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Film Review: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Jul 04, 2011 06:01AM ● By Wendy Sipple

The second part of the Harry Potter series keeps the same film making team lead by Chris Columbus. Although it still keeps a more family friendly feel that the first part had, it definitely starts treading in darker territory. The effects are better even if they are slightly cartoony, and the main three actors are noticeably better with a year of experience. Even more importantly the story evolves from the expositional story telling of the first film to a fully realized story in the second.

Chamber of Secrets is a mystery much like Nancy Drew or Scooby Doo, with Harry and his friends gathering clues to solve who has done it. The movie adds some more layers to the magical world of the wizards along the way including an all digital character named Dobby. Dobby is a slave house elf who is determined to protect Harry Potter, although half the time it seems like Dobby is more determined to get Harry Potter in trouble. Another fun character introduced this go around is Gilderoy Lockhart played wonderfully by Kenneth Branaugh. The character of Lockhart is huge comic relief in this story and his fake smile and fame seeking ways hides a great secret that pays off well in the end (and after the credits).
The script is adapted faithfully by Steve Kloves. Kloves’s second adaption is better than his first go around as the story flows more smoothly and he seems to be finding ways to streamline the story without overloading the audience with non-vital information. This is definitely a big improvement over the original movie in terms of the adaption from book to screen. I would have like to seen Kloves take a few liberties with the book though as a lot of the material feels a bit too convenient, even if it happened that way in the book. Particularly in the end, which I won’t go into details for those that have not seen it. Of course huge fans of the book may disagree with me about changing anything about the original story. As an aside, Steven Spielberg was close to directing the first Harry Potter film, but backed out when Rowling refused to let him combine the first two movies into one.
Even though Chamber of Secrets moves into darker territory, the film feels as though it is holding back. Chris Columbus definitely seems to try to keep a lighter air about things if at all possible. It also feels he frames his scenes to try and relieve tension rather than build it. So the end never feels as scary as it should or could be. His tendency to have static shots as oppose to dollying shots also seem to prevent Chamber of Secrets from having a more film-like feel.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is a worthy follow up to the Sorcerer’s Stone but I am left wondering what the film could have been in a more mature film maker’s hands much like the other sequels after this one. Having read and seen where the story goes it is definitely fun to revisit this film and see how so many small details that started in this movie become major parts of the Harry Potter series down the road. That is one of the major strengths of the Harry Potter series, it builds as the story moves along and what may seem small in an earlier part of the storyline because quite big in the larger context.  

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Justin Buettner is Style's resident movie dude! How did he get this role? Well, he graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a Bachelor of Arts in film Production and a duel minor in Animation and Business with an emphasis in the entertainment field. He later went on to work on several independent films in various key roles including writer and later worked in the special effects field as a motion capture artist. He has since relocated to the Sacramento area with his family and continues writing for small independent films in addition to his movie reviews for Style Magazine.

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