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Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)

October 22, 2010

5/10 Whomping Willows

Worked a lot better as a novel.

Harry Potter and Chamber of Secrets picks up during HP’s sophomore year at good ol’ Hogwarts. This time around, a magic elf in a potato sack is trying to keep him out of school in order to save his life from unnamed dangers, Ron breaks his wand like an idiot, the Malfoys are bigger dicks than ever, kids are getting petrified left and right and everyone thinks Harry’s behind it because he can talk to snakes, and something tells me that sonofabitch Voldemort is somehow tied into it all. Just a hunch.

So it’s not quite the identical book-to-film adaptation that Sorcerer’s Stone was, and while I initially considered that a pro and con in equal parts, it’s a lot easier to appreciate someone sticking to a winning formula when stuff starts to get left out and unnecessary additions get put in. If you haven’t read the books, you won’t notice and you won’t care, you’re probably better off for it actually, and even though a lot of my gripes might be on the nitpicky side, something about this story really got lost in translation.

The weird thing is, the biggest eye-rollers here are the ones that haven’t been altered from Rowling’s source material. Maybe it’s just ’cause she’s a damn good writer or maybe I was too caught up daydreaming about how awesome it would be to use memory charms like I was in the MiB, but they weren’t eye-rollers when I was reading through them. Acted out, it’s a whole other story. No idea how I so easily brushed it off before, but there are just way too many deus ex machina/right-in-the-nick-of-time moments going on here to ignore. Whether it’s an enchanted Rent-A-Wreck that barrels out of the forest and saves our mop-topped heroes from a spidery death or a freakin’ phoenix (whose powers are merely whispered in passing) that drops by with the one super rare weapon/super rare cure that Harry needs to avoid a venomy death, it all feels quite convenient.

I don’t know. When I first tried getting through the series, I tore through the first book, couldn’t wait to read this one, and then gave up on it about 100 pages in. I wish it hadn’t taken me so long to realize my mistake, but by page 99, the magic was gone, I wasn’t sucked in and it just felt like another year back at school instead of “HARRY-FUCKING-POTTER, DESTROYER OF WORLDS, IS A-GOIN’ BACK TO HOGWARTS AND NOTHING’S GONNA GET IN HIS WAY! HUZZAH!” And while this adaptation doesn’t really carry that same back-to-school blues vibe as much, I wasn’t smiling anywhere near as much as I was in Sorcerer’s Stone. The story serves its purpose, we’re introduced to a couple key items that come into play down the line, we learn more about Voldy and the whole “wizard bigotry” issue gets addressed, but all in all, it’s not quite as memorable as those before and after it.

There’s also just too damn much going on at once here. Major characters and old favorites are introduced to us one minute, they throw their weight around, and then disappear for an hour only to return to the forefront at some critical point in the story. For the painfully annoying characters like Dobby the house elf, that high-pitched pain in the ass Moaning Myrtle (so damn annoying), and that smug bastard Draco, the hour-long break is clutch, but since it also means less screen-time for Kenneth Branagh as Gilderoy Lockhart, it kinda sucks. Totally forgot that Branagh was even in this, nor can I believe how they managed to rope him into doing this outside of convincing him that “It’s like King Lear…but with muggles,” but he’s awesome as Lockhart. Never thought much of Lockhart in the books since he also falls into the “smug bastard” category, but Branagh’s just perfect and he hams it up like a pro. Definitely a winning change of scenery.

And everyone from the last movie is here too (except for that asshole Quirrell), and not a lot has changed on that front aside from all the cracking voices. Emma Watson’s good as Hermione, Rupert Grint is fine as Ron, and Daniel Radcliffe’s Joker smile gets weirder with each Summer as Harry. Could have used more Snape, especially since Lucius Malfoy comes off as poor man’s bleached version of the guy, but Snape’ll get his spotlight in due time.

But aside from all this bitching and moaning, it’s still a good story. Having finally read through it, Chamber of Secrets ain’t bad in the least, but it’s also at the bottom of the barrel in comparison to the other six. The actual Chamber of Secrets itself is cool, it’s just fun to revisit everything, and up until the last half-hour, this was at a 6 or a 7. Alas, that final Act was pretty weak and I don’t know what Chris Columbus thought he was doing getting all melodramatic on us.

And maybe I’m just forgetting, but does the book actually end with everyone hugging Hagrid and giving him this epic standing O in the great hall? I don’t think it does, but either way, that was a stupid-ass way to end the movie. What the hell did Hagrid do but avoid getting his salad tossed in Azkaban for a night? Damn, Sirius Black better get a fucking parade in this next movie.

Too damn long, too. 2 hours and 44 minutes of wizards hitting puberty is no way to start your morning.

24 Comments leave one →
  1. October 22, 2010 2:59 am

    I agree that the ending was beyond lame. But then Harry Potter movies love to make up lame endings that never existed in the book. And Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe need to go to acting school.

    • October 22, 2010 8:59 am

      hahaha. glad i wasn’t just making that up. the moment when harry gives hagrid that big bear hug and everything gets all shmoozy before the credits roll, i was like “…wait a minute.” weird call. and i’m with you on Radcliffe, but I think Watson fits the character pretty well, at least she did in Sorcerer’s Stone. still got nothing on some of the better child actors out there like Chloe Moretz.

  2. October 22, 2010 7:18 am

    ‘Do you mean Harry that I can just say exactly what youve just said so that we can emphasise exactly whats happening to the audience?’
    ‘Yes Ron.’

  3. October 22, 2010 12:12 pm

    I don’t know if I can rank which HP flick is my fave, but this one probably isn’t going to be in the top 3. Ha..ha… poor Jason Isaac, Lucius can’t hold a candle to the deliciously snarky & sinister Snape, but I didn’t think he was that bad.

    • October 22, 2010 12:16 pm

      Yeah, he was fine, but Snape is the smarmy a-hole to beat. What’s your favorite HP book then?

      • October 23, 2010 2:01 pm

        I actually haven’t got around to reading any of the book, in fact I just caught on to the entire franchise this past Summer.

      • October 25, 2010 2:39 pm


  4. October 22, 2010 7:04 pm

    This one is bad both as a book and as a movie. Lucky the 3rd can make it up

    • October 22, 2010 11:27 pm

      Yeah, Azkaban was a favorite, at least the book was. Gary Oldman is always a great fix, too.

  5. October 23, 2010 1:08 pm

    yeah, I agree this is one of the weaker efforts. It gets a bit convoluted. Having not read the book of Chambers if Secrets I’m not sure what the differences are but I can imagine it worked better in its literary form.

    • October 25, 2010 2:41 pm

      Book is definitely the one to go with here. Just kinda all over the place, feels very segmented instead of one fluid product. Quite the bummer.

  6. October 25, 2010 3:07 pm

    I got through five of the books and then, for whatever reason, I just didn’t care anymore. I stopped watching the movies after the second and I have no explanation as to why I just dropped Potter when I was fourteen.

    I caught the sixth one in theatres last year though, really enjoyed it and plan on seeing the last two. Weird.

    • October 25, 2010 3:11 pm

      hahaha. pretty similar to my own experience. but, man, the fourth was the best one, how’d you stop after that? well, the fifth is the weakest imho, so I actually understand. really looking forward to getting around to the sixth movie, heard really good things, way too lighthearted at the moment, too. homeys need to start dying.

      • October 25, 2010 6:22 pm

        For me the 5th book is the strong one, the 6th become too much like the lord of the rings and the 7th put me down and made me stop watching the movie.

        The ending is just too lame.

      • October 25, 2010 6:27 pm

        Wow. Totally different ends of the spectrum here. Just thought the 5th was so angsty, too much “It’s so hard being Harry Potter.” Nowhere near enough Dumbledore either.

      • October 25, 2010 6:34 pm

        Yeah…people do have different opinion 😉
        My fav are the 3rd and the 5th.
        Did you like how it ends? Harry Potter should have been one of my all time favorite series but the ending ruins that chance

      • October 25, 2010 6:36 pm

        Last chapter was totally unnecessary, but I was happy to see that Tonks’ kid didn’t turn into a deadbeat orphan.

  7. November 1, 2010 1:04 am

    Yeah, this is easily the weakest link in both the book and film series. That ending was horrible, and so was everything involving the flying car post-breakout.

    I think the third book might’ve been my favorite book to read, and even though it had the most talented director, I never expect it to finish as my favorite film (maybe 2nd or 3rd as of right now). The remaining movies just have so much more scope and overall epicness, even if that’s not a word.

    • November 1, 2010 12:58 pm

      There is a lot more epicness to go around in the next books, especially around Half-Blood Prince when you start to realize that everything from day one has been painstakingly thought out right up to the end of Deathly Hallows. Still, Cuaron was a godsend after this one.

  8. November 1, 2010 6:13 pm

    Oh, and by the way, I hate you for trying to make me decide a favorite member of the Fellowship. For me, it’s an eight way tie for first, and then Frodo at the bottom.

    • November 1, 2010 6:19 pm

      hahahaha. doubt that douche is gonna win anyway. and has someone beat the system or is boromir really that awesome?

      • November 1, 2010 11:38 pm

        Haha, looks like someone is definitely beating the system. I love me some Boromir/Sean Bean action, but that favorable of a lead is just absurd.

  9. March 22, 2012 10:07 pm

    Obviously all of them do their best but for me still harry potter is the best !!!

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