Harry Potter & The Chamber Of Secrets

Despite bizarre hyper-aging in just one year, C.O.S. is a spellbinding continuation of the HP-series – with bolder stunts & storytelling risks, better VFX, a beautifully-scripted mystery, Greek Mythological horror, fantastic new characters, and dark magical adventure. 8.7/10.

Plot Synopsis: The second instalment of boy wizard Harry Potter’s adventures at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, based on the novel by JK Rowling. A mysterious elf tells Harry to expect trouble during his second year at Hogwarts, but nothing can prepare him for trees that fight back, flying cars, spiders that talk and deadly warnings written in blood on the walls of the school.

*Possible Spoilers Ahead*

Official CLC Review

Back To Hogwarts

The Sophomore Year: Where Big Franchises Sink-Or-Swim; H.P. Triumphed By Going Darker & Energized-A Magical Horror Film?

Photograph Courtesy Of: Warner Bros. Studios

All Aboard. Columbus’ 2001 Sorceror’s Stone changed the game of cinematic blockbusters – a pure fantasy magical adventure that evoked ear-to-ear smiles and inspired every child across the world to want to get on the first train to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry. Exactly one year later, the sequel is here – and it’s a new flavor of Harry Potter wildly different than its predecessor. Wherein its original film charmed with heart, humour, pluck, blockbuster magic, and the supernatural kind – The Chamber of Secrets does a complete 180: a magical horror movie. Despite bizarre hyper-aging in just one year, Chamber Of Secrets is a spellbinding continuation of the HP-series – with bolder stunts/energy, better VFX, one of the best scripts and stories of the series, effective mystery arcs, Greek Mythological & Biblical horror aestheticism, brilliant new characters, and dark magical adventure by its further-seasoned protagonists’ performances.

New Characters

A Phenomenal Set Of New Characters & Lore-Expansion: Dobby The Elf, Pretentious G.Lockehart, Ginny, Myrtle, & Lucius Malfoy

Photograph Courtesy Of: Warner Bros. Studios

Of course, as we open back in the London flat of the vexatious Dursley’s after Year 1 at Hogwarts – what steals the show is the new characters added to expand the lore. Dobby The Elf is absolutely hilarious as a gloriously-awkward and self-destructive tiny elf that’s phenomenally-played by Toby Jones and the visual technicians for another bit of comic relief the film will need on its dark storyline. Additionally on that side, Kenneth Branagh’s Gilderoy Lockehart is phenomenal and the best new character of the film in CLC’s vote: a pretentious Reeves’ Superman-resembling pretty-boy bestseller who talks a big game & charms the ladies, but conveniently has excuses for why he can’t actually do any of the big things he promises. The Weasley’s are more fleshed-out with a new addition at Hogwarts in Ginny and Papa Weasley: the perfect father to a family as dysfunationally-fantastic as the Weasley’s; I’m convinced J.K. Rowling herself is casting these roles as it could not be more spot-on and perfect as a canvas. Heck, even Moaning Myrtle is effectively-aggravating – and Jason Isaacs’ Lucius Malfoy packs the same bone-chilling impact of Snape reinvented for a sinister Slytheran patriarchal role.

Bolder Stunts & VFX

Exponential Magnitude Greater & More Ambitious Action Sequences – A Tripled VFX & CGI Budget Than Original, Perfectly-Used

Photograph Courtesy Of: Warner Bros. Studios

Also very apparent from the Weasleys’ flying-car fiasco is that the VFX budget & ambition has been exponentially-upgraded: not a surprise after the smasing box-office success of the first film. The stunt and VFX/CGI work as well as epic set-design in Chamber of Secrets is incredible – painting things like magical flying cars dangling just above the precipice of a full-steam-ahead train, underground snake chambers out of old airplane hangers in real-life, and quidditch matches flying at mach speed between the smallest of crevices and floorboards are created with blockbuster exhilaration of the highest-quality execution, as much as its magic – and there is a lot of it. Floo powder teleportation, angry sentient clobber trees, wailing plant-babies, vomiting slugs, full snake conversations, magical duels, polyjuice potion imposters, self-writing books, travel-back-in-time flashbacks, and a monster so scary it freezes & paralyzes anyone who gets a mere view of it from afar are magnificently translated to the big screen: setting the perfect background for its biggest achievement: the mystery arc of the Chamber of Secrets.

A Pure Mystery Arc

As The Chamber Is Opened By An Unknown Party, Kids Are Paralyzed & Petrified By A Monster The Eye Can’t Even Bare To Look At

Photograph Courtesy Of: Warner Bros. Studios

The magical whodunit is the best part of Chamber of Secrets – and, perhaps, the entire series of Harry Potter. The film reads like a horror/noir detective film in its major plotline of being warned someone inside Hogwarts non-Voldemort is plotting to kill Harry Potter, who opened the chamber and released its malicious secrets, who is Tom Riddle, is Hagrid or Harry involved in the dark scheme, and what is the monster picking off kids one-by-one until only the pure-bloods remain at Hogwarts – Salazar Slytheran’s original elitist plan. The decision to go back to the ancient foundation and original members of Hogwarts – as well as the patriarch of its dark magic house in Slytheran while also taking bold risks with characters like alienating Hagrid and Harry and even sidelining/~killing Hermoine makes for fantastic drama and a compelling mystery that’s highly-addictive in a blockbuster fashion here. The film teases and provokes our curiosities in just the right way to engage and addict us to its preeminent script – and it stands as one of the most brilliant mystery arcs in early 2000’s-blockbusters to this day, exponentially made more effective by the film’s legendary and complex/referential horror aestheticism.

The Horror Aestheticism

A Reversal Of The Original’s Magic Cues In World-Building, This Time Evoking Greek Mythology & Biblical Terror By Imagism

Photograph Courtesy Of: Warner Bros. Studios

The film’s dark-trip to the dark side is what is most memorable about the Chamber of Secrets. The film takes its best cues from its original’s greatest success: world-building and establishing a fantasy magical escapist aesthetic through visual canvas and primal invocation cues, flipping them to do the same thing in a lusciously-dark counterpart in Revenge Of The Sith-fashion. Here, instead of cats and owls being used as classically-mysterious animals that have perplexed mankind since the earliest days of our evolution – (massive) spiders and snakes are the evil creatures that evoke primal fears and atmospheric terror brought to life by magnificent CGI. The film’s mise-en-scene is a darker filter overall with muted colors, all protagonists older to eliminate child-innocence in narrative (although that is a flaw in realism – how do they feel/look 2-3 years older after just one year of filming?), and the events are equally-dark like psychotic trances of little girls turned in exorcist-fashion into puppets for a dark manipulator, omens written in blood on the walls, paralyzed kids petrified into husks by a slithering creature so scary it can’t even be looked in the eye, more exposition of the dark forest, and more night pieces omnipresent throughout the film. Chamber of Secrets leans even more heavily on the Greek Mythological themes of J.K. Rowling’s fantastic Harry Potter novels than ever before – both apparent and paralleled by Biblical ones in the epic finale in the chamber-of-the-hour.

Tom Riddle

A Phenomenal Plot-Twist & Performance That Elevates The Film; The Origin Of The Series’ Big Bad We Don’t Even Notice Arise

Photograph Courtesy Of: Warner Bros. Studios

The best-kept secret around this chamber of them is the origin story of the series’ big-bad.. without even so much as a mention of him until the last 20 or so minutes. Through magnificent screenwriting and storytelling prowess, the script dances around he-who-shall-not-be-named while staying true to his name – telling the story of how the original film and overarching franchise’s devil/dark-wizard came to be through the guise of a mystery character with plenty of charm and visual parallels to Harry: Tom Riddle. A mysterious diary that finds its way into Harry’s hands at his most desperate point post-Parseltongue fiasco when fate turned the tides against our protagonist turning him into an outcast the rest of Hogwarts thought to be the villain – Tom Riddle begins speaking to Harry through its pages and establishes a friend-or-foe relationship with no implication of any malice or reason not to trust his recollections and help. When Harry asks about the Chamber, Tom offers to show him through transportation into a (brilliant noir-looking) flashback of his time at Hogwarts 50 years ago, when the chamber was opened last and a framed vision that makes it look convincingly like Hagrid and his pet monster-spider were the culprits who killed the students. Hagrid, after being expelled the first time 50 years ago from Hogwarts, is taken again a prisoner to Azkaban by the official Ministry Of Magic and Aragog and his spider-kin almost eat two children and a dog alive in the Dark Forest – so all checks out, until Harry finds his way into the Chamber and sees Tom. The Chamber reveals Tom Marvolo Riddle’s true identity as the muggle-born demon Voldemort himself as a young wizard whose time at Hogwarts forged his dark characteristics, ambitions, and skillsets – as well as shifts the narrative from killing mudbloods to getting revenge on the wizard who killed him not once, but survived him twice: Harry Potter.

The Finale

A Correction Of The Original’s ~Only Flaw: An Epic Finale That Plays Up The Religious Parallels & Thoroughly Exhilarates Audience

Photograph Courtesy Of: Warner Bros. Studios

The performance of Christian Coulson as the 16-year old Tom who renounces Hogwarts and his impure heritage to become the greatest wizard of All-Time by dark magic is absolutely fantastic – a charming, funny, and clean-cut Harry look alike (+ a little extra, a joke at the time and all over Tumblr being young girls romanticizing how handsome the actor is and how they would be the first to sign up for the dark side with him) that hides the ultimate villain of the series well. The finale is epic and packs the punch Sorceror’s Stone’s one did not – while also packing intellectualism by the striking Greek Mythological and Biblical religious parallels on highest display here. A journey beneath the grounds of Hogwarts (Earth) wherein Dumbledore (God) reigns supreme from his headmaster office at the top (Heaven), the cave-like and snake-themed Chamber Of Secrets (Hell) is clearly evocative of Old Testament ideologies of the Devil (Voldemort). Harry’s powerful belief in Dumbledore as the pure sovereign of Hogwarts establishes him further as Jesus while reverberating God’s gifts to his believers by the sending of a Phoenix (a metaphor for hope, perseverence, strength, and power) and ancient cross-shaped blade into the chamber to fight for all that is good – with a Greek Mythological aesthetic and motifs like the Medusa-head, Hydra-like Basilisk, Phoenix, Herculean swords, and journey into the underworld of Hades also sharing many similarities with Biblical Christianity thematically. Flaws in Chamber Of Secrets include a lengthy runtime at nearly 3-hours for a 2nd feature (although it’s all so good, I reprieve it for being difficult to cut-out scenes). The ending is cheesy with the dining room slow-clap (but in a good way), and we really wish it would’ve gone full-darkness and not ~watered-down or hedged its bets – although I do realize this is a children-focused film and stepping-stones are needed that would be fulfilled in Azkaban.

Conclusion

One Of The Best Harry Potter Films

Despite Bizarre Hyper-Aging, A Spellbinding Continuation With Bolder Stunts/Energy, Better VFX, Brilliant Mystery Arcs, Greek Mythological Horror, & Darker Tone Magic

Photograph Courtesy Of: Warner Bros. Studios

One of the best Harry Potter films even often challenging the throne of the original, C.O.S. reverberates cues from The Empire Strikes Back (on a smaller level, of course) being the dark antithesis of its first film and a bold, riskier, epic payoff in establishing an All-Time iconic franchise on the most important litmus test: the sequel. Wherein its original film charmed with heart, humour, pluck, blockbuster magic, and the supernatural kind – C.O.S. does a complete 180, showing early signs of magic horror we just wish wasn’t watered-down. Dobby The Elf, Gilderoy, Behemoth Spiders, Elitist Children-Paralyzing Slytheran Plans, Flying Cars, & Underground Chambers hiding Ancient Hydra-Reminiscent Basilisks are just some of the epic features of this exhilarating follow-up, and the skill it takes to take a children’s book and dial-up the horror and mystery into a crowd-pleaser like this is impressive. Despite bizarre hyper-aging in just one year & limitation of horror, Chamber Of Secrets is a spellbinding continuation of the HP-series – with bolder stunts/energy, better VFX, one of the best scripts and stories of the series, effective mystery arcs, Greek Mythological & Biblical horror aestheticism, brilliant new characters, and dark magical adventure by its further-seasoned protagonists’ performances.

Official CLC Score: 8.7/10