Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets

Directed by Chris Columbus, 2002

In the Harry Potter film series weíve reached the dreaded sequel. Usually the second film in a series is crap, not able to live up to the expectations raised by the first film. "Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets" is no exception, Iím afraid.

 

The plot

The film opens like its predecessor with Harry living at the Dursleys (who have grown even fatter since HP1), but at least this time Harry has his own room. Still the intro is quite irritating and the story doesnít pick up until Harry escapes to The Burrow, the magical home of the Weasley family. And what bliss it is to see the Weasleys in their "natural" surroundings! The story continues on to Hogwarts, where the plot unfolds.

"Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets" has improved a bit plot-wise when compared to HP1. At least this time the plot appears early on, in the 40th minute of the 155 minutes long film and it tells the story of the mysterious Chamber of Secrets and the petrifying of Hogwarts students (and cat), while Harry realises that he can hear voices that no one else can.

There are plenty of supernatural things going on this time and the film makes wide use of CG characters. Thereís the grossly annoying house elf Dobby, the phoenix Fawkes, the monstrous basilisk and the gigantic spider Aragog. Aragog especially, is a huge disappointment, though. It doesnít really look like a spider, does it?

The flying Ford Anglia is, however, well done and another welcome addition to the film series is the ghost, Moaning Myrtle, brilliantly played by Shirley Henderson. Although, it is a bit of a mystery why an actress born in 1965 has been chosen to play a teenager. Especially when she flirts with the 12 year old Harry. It seems a bit dodgy.

 

The cast

When I found out that Kenneth Branaugh was playing Gilderoy Lockhart, Hogwartsí new professor in Defence Against the Dark Arts, I thought: "Iím out of here!" I have never been able to stand Branaugh! But heís actually not bad. Lockhart is so full of himself so Mr. Branaugh suits this role perfectly. Do I detect a bit of self-irony in his acting? I hope so. It is becoming.

Alan Rickman repeats his splendid performance as the sinister Professor Snape, but he has competition this time in the shape of Jason Isaacs. Isaacs portrays Lucius Malfoy perfectly, making his character as slick and dangerous as you could hope for, and I sure hope to see more of him in future films!

As for the young cast, Tom Felton as Draco Malfoy is quite good at acting mean and vicious, but the ones to look out for are the Weasleys. Although they only have minor parts, Chris Rankin (Percy Weasley), James Phelps (Fred Weasley) and Oliver Phelps (George Weasley) know how to project to the camera. You really notice them even if theyíre often only seen in the background. And if you canít tell the twins apart, Fred is the one whoís always either eating or standing with his arms crossed, whereas George is the one with the gap between his front teeth!
The older Weasley boys do it so well, but unfortunately the same canít be said for Bonnie Wright who plays their little sister Ginny. In Wright thereís a new contender for the title "worst HP actor", even worse than Emma Watson (as Hermione Granger) who still canít act.

On the other hand, Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter has improved a lot since the first HP film. He is not annoyingly sickly-sweet anymore, but as in HP1, itís Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley who upstages everyone. Heís hilarious, natural and believable.

 

Whatís wrong?

There is however something wrong with "Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets". Compared to HP1 it is as if the magic world of Harry Potter has lost some of its magic. Itís not as engaging, not as in-depth, although it is long. Too long.

Like in the first film thereís a lot of incoherent stuff in HP2 and things arenít explained particularly well Ė at least not when you think that this is a flick for kids. The story is long-winded and at times quite boring and when I saw it in our local cinema, several of the kids were actually fast asleep before we reached the dramatic scene at the end in the Chamber of Secrets. So my advice to the makers of HP3: pull yourself together and be a little more coherent and not so bloody long-winded next time around!

Two out of five stars: **

@ Lise Lyng Falkenberg, 2002

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