Harry Potter sequel works its magic

Ted Pigeon

“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” hit theatres a year ago, delighting viewers with a billiant sense of imagination. I was completely blown away by the film’s brilliant sense of imagination. Like so many other great films, it told a marvelously rendered story and built an entire world full of detail. Now comes “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” a much darker tale that widens the palette of the folklore that J.K. Rowling has envisioned. It is an ideal sequel, one that expands upon the story and characters without retreading on old material.

The opening of the film re-introduces us to Privet Drive, where young Harry, played by the maturing Daniel Radcliffe, resides with his rather unloving aunt and uncle. After a long summer, Harry is almost prevented from returning to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry by his aunt, uncle and a mischevious elf named Dobby. Eventually Harry returns to what he calls his home and reunites with his friends Ron and Hermione to start their second year together. Unfortunately, they are interrupted from learning when students are magically paralyzed and messages written in blood appear on the walls of the school.

These strange happenings garner a different atmosphere at Hogwarts, a more unsettling one amongst students. No one feels safe due to the alarming events. The story is excellently paced and the buildup is progressively heightened. While the plot is unveiling itself, it’s great to see many supporting characters that give the story life. Besides the computer- generated Dobby, there are a few new additions to the cast. Self-praising Defense against the Dark Arts teacher Gilderoy Lockart, played by Shakespearean actor Kenneth Branagh, is thrown into the Hogwarts mix. The other notable addition is Jason Isaacs as Lucius Malfoy, the cold-hearted father of Harry’s rival, Draco. The late Richard Harris is warm as Dumbledore, like in the last film, and Alan Rickman is once again perfect as the bizarre Professor Snape.

The action sequences easily outdue “The Sorcerer’s Stone.” How this film was able to land a PG rating is unclear, as much of the action is very intense and at times, quite terrifying. There is a breathtaking scene involving hundreds of giant spiders in the Dark Forest, and the Quidditch match this time around is faster and more physical. Director Chris Columbus obviously wanted this film to be more exciting than the first, and he spared no expense in providing dazzling action. The film’s climax, which is more exhilarating than I could have imagined, is proof of this.

The atmosphere of this film is great: Roger Pratt’s photography is dark and gritty, while John Williams provides another fine musical score, albeit toned down from last time. The improved visual effects and creative set design also help to fashion a world that Chris Columbus is bringing to life. Although incredibly rich, none of these aspects call attention to themselves; they only enhance the story. You can look at every shot in this movie and find something interesting going on in all corners of the screen, the epitome of richness.

“Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” is a wonderful dark fable drenched in atmosphere and loaded with adventure. It’s pure storytelling, vivid and full of imagination. This movie is a sheer delight to watch, far more than just a “kids” movie. It is a grand mythological world shaped by colorful characters, creative environments and magnificent storytelling.