In 2001, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone opened to $90 million in its first three days. A year later, some of the hype is gone, but not the expectations of millions of fans. They will not be disappointed.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, no longer suffering from duel titles as the first film did (as everyone knows, everywhere else in the world the original was called The Philosopher's Stone because apparently American children are too stupid to be interested in a book with such a high-class title), brings back all of the characters from the first one to once again pit Harry, Ron and Hermione against a dark force that is undoubtedly linked to Lord Voldemort in some way. Harry is hearing voices, the other students suspect him of murder, and there are rumors of a giant serpent lurking through the school corridors. Death is around every corner.
Director Chris Columbus did an exceptional job of sticking to the book in the original, throwing in most of even the little things that J.K. Rowling's books are known for. He put Rowling's vision on the big screen, and did a heck of a job at it. Upon my first viewing of the original, I felt that he almost left too much in - the movie ranged in at two-and-a-half hours, a very long time for little children. Upon viewing it the second time, and the third time, and the fourth time, I am thankful that he left in all of the little stuff that makes Harry Potter so great.
Having established himself as "the Harry Potter director," Columbus was given more leeway this time in adapting "The Chamber of Secrets." This time around, the movie is more plot-focused, but at the expense of the loss of several funny little tidbits. The extractions are minor, but I felt disappointed that some of my favorite moments in the book (of what I can remember, having read the book in the summer of 2001) were not in the movie. "The Chamber of Secrets" is my favorite book, but I cannot say that about the movie, at least after only watching it once. The first third of the movie seems rushed as Columbus cuts and skims the scenes...
But the final two thirds are the pay-off. Though it is disappointing that certain scenes were removed, the movie overall is anything but. In the original, Columbus had to be very careful to stay true to everything, as well as introduce the characters and the setting. In the second film, he assumes that the audience knows the characters and cuts right to the chase. The final two thirds of The Chamber of Secrets is more consistent, more exciting, and much darker than anything The Sorcerer's Stone could offer; this is Columbus in his finest moment. The first movie was funny and entertaining; the second is funny, entertaining and suspenseful. Grown adults were shaking in their seats at times.
Everything about The Chamber of Secrets is done better than in its predecessor; the story flows better, the visual effects are much better, and the characters are more fun to watch. Just a year has passed since the previous film, but puberty has set in and all of the actors are taller, stronger and more mature, as is the movie (and by taller I mean this movie is eight minutes longer than the original). The spider sequence, as well as the ending are done superbly; they are more thrilling and exciting than most horror movies these days.
Given the warnings by Columbus to keep little kids away, parents might be a little concerned about taking their little ones to see it. My view is that yes, younger children might be frightened a few times throughout the film, but kids are allowed to be scared, aren't they? Most of the movie is funny and exciting, not scary; they're going to enjoy it no matter what.
As for me, The Chamber of Secrets is done better than the original, with much improved special effects and more suspense. The book is funnier than the predecessor but the movie is not. Either way, they are both really close, and will definitely end up on some Top Ten lists.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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