Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)

Writer (book): J.K. Rowling
Writer (movie): Steve Kloves
Director: Chris Columbus
Composer: John Williams (with some assistant from William Ross, who filled in when John Williams had scheduling conflicts)

[returning cast]
Harry Potter- Daniel Radcliffe
Ron Weasley- Rupert Grint
Hermonine Granger- Emma Watson
Draco Malfoy- Tom Felton
Ginny Weasley- Bonnie Wright
Oliver Wood- Sean Biggerstaff
Headmaster Albus Dumbledore- Richard Harris (RIP 2002)
Professor McGonagall- Maggie Smith
Professor Snape- Alan Rickman
Hagrid- Robbie Coltrane
Mrs. Weasley- Julie Walters

Dobby the House-Elf (voice)- Toby Jones
Gilderoy Lockhart- Kenneth Branagh
Lucas Malfoy- Jason Isaacs
Mr. Weasley- Mark Williams
Moaning Myrtle- Shirley Henderson
Tom Riddle- Christian Coulson

Notable Nomination:
Grammy- Best Score for Movie/TV/Visual Media- John Williams


Yesterday, J.K. Rowling released more "trade secrets" on her website Pottermore. This time about the Dursleys, how they met, Vernon's reasons for disliking James Potter and by extension Harry, and the original plan for Petunia to have a more poignant goodbye scene with Harry.
I joined Pottermore a while ago, got sorted into Slytherin House, and really hadn't spent much time there. Mainly because I had trouble figuring out how to access the secrets. You not only have access to Hogwarts, Diagon Alley, Dueling Club and the ability to make potions. [Potions, I practiced and found it difficult]. You can also go through the books in a new interactive way where you go through the different chapters, pick up items within the pages and unlock additional information like mythologies and character back stories.

One trick I learned- it helps to double-click on the scenes to navigate and find more stuff. That should have been fairly simple :P but nonetheless, I've got that part of Pottermore figured out.

Anyway... yesterday, I got through the first two books and figured... it's been a while since I wrote a Harry Potter post. Why not do another before I continue onto Prisoner of Azkaban...

Predecessor vs. Sequel

What I liked about the first two movies was the sense of continuity. You could see the two movies back to back and feel as if the second movie is a continuation of the first.They had all the same cast back (with some new additions). Except for Emma Watson's hairstyle and voices changing, all the young actors looked as they did in the previous film. And it also helps that Chris Columbus stuck around for a second Potter outing.
A lot of his critics say he doesn't have a unique style, but I believe, combined with John Williams' score, his directing style helped give these early Harry Potter films a sense of magic.

As for comparing these first two movies, the sequel follows its predecessor very well. It brings the old magic back while improving on it with the additions of new characters and advancing the plot. It was also handled in a way where it could be accessible to people who'd never seen the original or read any of the books. All the characters are defined well and introduced as they appear... as if you didn't already know who Dumbledore was :roll:

As far as the pacing goes, though, I still prefer the original because The Chamber of Secrets does drag in some places. Particularly in the 2nd act- from the scene at Dumbledore's office up to when Harry and Ron "follow the spiders."

Book vs. Movie
Again, only a few minor differences between the book and the movie. Certain characters were written out and had their dialogue given to others. There were certain omissions- most of which are available in the DVD special features and whenever the Family channel airs the movie- that attempted to streamline the film.
Considering how much was taken out of the movie, it's still surprising that this is the longest of the movies at 2 and a half hours. It's like the final Lord of the Rings movie in that, you think it was long with all those extra endings, in the Extended Edition it's even longer... go figure.

The adaptation with the Sorcerer's Stone was practically flawless with only a few changes and omissions.
The same can be said about here.

Yet I would rate the book much higher than the movie because of pacing issues.
There were also a few small bits in the book I liked that didn't make it into the movie.

Particularly, there was a scene where Ginny was trying to tell Harry something important and Percy kept telling her to drop the subject... she and Harry only interact a little at the beginning of the movie and except for 3 quick cameos with no dialogue, she's all but forgotten about until the end of the movie where she plays a pivotal role... I'm just saying it would have been nice to give her a little more to do so the end of the movie didn't feel random (at least for those who didn't read the book).
But seriously... Percy has more to worry about than his relationship with halfblood Ravenclaw prefect Penelope Clearwater getting around. (But then, except for him being an arrogant Prefect and Head Boy, his role shrank considerably for the movies... in the books, the evolution of his character affected Harry and the Weasleys in notable ways that would have been interesting to see unfold on film).

Plus, the Heir of Slytherin's "how I did it" speech in the Chamber is far more interesting in the book. A bit more sinister, I guess you could say.


Harry's stuck at the Dursleys for another summer. Dobby the House Elf pays him a visit (at a most inopportune time) to warn him against returning to Hogwarts.
Once there, a devious plot starts to unfold. Multiple muggle-born (they have "normal" non-magic parents) students are being petrified, which may result in the closing of Hogwarts if allowed to continue. Harry and his friends, of course, are on a mission to investigate and, hopefully, put an end to these attacks by the Heir of Slytherin. All the while, they're trying to make sense of their new, seemingly inept, Defense against the Dark Arts teacher, Gilderoy Lockhart.

New Characters

Dobby is one of those characters you don't truly appreciate until later on Unlike with Snape (who I didn't appreciate or like until finishing the final book), you figure Dobby out by the end of this movie, enjoy his cameos throughout the books and in Part 1 of the Deathly Hallows.
But off the top, for someone who's so concerned about saving Harry's life, you'd think he was an idiot or just going about it all wrong. Some of these measures he takes are worthy a facepalm- if you have it in you to not strangle him.

Lucius Malfoy is a great new villain that appears throughout the series. Nobody could have played him better than Jason Isaacs... who plays good villains in general. When he appears on screen, he just commands your attention. He's that good... but then I could say that about a lot of the British greats in the adult roles.

As for the character himself, he's just someone you'll love to hate.

It's hard to believe that Moaning Myrtle was played by a 37-year old woman. Another great addition to the series. In the book, I think she was portrayed as a little more terrifying. But most of it was the write-up on her reputation, which is why this girls' bathroom is rarely used. In the movie, she comes off as almost bi-polar. Not to say I'm making fun/light of that illness, but her mood swings can either be terrified or hilarious. Especially when she goes from angry/frustrated to calm when Harry questions her for information.

Then of course we have our yearly sucker, I mean, Defense against Dark Arts teacher.

I found some peculiar, interesting tidbits about Gilderoy Lockhart on Pottermore. The best part was finding out the reason behind Dumbledore's appointment of him... from a moral standpoint, it makes a lot of poetical sense, but considering the danger inside the school walls, he was the worst possible choice.
Of all the DADA teachers through the course of Harry's time at Hogwarts, he is easily the most skeptical "casting" choice for this position. He's a devilishly handsome celebrity wizard with multiple best sellers telling how he dispatched all these dark creatures. Yet his track record as a teacher shows him to be severely inept. He sets a crop of Cornish pixies loose in a class session and leaves it to the students to take them on alone. He removes the bones in Harry's broken arm instead of fixing it. And when on the first and final occasions the Heir of Slytherin leaves a message, he shows up after everyone else... you'd think this was Professor Quirrell [who allied WITH Voldemort] all over again.

Interestingly, Jude Law was deemed too young to play him and Hugh Grant ALMOST played him, but had to drop out last minute due to scheduling conflicts (I'm guessing the "other" movie was either Bridget Jones's Diary, About a Boy or Two Weeks Notice).
I can see Hugh Grant playing the role, but glad that Kenneth Branagh got it. He nails that devilishly handsome self-absorbed persona perfectly.

Additional Comments

Again, like all the films, it's like a great mystery novel. If you pay attention to all the details, they all make sense at the end. But thanks to certain edits on parts of the filmmakers (today I noticed a VERY significant plot hole), some of the end results are still big surprises.

One scene I remember enjoying the first time, and still enjoy very much, is where Harry and Ron change into Crabbe & Goyle (via Polyjuice Potion) to pump Draco Malfoy for information on the Chamber of Secrets and Heir of Slytherin. While trying to find the Slytherin common room, Harry and Ron run into Percy and escape detention for being out after hours thanks to Malfoy's interference. Just sitting in the common room with him... it's like you're getting away with something as well as seeing things from the enemy's point of view. And for a moment, I saw why Tom Felton had/has all those/these fangirls.
This is the first movie where we get to see The Burrow where the Weasleys live. Harry had never been to a wizard house before, so seeing things like the magical clock (which shows where all the family members are), knitting needles that work by themselves and a self-washing dish scrubber... yeah, it's pretty awesome.

Not so awesome... my arachnophobia is proportional to the size of the spider, so the bigger they are, the more they kinda freak me out. So the scene with the giant spiders was not a favorite of mine. That isn't to say I scream my head off... I just do a lot of cringing and "ew"ing.
Then there's the basilisk. I don't mind snakes, but this giant snake is pretty terrifying. The rendering on Pottermore... phew, it was so good it was scary, especially with all the sound effects and animation.
 <-- this is what a real basilisk looks like, btw

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