Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Movie and Book – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)

I am re-reading and re-watching all of the Harry Potter books and movies.  You can find info about this and links to all related posts here.

Plot (no spoilers):  Harry has had a miserable summer back with his aunt and uncle.  Not only does a house elf named Dobby show up giving dire warnings to Harry not to return to Hogwarts, but he ends up literally becoming a prisoner in his own home.  He escapes with the help of the Weasleys and after a misadventure with a flying car, manages to make it back to Hogwarts.  He finds the new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor is a self-promoting book author with a legion of female fans.  The threat this year is that a Chamber of Secrets has been opened and a monster unleashed on the school.  It attacks several students and suspicion falls first on Harry, then on Hagrid.  Harry has to figure out what is going on in order to set everything right.

Thoughts about the book:  This book was only 30-40 pages longer than the first one, so it was also a quick read compared to the last books in the series.  Azkaban Prison gets mentioned and it will play a big part in the next book.  Adult wizards “apparating” is also mentioned for the first time, although instant travel is done by “floo powder” in this book.  Two things that will play a very key part in the last book are revealed – Harry is similar to Voldemort because Voldemort accidentally left part of himself in Harry when he tried to kill him as a baby; and the location of the sword of Godric Gryffindor is shown.  Author J.K. Rowling has a lot of fun with her gender’s tendency to go silly for men that are all flash and little substance, and the reactions of all the males to this is quite funny, too.  Notice how she made the object of their adoration a book author?  She also made his last name “Lockhart” as an additional pun.  The first time around I did not figure out who had been responsible for opening the Chamber of Secrets, so Rowling did a good job of disguising it.  The second time around, knowing who it was, there were clues in the book that could have led you to the right conclusion.

Thoughts about the movie:  Even in one year’s time the kids’ appearances have changed.  They look a little more mature.  The cgi was better done in this movie, too.  Dobby looked much more real than the cgi creatures in the first movie.  (He also looked kind of like Vladimir Putin for some reason.)  The movie speeds right along, sometimes because of deleted sequences (see below), but also because the story is relatively simple and it lends itself to fast movement.  Richard Harris (Dumbledore) died shortly before this movie opened.  I don’t know how ill he was during filming.  Perhaps it was only my imagination, but he seemed less energetic and his voice sounder hoarser than in the first movie.  The three actors who play Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton), Crabbe (Jamie Waylett), and Goyle (Josh Herdman) probably enjoyed this movie because they have a whole scene where they get to do more than just show up to issue threats to Harry Potter.  It’s also a scene where Harry and Ron are masquerading as Crabbe and Goyle, so those two actors got to play versions of the more famous characters.  Stay tuned until after the credits to see an additional scene where Gilderoy Lockhart’s new book is shown.

Big Names, Familiar Faces, and Familiar Voices:  This movie continues the series trend of having well known U.K. actors/actresses playing roles both across many movies, and in smaller cameos within only one or two movies.  Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets returns Richard Harris (Headmaster Albus Dumbledore), Dame Maggie Smith (Professor Minerva McGonagall), Robbie Coltrane (Rubeus Hagrid), Fiona Shaw (Aunt Petunia Dursley), Richard Griffiths (Uncle Vernon Dursley), Warwick Davis (Professor Flitwick), Julie Walters (Mrs. Weasley), John Cleese (Nearly Headless Nick), David Bradley (Argus Filch), and Alan Rickman (Professor Severus Snape).  Joining them this time are Mark Williams (Mr. Weasley), Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy), Kenneth Branagh (Professor Gilderoy Lockhart), Miriam Margolyes (Professor Pomona Sprout), Gemma Jones (Madame Pomfrey), Shirley Henderson (Moaning Myrtle), and Robert Hardy (Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge).  In addition, the voices of Toby Jones and Julian Glover are heard for the characters of Dobby and Aragog, respectively.

Thoughts on the book vs. the movie:  Despite the similar text length, this movie cut out more scenes from the book than the first one did, yet ended up running about 10 minutes longer.  This happened because they pumped up several of the action scenes.  Ron and Harry don’t just fly the car to Hogwarts; they almost get killed a couple of times on the way.  The Quidditch match adds a long battle between Harry and Draco Malfoy to catch the Snitch.  The sequence in the forest near the end has a much longer escape.  So, too, does the final battle with the monster from the Chamber of Secrets.  In order to fit all these new things in they had to cut a lot of scenes.  This led to some things in the movie making no sense to people who had not read the book (i.e. Hagrid bursting into Dumbledore’s office holding a dead rooster).  Some challenges were removed (i.e. Harry immediately figures out how the diary works.)  They also may have cut some scenes, such as the kids using fireworks to distract Snape so they could steal ingredients from his office, because they didn’t want to encourage copycats.  There are close to 20 deleted scenes on the Blu-ray disk, many of which get edited back in for TV broadcasts, and they address some of these gaps.  They also eliminated characters by shifting their key dialogue to an established character (i.e. the legend of the Chamber of Secrets is told by Professor McGonagall in the film.)  The movie revealed a pun to me that I had not picked up on with the first movie – the name “Diagon Alley”.  When Harry tries to travel there via floo powder he pronounces it as “diagonally”.  I’m guessing the filmmakers decided to cast 37 year old Shirley Henderson to play teenage ghost Moaning Myrtle because of her squeaky voice.  The translucent ghost appearance helped some to disguise her age.  The screenwriter added a particularly funny joke when Harry forgets to remove his glasses while masquerading as Goyle.  Both Branagh and Isaacs were perfectly cast as their characters, although it is worth noting that the filmmakers originally had Hugh Grant lined up to play Gilderoy Lockhart.

Old rating vs. new rating:  I originally rated this movie 3 stars and I am keeping it there.  Even though this movie has better effects than the first one, I like the first one a little better.

Chip’s Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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