Retro Review: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

The Chamber of Secrets has been opened and so has the Harry Potter film franchise.

Barreling in on the success of last year’s Harry Potter film, Chamber of Secrets continues of adventures of aspiring wizard Harry Potter and his friends at Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

In the second film of the widely popular series, Harry returns to Hogwart’s after being warned not to by a house elf named Doby.

Harry quickly learns that an unknown force is petrifying people at the school. These attacks are connected to the mythical “Chamber of Secrets” which has been rumored to been opened spawning the attacks.

What is the monster and who or what is behind these attacks? Harry and friends must quickly solve the mystery when it becomes deeply personal.

“Chamber of Secrets” will entrance and captivate fans of the original film and novels. The film builds on its predecessor as we get to know the characters more and it unlocks even more of the mysteries housed within Hogwart’s.

There are delightful scenes that kids as well as adults will enjoy. From the “screaming Mandrakes” scene to the wizard’s duel to the film’s final monster, there are a lot of beautiful Harry moments.

The darker tone of this sequel brings a stronger element to the film. It enriches the journey this time around because it seems a lot more real to young and old.

The downside to this dark tone is that it may scare away some of Harry’s younger fans. It is true that the second novel was indeed darker in tone and author J.K. Rowling used the book to show us that Hogwart’s isn’t as safe as Harry had imagined in the beginning. This is very evident in the film as well.

The downside to this sequel is that it doesn’t stand on its own. If this is someone’s first experience with Harry Potter’s world then you may find it hard to get excited about this adventure from the get-go. The film doesn’t give us a back-story to Harry and his world. We are just “flu-powdered” in and we have to hang on by our fingernails.

The second problem I had with this film was the length. I know that these novels are full of glorious morsels and there is a lot to be told, but as a moviegoer it’s tough to be enthralled for the full 161 minutes. Even at that length, the film continues on at a great speed as it tries to pull everything in. If you aren’t paying attention to detail in the last 40 minutes you may miss the whole point of this adventure.

I really have to say that “Chamber of Secrets” is probably as good as the original film even with the darker style. I liked it because it capitalizes on the first and gives me a deeper look into the magical world of Harry. I also really liked Kenneth Branagh’s buffoon professor Gilderoy Lockhart. In every scene, Branagh is hysterical as the complete idiot who is way out of his element.

The film lightly touches on history of Lockhart but knowing the books, Branagh’s performance is a riot. Branagh is a welcomed member of the cast. I am really looking forward to number three where a lot of changes are being made. A new director and a new Dumbledore will deliver their take on this magical world. Till then don’t forget to extinguish the fire beneath your cauldrons before leaving the classroom.

(4 of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.

Note to the wise: Even though the credits are quite long and tiresome, there is a little treasure after them so stick around after this movie.

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