Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (1999/2002)

Book

Written by J.K. Rowling

Once again Rowling shows her ability to simply tell a compelling tale. There is nothing too complicated about her writing, it is fairly simple. She is not flashy, it is not the best writing I’ve ever read, but the tale she comes up with is just great. The first novel, Philosopher’s Stone, started it all and had compelling characters in a compelling world, so the burden falls on Rowling to keep her readers caring about these people and the fantasy world in which they live.

Now that the magicalness is no longer a surprise, some of the majesty and wonder is vanished, but Rowling still have tricks up her sleeve in that department. She continues to build the world we fell in love with in the first novel, and we learn more about the characters, specifically the Weasley’s, whose home we are invited into for the first time. Her character development is pretty good, though I would stop before calling it great. But it is strange how early on, now knowing what happens in the future, that we see Ron’s connection with Hermione and Ginny and Harry’s connection. I can remember when I first read the books I always thought, or figured, that Harry and Hermione would end up together, because you know relationships were inevitable.

What makes this book work as a follow up is how dark it goes. The stakes are higher I felt, even though the first book dealt with Voldemort coming back as well, but I never felt like the student body was in danger then. Here they are once the mythical Chamber of Secrets is opened. More people are directly affected and we start to see a serious threat to Harry, Ron, and Hermione, who herself ends up getting petrified.

There was enough interesting and new things going on to keep me interested in the series and outcome of Harry’s time at Hogwarts. But because the stakes seemed higher to me this time, and the evil was darker and more threatening, I liked this book a little bit more than the first when looking back. Sorcerer’s Stone is probably going to be the one remembered from the series, and rightfully so, because it created the wizarding world of Harry Potter, but for my money, this one was just a little bit more entertaining and compelling.


 

Movie

Directed by Chris Columbus
Written by Steve Kloves

The American Chris Columbus is back to continue the series and build on his solid opening. Here he goes again. Nothing really flashy here, considering the following films, and nothing too spectacular, but just solid as a rock, fun entertainment. And he and Kloves do a decent job of adapting the novel too. What makes Columbus the perfect guy for the job is that he knows what he has to do with these type of projects and he gets it. He doesn’t take risks, no, but he doesn’t make too many mistakes either.

The first thing I reacted to at the end of this film was the casting. The kids are all the same as the first and they improve somewhat I would say. Emma Watson can cry, we get that from here. But what I want to talk about is the perfect, and I mean perfect, adult casting. Many familiar faces are back, none more spectacular than Robbie Coltrane as Hagrid, the lovable gameskeeper. But with the addition of Jason Isaacs as Lucious Malfoy and Kenneth Branagh as the new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor Lockhart, the cast is full of its heavy hitters. Branagh is a gold mine here. His performance is so good, and so funny, that I could watch his scenes only on a loop and be entertained for days. And the comedy is one of the great aspects of this film, and the series in general. We see Rupert Grint continue to develop his great comedic timing as Ron and even Richard Harris delivers as Dumbledore.

My problem with this particular film, however, is the length. There are too many scenes that seem to drag on and in the end, Columbus didn’t make the evil plot as suspenseful or as threatening to me as it was in the book. Also, there was little played up as Harry being the main suspect like it was in the book. We get some as he is in the wrong place at the wrong time, but it never feels like a real threat. One thing I enjoyed more in movie than in the book was the final act in the Chamber. The visualization of it is great and it takes its time with it, whereas in the book, the ending felt slightly rushed, or maybe it was just because I was reading so fast, unable to put the book down.

In the end, the film didn’t live up to the novel, but it was a decent adaptation and one that I would watch over and over again due to my love of the series overall. I would not call it a disappointment though.

Adaptation

Steve Kloves and Chris Columbus do the novel a fair job. Certainly there are things left out and things that are changed, but honestly, I found all the changes alright due to runtime. As is the movie is 160 minutes long, I can’t imagine them staying 100% faithful to the book and getting people to actually watch all of it. So to this point I have come to the conclusion that I must forgive the filmmakers all the changes and edits they have made from the book because of the issue of time. Obviously there are some things that they simply change for no apparent reason, but none of those (McGonagall telling the legend of the Chamber instead of Flitwick) made me upset or changed the outcome of the film in my opinion. The one thing I missed in the film that I liked in the book would have been the Deathday party for Nearly Headless Nick. It was a fun scene in the book, but given the way they adapted the rest of the events surrounding it, I can see that they were strapped for time.

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