Harry Potter returns with his second year at Hogwarts and a darker adventure than the first. Much darker. Indeed, it had me thinking of The Empire Strikes Back at one point, but by the films end most of the plot points are resolved and all is well, though it does make me wonder just how dark things are going to get later in the series (I gather things get pretty dark later on and if this film is any indication…).
Released a year after the first film, such a quick turnaround for a major motion picture of some considerable scope is particularly impressive. I can only imagine the logistical nightmare and long hours that ensured it was released on time and largely maintained the quality of the first. Indeed, it largely surpasses the first film technically (the effects work is clearly more ambitious), and yes many seem to feel its a better movie. I’m not so sure about that, although my problems lie with the story (and therefore more with the original book itself). Perhaps its inevitable, but the film seemed overly episodic and also rather over-long (perhaps the episodic nature didn’t help). I also think that Chris Columbus’ direction is again sadly flat and workmanlike- the finale with the basilisk was awkwardly staged in particular, although perhaps the tight pre-production and filming schedule to ensure the release date had an impact on that. Oh, and the last moments with everyone clapping and hugging were particularly cringe-inducing, too forced and manipulative (wet eyes everywhere, give me a break). Okay, I know I’m hardly the target audience for a film like this but after all the darkness before, it just felt out of place and jarring. I hope the other films don’t end with more of the same.
Good points, well, the young cast did well again (albeit Ron’s getting irritating with his wide eyes and screaming) but the adults are rather wasted here considering the talent on hand. Again, that’s likely a fault from the book. The new additions to the cast are very good- particularly Kenneth Brannagh’s buffoon-wizard Gilderoy Lockhart and Jason Isaacs as the sinister Lucius Malfoy, father of creepy brat Draco Malfoy. I don’t believe Brannagh appears again in the later films, more’s the pity.
I also just feel myself starting to lose the plot again already with the overall story arc/mythos. The Chamber of Secrets (a Chamber of Secrets With Very Few Secrets, far as I could gather) has been re-opened by a ghost from a diary possessing the diary’s reader, the ghost being, er, Voldemort? So its Voldemort’s childhood self as he was when a student at Hogwarts or his adult self here? But I though Voldemort was alive somewhere, hmm. That’s where I got confused. I’m assuming Voldemort is still Out There Somewhere and this ghostly version of his younger self is gone for good. And how exactly was this diary in the hands of Lucius Malfoy anyway? Maybe some of this stuff is clarified in later films, I’ll have to see…