November 22, 2002

Potter's a Pleaser

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After months of anticipation, fanfare, and propaganda, the sequel to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone has finally arrived. Oh, and it’s even better than the first. Packed into almost three hours of footage, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets delivers nonstop excitement and action amidst thrilling special effects that promises to keep kids and adults alike on the edge of their seats.

The film opens with Harry, expertly portrayed by returning star Daniel Radcliffe, trying to keep quiet while his relatives, the Dursleys, entertain important guests in their suburban house. While Harry is trying to stay unnoticed, an unwelcome house-elf named Dobby suddenly appears in his room with a foreboding message, “Harry Potter must not return to Hogwarts!”

When Harry refuses to listen, Dobby magically causes a cake to fall on his uncle’s guests, in hopes that Harry will get into so much trouble that he will not be allowed to return to the wizard school. However Dobby doesn’t realize that Harry has some mischievous and resourceful friends who break him out of his room that same evening.

Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and his brothers take him back to their house, an interesting structure that could only be standing because of magical forces, where Harry finally meets his best friend’s family. For the first time, Harry begins to understand what having a real family is like, but his feeling of security does not last long when things begin to go horribly wrong.

The trouble begins when Harry and Ron get stuck at the train station and miss their ride to Hogwarts. Instead of waiting for Ron’s parents, the two decide to illegally fly the bewitched car back to school. Not only are they almost expelled for the troubles they caused, their car also runs out of gas at the last minute, landing them in an awful tree called the Whomping Willow, whose branches almost cost Harry and Ron their lives.

Back at school, all the familiar characters return, including wise Professor Dumbledore, played by the late Richard Harris, strict but fair Professor McGonagall (Maggie Smith), wickedly sarcastic Professor Snape (Alan Rickman), and the lovable giant, Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane). We are also introduced to two new teachers, Professor Sprout (Miriam Margoyles) who teaches the kids medicinal usages of magical plants, and Professor Lockhart, brilliantly portrayed by Kenneth Branagh, the arrogant new defense of the dark arts teacher who causes girls to giggle and women to swoon, including Harry’s other best friend Hermione (Emma Watson).

Strange things begin happening at Hogwarts when students, ghosts, and animals mysteriously become “petrified”, that is, frozen in shock, and rumors start spreading that the Chamber of Secrets has been opened. With some investigation and the help of a diary of a student named Tom Riddle, the three learn that Slytherin, one of the founders of Hogwarts, built the Chamber, and that only his heir can reopen the room to unleash the monster within. The beast is suppose to then drive out or kill all of the “mudbloods”, a dirty word for wizards born to Muggle (human) parents.

From there, the movie becomes very intense and action filled, including another even more amazing quidditch scene and two very scary sequences involving spiders and serpents that I will not describe any further. There is no question that the computer animation techniques have improved greatly since the last movie, allowing for a more realistic and breathtaking ride.

However, the true magic of the film still comes from the beautifully written characters. The kids all reprise their roles wonderfully and naturally, while the other supporting stars also add a colorful touch to the movie. Snape is not quite the sinister character he was in the first movie, his role is taken over by creepy Lucius Malfoy (Jason Isaacs), Harry’s arch-nemesis Draco’s father.

The backlash against the franchise has already begun, as some people think the wonder of the books is being buried by the well, franchise, of the films. Sure, kids are out there buying up Harry Potter merchandise like mad, but many have left their computers for the first time in order to read the books. Now, that’s definitely magical.

Archived article by Yiwei Wang