Well, since I’ve had 4 cans of Coke in the past 2 hours I’m all sorts of awake. I guess that means I have a few minutes to share my thoughts on the new Harry Potter flick. Read on if you feel you have the time. If you want the quick and easy way out, here you go… wait for video. There. Now, if you’d like to know why you can certainly read on, if not, I just saved you $8. You’re welcome.
Well, since you’ve gone ahead and decided to read up on our favorite boy wizard I might as well warn you that this probably contains spoilers. I don’t know for sure because, well, I haven’t written’em yet. There’s also an outside chance that most of my grievances with this flick involve things that were in fact left out or left un explained, therefor I’m probably not spoiling anything. In any case, this installment of the Harry Potter series picks up where the last movie left off… or at least I assume so.
You see, my first problem with the movie happens within the first 5 minutes. Or, more accurately, what I expected the first 5 minutes to be about. The movie starts in instantly with the “plot” (which is in quotations for a reason) and never looks back. If I hadn’t seen the first movie and only heard that “it was good” and decided to see this one, I’d be completely and totally lost. We’re not told where, when or why ANYTHING takes place, ever. Hell, they don’t even mention that Harry is “magical” and if it was left up to the first few minutes of the film to fill us in, we’d all be screwed.
It’s almost like watching a series on TV, a good one with a back-story, like ER, CSI or NYPD Blue. Now, I’m not talking about a narrative, like the Sopranos for instance, but a series in which things happen from episode to episode AND there’s a continuing, non-episode based back-story. For example, NYPD Blues love story with Bobby and Diane or the continuing story of Doug Ross from back when ER was good. This movie is sort of like missing an episode of your favorite series. You know the characters, you know “stuff happens” but you’re completely lost if you miss more than one episode. Harry Potter’s summer break from school is that episode that we missed and now we’re just thrown back into the “series” and away we go. But that’s just my first issue.
Coming in at number 2 on the gripe list is “The Chamber of Secrets” itself. Now, in my opinion, if something is important enough to warrant being in the title of the movie… wouldn’t it be nice to actually have an explanation of what it’s actually there for. All we’re told is that one of the original founders of Hogwarts decided to build it (we don’t know why) and that inside is a big evil monster and that if it’s opened some shit is gonna happen. So, Harry, Ron and Hermione spend the rest of the movie looking for it and trying to figure out who’s opened it and who’s evil. Sound familiar? Yup, this would be the plot from the last movie. Change “chamber” to “special rock” and you get The Sorcerer’s Stone. But, since being thin of plot is a trend these days I’ll over look it and get to a bigger issue… what the fuck is the chamber of secrets? Yes, evil is inside it, yes it’s somewhere in the castle but WHY is it the “chamber of secrets?” It has nothing to do with secrets! Nothing. Unless you count the fact that no one knows where it is. That’s the only secret associated with it. If it was a chamber for secrets would you get some special knowledge from within it? At least, that’s what I would figure. But no, it might as well be called Cheers because the only thing evil is doing inside it is hanging out for a little while and having a beer in between snacking on students.
Next on my hit list is a wide assortment of completely random occurrences, characters and objects that make no sense what so ever. First up is the “flying car” and no, unfortunately I’m not talking about the one Kevin Smith is thinking of. No, this flying car is the one that Ron and Harry conveniently “borrow”, aka: steal, from Ron’s dad. They fly it to school, crash it into a giant pissed off tree (which we also never hear from again), fall out of it and then watch helplessly as it drives off into the Dark Woods under it’s own power. So, we figure that either the car is committing suicide after having put up with the two of them or it’s simply going back home and that we won’t see it again. Not so, the car, completely of it’s own free will, is hanging out in the middle of the woods and conveniently saves our two heroes from a swarm of pissed off giant spiders. Then, as if it’s random and unexplained reappearance wasn’t strange enough, after saving the boys it drives back into the friggin’ woods! Apparently the car has a death wish. Regardless, the cars randomness completely negated all willing suspension of disbelief I might have had at that point. You can apply the same sort of disbelief and randomness to about half the movie.
Then there’s the left overs. The little bits and pieces of movie that we apparently didn’t squeeze into the first film that the director and/or editor were determined to get into this one. The Quitage match is a perfect example. There’s no reason for it. None. It serves no purpose, does nothing to advance the plot and it’s not even as entertaining as the one from the first film. Ya, congratulations Harry, you caught the Snitch… what a surprise. Chip mentioned that there was the mention of the “stray” ball that seemed hell bent on smashing poor Potter to bits and that we are told later on who’s behind it… but the responsible party certainly could have done something else to get young Harry’s attention, shred his room, set his hair on fire, send him an email… ANYTHING. There’s whole other “issues” I have with the Wood Elf that I won’t get into. Oh, did I not mention the Wood Elf? Ah, well, you see, this is another pointless character that semi-influences the storyline. I (we) still don’t know WHY he’s doing what he’s doing. You see, he works for the bad guy but seems to like Harry enough to try and prevent harm from coming to him by nearly killing him. We don’t know why he likes Harry enough to try to help him but he does, so just suspend your disbelief and move on.
Lastly… the editor. The editor needs to be forbidden from working on anything else related to film, forever. I’m sorry, I’m 21 and I could barely sit there while the movie dragged on for 45 minutes longer than it needed to, I’m sure an 8 year old would be a giant ball of fun. As I’ve mentioned above, the Quitage match could go, half the ending could be trimmed and there’s at least 5 full scenes that are simply unnecessary. It’s amazing to me that the first movie, at only 152 minutes, could not only introduce a whole cast of characters, the world in which they live, the bad guys and the basic story, as well as have time to show us cool things in the wizards world and still have time to wrap things up where as this movie, at 161 minutes, not having the burden on introducing hardly anything, can’t wrap up a simple story in the time it’s given. What a shame.
I think the movie certainly has some redeeming qualities however. The acting was pretty good, the special effects were done well, all the little things that most movies ignore where all there. Its a shame that this movie suffers from the 2nd movie syndrome. Just about every major series has one bad movie in them. Back to the Future, Indiana Jones, etc. Most sophomoric efforts don’t succeed. They’re not “bad” per-say but they have such gigantic shoes to fill that there’s no way to live up to their predecessors.
Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets isn’t bad, just disappointing. After seeing and enjoying the first movie I expected great things from this one and it just couldn’t deliver. It felt rushed production wise, poorly paced story wise and had enough loose ends to knit a sweater. I’m sure the kiddies will love it but you for adults out there, just wait to rent it.