Harry Potter has eluded me. I've never been one for ogres and fairies and magic and more. It seemed to me that anything involving magic was a cop out, as any problem could be solved by saying "Thank god we have the magical ______!"
That said, I have heard over and over again how wonderful this series is. So I'm watching all the HP movies and critiquing them leading up to the release of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1."
Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets
Harry Potter 2: The Squeakuel
The Story so far: Harry Potter is summoned to Hogwarts Academy to learn the ways of the Wizard. There he meets two friends, a plethora of colorful characters, and every single major thing that happens there someone directly involves him, including a run in with the very dangerous Voldemort, who killed Harry's parents, but for some reason spared Harry.
I was kidding when I invoked the name Jar Jar Binks in my review of the first Harry Potter film. I was joking. I did not expect this movie to take my suggestion so seriously and invent a version of Jar Jar Binks that is at the same time more infuriating, more annoying, more useless and just less pleasant then George Lucas's seafaring CGI abortion.
This movie opens up with this fellow, Dobby, (whose a house servant?) who tries to tell Harry not to come to the school that year, begs him, and as the movie goes on, tries to kill him. Only to be given clothes and set free. What the heck? Even the wikipedia article skips over this plot point, only saying Harry “Tricks Lucius into freeing him (Dobby) from servitude.” Via a sock. I am confused. Anyhoo, some students start getting petrified and only a magical potion that takes months to concoct can save them, but in the meantime more mysterious happenings have befallen Hogwarts.
The movie is very similar to the first in style and tone. Whimsy is the name of the day. I specifically liked the part where Ron's dad asked the muggle raised Harry “what is the purpose of a rubber duck?”. What is the purpose of a rubber duck, anyhow? I liked when Ron accidentally turned his mouse into a mouse cup. These movies are the best at immersing us in this world when magic is a matter of fact. When it's not special, when it's to be expected and taken for granted like humans do with television shows about teenagers with problems. The talking letter Ron gets from his mom, the self washing pots and pans. I've heard these movies take a tone shift after this one, and I worry these sort of asides are going to be pushed aside in favor of sweating and blue hue.
The effects and acting are better this time around, The mandrake roots are totally believable, I wasn't sure if the thumping willow was a puppet or a computer, and the flying car was only moderately fake looking. Quiddich, however, is shot in the exact same, totally boring way, except this time Harry is up against Malfoy Jr, and a second magical flying ball that is attempting to murder Harry. Yawn.
Other things that have confused me thus far have been the whole business between Voldemort and Harry. From what I've gathered Voldemort busts into Harry's house when he's a baby, and kills both his wizard parents. Somehow, after turning his wand on Harry, Voldemort disintegrates, is destroyed, or in some way or another depowered via baby Harry's magical aura. What?!
Also, an observation I noticed is that magic conveniently doesn't exist for certain things. There has to be some sort of instantaneous messenger system that can be invented via magic. This movie suffers from a case of “Tell an Adult” syndrome. Specifically when Harry is hearing ominous voices that lead him to petrified children and animals, and spiders leading elsewhere. I would assume anyone who witnessed what Ron, Harry, and Hermione did, someone would say something along the lines of “There were spiders! And they-went-a-that-away!”. The movie attempts to explain this by a character telling Harry “Even for wizards, hearing voices isn't a good sign”. One would assume people would know of curses, or charms, or other mystical things that could lead to this. I refuse to believe you can have a magical thumping tree, but at the same time telling someone you're hearing voices is a no go. Especially if a wizard can plant an ENTIRE PERSONALITY into a Diary. and the Chamber of Secrets. Oh well.
Secondarily, at the end of the flick Harry is about to get the crap zapped out of him by Malfoy Sr., Dobby saves him, then the movie is sort of over. Wouldn't attempted assault on a minor be something to tell someone about? Especially since that Dobby character saw it too. And I imagine all the paintings on the walls were witnesses too? But again, you tell an adult and you have no franchise.
When they actually enter the Chamber of Secrets, wouldn't someone go for help, or, say, get someone, or send a message to say “Hey we're down here!”. Instead they go it alone and a deus ex machina saved the day. In fact, there were two deus ex machina's in this movie, but I'll give the car that saves the boys from the spiders (What?!) a pass because it was such a “huh?” “What?” “That's awesome!” moment.
People have told me these movies don't do the books justice, but that's not the point of a movie. The movie should stand on it's own for everyone. I'm sure you'd like these reviews better if you knew me, but that doesn't excuse the middling quality of them if you don't.
That said, the climax was much more exciting even though the fight with the snake was a little lame. Some of the plot elements involving the diary (the diary/Riddle’s diary, for the same reasons as above) and the actual Chamber of Secrets were confusing. The acting was better and the plot was more tight. The magic dueling was decent, and the “What's wrong with Harry” plot line was pretty entertaining. If these first two movies are thought of as sort of prologue, I look forward to the real meat of the story. Also, Muggle is a dumb word.