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

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Ronald Epstein, Mar 27, 2003.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    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
  2. Brandon Conway

    Brandon Conway captveg

    Sep 30, 2002
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    North Hollywood, CA
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    Brandon Conway
    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). [​IMG]

    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. [​IMG]
  3. Tony Stirling

    Tony Stirling Stunt Coordinator

    Jan 21, 2000
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    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...[​IMG] [​IMG]
    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

  4. David Lambert

    David Lambert Executive Producer

    Aug 3, 2001
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    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.
  5. Joshua_Y

    Joshua_Y Screenwriter

    Dec 19, 2002
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    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. James Reader

    James Reader Screenwriter

    Mar 10, 2002
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    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.
  7. James Reader

    James Reader Screenwriter

    Mar 10, 2002
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  8. Matt Stone

    Matt Stone Lead Actor

    Jun 21, 2000
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    Thanks for the review, Ron. I'm glad to hear the transfer is better than Sorcerer's Stone.
  9. Adam_WM

    Adam_WM Screenwriter

    Oct 25, 2001
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    Adam Moreau
  10. JonZ

    JonZ Lead Actor

    Dec 28, 1998
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    I found COS to be a bit disappointing as well - Ill pick up the DVD though and give it a second look.
  11. Tim Glover

    Tim Glover Lead Actor

    Jan 12, 1999
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    Monroe, LA
    Real Name:
    Tim Glover
    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. [​IMG]
  12. Jeff Kleist

    Jeff Kleist Executive Producer

    Dec 4, 1999
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    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. John_McKittrick

    John_McKittrick Stunt Coordinator

    Nov 9, 1999
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    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.

  14. Eric F

    Eric F Screenwriter

    Sep 5, 1999
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    This one should be widely available for $10 at the larger retailers. I can't wait.
  15. Matthew_Millheiser

    Matthew_Millheiser Supporting Actor

    May 1, 2000
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    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).
  16. Kenneth Cummings

    Kenneth Cummings Supporting Actor

    Aug 7, 2001
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    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.
  17. Stephen Orr

    Stephen Orr Screenwriter

    Mar 14, 1999
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    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. Adam_S

    Adam_S Producer

    Feb 8, 2001
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    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).

  19. Chris M

    Chris M Second Unit

    Apr 15, 2000
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    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.

  20. Steve_Tk

    Steve_Tk Cinematographer

    Apr 30, 2002
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    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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