be another year older and wiser. After all, Harry is. Well,
older anyway; he still seems a bit befuddled by all that's
happening around him. But even knowing that Harry Potter
and the Chamber of Secrets is not a perfect film can't
stop us from liking it.
its predecessor, this movie
follows its source pretty closely. Those who haven't read
J.K. Rowling's books might have benefited from a more linear
storyline. But it's the huge fans that are the bread and butter
of this franchise, and for them, any cut from the text is
once again director Chris Columbus was faced with a difficult
task, trying to rein all this in into a watchable form without
betraying fans. Screenwriter Steven Kloves' work follows the
book faithfully (and a bit doggedly).
result, the movie delivers little tastes of places and people,
always leaving us wanting a little more. Rowling (and by proxy,
Columbus) has created a world that requires dawdling, easy
to do in books but not so easy on film. A visit to the Weasley
home promises a lot of wonder, and though crucial to the overall
plot, it's over too quickly. From there we whisk away to a
seedy Dickensian side of the magic realm, giving a couple
of jumps and setting up for unsavory business that never really
pays off. We already knew this was a battle between good and
evil, and the true evil faces in these movies are worn with
far more sophistication than on Knockturn Alley.
the Bond movies, a pattern has also already emerged. Grab
'em early with a rousing game of Quidditch (though more rousing
this time around), take a visit out into the forbidden forest,
and for heavens' sake, make sure that the audience has completely
forgotten about the character who will be revealed as a tool
of Lord Voldemort. With so many characters, however, you forget
so many. You can only eliminate the petrified ones as suspects.
welcome differences have come up. This time around, Harry
is a far more active hero, and proves that he at least has
the potential to be a great wizard rather than just let people
say he does.
a darker film, too. That visit to the forbidden forest will
scare the bejeebers out of a lot of young children and anyone
who has a fear of spiders. (Michael Goodson has just logged
off of this review.) It had never occurred to me before that
it's a good thing that spiders can't actually talk; the giant
Aragog is even scarier precisely because he's so reasonable
about wanting to eat our heroes.
Chamber of Secrets plays as fairly as it can with such
a huge picture to squeeze into such a little canvas. (Already
I demand a Special Platinum Super-Tiger-Dragon Edition DVD
with an at least four-hour cut of the film.) And
Columbus allows himself to linger over emotional moments without
he has more of a sense of play in this world, not keeping
the respectful distance he seemed to have in the first Harry
Potter film. The often too-facile director more than holds
it all together; he occasionally verges on art.
inspired by a flashback scene involving a magical diary, the
director shoots many scenes as if they belonged in a 1940's
film. Steeped in a rich chiaroscuro, the flashback itself
pays direct homage to Olivier's Hamlet and Hitchcock's
Spellbound. (That may be the most pretentious sentence
ever to appear in Fanboy Planet, but it's true.) For those
with shorter memories, there's a little bit of The Love
actors get short shrift in the film, but we can hope that
they have a chance to be more important in later installments.
It worked for Julie Walters as Mrs. Weasley in the first film.
Here, she makes an indelible impression both in person and
as a fabled Howler. John Cleese has about three lines as Nearly
Headless Nick, which has just got to pay off later. And once
again, there's no poltergeist Peeves; Warner Brothers had
better hope Rowling never gives him a major part in the series,
because it's too late to insert him now.
given room to run, though, make the most of it. Of course
the three main kids remain watchable, though Daniel Radcliffe's
adolescence may seem jarring. (But it sure makes his moments
speaking parseltongue, the snake language, creepier.)
for Rupert Grint as Ron, being caught in the middle of puberty
makes him even funnier. Essentially playing a Lou Costello
role, Grint has an amazing sense of timing. And Emma Watson
grows into the role of Hermione, though the plot takes her
out of the action a little early.
Kenneth Branagh and Jason Isaacs command their scenes, though
Isaacs dims a little bit in the presence of Richard Harris.
As Gilderoy Lockhart, Branagh struts and preens with gusto.
Clearly having fun, he shares it with the audience, which
allows Columbus to put in an end credits coda not found
in the book. See, guys, it can be done. Isaacs provides
a new and continuing menace as Lucius Malfoy, father of Harry's
archenemy Draco. In Isaacs' hands, it's not a caricature,
oozing contempt for the "mudbloods." Alan Rickman has competition.
there is also a bittersweet edge to this, as Harris' last
film. He rasps his way through much of it, but only to make
the flashback more believable. Playing two Dumbledores with
a fifty year difference, Harris is never less than convincing,
forceful, and warm. Whoever takes his place in the series
has large shoes to fill. But we already knew that.
shoes will be filled. Though flawed, this series will go on,
and should go on. Quality (and semi-literary) fun is hard
to come by at the movies. Treasure it when you get it.