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HTF REVIEW: "Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets" (with screenshots)

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#1 of 74 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted March 27 2003 - 08:41 PM

Harry Potter
And The Chamber Of Secrets

Studio: Warner Brothers
Year: 2002
Rated: PG
Film Length: 161 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (2.35:1)
Subtitles: English, French and Spanish

The Chamber of Secrets has opened...

The film version of Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s
was my introduction to the world of Harry
Potter, a mystical yet magical look at the fantasy
world that J.K. Rowling made famous through her
popular novels. I found the film to be wonderfully
captivating and one that certainly managed to test
my inner imagination. I consider Sorcerer's Stone
to be a modern day classic, destined to become as
fondly regarded as the magical films that our
parents grew up on. You can easily expect that I
had absolute high hopes for the film's sequel, but
was somewhat let down.

Chamber of Secrets is at the same time both
better and inferior to the first film. Darker in tone
and scarier than the first, the story is more
interesting, as the plot begins to clue us in
more deeply into Harry’s past and how his legacy
will relate to the very founding of Hogwarts itself.
On the other hand, I found this boring and utterly
conventional second installment to be void of
everything that made the first film so enjoyable.
The film runs much too long, quickly loses its
luster and often degenerates into a special effects
extravaganza instead of the tale of a magical child
like it was intended to be at the outset.

J.K. Rowling’s popular young wizard and his friends
are back for their second year at Hogwarts School of
Witchcraft and Wizardry in Harry Potter and the
Chamber of Secrets
. They’ve grown taller, their
voices have begun to change, and they’re ready to
take on the next big boarding school mystery.

As the film opens, we find Harry (Daniel Radcliffe)
being kept prisoner in his slippery uncle's home
until his friend Ron (Rupert Grint) breaks him out
with a flying car to spirit him away to the Hogwarts
School and reforms their trio, which includes Hermione
Granger (Emma Watson). When students and teachers
begin to fall prey to a petrifying beast of mystery,
the inquisitive gang learns of an urban myth about
an infamous hidden chamber inside the school, in
which this terrorizing creature dwells.

Hermione (Emma Watson, excellent) is revealed to
be born of "muggle" ("non-magical") parents, leading
to her persecution by Draco (Tom Felton) and his
terrifying father Lucius (Jason Isaacs), who are bent
on cleansing Hogwarts of "mudbloods." Meanwhile,
Harry falls under suspicion for mysterious happenings
around the school mostly because of his knowledge
of serpent's tongue, while an enslaved and abused
house elf named Dobby tries in vain to warn our hero
and perhaps secure his own freedom. Thank goodness
we have hero Gilderoy Lockhart (Kenneth Branagh) a
scholar of the defense against the dark powers and
a man who loves himself far more than you ever will.

I was most disappointed by Chris Columbus' direction.
After the first film, he clearly lacks the imagination
to create a different film from the first. The
director appears to pay far too much attention to
comic relief rather than focus on the story itself.
With the magic seemingly lost, this film quickly
becomes an underwhelming viewing experience.

Harry Potter and The Chamber Of Secrets has
been released as a 2-disc Special Edition available
in separate widescreen and full frame
editions. The outer slipbox is just horrible. It
is so flimsy that when it arrived at my door, it was
somewhat squashed. I am not particularly happy
with this sort of packaging, but what more can you
expect from a studio that has been forever giving us
those god-awful snapper cases?

The innards pull out and open up to a 4-pane gatefold
that hold the 2 DVDs in plastic hub housing. The
inner cardboard panels give a nice overlook of the
entire contents of the two discs, as well as
providing the complete list of Chapter Stops.

How is the transfer?

Based on the fact that there were many complaints
concerning the transfer of last year's Harry
Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
DVD, I think
that all of you will find Chamber of Secrets
to be a distinct improvement.

The anamorphic widescreen transfer is wonderfully
clean, sporting outstanding image sharpness and
detail. The film has a warm and rich color palette
that stays well saturated throughout with accurate
flesh tones as well as exceptional black level and
shadow detail.

Warner Brothers is presenting Chamber of Secrets
in both Dolby Digital EX 5.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1.
Though I would have preferred a DTS track, I must
admit that I was not disappointed by this mix that
is extremely well balanced with excellent sound

Looking at my notepad, I made several notations
about the film's effective use of surrounds. There's
Ron Weasley's car that flies across the rears
right to left before zooming to front. How about
a nestful of cornish pixies that scatter themselves
in flight across the entire soundstage? Then
there's the game of Quiddich, enriched with sounds
of broomsticks flying from channel to channel. Of
course, you haven't lived until you find yourself
surrounded by the sounds of screaming Mandrakes. LFE
is response is very good here -- especially during
a Whomping Willow attack and the use of "floo powder."
What really stands out here the most however is
the light bells and woodwinds of John William's
score that fills the entire room with little effort.

Just an outstanding transfer!

Special Features

After all the complaints regarding the rather
childish assortment of added material on the original
Sorcerer's Stone DVD, it looks like Warner
Brothers has finally gotten the hint and produced
supplements that while still are geared towards the
young, have "making of" and interview material that
adults will enjoy as well.

I was also very happy that Warner Brothers didn't
make going through these supplements the sort of
hassle it became on their Sorcerer's Stone DVD.
You don't have to go searching for items first in
order to access any of the Special Features. Sadly,
there is no sort of running commentary by anyone
involved with the production of this film -- a feature
sorely missed in a film of this magnitude.

Disc One contains the entire feature in
addition to these extras...

The film's original theatrical trailer is
included here.

What I expected might be a featurette, Year One
at Hogwarts
is simply the trailer for the
original Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's

Three pages are filled with Cast and Crew
listings, but there is absolutely no ability to
click on any of the names to get extended filmography

Let's move on to Disc Two that contains all
the wealth of supplemental material...

The disc begins with a rather nice journey through
Hogwarts School, as you follow a camera across the
dining room, past its ever-changing staircases and
into a study that becomes your portal to all the
extras on this DVD. As you click on each selection
be sure to check out the photo of Argus Filch that
sits upon the desk.

Click on Additional Scenes and be whisked
down a hallway to picture-filled wall. Each picture
contains motion video that represents one of
the 19 deleted scenes available for you to watch.

Here are the highlights of the deleted scenes:

* Harry Potter quickly hides as Lucius and Draco
make a visit to a Diagon Alley shop where a slippery
keeper is made an interesting proposition.

* A sweet silhouette shot of Harry Potter and his
owl that leads to our hero questioning who and what
he is.

* Harry asking a bothersome ghost to quiet down
while he is reading in the school library.

* Additional flying car adventure as Potter and
Weasley narrowly avoid hitting a steeple clock.

Played back-to-back, the entire running length of
these scenes total just over 17 minutes.

Behind Hogwarts takes you behind-the-scenes
of the film with these extras....

In a Conversation with J.K. Rowling and Steve
, we learn how the author and screenwriter
came together to render the adventure from page to
screen. It's a rather lively interview for the fact
that Rowlings and Kloves have such a close working
relationship. Among things we learn are who the
easiest characters are to write for; the biggest
challenge in writing a film like this; and what
kind of expectations the author and screenwriter
have for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
(length: approx. 15 minutes)

In Dumbledore's Office: Build a Scene, we
meet director Chris Columbus, producer David Heyman
and production designer Stuart Craig who talk about
the initial budget constraints of building the head
Wizard's staggering office. Once the filmmakers
were able to secure the greenlight to build the
office, over 250 various construction crew people
went to work on building the film's most elaborate
set. We also learn about the creation of the film's
greenhouse, home of the screaming Mandrakes as well
as a look at the special props that were made for this
film. Afterwards, meet Creature Effects Designer
Nick Dudman who talks about the creation of the
flying Phoenix as well as the giant Acromantula
spider. Next we meet the wardrobe and make-up
artists who talk about their contributions to the
film. Rounding up this featurette, we get a little
insight on Post Production as well as visit with
composer John Williams who talks about the importance
of music to a story which is later proved by a film
clip played with and without an accompanying
score. Though this featurette is not the kind of
real in-depth material that most of us would want,
I am thankful that at least this time out, Warner
Brothers at least provided some sort of featurette
that gives us some background on the filmmaking
(length: approx. 17 minutes)

While you are here, be sure to take a self-guided
of Dumbledore's office. Using your remote
you can move 360-degrees across the entire floor
and upper ceiling of the room. Click on various
pictures and artifacts to get a little background
history of its use. Really neat!

Interviews with Students, Professors & More
is a nice addition to this set as it enables you
to see various interviews with cast members who
tell us about their individual characters, how they
have evolved since the first film, their favorite
scenes and what their friends think. You'll hear
from Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson,
Tom Felton, Jason Isaacs, Miriam Margolyes and more!

A Gallery of Production Sketches lets you
use your remote control to browse through hundreds
of photos containing original sketches (and their
inspirations) of the film's more villainous creatures,
production and set designs. Unfortunately, once again
Warner Brothers has put these on a timed cycle so
that you have to abide by their viewing terms rather
than being able to freely click from one photo to
another without missing a beat.

Youngsters will spend an abundant amount of time
rummaging through the Activities area of
this DVD. First, there are three rather cool
desktop activities....

The Chamber Challenge allows you to sneak
around the chamber. If you are caught, however,
you must answer multiple choice questions about
events that happen in the film.

The Forbidden Forest Challenge is kind of
cool as your flying car speeds along the dark
winding paths of the forest floor. Along the
way arrows will appear giving you the opportunity
to find the proper route that will ultimately lead
to an exit.

Colin's Darkroom allows you to assemble
various photos into your own personally compiled

Tour Diagon Alley is another 360-degree
self-guided tour that allows you to explore the
famous alley and its shops like you never thought

Lockhart's Class is perhaps the biggest
letdown of the entire supplemental area. Here you
have the opportunity to browse through photos of
the scholar, look at the covers of books he has
authored and peer at the many certificate of awards
he has won. None of this is interesting.

A Game Preview shows you several motion shots
from Electronic Arts Harry Potter and The Chamber
of Secrets
for Playstation, X-Box and Gamecube.

DVD-ROM content is plentiful here. There are
various slider and jigsaw puzzles, downloadable screen
savers and magic trading cards that you can print out
and trade with friends. Let me not forget to mention
the fact that you can navigate through all these
features using your voice thanks to One VoiceDVD

Final Thoughts

Those who loved the first Harry Potter film are most
likely going to find Harry Potter and The Chamber
of Secrets
to be certainly lacking in the pure
quality of the first installment. Though the film
certainly has its moments, including an abundance of
brilliant visuals, there isn't much of a payoff in
the end.

This DVD is a far better effort than what we saw
with The Sorcerer's Stone. The transfer is
somewhat improved and although the supplements are
geared more for youngsters, there was an effort to
include cast interviews and a short production

No reason for me to persuade you not to purchase
this DVD.

Release Date: April 11, 2003

All screen captures have been further compressed.
They are for illustrative purposes only and do not
represent actual picture quality


Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner


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#2 of 74 OFFLINE   Brandon Conway

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Posted March 27 2003 - 09:22 PM

Great review, Ron.

I thought the first film was great, and so I was very pleased when I saw CoS and liked it even more (though I expect I am in the minority here). Posted Image

Hopefully my cash flow will allow the immediate purchase of this disc, but with the Beatles Anthology and Ran: Masterworks Edition, I may have to wait a bit on Harry Potter. Posted Image

"And now the reprimand, from an American critic. He reproaches me for using film as a sacred & lasting medium, like a painting or a book. He does not believe that filmmaking is an inferior art, but he believes, and quite rightly, that a reel goes quickly, that the public are looking above all for relaxation, that film is fragile and that it is pretentious to express the power of one's soul by such ephemeral and delicate means, that Charlie Chaplin's or Buster Keaton's first films can only be seen on very rare and badly spoiled prints. I add that the cinema is making daily progress and that eventually films that we consider marvelous today will soon be forgotten because of new dimensions & colour. This is true. But for 4 weeks this film [The Blood of a Poet] has been shown to audiences that have been so attentive, so eager & so warm, that I wonder after all there is not an anonymous public who are looking for more than relaxation in the cinema." - Jean Cocteau, 1932

#3 of 74 OFFLINE   Tony Stirling

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Posted March 27 2003 - 09:53 PM

Thanks for the review, Ron!

Brandon, I don't know that you are necessarily in the minority. I, too like CoS better than the first one. That said, I still have found both of the films... lacking something. I can't say what. Oh well. In any case, this DVD won't find it's way into my collection just yet--I'm afraid my April DVD budget will be taken up by certain Miyazaki DVDs...Posted Image Posted Image
Maybe in May...

Hope everyone enjoys this DVD, though. It's really nice to hear that we won't have to jump through hoops to see the deleted scenes, etc.

till later

In praesentia majoris potestatis, minor potestas cessat.

#4 of 74 OFFLINE   David Lambert

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Posted March 27 2003 - 10:10 PM

Brandon, I expect you are less in the minority than you think. Well...maybe "here" at HTF, you may be right...but overall I think this film will be more appreciated. Here's why: From Ron's Review:
I'm the first one to say that movies should be taken at face value, and that if they are translated from a book that the fact of the book should be ignored. They are two different entities. But making that distinction becomes hard - VERY HARD - when the movie is just so darn faithful to the book as this one is. I discovered the Harry Potter books before they became a big fad, and re-read CoS right after seeing the film in theaters. As my memory told me, they cut out a few minor sidestories and compressed events a bit for time, but the heart and soul of that book was in the film. Period. Just like the first movie in this series. One of the supplements focuses on the author's involvement in the film: "In a Conversation with J.K. Rowling and Steve Kloves, we learn how the author and screenwriter came together to render the adventure from page to screen." You can tell that Ms. Rowling made sure that this film WAS The Chamber of Secrets. Now, Ron's comments about the darkness and scariness compared to the first film are also appropriate to the novels. CoS is darker/scarier than "Stone". The 3rd book, Prisoner of Azkaban, gets "worse" in that regard. And #4 involves several deaths, including one of a character that has become very well regarded by that time. Rowling pulls no punches in her stories that are really intended for young adults and older, and not so much for the 7- and 9- year old crowds you often see on the news. To her credit, she hasn't compromised her vision to "adjust" the stories to the kiddie crowd...Book #5 promises to be even darker than ever (it's certainly the longest of the stories!). The 2nd story sets the stage for things to come in later school years at Hogwarts...but at the time of it's release, fans were just hungry for more Harry, and devoured a more than passable story and thought it was brilliant at the time (I'll raise my hand and be included in that). I believe that, in the end, people will look back on the second STORY - book and film - and realize that Ron's right, and this it WAS overall a more "mundane" chapter in Harry's life. It won't be the story you'll be going back to re-read again and again. This film is probably going to be the same way... ...years down the road. For now, Harry fans discovering him via the movies - or fans of his book who just plain and simple want more of him on the screen - will eat this up and consider it brilliant as well. Rowling's done better than BOTH of the first two stories as time went on. The challenge that lies ahead is fitting those thicker-and-thicker books into a relatively short amount of running time for the screen. If anything ruins this film series, it will be that...not the aging of the kids or the changing of directors. In the meantime, as with the 2nd book, I expect the public will find the 2nd DVD to be quite satisfying enough for now.

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#5 of 74 OFFLINE   Joshua_Y



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Posted March 27 2003 - 10:27 PM

I liked the first one somewhat...it was a decent enough film...but I hated COS completely...I found it to be just really boring...nothing happens for 2 hours...thats just lazy movie making and I counted like 30 scenes that didnt need to be there...Columbus needs to get an editor...

#6 of 74 OFFLINE   James Reader

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Posted March 27 2003 - 10:29 PM

Ron, does the disc feature an audio descriptive soundtrack for the visually impaired? An audio descriptive version of "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" was certified by the UK BBFC and I'm hoping it will appear on the disc like Moulin Rouge! (although it is possible this could be for a special limited audio descriptive release). I think audio descriptive soundtracks are a wonderful use of DVD technology, and I know a couple of people who would love for this to be included.
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#7 of 74 OFFLINE   James Reader

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Posted March 27 2003 - 10:32 PM

[quote] thats just lazy movie making and I counted like 30 scenes that didnt need to be there...Columbus needs to get an editor... [quote]

Well, some of those scenes could be included as JK Rowling's insistance. And knowing JK Rowling, perhaps some might have more relevance once later installments have been viewed.

I'm gutted the "de-gnoming" isn't included - either in the film or as a deleted scene. Posted Image
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#8 of 74 OFFLINE   Matt Stone

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Posted March 27 2003 - 11:30 PM

Thanks for the review, Ron. I'm glad to hear the transfer is better than Sorcerer's Stone.
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#9 of 74 OFFLINE   Adam_WM



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Posted March 28 2003 - 12:27 AM

[quote] Thanks for the review, Ron. I'm glad to hear the transfer is better than Sorcerer's Stone. [quote]

I was just going to type the same thing!!!!


#10 of 74 OFFLINE   JonZ


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Posted March 28 2003 - 12:43 AM

I found COS to be a bit disappointing as well - Ill pick up the DVD though and give it a second look.

#11 of 74 OFFLINE   Tim Glover

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Posted March 28 2003 - 02:04 AM

Nice review Ron. I agree with your Film review of COS. I'll buy the dvd though. Liked it enough for that. Sometimes movies can grow on you. Here's hoping that this one will. Posted Image

#12 of 74 OFFLINE   Jeff Kleist

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Posted March 28 2003 - 02:36 AM

Just remember this book is a setup for the next 2. Here's to the new director continuing the no-blasphemy style Columbus has started (but hopefully with some more dynamic less syrupy filmmaking)

#13 of 74 OFFLINE   John_McKittrick


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Posted March 28 2003 - 03:44 AM

Having read all the books the order of preference so far to the series in order of preference is 4,2,3, and finally 1. I'm sorry but the first Harry Potter was far more boring that the second ever could be. And as the story continues with the 3rd and 4th year they just get better and better. I consider the first film to be nothing more than an introduction. The second film on the other hand translated the book perfectly. If you've read them you'll see that there can be no other way to make the film and not disappoint. I'm eagerly getting this DVD when it comes out. If you want to read a funny review check out DVDFILE's. John
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#14 of 74 OFFLINE   Eric F

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Posted March 28 2003 - 04:15 AM

This one should be widely available for $10 at the larger retailers. I can't wait.

#15 of 74 OFFLINE   Matthew_Millheiser


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Posted March 28 2003 - 04:49 AM

What a flip-flop in fantasy movies for me last year... 2001 -- LOVED Fellowship of the Ring, and I liked Sorceror's Stone (with reservations). 2002 -- LOVED Chamber of Serets, and I liked The Two Towers (with reservations). I'll be first in line to pick up this DVD (with reservations).
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#16 of 74 OFFLINE   Kenneth Cummings

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Posted March 28 2003 - 04:53 AM

While compare to the other three books, Chamber of the Secrets is the weakest. But that doesn't mean I like it. So I will get this good, but not great chapter of Harry's life when it comes out proudly. Thanks once again Ron.
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#17 of 74 OFFLINE   Stephen Orr

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Posted March 28 2003 - 05:14 AM

We liked the second more than the first, and since it's only $13.00 at Toys r Us, a bargain. (We paid a total of $50 for four of us to see it and get popcorn, drinks, etc. We gotta stop doing that!)

#18 of 74 OFFLINE   Adam_S



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Posted March 28 2003 - 05:29 AM

I too prefered the film (and book) COS to the first. The book is a pretty classical Agatha Christie style mystery, and as with that author, I knew who the culprit was (sorta, I got Ginny but didn't figure out the Tom Riddle connection) but figuring out how it was done was half the fun of the novel. The film didn't caputre this aspect as well as it could have, but it was still an excellent and brilliant rendition of the book, Lockhart was phenomenal. I can't think of anything more to say except that I think Dave pretty much nailed it. There is a lot of stuff that happens here that sets up important things later, stuff in two or one that don't pay off until four or three, and later books will also proably have interesting connections to the earlier books that no one would have guessed would be as significant as they turn out to be
Mrs. Figg anyone?
Personally I can hold off on the DVD (my mom will get it for my little sisters so I can watch it when I'm home for summer break, but what is achingly far away is the release date for Order of the Phoenix. Personally I hope that they start principal photography on Goblet of Fire this fall or winter (after a break from when PoA photography wraps). If you think about it, they can only film about four hours a day anyway with the kids, figure another four hours of set up and prep before hand (which the director doesn't HAVE to be there for all of), and that still leaves quite a lot of time to supervise the ongoing post for POA. THis would also solve the problem of the children supposedly aging too fast (although I've yet to figure out how this works, they age a year in the book, and if you look at principal photography times those are pretty much exactly a year apart, but somehow they're aging toooooo fast according to Warner Bros. so they'll have to be replaced with new actors that Warners will only have to pay a fraction of salary to, a dirty deal, imo). Adam

#19 of 74 OFFLINE   Chris M

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Posted March 28 2003 - 05:53 AM

It's sad that there was no tribute to Richard Harris since he died shortly after the filming of this movie. And obviously won't be in the next movie. Chris.

#20 of 74 OFFLINE   Steve_Tk



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Posted March 28 2003 - 07:44 AM

I found that after repeated viewings and reading the first book, the first movie really grew on me. I expect the same will be with the second. I'll pick up and definately glad to hear about better PQ.

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