Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Release Date: November 15, 2002.
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Kenneth Branagh, John Cleese, Rupert Grint, David Bradley
Directed by: Chris Columbus
Produced by: David Heyman, Chris Columbus
Written by: Steve Kloves, J.K. Rowling
Distributor: Warner Brothers
Kids/Family and Action/Adventure
The follow-up to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer Stone finds young wizard Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and his friends Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) facing new challenges during their second year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry as they try to discover a dark force that is terrorizing the school.
MPAA Rating: PG for (for scary moments, some creature violence and mild language).
Harry Potter weaves his magic again in The Chamber of Secrets. After the first screening in Chicago, John Hiscock gives his verdict
Midway through Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Dobby, an obsequious house elf, tells the boy wizard: "History is about to repeat itself." The computer-generated character is probably right.
Magic formula: Maggie Smith, Miriam Margolyes and Richard Harris form part of a glittering supporting cast in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
The second of the planned seven films based on the hugely popular books by J K Rowling, sticks to the formula that made its predecessor, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, the second most successful film ever, with a worldwide gross of more than £600 million.
Wisely, scriptwriter Steve Kloves and director Chris Columbus once again are faithful to the book, although Columbus, more confident this time, deftly takes advantage of Rowling's wildly imaginative story to add some visual touches and twists of his own.
Some readers have dismissed Chamber of Secrets as their least favourite in the series because the plot is more straightforward than the others. But the dark and grimly topical tale of a malevolent presence hiding in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, freezing pupils one by one to stone, gives Columbus the chance to indulge himself with fascinatingly realistic special effects and riveting action sequences.
Most of the cast from Philosopher's Stone have returned, including Richard Harris as the wise headmaster Professor Dumbledore, Maggie Smith as Professor McGonagall, Alan Rickman as the unpleasant potions master, Professor Snape, and Robbie Coltrane as Hagrid, Hogwarts' creature-loving, half-giant gamekeeper.
The three young stars, Daniel Radcliffe as Harry, Emma Watson as Hermione Granger and Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley, all act with more assurance than they exhibited in the first film.
The latest adventure benefits from the addition of Kenneth Branagh as Gilderoy Lockhart, the foppish and narcissistic teacher of Defence Against the Dark Arts, and Jason Isaacs as the villainous Lucius Malfoy, father of Draco Malfoy, Harry's arch-rival at Hogwarts.
Branagh, wavy hair beautifully coiffed and eyes twinkling, clearly enjoys himself as the preening Lockhart, whose shortcomings are humiliatingly exposed by Harry, while Isaacs, with blonde hair reaching to his waist and carrying a snakes-head cane, makes a wonderfully venomous Malfoy. Miriam Margolyes has a marvellous cameo role as the eccentric, green-fingered Professor Sprout.
The Chamber of Secrets differs in structure and tone from The Philosopher's Stone in part because the first film spent some time setting up the world of Harry Potter and introducing the magic, the settings and the characters. With that out of the way, the second film jumps directly into the narrative, quickly transporting Harry from his home with the odious Dursleys in Privet Drive, into the adventure at Hogwarts, by means of a flying Ford Anglia.
Once at school, Harry and his friends quickly learn of a sinister new terror that is lurking in the cellars and secret passageways, and Harry finds himself ostracised by all except Ron, Hermione and fragile young Ginny Weasley, whose mysterious new diary holds a key to the dark force lurking in the school.
While containing plenty of humorous incidents, the film is also much darker in tone than its predecessor and some scenes, particularly a bloody and violent battle between Harry and a giant monster, which would do credit to any horror film, may be too intense for younger children; and, although Columbus for the most part keeps up a hectic pace, at two-and-a-half hours it is overlong and likely to strain young attention spans.
But there is also plenty to enthrall them. Columbus has refined and improved his technique for filming the game of Quidditch, which any Rowling reader knows is the most popular sport in the wizarding world, played with six tall goalposts, four flying balls and 14 players on broomsticks.
A game between Gryffindor and Slytherin houses, which turns into an aerial duel between Harry and Draco, contains more thrills than a roller coaster ride, and the flying car that takes Harry and Ron to Hogwarts proves much more hazardous for the riders than it was in the book. The Whomping Willow tree into which the car crashes and which subsequently exacts its revenge is a visual marvel.
Add to this giant spiders, howling magical mandrakes, Fawkes the Phoenix, a horde of mischievous Cornish pixies and Harry's arch-enemy Lord Voldemort, and all the ingredients are in place to provide Warner Bros with another huge hit.
Yet, when the action keeps coming and danger is always lurking and there is another hour to go, it's possible to feel that Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets may be just too much of a good thing.
Tomorrow John Hiscock interviews Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, the young stars of Harry Potter.