Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets Ultimate Edition

Next in line for the Ultimate Edition experience, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is another fantastic treatment that is a definite must own for fans of the series. With theatrical and extended versions of the film, all the bonuses of previous issues, plus the next chapter in the Creating the World of Harry Potter series of specials – Characters, any Potter fans are going to love this.

Even moderate fans are really going to appreciate the new series of specials. Characters is an hour and twenty minutes of behind-the-scenes and interview footage that covers the creation and exploration of the characters from all the films. It includes footage of the cast now and during production, and is really an exceptional study of a wide variety of the people you see in the films. Even I, who am not particularly Potter mad, found the look back really enjoyable. The time is filled well, and there’s something for everyone. Whether you want to know a few juicy bits from the stars, how certain actors approached their roles, or the thoughts behind decisions of what you do and don’t see on film, it’s all there. Particularly interesting is the full range of the effort. The stars are great, and there is certainly much of them to be found, but you also get time with Warwick Davis and others among the not so hugely popular, and it’s nice to get some perspective from everyone.

There are more goodies on the bonus disc here as well, and a couple of them are going to be considered very welcome treats in their own right.

Get a look at the screen tests of Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson for a start, and then move on to the HBO First Look special Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Revealed. You also get the full lineup of trailers and TV Spots for the movie.

As I said, you also get the full list of special features from previous releases, including –

  • 16 minutes of additional scenes, which comprise the extended version.
  • Student Yearbook Character Q&As
  • Professors and More Character Snapshots
  • Build a Scene
  • Tour the Chamber of Secrets, Diagon Alley, and Dumbledore’s Office
  • Production Sketches Gallery
  • and a Conversation with J.K. Rowling and Screenwriter Steve Kloves

Finally, you’ve got two more in the collection of character cards, another great book of photos from the entire series (this time focusing on the characters), and digital copy of the film.

All in all, this is a great series, and if this is not necessarily your favorite film, it doesn’t matter. This is a great collection, and the new features a true update worthy of a new edition as opposed to just an excuse to cash in that you find so often.

Own it on DVD and Blu-Ray today!

 

 

CHANGED

CHARACTER EVOLVED

MAKING MOVIE

The best news that ever made its way to Harry Potter didn’t arrive by owl messenger, and wasn’t even concerning his possible move out from under the stairs. No, the news he was most pleased to receive was that Chris Columbus would not be directing the rest of his movies. And you can take that to Gringott’s.

It’s hard, oddly, to completely jump on the apparent bandwagon that says Columbus failed with the first two Harry Potter movies. He didn’t, I think, actually fail. He just got a low C. I find it hard to really blame him, because getting a low C is basically his job. Looking at his resume (Adventures in Babysitting, Home Alone, Mrs. Doubtfire, Stepmom), you can see my point. These aren’t movies that are exactly below average, they’re just movies that aren’t better than average. In fact, if there is one thing that you can say Columbus is really excellent at, it’s taking something average, and making sure it remains precisely that.

That’s his game plan really, and you would be hard-pressed to find someone more perfectly suited to the task. Where any other director would take something average and try and ‘do something’ with it, and thus the results would almost of necessity be either worse than average or better than average, Columbus has average handed to him time and time again, and says to himself, ‘I can do some really average stuff with that’.

Now, before it looks like I’m really bashing him (and I am), he works in the right situation. Mrs. Doubtfire, for example, is a perfectly fine movie. It started with an averageish script and got no better, but it’s a fun sort of average with everything just so. If you want to make that movie, in my opinion, Columbus is a fine choice. If, however, you’re looking for anything above average, or for a director who might run with something, Columbus isn’t your man.

Columbus is the guy who takes a script and puts it on film. The end. He’s not the guy who takes a script and makes magic out of it.

In our second Harry Potter vehicle, we reunite with the little, scamp of a wizard as he is reliving the doom of shacking up with his muggle family. As we know, they want nothing to do with magic, and mostly want young Potter to stop existing at them. Thus, when Dobby, a house elf, appears in Harry’s room, we know trouble is sure to follow. Dobby has come to warn Harry not to go back to Hogwart’s, advice Harry wouldn’t dream of following. But, it’s all very mysterious.

After a bit of hilarity ensues (that’s what it says in the script), Harry is back at Hogwart’s, and the problem this year is that people are being turned to stone throughout the school. First, amusingly for some, a cat, and then several of the students, including Harry’s gal-pal Hermione.

This year, we have some new arrivals. As we lost our Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher last year, we have replaced him with one Gilderoy Lockhart (Kenneth Branagh). A dandy of a wizard (in only the one sense), Lockhart is the next best thing, famewise, to old Harry Potter himself. Celebrated author of stacks of biographical works, Lockhart is immensely interested in himself, and suspiciously proficient at avoiding having to actually do anything.

Potter’s nemesis Malfoy is back, and this time he’s brought his father along. Lucius Malfoy (that’s the father), played by Jason Isaacs (best known, probably, as the really evil guy in The Patriot), is a treat within this monstrosity of blandness, and does a sort of ‘cartoony’ bad guy even better than Alan Rickman, and Rickman has several degrees in cartoony bad guy.

And so, we have much fear of being turned to stone, several Malfoys (well two) running about being dastardly, and suspicion pointing at Potter himself, because the fact that he can talk to snakes turns out to be very interesting. Okay, and there’s some Quidditch.

I’ll leave you with that fairly non-helpful look at the plot, and mostly because if you haven’t read the books already, you are, to some fairly substantial degree, out of luck anyway. One of the main reactions I had to the movie was that it had completely given up on people who hadn’t already read the book.

In a nutshell, Harry hears voices no one else hears, mention is made of a ‘Chamber of Secrets’ with a very serious spookable inside, people turn to stone and no one can figure out why, Harry and Ron have to try and work things out, hilarity ensues.

The main problems with the movie are that it seems to just give up on the whole thing, and I can’t really figure out who it’s for.

The first movie overcame Columbus’ averageness, to a degree, because at least there was some magic in it. It was all new and (if we can tone down the word ‘exciting’ a bit) exciting. We were shown the bits of magic and they were… well, they were neat. We toddled along through the story, because we got little glimpses of the strange world, and there was a bit of fun involved.

This movie moves along through the ‘wonderful and exciting’ world that is Hogwart’s almost as if it is trying to hide anything interesting, magical, or ‘wonder-inducing’. We see things only in the background, as if the movie is giving us the tour of a house it is mostly ashamed of. “This is the really interesting story… don’t look over there, that’s nothing.” But, if Columbus thinks he knows how to tell an interesting story, or keep people involved with what he’s doing by avoiding the ‘parlor tricks’, then he’s really lost touch with himself.

The first movie has Columbus written all over it, and in the good way (if there can be such a thing). It says, “Well, I mean there’s this story sort of thing…, But, look at this!” That’s what he’s good at.

So, it’s hard to say if Columbus has just given up, and is just putting it all out there (This is the story… blah, blah, blah… whatever), or if he really thinks he’s able to make a movie that ‘goes the other way’. Either way, the result is much more of a failure than the first installment. At least in the first one there was something of a ‘fantasy ride’ going on, sillifying of the story be damned.

Sadly, we have also lost all attempt at characterization in this movie as well. In the second chapter of The Lord of the Rings, the movie pulled away from characterization, because we were supposed to already know the characters pretty well. In this movie we get no characterization because no one would know how to do it anyway. Not only is there no new character insight, some characters have degenerated. Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint), Harry’s sidekick, has become nothing more than Ron ‘The Goofy Face’ Weasley, and his role in this movie is much akin to Lou Costello’s role in some ‘Meet the Wolfman’ movie or other. Hermione Granger, played by Emma Watson, is thankfully dubbed ‘Sir Not-Appearing-In-Much-Of-This-Movie’.

Daniel Radcliffe, as Harry Potter, looks amazingly like the picture we see on the cover of the books. He’s also not too bad really. There seems to be something not entirely Potter-like about his portrayal, but he’s fairly bearable. Oddly, there are several scenes in which Potter is supposed to be figuring something out, and the script says ‘Harry gets a look of epiphany’, and that sort of idea seems something Radcliffe is unfamiliar with. He’s a nice enough lad (I guess), and not really a bad actor, but I’ve never seen anyone have such problems coming up with an expression that was supposed to convince me they’d just had a thought.

Robbie Coltrane, Alan Rickman, Richard Harris, and Maggie Smith are still fun to watch in their roles as Hogwart’s regulars, but in the middle of something trying so hard to bore me, it’s difficult to appreciate.

The truly strange bit is that some of the movie is just bloody scary. The portions of the movie involving the spiders and the final monster are, to my mind, far too scary for anyone young enough to get anything out of the rest of the picture. Odd.

Sadly (even to one such as myself, who doesn’t really care), what magic there was has fallen by the wayside. Dobby is a fantastic CGI character, but that’s about the limit on the fun. What was a three-star, average in just about every way, somewhat fun, and at least entertaining (and possibly hopeful) entrance to the series, has become a two-star (at best) abandonment of what few positives existed.

It’s not fun. It’s not interesting. And, it has somehow managed to turn what had been one of the biggest crazes of all-time into something no one seems to want to mention.

Marc Eastman
Marc Eastman is the owner and operator of Are You Screening? and has been writing film reviews for over a decade, and several branches of the internet's film review world have seen his name. He is also a member of The Broadcast Film Critics Association and The Broadcast Television Journalists Association.

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