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:: Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets

Chamber of Secrets is the second film adaptation in JK Rowlings astoundingly popular Harry Potter series. The first, The Philosophers Stone, released in 2001 garnered three Academy Award Nominations, seven BAFTA nominations and quickly became the second highest grossing film of all time giving The Chamber of Secrets just a little something to live up to. Filmed almost back to back, the Chamber of Secrets features an almost identical cast and crew to The Philosopher’s Stone, with the only notable changes being Roger Pratt taking over from John Seale as Director of Photography and Linda Hemming from Judianna Makovsky as Costume Designer. The rest it seems, including director Chris Columbus have had the benefit of experiencing the making of the first film and brought this to the second, which is darker, funnier and more action packed than the first.

The film opens just as the school holidays are drawing to their miserable end. We find that our beloved hero Harry, has spent the entire English summer locked in his bedroom by his nasty aunt (Fiona Shaw) and uncle (Richard Griffiths) “pretending that he doesn’t exist”. Harry’s solitary confinement has been worsened by the knowledge that his best friends Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) haven’t responded to any of his letters. That is until Harry’s self proclaimed guardian angel, a house elf called Dobby (Toby Jones) pays Harry a visit and confesses to stealing all Harry’s letters in an attempt to stop him returning to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry this year. Dobby warns Harry that something bad is going to happen if he goes back Hogwarts. Harry undeterred, escapes from his captivity with the help of Ron and the Weasley brothers James Phelps, Chris Rankin), in no less than a flying Ford Anglia. After a bit of a struggle with the porthole to Platform 9 3/4, a steam train and the Whomping Willow, a tree with an attitude problem, Harry manages to get back to Hogwarts for another year.

Just as Harry is settling back in to school and his professors begin teaching him useful things about creatures called Mandrakes, turning small animals into silver goblets, tackling a roomful of Cornish pixies and flying harder and faster in the rather terrifying game of Quidditch, something starts seeming not quite right at Hogwarts. Harry starts hearing voices in the walls, a strange diary that writes back to you appears in the girls toilets, Moaning Myrtle (Shirley Henderson) starts acting even more strangely than usual and then students start getting petrified, both metaphorically and literally.

As the student’s curiosity peaks, Professor McGonagall (Maggie Smith) reveals that when Hogwarts was established many hundreds of thousands of years ago, one of it’s founders, a wizard called Slytheren enraged by the other founders, built a Chamber of Secrets somewhere deep within the Hogwarts castle. The Chamber, as myth had it, could only be opened by Slytheren’s heir who would unleash the monster that lies within it and resume the work of Slytheren, turning Hogwarts into an elitist pure blood wizard family school. The ominous messages written in blood above the petrified victims reveal that the Chamber of Secrets has after all these years been opened and the heir to the Slytheren throne has returned. It is now up to Harry and his friends to discover who the heir is and unravel the secrets of the Chamber before the monster petrifies and kills everyone in the school.

Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint reprise their roles as Harry, Hermione and Ron, so too do many of the other young stars including Tom Felton as Harry’s nemesis Draco Malfoy, Bonnie Wright as Ron’s younger sister Ginny Weasley and Harry Melling as Harrys awful cousin Dudley Dursley. Radcliffe is the standout amongst the younger actors, but for me, it was the adults who really made The Chamber of Secrets. Alan Rickman plays Professor Severus Snape the Potions Professor and the head of Slytherin House, Mark Williams plays Ron’s father Arthur Weasley, but the highlight is definitely the new addition to the cast, Kenneth Branaugh as Gilderoy Lockhart the charming, egotistical and magically useless Professor of the Dark Arts. Branaugh clearly relishes the role of Lockhart and is very very funny in each and every moment that he appears on screen, which works as a very successful counterpart to the ever-serious Harry and the darker elements of the script.