Sunday, November 14, 2010

Potter-Watch (30 of 77) Review: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

The Harry Potter franchise apologizes to Richard Harris for having his last film be among the worst in the series. If only he had lived eight more years, he could've seen this series to its finish. There's been a lot of debate about whether or not this film is better than the first, and I obviously fall in favor of the first. This film does have a lot of things going for it and against it, and that creates a rather mixed experience. For a kid, this was probably an entertaining film, and it still is to some degree, but it is painfully limited. The second installment in the franchise finds Hogwarts facing several unanticipated attacks on muggleborn students, and it somehow has a connection to a mysterious piece of the school's mythology known as the Chamber of Secrets, and there we have our title.

The plot is spurred forth by Dobby, the main new character that we are introduced to in this installment. The earnest little house elf did garner some mild comparisons to Jar Jar Binks at the time, which is something that I personally can't find. He's just a lovable character, even if he is quite mischievous in this episode. The short moment when he is actually abused by Lucius Malfoy really gets us to sympathize more for him. I actually wish we had seen more of him in this film, which leads me into my first huge complaint. The film is far too long for its own good, stretching out to being illogically the longest in the franchise. Director Chris Columbus still refuses to cut out the slightest line of dialogue, or to distill any of the plot points down the essentials. The mixed reception of this film would end up being the reason for future plot points being left out.

There's also an obvious lack of narrative focus or meaning. There doesn't really feel like there's an emotional pay off to anything. The Dursleys continue to hog too much screen time, even if they're only in the film for ten minutes. The actors have improved ever so slightly. Rupert Grint is a lot less ignorant and annoying, and in all honesty, is there any pathetic soul who isn't afraid of spiders? Daniel Radcliffe continues to grow into the role, though he still has a long way to go. Emma Watson hasn't quite matured that much, but her character is bound to develop after this year. It would be a shame not to mention Richard Harris, and he does as splendid a job as usual. We can only wish he had been given a bit more to work with. The real stand out is Jason Isaacs as Lucius Malfoy, who is definitely one of my favorite supporting characters in these films.

The technical values are slightly improved from the first film, with visual effects being the main one. Sound editing and mixing still needs a great deal of work before becoming of the expert quality we expect from this series. John Williams composes pretty much nothing new for this film, and instead recycles music from his first adventure with the series. If I'm going to admit more displeasures with this film, they'll probably be that the characters simply act far too illogically given what has happened to them. Also, I absolutely hate Kenneth Branagh as Gilderoy Lockhart. This film has its merits, but they are few, and it lands this episode somewhere towards the bottom of the heap. There really isn't much more I can say, and thus this is the shortest review you are likely to get this week.


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