Chris Columbus and tells the adventures described in my favourite book of the series Rowling wrote: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Is the film up-to-par? Let’s find out!
Harry’s second year at Hogwarts is incredibly dangerous, as a series of mysterious attacks against young students start happening. Rumours say they are related to the chamber of secrets and the Heir of Slytherin, but… how much of those tales are actually true?
The main issue I have with the previous Harry Potter flick was the abundance of exposition-heavy scenes. The Philosopher’s Stone felt like a long series of explanations, but this time around, as viewers already recognise most of the elements in the story, such scenes are less usual. Instead, we are presented with a more eventful film, were lots of things happen from the very first minute. The Chamber of Secrets is a very entertaining movie that features a great storyline and will delight young and adult viewers alike. It is thrilling, exciting and at times, scary… I am, to this very day, terrified by spiders, and I think Aragog and its gang have something to do with that.
The adaptation is great, too. I read the book shortly before re-watching the film, and I’m gratefully surprised with how well the story is transformed into a script. Sure, certain things are left out, but those are very correctly picked in order to have a fluently advancing plot and an appropriate pacing. With a 161’ runtime, the film is quite long for children (when I watched it at the cinema I was 7 and there was a 15-minute break in the middle so that we could go to the toilet), but it doesn’t feel long at all.
There are scenes that aren’t essential to the main storyline that could’ve been cut, but they all add to the universe in one way or another. Watching the young characters go to class is very interesting as it provides insight into the magical world shown on-screen. This trend slowly disappears with the franchise’s latter films, unfortunately, so one has to enjoy with McGonagall’s transfiguration lessons while he can!
Columbus once again captures the tone of the novels perfectly, creating a family-friendly experience that, albeit darker and more dramatic than its predecessor, still feels joyful. Camera work is simple but effective, with nothing too creative going on, but everything being correct. The same thing applies to editing, too. What is indeed remarkable is the set design. Everything from the castle, to the chamber itself, is very creatively crafted. It is a very good reproduction of Rowling’s vision, and every single element is stunning. Dumbledore’s office is probably my favourite location of them all: it’s painstakingly detailed. The Weasley’s home (known as the burrow), is great too, with lots of magical things going on and without a single straight line to be found in all that chaos. The soundtrack has also been a pleasant surprise, as I didn’t remember it as playful and colourful as it is.
What hasn’t been a surprise is the cast, great as always. Radcliff, Grint and Watson are amazing together on-screen, even more than in the first film. It’s a great trio that works especially well when together. They truly seem to be great friends, and the chemistry among them is perfect, they don’t feel like separate pieces but as a larger unit. The rest of the cast is very good too, with highlights such as Tom Felton’s Draco Malfoy, Alan Rickman’s Snape and Richard Harris’ warm Dumbledore. Not much to say after the previous review, I’m afraid… Well, probably the most important addition was Gilderoy Lockhart, the new teacher of Defence Against the Dark Arts. Portrayed beautifully by Kenneth Branagh, this new character is a lot of fun, even if at times does feel slightly obnoxious.
Special effects have been vastly improved this time around, with even better practical effects and a less obvious use of CGI. Even if some creatures do look cheesy (the basilisk is a clear example of that), the overall look of the computer generated imagery is spectacular, and when talking about a film that features flying cars, pets that transform into vases and giant spiders (eek), that’s saying a lot.
Chamber of Secrets is a great book, but also an incredible movie. Everything was carefully crafted and the result is impressive. The acting, script, pacing, special effects… Every single element is on point, and the sum of all of them is an exciting piece of film-making that, simply put, I love. This film introduced me to the Wizarding World and I cannot be more thankful for that. 9/10