Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets

The young wizard and his little chums are back. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets is the second installation in the unbelievably popular book and now film series. With the same director, cast, script writer, key grip and probably caterer, the film is almost identical (for the most part) to the original.

For those not steeped in Pottermaina let's get the formality of the plot out of the way. With the second term at Hogwarts about to start, Harry is warned by Dobby the House Elf, not to return to Hogwarts as great danger awaits him if he returns. Naturally, Harry completely ignores him and after a couple of complications, he and his best friend and ginger muppet, Ron (Rupert Grint) manage to arrive at Hogwarts.

Soon it becomes evident that not all is well within Hogwarts. Messages are being written in blood on the walls and students start to become 'petrified' (which means frozen by fear into ridged solid beings). It turns out that the cause of the petrifactions is an ancient monster luring within Hogwarts somewhere. The only one who can release this monster from the hidden chamber (hence the name of the film) is someone who might be the descendant of one of the founders of Hogwarts, someone who is evil.

Unfortunately the suspicion falls on Harry due to unfortunate timing (being found standing over victims time and time again and being able to speak parseltongue (snake language) - a sure sign of evil as he never learnt the language, it just comes naturally to him). To make things worst, the creature attacks only Mudbloods i.e. those who were not born of pure wizard blood, which leads to the unfortunate incident of Hermione (Emma Watson II) being petrified.

Determined to find out what is behind the attacks, Harry and Ron try to discover the secret of the chamber and the guilty party behind the attacks. This leads them to a murdered students ghost who languishes in the girls toilets called Moaning Myrtle (Shirley Henderson) and a diary with a mind of its own. Also it seems that Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) seems to know more than he lets on.

With time running out, Harry and Ron discover that they are facing much more than the contents of the chamber of secrets and that Harry must face up to his heritage.

The first two thirds of the film are almost identical to the first film with classes, another endless Quidditch match, and Harry spends his time goggle eyed gawping at everything with a dim witted expression.....again. The film picks up towards the end when the monster makes an appearance but the ending is so schmaltzy and Hollywood that it brings on dry heaves that only the most hardcore Potter fan would be able to avoid. The film makers are so intent on trying to please the fans of the books that they add so much irrelevant crap that isn't doing much bar slowing the whole proceeding. With a running time of nearly three hours and everything being too convenient (i.e. when ever there is something that crops up, luckily there just happens to be a spell or potion or a coincidence that saves the day) the film tests the attention span of anyone who isn't a devoted convert to the Church of Potter. With the same sets and arenas as the first film, there are no real surprises in that department either.

Performance wise, Daniel Radcliffe is better this time out as he's got more to do this time round. Emma Watson (the Second) who was unbelievably annoying in the first film (I believe I wanted her to die) is much better this time round as well - probably because she's frozen most of the second half. Disappointedly, Rupert Grint who plays Ron, who was by far the best child in the first film, is reduced to mugging frantically and comes across much more irritatingly this time round. The adults are great though and are perfectly cast. Robbie Coltrane is excellent again as Hagrid and Kenneth Branagh, who puts in a terrific comic performance as cowardly egomaniac Gilderoy Lockhart, the new Defence Against The Dark Arts master is great as well. With a twinge of sadness, this is the last performance of Richard Harris as Professor Albus Dumbledore. Harris passed away shortly after the film was completed. He looks alarmingly frail and his once-mighty voice is reduced to a hoarse whisper.

The special effects are much better than the first film with the snake monster being the show piece. Having said that there is the issue of Dobby the House Elf who is in danger of becoming the Jar Jar Binks of the Harry Potter series. He's a CGI creation that looks like a Yoda reject but without a shred of purpose or cuteness and is totally irritating. Incidentally he bears more than a passing resemblance to Soviet leader Vladimir Putin

Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets is fine for the fans but might lose its appeal to non-fans (or normal people as I like to call them). Hopefully the next film will have less of the minute details and more of the grown-up aspects that J K Rowling is injecting in her books (for example Chamber touched upon the issue of adolescent romance, which is totally absent from the film). This film is more scary and darker than the original but as Lockhart says at one point So sorry, dozed off, what did I miss?. Well, a lot of normal people would say not much.

Score 5/10