Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)

August 12, 2010

Somewhat unfairly, this one bears the brunt of my ire over everything they did wrong in both the first two films.  Sorcerer’s Stone somehow has a get out of jail free card but in this one … I have no patience.  I actually didn’t see this one in theaters and didn’t watch it all the way through until last year and, frankly, I have no need to see it ever again, even if I were to watch all the others again in order.  Its not ALL bad … but it is all Chris Columbus all the time and I’m never planning to watch Home Alone again either!

The things they did improve: (From the first movie I mean, NOT as compared to the book.)  A few things are added or improved in this one that I do appreciate.

The kids are much better actors by this point, which means there’s a lot less reading of lines and a lot more delivering of dialogue.  That’s nice.

The special effects are much improved.  I laughed out loud when I read the Last Muggle’s assessment of the “special effects provided by your Windows screensaver” and supposed that she could have done as well “with a green blanket and a MacBook Pro”.  The effects in Chamber of Secrets are better.

And not that the sets were bad before but I can not stress enough how much I adore the Myrtle’s bathroom set.  Clearly it is The Most Beautiful Bathroom in The World.  And its also one of my favorite sets of all time  (but I can visit it in film six with better lighting and no Myrtle anyway).

The violence: The VIOLENCE!  Why Hollywood?  WHY?  The wizarding world is a scary one: people are murdered in their homes, students inside Hogwarts are turned to stone and abducted, the forbidden forest is populated with menacing centaurs and enormous hungry spiders.  All of that is legitimate material for the movies to play up as both dramatic and scary.  But (largely) instead they choose to add in their own stupid three stooges violence and it makes me crazy!

The things they add: First there’s the insistence on souping up the spells; Expelliarmus is supposed to knock the wand out of someone’s hand, not blast them backwards bodily across a room.  If they wanted it to cause a person’s arm to jerk dramatically as the wand flies away (theoretically toward the spell caster) fine but wire work effects are just so totally over the top.  There is no need to try to make magic more magical.

And Lucius Malfoy turns Avada Kedavra on Harry in a hallway right outside Dumbledore’s office.  Come on!  The man is completely capable of using the Cruciatus curse on an underling in a dark alley or even the Imperius curse on a ministry official he wanted something from but only in secret.  He’s not going to publicly execute an Unforgivable Curse on Hogwarts grounds and land himself in Azkaban, giving up all his power and prestige, when he spent years forswearing the dark lord to avoid just that.  Its insane.

And then finally there’s Ron-as-Caveman which takes place in what is one of my favorite scenes in the book.  Lockhart has just tried to erase Ron’s and Harry’s memories with a broken wand brought the ceiling down instead, blanking his own mind at the same time.  Harry goes on to defeat the Heir alone and when he comes back he finds Ron has opened a passage in the rock fall and Lockhart a total loss.  (This is from the book, mind).

Guilderoy Lockhart was sitting there, humming placidly to himself.

“His memory’s gone,” said Ron.  “The memory charm backfired.  Hit him, instead of us.  He hasn’t got a clue who he is, or where he is, or who we are.  I told him to come and wait here.  He’s a danger to himself.”

Lockhart peered goodnaturedly up at them.

“Hello,” he said.  “Odd sort of place this, isn’t it?  Do you live here?”

“No,” said Ron, raising his eyebrows at Harry.

So basically in the book (let’s all notice) Ron doesn’t even make Lockhart help him dig out of the rubble because he’s too damaged.  Granted, Ron does kick Lockhart in the shins twice right after the rock fall … reasonably well deserved since he nearly stole their whole lives from them.  In the movie it goes down like this.  Lockhart yells “Obliviate.”  The ceiling comes down with Harry and Ron on opposite sides.  The dust settles.  Lockhart looks up at Ron and says, “Do you live here?”  And Ron picks up a fist sized rock from the rubble, hefts it, and conchs Lockhart on the head with it, knocking him out cold.  Then he and Harry make a plan for what to do next.

This is just a) so uncalled for, b) so out of character and c) such an unbelievably violent act for a 13 year old kid that it takes my breath away.  WTF.

So basically … I hate this movie.  It has several redeeming features but I’m tired of talking about it so I won’t go into them.

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4 Responses to “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)”

  1. Jess Says:

    Is it sad that I partially rank how good the Harry Potter movies are by how much the CGI improved from the first film? So long as the graphics aren’t as painful as they are in “Sorcerer’s Stone”, the movie can’t be all bad.

    • dihansmann Says:

      I feel the same way. Its hard to avoid cringing at the effects from the first movie. I just can’t imagine what they were thinking with the sloppiness of some of that computer work and its all the more shocking because the effects were done by Industrial Light and Magic. They were really phoning it in! I know that 2001 was a long time ago, technology wise, but Jurassic Park did a fantastic job of combining practical and digital effects (and animatronics) with good camera work to create a sense of verisimilitude way back in 1993! The Star Wars early episodes were being released at the same time as the early Potter films and they were much better (in cgi graphics), perhaps ILM was distracted by its own in-house projects.
      I could still quibble with Chamber of Secrets about its effects – compare Dobby with Golumn (who debuted the same year in 2002) and the difference is pretty clear. Still it is SO MUCH BETTER than the first one.

      By the way, I’m a big fan of the last muggle and am eagerly anticipating your ranking of the first six films when you have finished watching them!

      • Jess Says:

        I agree. If you look at something like Jurassic Park, you can’t help but wonder where is the Sorcerer’s Stone’s dinosaur – where is that amazing moment of CGI that makes everyone gasp?

        So glad you’re a fan of the blog! The rankings will come soon enough. It’s not going to be easy…

  2. dihansmann Says:

    Yes indeed. I only discovered it recently but I’ve been back through a fair amount of your archives now. Its been fun reading your speculations and remembering some of the wild theories I came up with on my own first read through!

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