Potter sequel a worthy successor

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 20, 2002

I’ll go ahead and get the big question out of the way right now.

Should you watch “Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets?”

Without a doubt, Chris Columbus and the Harry Potter crew have put together another stunning movie.

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While the sequel doesn’t quite inspire the level of awe that “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” managed it still will leave you wide eyed as you leave the theater.

Let’s get right down to it: Harry is back at the Dursley’s during the summer months before his 2nd year at Hogwarts, School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Due to a well-intentioned but chaotic house elf, Dobby, Harry is locked in his room and threatened with never returning to Hogwarts.

Luckily, Ron Weasley, his good friend from school, shows up with his twin brothers in a flying car to rescue Harry from his adoptive family.

Movie watchers should note that the movie has now officially begun. As far as I’m concerned anything with the Dursleys is just intro.

From there it’s a short hop to the Weasley’s household, then to Diagon Alley for school supplies and finally to the train station that will carry them away to Hogwarts.

But this year there’s a problem.

Harry and Ron can’t access the secret entrance to the train platform in time and must discover another way of making their way to school.

Thus begins a coherent storyline that brings Harry, and the viewer, neatly to The Chamber of Secrets by movie’s end. This storyline is what makes “Chamber of Secrets” more than your run of the mill children’s movie. J.K. Rowling proves to be adept at writing books with ingenious plot twists, and Columbus stays as true as he can to the book because he needs so many key elements from the story to make the whole thing make sense at the end.

This isn’t to say that the movie is a carbon copy of the book.

Most things that weren’t essential to the main plot had to be dropped as they were in the first movie. This is regrettable but easily understandable. The movie clocks in at close to three hours, but even at this length some things just couldn’t be included. I suggest getting the DVD and the deleted scenes that most certainly will be a part of it when it becomes available.

The special effects were, as should be expected, fantastic.

A few items from the first movie were glossed over because we’ve seen them before: the ever changing stairways, for example. However, the animate paintings and at least one ghost played a larger role than they had in the first movie.

I was especially pleased to see a ghost be more than quaint decoration in this film, which is what I thought them to be in the last one.

But, again, this is because Columbus had to include all relevant plot leads if we were to understand just what was going on by the film’s end.

Something that did disappoint, though, was Professor Snape’s decreased role in “Chamber of Secrets.” Alan Rickman did a superb job in the first movie, and he did so again in the second.

It’s just that his total screen time wasn’t enough for me. And when he did make an appearance he didn’t reach the level of contempt for Harry that we’ve all come to know and expect. At times I thought he was showing something that even resembled grudging respect.

But if Snape was a down point then Kenneth Branagh as Gilderoy Lockheart was a shining gem. This man was a great casting choice for the self-conceited wizard who joined the teaching staff of Hogwarts for the second movie. He inspired just the right amount of loathing from the boys and sighs from the girls that any reader of the book will quickly recognize.

And that is ultimately where the movie gets its strength from: it’s closeness to the book. Even die hard purists should be happy with “Chamber of Secrets” because it follows the book so rigidly.

Those who haven’t read the second book shouldn’t have any problems with the movie as long as they’ve seen the first one. If you haven’t seen the original, though, and you haven’t read the book, then I recommend you rent and watch that “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” first. It’ll answer a whole lot of questions before you even have to ask them.