Film Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Not having read any of the books and approaching each of these films with fresh eyes. Anyone who’s read my piece about film adaptation with know that I’ve always thought that films and their source material (books or whatever) should stand alone … the former having its own internal logic and ability to entertain. With the Philosopher’s Stone and this one, I feel as though I missed a vital part of the experience. Which means to me, the plot is as follows: Harry Potter is a student wizard who returns to school only to find that voices are talking to him, weird writing appears on walls and people are being petrified. Two hours later he confronts the demon behind it, but not before both of his best friends are hurt and his school is nearly closed down.

It’s a very long film. Fans will no doubt relish that all of their favourite bits from the novels are in there. Anyone else will start to figit. The film meanders on and on towards its conclusion, and there are so many dead ends and irrelevant moments that by the end we aren’t sure how much of what we’ve seen is important or for that bares any relation to the conclusion. In an adventure film, it’s important that everything which happens on screen drives the plot forward and/or tells us something about the characters – which is why there are usually so many deleted scenes on some DVDs. The shape-changing scene for example does neither. It isn’t even that funny. Neither does the moment when they meet the giant spider. And at the end of it all it’s a Scooby Doo ending – the culprit turns out to be someone we’ve only met once during the course of the film, and we only find him because Harry essentially bumps into him in the Chamber of Secrets so that he can reveal the plot. These are no doubt issues with Rowling’s novel, and there would have been war if the ending had been changed, but it makes for a slightly worthless viewing experience.

Which isn’t to say there aren’t some positive things to say. Ken Branagh plays up well to the public assumption of who he is in real life. Some of the special effects are very effecting – for example the realization of the paintings which have a life of their own. And all of the adult do their best with some deeply underwritten roles – you can see why Zoe Wannamaker passed this time. The kids are also very good, especially Daniel Radcliffe who has grown into a very good little actor. And Dobby The House Elf, is very well realised – none of the stiffness usually associated with CGI characters. But it’s all for nought if the overall experience is dulled through boredom. With any luck the next adventure will take Harry outside the school. We already know what that looks like.

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