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November 15, 2010

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

by Franz Patrick

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)
★★★ / ★★★★

Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) had not received any letters from his best friends Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) all summer and it was beginning to get to him until a house-elf showed up at the Dursleys to warn Harry not to return to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and stir a bit of trouble. In this installment, bad luck seemed to infect like the plague. Platform Nine and Three Quarters had been disabled so Ron and Harry failed to catch the train to Hogwarts, they were almost killed by the Whomping Willow, and, most importantly, the students saw Harry as the main suspect for the recent dark happenings involving blood being written on walls and students ending up petrified like statues. What hindered this film from being great was the heavy first half that had little to do with the main mystery and the case of trying too hard to impress. It only picked up toward the middle when Harry finally stumbled over a diary that belonged to Tom Riddle (Christian Coulson), a student in Hogwarts 50 years ago. It was easy to notice that the first half tried to tell jokes but most were hit-and-miss (with the exception of Gilderoy Lockhart, played to perfection by Kenneth Branagh, one of the most laughably incompetent professors Hogwarts had the unfortunate luck to hire). Another element that did not work were some of the techniques typically employed in horror pictures. For instance, when Harry would hear voices that claimed to crave for blood, the camera would move from afar and rush toward the classic terrified facial expression. Such horror camera movements and angles were frustrating because they took away some of the magic and humor that the first half desperately needed. I felt as though the filmmakers forced the material to be darker than it should have been instead of letting the storylines fall naturally into place. However, the scenes were bearable sit through because the special and visual effects were much more impressive, particularly when Ron, Harry, and Hermione transformed after drinking the disgusting Polyjuice Potion. And who could forget their visit to Aragog, the giant spider? What I found most disappointing and frustrating was the camera cutting to certain individuals’ facial expressions when the characters would speak of the identity of the person committing the crimes. Perhaps it was because I read J.K. Rowling’s books, but I believe that if I hadn’t, it would have been entirely predictable. “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” directed by Chris Columbus, was an awkward transition toward more impressive storylines and more confident direction. However, it was a necessary installment because of the importance of certain artifacts directly related to Voldemort’s endgame and some character development involving why Harry ultimately ended up in Gryffindor House instead of Slytherin.


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