Saturday, June 27, 2015

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets ★★★★

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    "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" is the second installment of a franchise that continues to charm with its lovable characterizations and with an ambiance that surely never shies away from its magical proceedings. (What other films could possibly bring flying cars, House-Elves, and talking spiders to unbounded life without even the slightest pondering toward inconceivability?) And yet, what we have here essentially is a picture that foregoes the theme of identity--a theme that undoubtedly permeated its predecessor--and instead opts to focus on that of a plot driven storyline, which certainly exudes more qualities of its novel counterpart than ever before; nonetheless, succeeding invariably.

    We are transported once again to the captivating Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry (albeit in a more comically induced manner this time around), as Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) inevitably begins his second year at the most cherished educational establishment for any scholar under the age of sixteen. Little has changed since our last encounter with this remarkable display of architecture and wonderment: Hagrid, the charismatic and beloved groundskeeper, resumes his role of caretaker and friend; Draco Malfoy maintains his envious disposition and responsibility as dramatic foil; and the engaging duo of Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermoine (Emma Watson) never cease to amaze in their contribution to Harry's adventures and social graces. (In fact, it has come to my attention that Hermoine is clearly the most talented of the three, which naturally highlights Rowling's convictions pertaining to a woman's resilience and aptitude for anything deemed unfit for a female's consideration.)

    Of course, this all changes, however, when a mysterious chamber--located within the confines of the property itself--opens for the fist time in half a century, and when several students find themselves to be victim to an entity that is as puzzling as it is threatening. Subsequently, our central protagonist becomes the target of a number of accidents and conspiracies (coming in the form of a tampered Bludger during a jolting match of Quidditch and a handful of instances that harken back to Harry's relatively unknown past), which only adds to this rather undefined mystery that will span the entire school year. "The Boy Who Lived" will have to muster enough courage to come face-to-face with this unknown threat, not only to save his life and the lives of others, but to protect the only home that he has ever had.

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    What is most satisfying about this film, beyond the reliance on this riveting "whodunit" type of atmosphere, is the inclusion of a number of fresh faces (most notably that of Kenneth Branagh, who steps into the role of the egocentric and rather narcissistic Professor Gilderoy Lockhart), along with the subtle build-up of numerous aspects of this remarkable wizarding world that will soon play a part in upcoming chapters. "Chamber of Secrets" hits this mark more than once, as the Ministry of Magic (also perceived as the political realm) rears its head for the very first time, as well as the underlying detestation among wizard social rankings and classes; an imperative move for a picture that serves as only a portion of a much larger and spellbinding whole.  

    Furthermore, much can be said of the adolescent actors and actresses that carry this film, simply because the majority of its success hinges on their performances. (Cuteness can only last so long and can only take one so far.) Although the collective skills presented here are somewhat impassive in form, there seems to be a hint of maturation in terms of playing to the camera. This can be seen in a number of moments, as Grint's facial acting and overemphasized expressions add to the playful humor of the story, and while Radcliffe stands firm in several scenes that direly warrant a sense of grit and backbone.    

    Which brings us to the most important detail of this specific production and seemingly the entire franchise up to this point: That being, the relationship between the author, J.K. Rowling, and the screenwriter, Steve Kloves. There is no denying the importance of this collaboration, especially considering the inability of Kloves to fully understand where the material is headed. (It is widely known that Rowling keeps the overall storyline close to heart, and only issues particulars when absolutely necessary.) The script must not only indulge heavily into entertainment and the distinct events that color this picture, but it must showcase the most integral facets of a timeline that has yet to be told. "Chamber of Secrets" does just that, and becomes quite endearing along the way.     

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