The festive season is well underway, and what better way to ignore the existence of Omicron than by spending time catching up on the Harry Potter films? The franchise itself is intrinsically festive, with the warm lights and snowy castle setting, and the novelty of the early films can be especially comforting in times of turmoil.
Despite being one of the shorter novels,
Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets is among the longest films in the series, clocking in at 2 hours and 41 minutes. Like its predecessor, the threat of Voldemort returning isn’t as tangible as in the later films and, in many ways, the second film brings with it a sense of beginnings. It’s the film where Harry and Ginny start to form a more tangible connection, where Hermione and Ron become closer (who can forget their endearingly platonic handshake at the end?), where we first learn about Azkaban, and where we are introduced to the idea of Horcruxes in the form of Tom Riddle’s diary (not that we know it’s a Horcrux just yet...).
Harry Potter reunion just around the corner – which will include an appearance from the Chamber of Secrets’ director Chris Columbus – I sat down to watch the second film again to see what I would notice all these years later. Here’s what I thought. Times Change, The Dursleys Don’t
One year on since Harry first joined Hogwarts and fought Professor Quirrell, life has changed for the boy who lived, but nothing has changed for the Dursleys. The film opens with Petunia, Vernon, and Dudley preparing for the arrival of a well-to-do family they want to impress. The Harry Potter films may take us on all sorts of far-flung adventures, but one thing remains constant: the Dursleys. They are stuck in time, retaining the same level of anxiety, entitlement, and contempt, complete with frilly curtains, ancient lamps, hideous decorations, and pictures of Dudley everywhere. Literally, everywhere.
The Actors Were Very Young Weren’t They?
It goes without saying that everybody in this film is just
so young. Fred and George without their long, lanky hair are barely recognisable and Ron and Harry look like little babies behind the wheel of Arthur Weasley’s car. However, one thing you’ll notice is that almost all the boy’s voices (Daniel Radcliffe, I’m looking at you) have dropped down a notch or too. Part and parcel of working with child actors, I guess. A Quote Fit For Lockdown
Yes, that’s right, I’m dedicating an entire point to Harry’s iconic line, “I’ll be in my bedroom, making no noise, and pretending that I don’t exist,” which comes in response to Vernon Dursley asking what he’ll be doing when the guests arrive. Despite this being
meme-ified long ago, I truly believe the line has never resonated more than in 2020 and 2021. A time when we were confined to our rooms, watching endless Netflix, and doing very little else. No? Just me? The Weasley Home Is Straight Up Cottagecore
The Weasley home: it’s warm, autumnal, and homey. Cottagecore at its finest. Plus, it’s complete with a few inventions I could do with: a pan that scrubs itself, a scarf that knits itself... all sounds pretty dreamy to me.
The Twist? It’s Right Under Our Noses
The big reveal at the end of the movie is (spoiler alert) that Lucius Malfoy is responsible for Tom Riddle entering Hogwarts via his old diary. But, if you look closely, you can actually see Lucius put the diary into Ginny’s cauldron right at the beginning of the movie when they meet at the bookstore. Pause, rewind, and you’ll see he takes one book out and puts back in. It was right under our noses all along.
The Casting Of Gilderoy Lockhart Is A Stroke Of Genius
Did you know that
Hugh Grant was initially in the running for the role of Gilderoy Lockhart? I mean, it makes sense. You just need to take one look at the pompous parts he’s played before (think Daniel Cleaver) to see where the directors were coming from. While Grant had to pull out due to scheduling conflicts, the casting of Kenneth Branagh as Gilderoy Lockhart is as genius as his wardrobe IMO. Branagh perfectly capture his narcissism, with his high-waisted slacks matching his exorbitant high self-esteem. Despite the fabricated nature of the books he claims to have written, you’ve got to respect the hustle from Lockhart. And the painting of himself? It has to be one of the most perfect set dressing decisions ever made.
However, there’s one thing I’m curious about. In one scene,
Lockhart’s wig is just… there. On the table. Are his blonde locks his real hair? Are they not? Who knows. We’re All Sleeping On Rupert Grint
Rupert Grint’s facial expressions carry this film – and indeed, the series. Yes, we know Hermione is the brain (and – while we’re here – heart) of the trio, meaning Ron is traditionally relegated to comic relief while Hermione is superwoman, but Rupert Grint really is the shining star of this film. From his response to the piercing sound of his mother’s screams in the Howler to coughing up slugs and being confronted with spiders (more on that later...), it’s hard not to love Ron in
The Chamber Of Secrets. Spiders... So. Many. Spiders.
Do not watch this film if you have a fear of spiders, specifically very very big ones. Whether they’re scuttling across the floor or attacking a moving car, one thing I had clearly erased from my memory of this film was the ungodly amount of spiders (not to mention the huge eyes of Aragog boring into Harry and Ron. Shudder). So, if you’re not a fan, it you may be better off fast forwarding through those parts. (And, while we’re on it, you probably should be prepared to fast forward if you have a fear of snakes, slugs, or creepy underground chambers full of dark magic.)
Should 2 Children Really Be Duelling Each Other?
Later on in the film, Professor Lockhart begins a duelling club. Don’t get me wrong, watching teachers playfully battle it out is undoubtedly entertaining – I doubt there's a single person who believes Snape didn’t enjoy blasting Lockhart to the other side of the room – but you’re only one second into the duel between Harry and Draco before spells like ‘Rictusempra’ and ‘Serpensortia’ (a snake-summoning spell) enter the room. And it can’t be just be who’s wondering whether that would be a safeguarding issue?
Moaning Myrtle – What’s That About?
A ghost… in a bathroom. Just generally, is there a need?
It goes without saying that I love Ginny in the books. She’s feisty, brave, resourceful, and her character is very much central to the plot of
The Chamber Of Secrets. But her presence is barely noticeable in the film. This will become a theme throughout the movie series, but surely, in a story where Riddle’s ascent hangs on Ginny’s interaction with a diary, surely there should have been more scenes involving her? This Film Definitely Pre-Dates Metal Health Awareness
There’s a distinct lack of compassion for any kind of mental health issues in this story, which is noticeable from the outset – whether it be Dobby banging his head or Vernon Dursley portraying Harry as “disturbed.” In general, the language around mental health is kind of worrying – including Hermione’s comment that “even in the wizarding world, hearing voices isn’t a good sign.”
Young Tom Riddle Is Deceptively Handsome
We don’t meet Lord Voldemort until
Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire, so young Tom Riddle is all we have to go off at this point. (Well, him and the creepy face at the back of Quirrell’s head). The thing is, young Tom is actually not that bad looking, which kind of masks that evil underneath. So, if you ever wanted a lesson in not judging a book by its cover, this is it. What’s Up With The Part Where Lucius Malfoy Tries To Take Out Harry?
Towards the end of the movie, there’s a bizarre moment where Draco’s father Lucius Malfoy tries to full on murder Harry. Bearing in mind he tries to do this while in broad daylight, under Dumbledore’s nose, in the middle of the Hogwarts hallway, very loudly. It’s all slightly at odds with his snivelling, cowardly character (remember how easily he succumbs to Lord Voldemort?) and, tbh, the plot of the book itself.
The Biggest Character Development In This Film? Dobby
First impressions: irritating, peculiar-looking, suspicious. Last impressions (in this film, at least): a hero. You’re positioned to loathe Dobby at the beginning of the film: from getting Harry locked in his room to sabotaging his Hogwarts journey. But Dobby is the lovable underdog and embodies a wider theme of the entrenched hierarchies within the wizarding world. Pretty impressive, no?