Film writer Gracie Quinn reflects on Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, ahead of its 20th anniversary

Written by Gracie Ella Quinn
I'm a first year English Literature with Creative Writing student :)

With the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets approaching on the 2nd of November this year, I want to take a look back at the film,  the actors and actresses, and the lasting memories they have given us through the magical world of Harry Potter. The film, which was directed by Chris Columbus, who also directed the first film, is a fairly accurate representation of the action and plot followed within the book. As the sequel to the first film in the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the film expands on the magical world that J.K. Rowling created. Through cinema, the light, whimsical tone of the first film is continued.

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Despite being nearly 20 years old, I believe that the film has aged very well. CGI effects were used to bring to life the character of Dobby (Toby Jones), as well as the flying blue Ford Anglia. In comparison to the previous film, where the CGI effects were somewhat outdated and the image is not as crisp or clear, the use of CGI in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets remains to this day modern and impressive. Perhaps this is thanks to the long process of making the film, whereby production for the second film began a mere three days following the release of the first film, allowing adequate time for film techniques such as CGI to be developed. Dobby in particular brings the film to life by introducing more comedic value than was seen in the prequel.

The young cast was still homing in on their acting skills and growing in confidence

In hindsight, we can recognise the youth of most of the cast in the film. They were very much still shaping and developing their acting abilities within this film. This can be seen throughout both the first and second films as Emma Watson, who plays Hermione Granger, can be seen mouthing the lines of her castmates, clearly eager to do her best. However, Emma Watson admitted in an interview on ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live!’ in 2017, that as a young actress in this film, she often accidentally ruined takes by mouthing the lines of her fellow actors such as Daniel Radcliffe, who played Harry Potter and Rupert Grint, who played Ron Weasley. This demonstrates how Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is perhaps one of the lesser acclaimed films in the Harry Potter series as the young cast was still homing in on their acting skills and growing in confidence, although it cannot be denied they still produced amazing work on the film.

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Throughout this film, we are slowly introduced to further characters in the Wizarding World such as Lucius Malfoy (Jason Isaacs), a cruel and manipulative man, who entices some sympathy from the audience for his equally manipulative son, Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton). We also meet for the first time the Weasley family; we see characters we have previously met in a family setting, with an overbearing but caring mother and a chaotic muggle-loving father, denoting how the Weasley clan are so varied and unique. The audience can recognise a home away from home through the welcoming scene at The Burrow, which provides a solid family base for Harry in future films.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets for me, is one of the more nostalgic Harry Potter films

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets for me, is one of the more nostalgic Harry Potter films. The cast are still child-like and the plot is not too dark, reflected through the colour palette which remains similar to the first film, using mostly warm tones and reds. The colour palette of the series darkens and goes colder in tones as the films progress. We begin to see this in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets with the first introductions of greener tones. On the whole, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is not my favourite of the Harry Potter series, as I prefer the later films when the cast has fully developed, and the storyline becomes interwoven with hypnotic darkness. Of the eight films, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets ranks seventh in my mind, the only film I like less being Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire due to its story being more of a tournament than about the lives of witches and wizards.

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But what has the lasting impact of this film been? As only the second film in an eight-film-long series it helped develop the fan following around the Wizarding World, it also contributed to the blooming careers of Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe as well as their castmates. Looking back on the film after 20 years emphasises how sadly many of the older cast have since died. The great Richard Harris, who played Dumbledore in the first two films, did act in this film but sadly died from a heart attack before its premiere, never seeing it in its full glory.

Richard Griffiths, who played Vernon Dudley so excellently, died in 2013, and of course, Alan Rickman, who appeared in all eight films as Severus Snape, died in 2016. Although these actors who appeared in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets won’t be around to witness the 20th anniversary, they helped create the lasting legacy of the films and will always be remembered for this.

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