Revisiting Hogwarts: The Chamber of Secrets

One thing I definitely forgot about the Chris Columbus-directed first two Harry Potter films was how long they were. They both clock in just 20 minutes shy of three hours. No wonder Columbus was so accurate to the books–what could he have left out in three hours?

By the time the second movie was released, Harry Potter mania had reached full on hysteria. It’s possible that was my perspective because I was in the sixth grade and sixth graders are more prone to mania than the rest of the world. Regardless, when this trailer came out, it’s all anyone (in my world) talked about for days.

Columbus continued on in his valiant quest to be as true to the books as possible. I appreciated that more than words can express at the age of eleven, and to some degree I still do. I was impressed the only thing he removed from Chamber’s plot was Nearly Headless Nick’s Deathday party. The second movie was even more faithful than the first, a trend I hoped to see continue with Prisoner of Azkaban–but we’ll get to that later.

The second film is slightly darker, the kids’ acting improves, the supporting cast continues to remind you that before they signed on to Harry Potter, they were actually acclaimed actors. Alan Rickman as Snape may have been the best casting decision made in the history of film.

Rupert Grint’s facial expressions get even better and he’s actually taken to delivering his snappy one-liners like a true actor. Emma Watson will eventually work to become a true actress, but of the three, Grint is quite obviously the one with the most natural talent.

Columbus did really well, once again, bringing Rowling’s world to life in the sets. The Burrow and Knockturn Alley were extremely well-conceived, although the Whomping Willow was nothing like I pictured it.

At the time, critics pointed out that Columbus’ inability to stray from the books was making the movies unnecessarily long and handicapping imaginative possibilities. When I was eleven, this could not have bothered me less, although now I see the cinematic value in branching away.

My biggest issue with this film is the number of agonizingly cheesy moments stuffed in at the end. Between Harry and Lucius Malfoy, Harry and Dobby, and Hagrid and the trio, it gets to be a little much. Still, Ron and Hermione’s failed hug makes it all worth it.

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