Harry Potter in Review: The Chamber of Secrets
Director: Chris Columbus
Cast: The usual, plus Kenneth Branagh, Jason Isaacs.
Plot: Whilst in their second year at the illustrious and homicidal Hogwarts, Harry, Ron and Hermione discover that there is a chamber. Of secrets.
Review: When we rejoin Harry and friends for their second outing, one thing is immediately apparent: nothing much has changed since the first installment. As I stated in my previous review, director Columbus seems largely content with letting the pre-written story unfold under it’s own steam. The story-telling is lifted directly of the page with little to none creative input from those in creative control. The biggest problem which stems from this approach is that the second book simply isn’t as good as the first.
Whilst the opportunity exists for the director to add a bit more flair to the visual aspect of the film with the petrified students and giant spiders sending the characters into a situation better suited (on some level) to a horror film, the movie feels just as plain as the first. The few instances where the director deviates from the story occur with over-blown and ultimately pointless action set-pieces. Whenever given the chance Columbus whacks in a big, CGI fueled action sequence that serves no story purpose whatsoever – such as the part when Harry almost falls out of the flying car or the chase through the Quidditch stadium – that only serve to make the story feel padded. One feels that a more competent director might’ve been able to enhance what material was already available instead of coming up with these dull scenes.
Whilst it isn’t very fair to criticize child actors – I have no doubt that they put in full effort – they mostly seem to be cast on their resemblance to the character as described in the book rather than their talents, and once again it feels as though the director might’ve spent more time with all of the actors young and old. Performances only from seasoned professionals still seem like they’re in the rehearsal stage and trying to nail the character with only a couple (Rickman, Smith) really nailing it. Given the simple story and the long running time it becomes difficult to get fully invested into their story and with little in the way of new settings the sense of wonder that carried the first film has long evaporated.
Finally, there’s the much hyped appearance of Dobby. The house-elf pissed me off in the book and he pissed me off here. The special effects don’t bring him to life the way they should, like much of the effects in the film they’re just a little bit to cartoony to be placed alongside real people.
One of the weaker entries into the series, but not the weakest.
Score: FOUR outta TEN