Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Movie Review: Melissa’s Picks and Nits
Dec 02, 2007
Nits and Picks in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – because let’s face it, to a fan, it’s all about the details, right?
These are TLC Editor Melissa’s Picks and Nits – check back soon for more from the others.
Hermione spouts Dumbledore in the middle of Flourish and Blotts: “Fear of the name increases fear of the thing itself.” Okay, one, this is something Dumbledore, not Hermione has said, and two, Hermione has never called Voldemort by his name in the books, and JKR makes very clear how important it is to character when someone does / does not say the name. Harry is shocked in the third book, when Remus Lupin says it. So, let’s not overamp Hermione’s abilities, though she does rock the wizarding world normally.
On a similar tread: Hermione has all Ron’s wizarding world knowledge. She knows what a mudblood is, that hearing voices no one can hear is bad even in the wizarding world, etc., and of course is the one to inform everyone. There’s no reason to take this knowledge away from Ron, especially when Ron is just sitting there doing nothing in the meantime.
Hermione very efficiently fixes Harry’s glasses in the middle of Diagon Alley, despite being unable to do magic away from school. Someone call the ministry!
Ginny’s crush on Harry, with the exception of the first time she sees him, is largely dropped from the film; perhaps this was done to throw suspicion on her, but it’s far too cute to leave out entirely. There is also no Valentine scene, but we all sort of knew that was going.
On the “ew” tip: In the books, Hermione gets spare workrobes for Harry and Ron to use as Crabbe and Goyle. In the movie, she tells them to take the robes when they drag them into the closet, post-drugging. In other words, Ron and Harry dragged Crabbe and Goyle into a closet and stripped them. Can we please put that on the ‘did not need to know’ list?
While Sean Biggerstaff is capable as ever as Wood, Wood’s mania about Quidditch is once again left unseen. He’s just not as obsessive, not the crazily colorful character we know in the books.
Everything is rushed and coincidental. Hermione and Ron just happen to be looking for Harry right before he hears the first voice; Harry has just asked Tom Riddle what his name is before asking him about the Chamber of Secrets, leaving Riddle’s connection to everything shaky at best; you’d have to be clairvoyant to know it was Ginny opening the Chamber, while in the books there’s enough for at least some suspicion.
Arthur is indeed very interested in Muggles, but is less bumbling and sweet; he demands from Harry the “exact function of a rubber duck” instead of gleefully asking about “eckeltricity,” which may be a subtle difference, but hey, that’s why these are called Nits.
At the dueling club, Harry and Draco battle it out without ever doing anything to each other. Draco’s and Harry’s spells only succeed in knocking the other one through the air; isn’t Rictusempra a laughing spell? It’s cool to fly through the air and all – but what’s magic if you’re just knocking each other around? At least Serpensortia does something.
Apparently Polyjuice doesn’t affect your voice in the movie; what was the purpose of substituting Ron and Harry’s voices in for Crabbe and Goyle’s? Someone should explain that it’s not a complete transformation if you still have to disguise your voice…
Ron has no reason for hating spiders, he just says he doesn’t like them, making him more the kid whose afraid of little bugs than the kid who had a rotten joke played on him as a child.
The wonderful scene in which Harry arrives at McGonagall’s office with Ron, Lockhart, Fawkes andGinny in tow has been cut. We instead go from the Chamber to Dumbledore’s office, with Harry and Ron looking as though they know they’re in trouble – which is entirely baffling. Surely the kids are proud that they just saved everyone in the castle? They do wonder if they’ll be punished in the book – but only after Dumbledore suggests, ever so trickily, that they might be. Here, it comes from nowhere, and is an example of faithfulness hurting the flow of the film. And oh, that wonderful line of Lockhart’s: “Sword? Haven’t got a sword! That boy does though.” or the like – gone. I know it’s piddling…but to see Kenneth Branagh deliver that line would have been a real treat.
Lucius’ “Avada.” Isaacs is wonderful throughout the whole film, but this was so over the top I think I heard my ears pop. Whether it’s really the killing curse he was going to use or not, all we know of Avada is that it ends in Kedavra, and therefore is meant for us to think Lucius was about to kill Harry – well, Lucius may be cold as ice, but he’s in Hogwarts, right downstairs from Dumbledore. Not even Voldemort tries anything under ‘Dumbledore’s crooked nose,’ and Voldy is known for not ranking very high on the common-sense-o-meter. Lucius is not about to kill the hero of the wizarding world without Voldemort around to back him up – it would be straight to Azkaban for life. Sure, he’s hacked off, but there are plenty of other curses, and I’d bet he knows a great deal of ’em. Calm down there, killer.
The end. It’s cheezoid to the max. Hagrid, for some bizarre reason, becomes the hero, and the film ends with the entire Great Hall cheering him. Harry says, “It’s not Hogwarts without you,” and everyone cheers. Why? We only see Hagrid as a friend to the trio, and if I’m not mistaken, it was Harry who just, well, saved the world. Shouldn’t he be the focus of attention?
The entire film. It’s an excellent piece of work.
Snape’s relationship with Dumbledore is every so slightly explored, with Snape nearly losing it over the flying car. [And they haven’t kept the thing about suspending Harry from Quidditch, but I wrote it in my notes when I saw the movie the first time, for some absolutely bizarre reason. Sorry about that!]
Vernon’s attempts to hold Harry inside the house are hilarious; he laughs madly as he drills bars onto the window, then screams like a lunatic and falls into the flowerbushes while Harry is escaping. Harry’s attempts to stop the pudding from hitting Mrs. Mason are hysterically misconstrued by the Dursleys.
Get the J-J word out of your mind. Dobby is delightful. (Especially during his little enthusiastic arm-punch when he says “When Harry potter triumphed over the Dark Lord”)
Ginny completely destroys Harry’s room.
Bonnie Wright, as Ginny, sees Harry in her kitchen, freaks out, and runs the other way. It’s adorable.
The clock at the Burrow that keeps track of all the family members has the kids’ faces on it – though we obviously don’t see Bill and Charlie’s.
Percy’s morning hair. That’s all I’m saying about that.
Knockturn Alley is the stuff of Oliver-Twist-In-Hell.
Great use is made of Colin’s picture-snapping, though we never understand that Colin is a Harry fanatic. Right now he’s paparazzi-in-the-making, that’s all.
Draco watches the scene with Lockhart in Flourish and Blotts from high atop a balcony, and it’s a lovely bit of setup for his character’s jealousy of Harry and his friendships. Then Lucius brushes into the store and nearly knocks him down with that stick, and you almost feel sorry for the little brat. (Almost.)
The very quick but malevolent appraisal of the Grangers on Lucius’ part. Lucius says Draco has told him all about Hermione, then shoots such a disgusted look at her parents its he seems to be memorizing their countenances for future…use. It’s disturbing, threatening, and so unfair to the cute little dentists with curly hair and cardigans. It’s Isaacs at his best, followed by Watson at her best, giving Lucius a look that could melt the silver clasping his robes.
Ginny’s “Leave him alone!” is delivered with fire and fury in her little eyes. Bonnie Wright manages to make Ginny a wonderful little background item, despite her very small amount of screen time. And whenever she’s at Hogwarts, there is a diary in her hand, even if you only see a little bit of her as the camera pans. Also terrific is the spooky look she gives Harry – those who know can see she’s possessed.
The Whomping Willow effects are out of this world. Seamless.
While helping Lockhart answer fan mail, we get an insanely funny glimpse of Lockhart on a broom; it’s the picture he’s sending to those who write him, and its one for the record books.
Columbus has given up on Seamus the Accidental Pyromaniac, and stuck to the books’ treatment of Neville as the bumbler. And goshdarnit, it works, right up to the ceiling (which is where Neville ends up during the Pixie scene).
The scene in Hagrid’s hut after the mudblood scene is one of the most touching in the film.
Robbie Coltrane is remarkable as Hagrid, giving us exactly what it must have been like at Azkaban in one brief, heartbreaking flicker of his eyes.
Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle during the Polyjuice scene. It’s all well-written, well-delivered, and true to spirit. Draco is seen as a bit of a kleptomaniac, which goes with his having been emotionally abused at home (at least according to psychological mumbojumbo), and the boys who play Crabbe and Goyle do excellent Harry and Ron. We get our first Harry-holds-Ron-back moment, as Ron-as-Crabbe almost attacks Malfoy for wishing Hermione dead. Draco’s casual “I didn’t know you could read” is brilliant.
When Hermione is turned into a cat:
Hermione, “Look at my face!”
Ron: “Look at your tail!”
Harry and Ron’s visit to Hermione while she’s petrified is completely adorable; Harry holds her hand, Ron gapes silently as he sits next to her waxen face. “We need you, now more than ever,” says Harry.
Arthur in Molly have the same troublemaker/woman-in-charge relationship we see in the books (Arthur upon finding out about the car: “So, how did it go?” Molly smacks him.)
The invisibility cloak is used to great effect; if we ever wondered whether Dumbledore really can see through invisibility cloaks, we now know that he can. And Lucius makes it very obvious he cannot; while he thinks no one is watching, he solidifies his evil stance on muggle-borns.
The flashback to fifty years ago is colored in sepia, with only Harry in color.
Quidditch: faster, better, more exciting, more real, terrifically handled, true to the books (down to Malfoy yelling ,”Alright there, Scarhead?” and “Training for the ballet, Potter?”)
Justin Flinch-Fletchley (Edward Randell). I don’t know why, but he affected me. With one line. Excellent, excellent.
Following Quidditch is one of Columbus’ best treads into original scenework: Malfoy falls off his broom right before Harry’s arm is deboned, so when we get to the hospital wing we see Malfoy writhing and moaning fit to die, surrounded by about three team players. Pomfrey tells him he’s fine and he can leave, and continues to bustle over to Harry, who is surrounded by his whole team and more friends, and saying nothing about his grossly rubber arm.
The confrontation of Lockhart – dead-on brilliant. Ron shoves the pompous idiot right into the Chamber. “Do you live here?” says Lockhart, and Ron picks up a stone and smacks him in the head with it. Just…beautiful.
The Chamber: Christian Coulson. Oh, Christian Coulson.
The Chamber: The North by Northwest homage is not as intrusive as I thought it would be, and Harry makes a very brave and cunning show of escaping the blinded basilisk. And when he kneels by Ginny and touches her ice-cold hand…sigh. I almost wished I didn’t know she was going to wake, so I could be as relieved as a newcomer. It’s truly spooky, and sad, seeing her lying there.
The Chamber: We get flashbacks of Ginny doing the Heir’s work, and I have one word for that: thanks.
The now-infamous hug scene. Yeah, yeah – whatever it hints to, it’s still cute as hell. Now as for the other ending…