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Vault Movie Review: “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Theatrical Release: 11/15/2002

Theatrical Release: 11/15/2002

Synopsis

Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) is returning to Hogwarts for his second year at the school for witchcraft and wizardry. However, much like in his first year, his journey to the school is not an easy one. Shortly before leaving for the school, a mysterious house elf named Dobby (Toby Jones) pays him a visit. Dobby tells Harry Potter that there will be great danger at Hogwarts this year, and he urges the young wizard not to return to the school. Desperate to escape the prison-like existence that his aunt and uncle have created for him, Harry chooses to ignore the elf, and returns to Hogwarts with his friend Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint).

Unfortunately, Harry quickly learns that Dobby was right. After multiple students wind up being victims of an unknown assailant, Harry, Ron, and Hermione (Emma Watson) hear rumors that the Chamber of Secrets has been opened. They do not know what the Chamber of Secrets is, where it is, or what was inside, but whatever has gotten out is making Hogwarts a dangerous place to be. As the year continues, strange things start happening to Harry that he cannot explain. Afraid to go to the professors with his problem, due to the implications of his issue, Harry, Ron, and Hermione try to find the Chamber of Secrets in their search for answers.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

The ProsThe Cons

The Trio (+8pts)

The Chamber (-4pts)

Dobby & Hogwarts (+10pts)

Gilderoy Lockhart (-3pts)

The Mystery (+5pts)

The Flashbacks (-2pts)

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Pro: The Trio (+8pts)

Much like in the last movie, one of this movie’s biggest strengths was the trio of Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Harry and Ron had a brotherly kind of friendship, and just like the last time around, they got into situations that only Hermione could get them out of. Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint had truly great chemistry together, making it incredibly easy for me to watch their characters’ friendship play out on screen. Then there was Emma Watson who once again played an effective part of this trio of friends, and I always enjoy watching her getting Harry and Ron out of trouble. The three young actors worked really well together, and it made their adventures in this movie really entertaining to watch.

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Con: The Chamber (-4pts)

I liked most of what led up to the Chamber of Secrets, but I thought a lot of what happened inside the chamber was lazily written. There was great danger inside, do not get me wrong, but everything just happened very conveniently for Harry Potter, and happened just as conveniently for the writers. From long, drawn out monologues by the antagonist that gave the Harry time, to monsters seemingly going much easier on the main character than they should have. Then there were the things that conveniently showed up at the last minute, which pretty much handed Harry Potter a victory on a silver platter. Where one of my biggest complaints with the first movie and book was that Harry seemed more lucky than triumphant in the end, it was disappointing to see that the same was true for the second installment in the franchise. It just made it feel like Harry got lucky and did not actually accomplish anything himself, making him not feel like the great, young wizard that we kept being told he was.

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Pro: Dobby & Hogwarts (+10pts)

I really liked Dobby in this movie. I remember reading the books before watching the movies when I was a kid, so I knew to expect this character, but I thought the filmmakers did a really great job at bringing him to life. I could tell that he was genuinely concerned for Harry Potter, and that he was putting himself at great risk by reaching out to the young wizard. This worked for two primary reasons. The first was that the concern he had and the risk he put himself in showed how serious the potential threat at Hogwarts would be, but the second reason this worked was because it just made this feel like a real, lived-in world. Dobby was an entertaining presence, and he worked effectively at setting up the premise and tone of this story.

Then there was Hogwarts and the wizarding world in general. There was Ron and Harry's crazy adventure to get to school after missing the train. There were the new and interesting classes that we got to see the kids in. It was also just nice to revisit all of these characters and the magical school. In the first movie, filmmakers took the challenge of setting up the characters and school in a way that audiences would enjoy and want to revisit, and they knocked it out of the park. The filmmakers then went up to bat with a new challenge in this movie, as they had to capitalize on the nostalgia that the first movie had created, while also introducing new things to keep things fresh. I thought the filmmakers knocked it out of the park with this movie as well.

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Con: Gilderoy Lockhart (-3pts)

I did not really like this character. It had nothing to do with the actor in the role, as I am sure Kenneth Branagh did exactly what the filmmakers wanted him to do, and I am sure he did it well. That being said, I thought this character came across as too silly, even for a kids movie. This would have been fine if he was strictly a background character, but due to the amount of screen-time he got, and the role he played in the story, the character's silliness made it hard to take the character seriously in the moments when he was an essential part of the story—such as the duel with Snape and Gilderoy’s role in the climax of the movie.

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Pro: The Mystery (+5pts)

Along with the pleasure of revisiting Hogwarts, this story introduced a compelling mystery. Something was going on in Hogwarts during Harry's second year, and whatever it was, it put everyone in the school in danger. I thought it was a little ridiculous that, given what the professors knew was going on, they did not choose to shutdown the school and get to the bottom of it. Nonetheless, I was able to look past this pretty quickly, as I felt in the middle of the mystery, and I was totally invested in seeing Harry, Ron, and Hermione figure it out, while hoping none of them fell victim to whatever had been released in the school.

Another issue I had with this plot, was that once I found out what had been released in the school, I found it incredibly hard to believe that not a single person saw it (other than its few victims). Again though, I was able to look past this, as once Harry figured out what it was, I was too invested in the story to worry about the logistics of what had been happening. Long story short, revisiting Hogwarts was great, but the mystery element that was introduced in this story made it so that I was never entirely comfortable or content with what was happening on screen, which made this a suspenseful, engaging story. The mystery kept me on the edge of my seat, and it kept me totally invested in seeing it get resolved. I had a few issues with the logistics of the mystery, but the mystery was effective enough to allow me to look past those issues pretty easily.

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Con: The Flashbacks (-2pts)

While I found the mystery to be compelling, I thought the flashbacks killed some of the momentum that the rest of the movie had built up so effectively. The filmmakers wanted to tell the story of Tom Riddle, a former student at Hogwarts. The book was able to tell this story, because the book had a lot longer to tell it, without being limited by the run-time of a movie. By putting these flashback sequences in here, it it did little but disrupt the pacing of the movie. This was largely due to me not being interested in Tom Riddle's story. I knew he was a former student that broken bad, and that was really all I needed to know about him. I did not need multiple flashbacks showing him being sketchy, so when the filmmakers kept going back to that well, I was just sitting their waiting for the story to get back to the far more interesting, present-day Hogwarts.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

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Grade: B+ (89pts)

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was a really strong first movie for this franchise, and I thought the filmmakers delivered an equally strong second movie, with Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. That is not to say that the movie was perfect, however. I thought Gilderoy Lockhart came across as too silly, I thought a lot of what happened in the Chamber of Secrets was too convenient for Harry, and I thought the flashbacks to Tom Riddle's story disrupted the pacing of the rest of the movie. Fortunately, I thought the good far outweighed the bad.

The trio of Harry, Ron, and Hermione were once again a joy to watch. I also really enjoyed revisiting the wizarding world and Hogwarts, while also being introduced to new things, classes, and characters like Dobby. Then there was the really effective mystery, regarding what was happening in Hogwarts during Harry's second year. The first movie was really good, so it set the bar pretty high for the movies that would follow, but I thought the filmmakers delivered another really good movie with Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

Comments

Caila Daniels from Chicago on September 06, 2020:

I love this movie even though I think most of the plot is told within the last half of it at about as late as they could have held on to it within the movie. Just made it feel long.