Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: The magic takes on a darker tone.

May 12, 2008 (Updated Jul 15, 2011)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review



The Bottom Line: Continuing the magical traditions of excellence from the first movie, this hits the target on every point.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) Directed by Chris Columbus

In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, J. K. Rowling introduced us to the Harry Potter, and the wonderful world of magic that lies hidden along side our own. The events of the first movie covered the first year. Now, Harry and his mates are a year older, and at twelve, ready to learn new things.

This is a darker book, and therefore a darker movie. The themes are celebrity, gossip, and bigotry. The mystery this year centers on strange random paralysis that afflicts the muggle born children at Hogwarts (and Mrs. Norris, Filch’s cat.) Mysterious messages proclaim that the heir of Slytherin has returned, and this pronouncement may have ties to the events leading up to Hagrid’s expulsion, fifty years before.

The new Defense against the Dark Arts Teacher is Gilderoy Lockhart (played with exasperating brilliance by Kenneth Branagh.) Lockhart’s curriculum includes his own extensive volumes of how he has fought and faced practically every threat the wizarding world can produce. Lockhart thinks that he is Harry’s mentor in the fine art of being a celebrity, “Fame is a fickle friend Harry. Celebrity is as celebrity does. Remember that.” But while he may have won Witch Weekly’s most charming smile award five years in a row, Harry is a true Celebrity, The Boy Who Lived. Harry knows the price of fame, how it can inflame jealousy and enmity. Harry is given a crash course in the lengths some people will go to in order to get their picture in the paper.

Harry also learns about gossip; Harry has been hearing things, a voice speaking of murder in the halls. No one else hears it. Even in the wizarding world, hearing voices is not a good sign.

But when Draco Malfoy unleashes a serpent on Harry in Dueling Club, Harry prevents the spell from going awry by talking the serpent down until Professor Snape can dispel it. And it is discovered that Harry is a Parselmouth, a person who can speak to serpents. It is a rare talent, once possessed by Salazar Slytherin, and worse, by He Who Must Not Be Named. So now, half the school thinks he might be the heir himself!

Ernie MacMillan: So anyway, I told Justin to hide up in our dormitory. I mean to say, if Potter's marked him as his next victim, it's best he keeps a low profile for awhile.
Hannah Abbott: But why would Harry want to attack Justin?
Ernie MacMillan: Justin told me that he'd let slip to Potter that he was Muggle-born.
Hannah Abbott: And you really think Potter's the Heir of Slytherin?
Ernie MacMillan: Hannah, he's a Parselmouth. Everyone knows that's the mark of a dark wizard. Have you ever heard of a decent one who can talk to snakes? They called Slytherin himself "Serpent Tongue".
Hannah Abbott: Harry's always seemed so nice, though. And after all, he is the one who made You-Know-Who disappear.
Ernie MacMillan: That's probably why You-Know-Who wanted him to kill him in the first place. Didn't want another Dark Lord competing with him.

Gossip can cut like a knife. Harry overheard the whole exchange.

And then there are the issues of bigotry. Draco Malfoy is the new Slytherin Seeker. And his father has bought the entire team Nimbus 2001 brooms.
Ron: Those are Nimbus Two-Thousand and Ones! How'd you get those?
Marcus (Slytherin Captain) A gift from Draco's father.
Draco: You see, Weasley, unlike some, my father can afford the best.
Hermione: At least no one on the Gryffindor team had to buy their way in. They got in on pure talent.
Draco: No one asked your opinion you filthy little Mudblood!
Ron: You'll pay for that one Malfoy! Eat slugs! (Ron’s broken wand backfires, and he spends the next scenes regurgitating slugs.)

Mudblood is a derogatory term for a Witch or Wizard who has no magical parents, a muggle born. Hermione Granger is one such, Harry’s mother Lilly, was another. It becomes obvious that Salazar Slytherin shared this prejudice, and sought to restrict teaching at Hogwarts to pureblooded children only.

But this is not the only form of bigotry in the movie. In Chamber of Secrets, we meet Dobbie, a house elf. We learn that House Elves are bound to the service of a wizarding family forever, until they are sacked (by the wizard giving the elf clothes.) Since they can’t have clothes, a house elf wears what ever oddment will cover it. Dobbie wears a pillowcase. If a House Elf disobeys his master or speaks ill of his family, he must punish himself. Dobbie even went so far as to iron his hands.

And Harry Potter learns a valuable lesson there. Not all worthwhile people are human, much less pureblood wizards, and the purest pureblood he knows is also the most despicable. Harry learns that kindness and courtesy can reap untold benefits, and he discovers what his celebrity can mean to other people. Dobbie worships Harry because of the hope that Harry brought to magical creatures when He Who Must Not Be Named was defeated. Harry might not feel special, but he begins to recognize this has no effect on how others feel about him.

And there are lessons of loyalty. When Tom Riddle proclaims Albus Dumbledore has been driven from Hogwarts by the mere memory of him, Harry proclaims, “He’ll never be gone so long as any who remain are loyal to him.” And this was true. His loyalty impressed Fawkes the Phoenix, and that fact later saved his life.

And there are lessons of Choice. Harry is disturbed by his similarities to Lord Voldemorte, so much so he second guesses himself.
The Sorting Hat: Bee in your bonnet, Potter?
Harry: I was just wondering, whether you put me into the right house?
The Sorting Hat: Yes, you were particularly difficult to place, but I stand by what I said last year: You would have done well in Slytherin.
Harry: You're wrong.

But it is Dumbledore who sets his mind to rest. He asks Harry why the Sorting Hat put him in Gryphandor. Harry replies, “Because I asked it to.”
Dumbledore: “Exactly! It is not our abilities that show what we truly are. It is our choices.”

It has been a harder darker year, and the kids have grown brighter and stronger. As all little kids do, they are beginning to grow up.

Of course, this year continues the magic with the same director and the same cast. Longer than the first book, this movie clocks in at 161 minutes. It is the second best for sticking true to the books. Alas, the rest of the series falls away sharply as the books lengthen to what can only be handled by a mini series! In fact, there are plans to split the last book, HP and the Deathly Hallows, into two movies.

On a sad note, Richard Harris, Professor Albus Dumbledore, died 25 October, 2002, a few weeks before the release of the movie. An accomplished Oscar Nominated actor, he breathed the compassion and patience into the role, bringing the Wizard to life. He will be missed.

Check out the other Harry Potter classics:
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
Harry Potter and the Deathy Hallows Part I
Harry Potter and the Deathy Hallows Part II

Read the Book!
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
Harry Potter and the Deathy Hallows

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