Film Review: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Updated on January 12, 2018
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Written by: Jason Wheeler, Film Frenzy Senior Writer & Editor.

Background

In 2002, Chris Columbus released Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, based on the 1998 novel of the same name by J. K. Rowling, as the second film of the Harry Potterseries. Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, David Bradley, Kenneth Branagh, John Cleese, Robbie Coltrane, Christian Coulson, Warwick Davis, Julian Glover, Richard Griffiths, Richard Harris, Jason Isaacs, Miriam Margoyles, Alan Rickman, Fiona Shaw, Maggie Smith, Toby Jones, and Julie Walters, the film grossed $879 million at the box office.


Synopsis

The Chamber of Secrets has been opened and the monster within unleashed. Now, Harry Potter and his friends must find out who opened it and who wants to rid Hogwarts of those Slytherin deemed unworthy to study magic.

Review

While it pales in comparison to the films released afterward, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is a good film as a follow up to its predecessor. It ramps up the dark and thematic elements, presenting the viewer a film that has direr stakes and multiple lives. Here, multiple characters are in danger of dying from an unknown and unseen force prowling the school. It’s a mystery where the path to solving it includes going deeper into the forest to find giant spiders and meeting a long dead and manipulative spirit.

This all makes for a good though somewhat rushed plot beginning with a warning by Dobby the House Elf to not return due to the grave events about to happen. What transpires is done well as Harry meets Gilderoy Lockhart, learns he’s going to be the new Defense Against the Dark Arts Teacher, discovers the first victim of the monster residing within the Chamber of Secrets, is believed to be Slytherin’s heir, finds more victims, picks up the lore behind the Chamber and unearths who Tom Riddle is and how far his scheme goes. All of these events are done quite well. Yet, though the presentation succeeds, the pacing fails. Most, if not all, of the scenes feel rushed as if they don’t have time to breathe and give the viewer time to digest what’s going on. As it stands, the film could have done with stretching out a few of the scenes and deleting others not as necessary.

Nevertheless, Tom Riddle is fantastic as the film’s villain. He’s initially seen when Harry is poring over a blank diary. Riddle brings his memories to life, showing Harry his version of what happened when the Chamber was opened prior. However, these memories are shown to be not trustworthy and Riddle comes to be seen as manipulative, using as many people as possible to further his sinister goals. It goes so far as to gain Ginny’s trust, making her believe he’s the only one who will listen, and bewitching her to be his acting tangible force. His plot culminates into regaining a physical body by way of sapping Ginny’s energy and planning on leaving her to rot in the Chamber.

As far as the effects go, there are moments where it’s obvious an item isn’t necessarily on screen alongside other times it’s entirely believable. Dobby and the Basilisk are examples of the latter. It looks as if Dobby is a shriveled creature speaking to Harry in one moment and hitting his head against the wall the next. Moreover, it’s easy for the audience to lose themselves in what appears to be a hulking snake monster. Despite this, the sword of Gryffindor doesn’t always look like a sword. Sometimes it looks like Harry is attempting to fight the Basilisk with a prop. Fawkes consistently looks robotic, too.

4 stars for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Awards & Recognitions

bold indicates reception of award/recognition

AARP Movies for Grownups Awards

  • Best Movie for Grownups who Refuse to Grow Up

Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA – Saturn Awards

  • Best DVD Special Edition Release
  • Best Fantasy Film
  • Best Performance by a Younger Actor (Daniel Radcliffe)
  • Best Director
  • Best Costumes
  • Best Make-Up
  • Best Special Effects

AFI Awards

  • Special Award (for the Harry Potter series)

Amanda Awards, Norway

  • Best Foreign Feature Film

Art Directors Guild

  • Contribution to Cinematic Imagery Award

Awards Circuit Community Awards

  • Best Achievement in Art Direction
  • Best Achievement in Costume Design
  • Best Original Score

Awards of the Japanese Academy

  • Best Foreign Film

BAFTA Awards

  • Kids’ Vote
  • BAFTA Children’s Award – Best Feature Film
  • Best Production Design
  • Best Sound
  • Best Achievement in Special Visual Effects

BMI Film & TV Awards

  • BMI Film Music Awards

Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards

  • Best Composter
  • Best Family Film – Live Action
  • Favorite Film Franchise
  • Best Digital Acting Performance (Toby Jones, for playing ‘Dobby”)

DVD Exclusive Awards

  • Best Overall DVD, New Movie (Including All Extra Features)
  • Best Games and Interactivities

Empire Awards, UK

  • Special Award (the “Harry Potter” films for outstanding contribution to British cinema)

Gold Derby Awards

  • Visual Effects

Golden Schmoes Awards

  • Most Overrated Movie of the Year
  • Best Special Effects of the Year

Golden Trailer Awards

  • Best Animation/Family

Grammy Awards

  • Best Score Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media

Hollywood Makeup Artist and Hair Stylist Guild Awards

  • Best Special Makeup Effects – Feature

Hugo Awards

  • Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form

International Online Cinema Awards

  • Best Visual Effects

Kids’ Choice Awards, USA – Blimp Awards

  • Favorite Movie

London Critics Circle – ALFS Awards

  • British Supporting Actor of the Year (Kenneth Branagh)

Mainichi Film Concours

  • Readers’ Choice Award – Best Foreign Language Film

Motion Picture Sound Editors, USA – Golden Reel Awards

  • Best Sound Editing in a Foreign Features

MTV Movie + TV Awards

  • Best Virtual Performance (for “Dobby”)

Online Film & Television Association Awards

  • Best Visual Effects

People’s Choice Awards, USA

  • Favorite Movie Fan Following

Phoenix Film Critics Society Awards

  • Best Live Action Family Film
  • Best Performance by a Youth in a Leading or Supporting Role – Female (Emma Watson)
  • Best Acting Ensemble
  • Best Costume Design
  • Best Makeup
  • Best Visual Effects

Satellite Awards

  • Best Youth DVD (Harry Potter: The 8 Film Collection
  • Best DVD Extras (For “Harry Potter Years 1-4”)

The Stinkers Bad Movie Awards

  • Most Annoying Non-Human Character (Dobby the House-Elf)

Visual Effects Society Awards

  • Best Character Animation in a Live Action Motion Picture (“Dobby’s Face”)
  • Best Compositing in a Motion Picture (“Quidditch Match”)

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