<body><script type="text/javascript"> function setAttributeOnload(object, attribute, val) { if(window.addEventListener) { window.addEventListener('load', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }, false); } else { window.attachEvent('onload', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }); } } </script> <div id="navbar-iframe-container"></div> <script type="text/javascript" src="https://apis.google.com/js/plusone.js"></script> <script type="text/javascript"> gapi.load("gapi.iframes:gapi.iframes.style.bubble", function() { if (gapi.iframes && gapi.iframes.getContext) { gapi.iframes.getContext().openChild({ url: 'https://www.blogger.com/navbar.g?targetBlogID\x3d16149408\x26blogName\x3dThe+Blogulator\x26publishMode\x3dPUBLISH_MODE_BLOGSPOT\x26navbarType\x3dBLACK\x26layoutType\x3dCLASSIC\x26searchRoot\x3dhttp://chrisandqualler.blogspot.com/search\x26blogLocale\x3den_US\x26v\x3d2\x26homepageUrl\x3dhttp://chrisandqualler.blogspot.com/\x26vt\x3d7090024357285529333', where: document.getElementById("navbar-iframe-container"), id: "navbar-iframe" }); } }); </script>

« Home | Next » | Next » | Next » | Next » | Next » | Next » | Next » | Next » | Next » | Next »

Ten Years Too Late: Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets

In case you missed it, I lost a bet and now have found myself watching all the Harry Potter movies for the first time. I thought I'd write about my experience with each film as I make my way through the franchise because a) I'm in a small minority of pop culture enthusiasts that didn't get swept up in teen-wizard-mania the first or second time around, and b) I need some kind of coping mechanism. So far.

Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets is admittedly marginally more tolerable than its predecessor, but there is a reason it took me four different sittings to get through the bloated 161-minute run time over a week ago and I am just getting around to writing this up now. It's because it largely just repeats the trappings that I discussed in my last post regarding the first entry in the series. Firstly, much of it is once again focused on, as Blogulator contributor Sam put it to me via email, "how cool wizard school" is, and secondly, there is still nary a competent child actor in sight. The big advantage it does have over the wandering origin story that started all this nonsense is that it actually tells a self-contained story from beginning to end, even if it is just more children's fantasy formula wankery. The bigger advantage is that at least this story is used infrequently to begin to actually build an ever-so-slightly-intriguing mythology surrounding Harry, his parents, and Voldemort.

On the one hand, Tom Riddle is just this story's version of Professor Quirrell, in that he's ultimately the "surprise" villain despite his character being nothing more than a sketch of a cartoon, therefore holding little to no weight in the Potter universe, despite the amount of ominous music and screen time he's given in the film's "climactic" finale. On the other hand, at least Riddle has a connection to the big bad that begat Potter's notoriety and will eventually allegedly become the reason that these foppy kids turn into lean mean fighting-evil machines. And this connection at the very least gives Chamber of Secrets a much-needed weightiness that was practically nowhere to be found in Sorceror's Stone. Unfortunately it's largely fleeting, giving us suckers (yours truly included) more reason to continue going forward with this trek through a children's fantasy world, because I need some narrative payoff, dammit!

But oh yes, how there was so much that sucked. Do I even need to mention Jar Jar Binks or whatever his name is? Dolby, Toby, Gollum, Dobby, whatever. Unlike the way we look back with faces equally enamored and aghast at the puppet alien phase of 80s family films (Mac & Me, Flight of the Navigator, et al.), I cannot believe anyone will look back in twenty years with fondness for a digitally distracting and obnoxious creature that is a victim of abuse and wears a potato sack. Yes, it sets up some stuff with the Malfoys, which I'm vaguely interested in, if only because they're ridiculously blond, but I really think there were less cloying and maddening ways to go about that. Similarly, Rupert Grint is like the human version of this one-note superficial enigma, still trying to curl his eyebrows into a contract for residual payments in 2020, when he'll be wondering why the producers of One Tree Hill: The Next Generation aren't returning his calls to play the disabled older brother that the protagonist's sidekick needs to look after. Seriously, I hope he gets better in the next one. Seriously.

While there were parts of world-building that were cantankerously shoved in our faces (see above), there were also parts of it that made the film bearable. One of them was most of Kenneth Branagh's character as the bumbling yet adored faux-wizard, even if he was a bit overused, especially if he shows up again as the series unfolds. I wished there was more Alan Rickman to balance out his goofiness or play against it more, but otherwise an entertaining British actor amongst the (shudder) children is always welcome. As I mentioned in my last post, I warmed up to Robbie Coltrane as Hagrid by the end of the first movie, and I like that part of the plot here hinges more upon him, as he is one of the only characters that makes me believe he cares about the brats that lead the story. However, Richard Harris as Dumbledore is getting there, especially in his one-on-one scenes with Harry (that sounded creepier than it needed to).

But that reminds me of my most hated part about Chamber of Secrets, which once again, is the ending. I can survive inconsequential characters. I can moderately enjoy world building and shading. I can even thrive on the gimmicky inclusion of an overall arc that keeps me caring about the next chapter in (sorry) boring main character Harry's life as a wizard. But I simply cannot handle such huge hype and fawning when the best Rowling can come up with is a deus ex machina resolution. And just because you do a callback to an earlier scene in which that magical savior is passively introduced, and just because said magical savior may play a titular role in a future installment, it doesn't negate the fact that you just solved a fantastical problem with an utterly lame plot device invented by the Greeks because they didn't know how to end a story without allowing the gods they worshiped to either save or destroy the hero. Yes, I'm talking about that damned phoenix. Ugh. And yet, here I go, awaiting Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban to come in the mail tomorrow. Woe is me.

Labels: ,

  1. Blogger Juwkey | 4:29 PM |  

    Isn't "competent child actor" sort of an oxymoron? I honestly feel bad for Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe since they're basically forced to carry Rupert Grint throughout the whole movie, and you cal tell their performances suffer for it. This is why no one likes Ron. Or Rupert Grint, for that matter.

    To be perfectly frank, the digital rendering of Dobby in HP: COS was/is a little disturbing. Another part of that creepiness could be that ILM did all the work on his character. Just an idea.

    Hey! Fawkes is awesome! Don't be hatin' on that phoenix. It'll peck your eye out.

    It's a common theme, but the "main characters" of Harry, Ron and Hermione are constantly outshone by their adult cast members. It takes a while for them to come into their own as actors, but it does happen. Just keep suffering through the dregs of their awkward adolescences.

    Concerning the argument that the first two movies from this franchise are fairly lackluster, a lot of franchises (or trilogies/sagas/whathaveyous) have movies that just aren't as good as the rest. Examples: Stars Wars: Episodes II and III, The Godfather Part III, Die Another Day, Every Odd Numbered Star Trek Movie, Every Matrix movie EXCEPT The Matrix, etc. For the Harry Potter series, the first two just happen to be the worst of the bunch.

    In HP: POA, expect more British actors! More teen angst! MORE OMINOUS MUSIC!

  2. Blogger chris | 6:05 PM |  

    Haha I believe competent child actors do exist, but I agree in that it's usually always a lucky fluke, not some masterstroke of casting/director. See Tatum O'Neil in Paper Moon and Chloe Moretz in Kick-Ass.

    And of course franchises will always have weak points, but all of the examples you mention (except perhaps Star Trek, which I'm not familiar with) have one thing in common: the first entries in the series are always better than the later additions. But I do understand Potter started as a book phenomenon and you make a valid argument about it starting as a kids' thing and growing into a universal thing, so I'll concede that, if only because...

    I just finished POA. Sweet merciful crap that's a pretty good movie. I wish I could have seen producer Chris Columbus watch the first dailies of what Cuaron did with his eyes closed and steam with jealousy. More to come in the next blog post obvi.

  3. Blogger Juwkey | 9:01 PM |  

    I'll concede to Chloe Moretz and I'll attempt to give Tatum O'Neal a chance. Thinking about it, Drew Barrymore and Macaulay Culkin weren't too shabby, for the roles they had to play.

    It might be interesting, after you've watched all the movies, to see what you think of the books. That would, of course, require actually reading them and I'm not sure what kind of wager there'd have to be to have such high stakes. :P

    I told you! I !#$%*^%$# told you! The score from that film is also one of my favorites. WRITE IT UP!

    And then onto Goblet of Fire.

    Spoiler: They finally start to hit puberty.

leave a response