Directed by: Chris Columbus
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson
Having just spent another miserable summer with the Dursley family, Harry can’t wait to pack up and head back to Hogwarts for his second year at the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Little does he know, a seemingly omniscient yet bothersome House Elf named Dobby is paying him a visit in order to prevent him from doing so, the reason being to keep him out of inevitable danger. Ignoring such warnings, Harry heads off to school to as planned. But soon enough, strange happenings begin to plague Hogwarts without fail, the circumstances surrounding which all point back to the mysterious Chamber of Secrets and the truth behind it.
Chris Columbus’ second Potter outing is essentially more of the same when paired with that of its predecessor. It’s another meticulously rendered adaptation of the novel of the same title, resulting in yet another delightful look into the life of everyone’s favorite young wizard. I personally find this to be both a strength and a weakness judging by how long the film truly is in retrospect, but what the first installment lacked in relation to some generally more appealing subject matter, Chamber of Secrets more than makes up for with an ample helping of darker, altogether scarier sequences. Granted, these can all be attributed to those moments present within the novel, but once again, Columbus and Kloves manage to deliver where it counts.
Since Harry and his cohorts are still very young in every sense of the word, there’s little room for the overall maturation of the three main protagonists outside of Harry’s personal sojourns, the ending included. This shouldn’t bother me as much as it does, but it’s because of this and the aforementioned identical directorial approach that Chamber of Secrets feels like a direct continuation of the first Potter film. What managed to help me move past this to a degree was essentially a much-needed change of scenery during the opening sequence, of which sports a hefty amount of the Weasley family and their flying car, along with a slightly heavier focus on Voldemort and his eventual resurrection.
Once again, each one of the young actors in question deliver respectable performances, as does just about every member of the supporting cast. In fact, the only casting changes can be found within Toby Jones as the meddlesome Dobby, and Kenneth Branagh as the hilariously inept wizard/celebrity Gilderoy Lockhart, the latter of which provides Chamber of Secrets with its obligatory new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor. As negligible as it sounds, I found the inevitable return of the actors in question a promising sign for acceptable future installments and ultimately a chance to see what Radcliffe and the gang are truly capable of.
All in all, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is most definitely an improvement over the first film in the series. It provides audiences with just about everything they’d hope to see following 2001’s Sorcerer’s Stone, along with some genuinely darker, more appealing moments to further satisfy fans such as myself. However, it’s because of Columbus’ by-the-book approach and sometimes sub par style that his attempts at later Potter films would potentially fall flat in several areas. This in mind, I enjoyed his take on the franchise, but seeing someone else behind the cameras for 2004’s Prisoner of Azkaban was a very welcome surprise.