A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

July 25, 2011

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

In many ways the second Harry Potter movie, like the book, feels like a re-do of the first. There’s a particular formula to the first few books, a sort of rhythm that becomes apparent. Harry starts out living in misery with his aunt, uncle and cousin. He’s whisked away to Hogwarts for the start of a new term. Some new characters are introduced (like a new Defense against the Dark Arts teacher.) There is a quidditch game. There is rivalry with Slytherin house. There’s a mystery of some sort at the school which only the trio of Ron, Hermione and Harry can unravel. There is a final confrontation with Voldemort. Over the course of seven books this formula slowly evolves as Jo becomes a better storyteller, but way back here with the second movie it’s still very much in force.

That having been said, however, I do enjoy the mystery at the heart of this movie better than that in the first movie. It has more twists and red herrings. It is a more organic part of the story. Most importantly, for a movie, it has a more cinematic feel. Since the world has already been introduced a lot less time can be spent establishing it and more can be spent just playing in it.

This movie starts to introduce some of the concepts at the heart of the conflict in the Potter universe. There are the prejudices of the “pure blood” wizards for example. The notion of “mud bloods.” The titular Chamber of Secrets is an ancient ancient trap devised by Salazar Slytherin, one of the four founders of Hogwarts. He felt that wizards of impure blood had no place in the school and had hidden a deadly monster to be used by his eventual heir to rid the school of all such Mud Bloods. It becomes clear, as Harry’s second year goes on, that the chamber has been opened by somebody and that the beast is being released to menace the school. Harry and his friends must discover what the beast is, where the chamber of secrets is hidden and who has opened it before somebody is killed and the school is shut down.

The best thing in this entire movie, however, is Kenneth Branagh as Gilderoy Lockhart, the self obsessed new defense against the dark arts professor. One of the great strengths of this series is the amazing talent that the franchise attracts. When I first heard about him being cast I couldn’t quite picture it, but I need not have worried. Branagh wonderfully captures Lockhart’s smarm and narcissism.

As with the first movie this film is full of beautiful production design that brings the world of Harry Potter to life. I love seeing the Weasley home particularly with its run down but pleasant feel. It’s a pity that they don’t show Harry de-gnoming the garden, but as with the first movie Chris Columbus has made an effort to film the book as faithfully as possible so its understandable that some scenes must be missing.

I really thought I’d have more to say here. As with the first movie this one does a nice job of bringing the adventures of Harry Potter to the screen but it doesn’t really so much adapt the book as simply attempt to film it. The distinction between these different approaches becomes apparent when you view tomorrow’s movie, which marks a real turning point for the franchise.

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July 25, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , ,

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