Harry Potter & The Chamber Of Secrets (2002), Cert PG.

Director - Chris Columbus.

Writer - J.K. Rowling.

Starring - Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Richard Harris, Maggie Smith, Kenneth Brannagh, Robbie Coltrane, Alan Rickman & Jason Issacs.


Premise - The boy who lived, Harry Potter is about to start his second year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry when he is visited by the mysterious creature Dobby. Dobby is a house elf and has come to warn Harry that if he returns to Hogwarts he will be in grave danger. Since Harry considers Hogwarts to be his true home he ignores Dobby's advice, but when he gets to Hogwarts and discovers that evil is afoot it may have been wise to heed the warnings of the small elf. Can Harry solve the riddle of the chamber of secrets and save the school?

Chamber of Secrets is the second of J.K. Rowling’s proposed series of seven Harry potter books and is also (unsurprisingly) the second movie in the series. It also happens to be widely regarded as the poorest of the four books that are currently available.

Although, saying that Chamber of Secrets is the poorest Potter novel is a bit harsh. All four books are excellent reads, Chamber of Secrets just happens to be the least enjoyable out of the four excellent books. A bit like the way people say Godfather Part 3 isn't as good as the first two. Sure, that's true, but part 3 is still an outstanding film, just as Chamber of Secrets is an outstanding novel.

Being a fan of the books I was quite impressed with the original movie. They got the casting spot on, which was always going to be the make or break factor, especially the three main child leads. As good as it was, the first film suffered from the thing that dogs all the first parts of a franchise, the origin. The first film had to introduce us to the rich and varied world of Harry Potter AND had to tell a cohesive story at the same time. It achieved this well and is one of the better examples of how to start a movie franchise.

The next film however doesn't need to explain such things as Muggles, ‘the boy who lived’ and ‘he who can't be named’. It just plows head first straight into the story. The story this time around is a little bit darker than that of the first, concerning itself with death, petrification, racial hatred, giant spiders and other unpleasant matters.

I'm not going to delve deeply into the story, but suffice to say that it's fantastical enough to engage the younger members of the audience, whilst giving the adults a nice dark back story to chew on. Indeed it's the back-story involving Potter, Voldemort and the Malfoy's that I find most intriguing. Chamber of Secrets doesn't give too much away, but it sews enough seeds to raise questions that will be answered in the next two films and some that will have to wait until beyond even that to be answered.

The entire cast from the first film return and it's not only nice to see the likes of Alan Rickman (Snape), Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid) and the late Richard Harris (Dumbledore) return, but the entire support cast like Oliver Wood and Filch as well. It's a nice touch and helps the continuity no end, although some roles will need to be recast for subsequent films thanks to death (Richard Harris) and aging.

The returning cast members are all as good as they were before, but the growing up of the three child leads is obvious. Radcliffe seems to have grown a good few inches and his voice is dangerously close to breaking. Given that future films will be released 18 months apart he may well outgrow the series. It would be a shame as he has the part down to a tee and it would take some getting used to for someone else to don his cape. I was slightly disappointed that Rickman and Coltrane seemed to be a little underused, but more screen time has been given to some excellent new characters.

Kenneth Brannagh has been somewhat missing form the movie scene for a while now and it's nice to see him come back with a part as good as this. His Gilderoy Lockhart (the latest defence of the dark arts teacher) is exactly as I imagined from the book. Pompous, self absorbed and vain, Brannagh was born to play this part. Just overshadowing Brannagh is Jason Issacs as the deliciously evil Lucius Malfoy. Lucuis is one of my favourite characters from the books and Issacs does him justice like I never thought possible. Dripping with evil, he never resorts to pantomime theatrics, but instead exudes a real smarm that covers his real intentions. He will come further to the fore in later films and personally I can't wait.

One of the few problems that I had with the first movie was that the special effects felt rushed and actually looked a little cheap. Well, no problem with that in this film. The Quidditch match is more intense than ever and is ten times better looking that the washed out CGI fest that we got in the previous movie. Dobby the (completely CGI) house elf could have went down the road of Jar-Jar, but even if he isn't totally convincing he is not even close to being as annoying as he could have been.

As the tone of the book this time around is darker so the movie follows suit. The halls of Hogwarts feel more brooding and like they are closing in on the students at times. That said, Chris Columbus is really not the best director in the world as he is a bit bland and lacks invention. He has done well with the films thus far, but it is perhaps wise that he now hands over the reigns as the next two books may have been a bit to dark for his sugary fingers to handle. Taking over is Alfonso (Y Tu mama Tambien) Cuaron and his previous work with teenagers coupled with the gritty feel he can bring to a film should be the perfect mix needed for the likes of 'Prisoner Of Azkaban'.

My complaints this time round are similar to the ones I levelled at the last film. Whilst they have fixed the shoddy FX work, they have again tinkered with the novel quite a bit to get a reasonable running time. Whilst I am aware that changes have to be made to allow for a workable running time I felt some of the changes were poorly handled. The Death Day scene has been completely removed and whilst it is not terribly important to the core story it was one of my favourite moments.

I also found it strange that Hagrid gave in so easily when he was taken to Azkaban prison. Azkaban is a terrible place, as the next film will show and he just kind of shrugs his shoulders and leaves. My memory is fuzzy regarding this part of the book (it has been a year since I read it), but it just doesn’t wash that he would go without even arguing his case.

These, it has to be said are minor quibbles that will only really bother those that have read the book. The rest of you can be safe in the knowledge that Chamber of Secrets is a wonderful film that further fleshes out Rowling’s wonderful vision and has an excellent intriguing, mysterious story. Parents be warned though, some scenes are quite dark and intense and may be a little too much for the younger kids. That said, Chamber of Secrets is the very definition of an excellent, thrilling family film that has something for everyone.



See Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets if you enjoyed - Spy Kids, Harry Potter & The Philosophers Stone, The Lord Of The Rings, The Fellowship Of The Ring.

Potter Quote - Get in on the secret.