Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) – Chris Columbus

The magic of Harry Potter continues in Warner Brothers’ second instalment of what would go on to be an insanely profitable franchise. Director Chris Columbus returned for a second outing, with this adaption of the second book in the series (which was still being written at the time – can you remember the time when we were all wairing impatiently for the next book to be released?).

The first film original cast all returns, and brings on some very welcome additions. At the film’s heart however, is the casting of the three central characters, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione (Emma Watson), their chemistry is palatable, and it was always so great to check on them once a year with this films to see them growing, not only into young adults, but as actors as the film’s narratives required more and more of them.

Happily they have an incredible supporting cast around them, the wonderful Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane, Julie Walters, Richard Harris, Jason Isaacs, and joining them as the new Professor of the Dark Arts, is Kenneth Branagh as the self-centred, Gilderoy Lockhart.

John Williams delivers another beautiful score as Harry begins his second year at school, which is off to a rough start, because someone wants to keep him away from Hogwarts! Soon enough, Harry and his young friends learn, that there is a Chamber of Secrets somewhere on the grounds, and something seems to be stalking the halls of their school.

The series is still building its look and style, something that really clicked into place starting with the third and fourth films (there’s a slight change in the uniforms as well as some of the visual aesthetics of the franchise), and while Columbus is a great family film director, because of that, the film doesn’t become all it could have been.

Of course, it’s a little early in the series to go really dark, but there are some moments that could have been played darker (which would have conflicted with the open cheery filming style that seems to be Columbus’ signature), especially with what we knew (even then) was coming down the pipe storywise.

Still, the film remains entertaining, the special effects have weathered the years very well, and the characters remain beloved. Sure, like all film adaptations of literary works minor subplots, character beats, and smaller scenes are left aside, but the main thrust of the story is there, all the big moments from the book are there.

Sure the whole house elf slave labour thing isn’t there, and I really think that was an important part of Hermione’s character, and should have been included, but the film remains a joy, and cemented viewers’ and readers’ love of these actors in the roles and kept us coming back year after year to see what would finally happen to Harry and the rest (even if we’d already read all the books).

Next week, I’ll have a look at Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban!

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