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Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets(2002)
Harry returns for his second year at Hogwart's School of Witchcraft and Wizardry along with his best friends Hermione and Ron. He ignores warnings not to go back to Hogwarts by a mysterious house elf named Dobby. Soon into the school year strange things start happening. Students are found in a petrified state, messages written in blood appear on the walls and Harry starts to hear voices in his head. It becomes apparent that someone has opened The Chamber of Secrets... but who is responsible and can the dark forces that lurk there be stopped?
For more about Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and the Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Blu-ray release, see the Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Blu-ray Review
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Richard Griffiths, Fiona Shaw, Harry Melling
Director: Chris Columbus
» See full cast & crew
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Blu-ray Review
Potter and his pals earn a more fully-realized Ultimate Edition release...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, December 8, 2009
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is an interesting conundrum. On one hand, it clings too dearly to the same bubblegum imagery and kiddie-pop fantasy director Chris Columbus brought to The Sorcerer's Stone. On the other, it grants its fans their first legitimate glimpse into the seedy underworld lying dormant beneath Hogwarts. Shadows begin to push away the light, frightening villains begin to emerge, and dark conflicts within Harry's own soul begin to fester. At times, it's a film of intriguing ideas and mesmerizing encounters; a fitting, albeit restrained preview of the madness to come. Unfortunately, it's also a film of inconsistent identities and contrasting tones, a dissonant sophomore outing that hints at the series' inevitable departure from the oh-so-sweet misadventures that sometimes plagued The Sorcerer's Stone. It's certainly a passable Potter entry, even an occasionally absorbing one, but it lacks the power and punch of later installments.
After what seems like an eternity piddling about Privet Drive, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) finally returns for his second year at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, reuniting with good friends and fellow budding wizard-warriors Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), meeting his rival classmate's shady father (a supremely snaky Jason Isaacs), and returning to his studies. But trouble once again looms on the horizon, this time in the form of a strange voice only Harry seems to hear, the discovery of the petrified victims of a deadly foe, and the cursed diary of a student named Tom Riddle. Before you can say angst and puberty, Potter has to come to terms with his past, unlock the secrets of Hogwarts' latest mystery, prove his own innocence, restore the honor of headmaster Dumbledore (the late Richard Harris), and thwart Voldemort's most recent attempts to return to power. With the help of the school's new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, famous author Gilderoy Lockhart (an amusing Kenneth Branagh), his helpful half-giant friend Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane), and a meddlesome House Elf named Dobby (Toby Jones), Harry finds himself risking life and limb, yet again, to save his friends and the world at large from evil incarnate.
If nothing else, Radcliffe, Grint, and Watson seem more seasoned this time around, infusing their characters and the many trials they're forced to overcome with more dramatic weight and believability. Gone are the clumsy cherubs tasked with bearing the burden of an international blockbuster; their replacements largely look the same, despite having aged, but seem blessed with older souls and wiser eyes that render their performances all the more effective. It helps that Rowling's second story and screenwriter Steve Kloves' subsequent script, while significantly broader in scope than The Sorcerer's Stone, are more nuanced works that resonate with deeper, more relevant themes and truths. Harry's search isn't for a hidden chamber, but rather his own identity. His obsession with his past isn't about solving a riddle, it's about coming into his own. As Radcliffe has grown older, so too has Harry, lending every exchange and coming-of-age encounter more thoughtfulness than it might have otherwise had. Few scenes offer the maturity or psychological labyrinths of later films, particularly The Prisoner of Azkaban and The Order of the Phoenix, but it's still a welcome change of pace from The Sorcerer's Stone.
Sadly, these subtleties hurt the film as often as they help it. Columbus frequently trots out slapstick humor and whimsical gags in the midst of increasingly sinister reveals, but fails to fuse the seemingly disconnected elements as easily and effortlessly as Rowling does in her book. The Chamber of Secrets is a wildly jarring jaunt fraught with flighty highs and distressing lows, neither of which Columbus manages to blend into his cinematic Potter gumbo. Worse still, tragic moments are followed by bursts of lofty abandon, robbing the tragedy of its pain and the gee-wizardry fun of all its joy; scenes that should be haunting are sometimes undermined by the hilarity that proceeds them. It's a dissatisfying game that grows more and more tiresome as the first hour-and-a-half hobbles and wobble along. Still, to Columbus and Kloves' credit, the tail end of the second act and the whole of the third act are rousing affairs peppered with harrowing adventure and strong twists. Harry's quest finally begins to offer answers, the perils of Hogwarts come to light, and the series' central conflict (Potter v. Voldemort) takes its rightful place at center stage. The payoff is a bit cumbersome, as is the film's theatrical and extended runtimes, but it makes The Chamber of Secrets a solid vaulting point into The Goblet of Fire and beyond; entries I personally find far more appealing than Columbus' kid-centric fare. Ultimately, the meat of Potter's tribulations begin here. Those new to the franchise will find it to be a slightly more rewarding experience than its predecessor and a proper gateway to the stellar installments that follow.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Blu-ray, Video Quality
For better or worse, Warner's 1080p/VC-1 Chamber of Secrets transfer appears to be identical to the high definition transfer minted for the film's 2007 Blu-ray release. But while a complete overhaul may have ironed out a few wrinkles, the studio's recycled presentation isn't a detriment to the Ultimate Edition box set. Lit by candlelight, bathed in shadow, and occasionally pierced by a bright and vivid sun, colors are inviting and blacks are inky, lending the image both richness and depth. Delineation and contrast aren't entirely revealing, but they are consistent, granting Potter's first legitimate brush with the dark underbelly of Hogwarts a definitive edge and a menacing atmosphere. Detail, though sometimes as soft as it is in The Sorcerer's Stone, is fairly impressive and rarely a source of distraction. Fine textures aren't as crisp or refined as they are in later entries in the series, but the presentation is bolstered by a filmic appearance that more than makes up for any clarity issues. Likewise, digital anomalies are well-contained -- I didn't detect any debilitating artifacting, banding, source noise, or smearing -- and only a few, minor mishaps occurred over the course of the film. Edge enhancement has been applied as well, but ringing is kept to a minimum and halos only worm into the proceedings on occasion. All things considered, The Chamber of Secrets looks pretty good, not Order of the Phoenix-perfect mind you, but attractive all around.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets' Blu-ray debut already offered an able-bodied PCM mix, but Warner outdoes itself and its former efforts this time around with a pair of hearty DTS-HD Master Audio surround tracks. Sorry, I'm not exactly sure why the film's theatrical cut is presented with a DTS-HD MA 6.1 mix and the extended cut only nets a DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix, but it honesty doesn't matter. Both sound fantastic and both should help justify the Ultimate Edition's cost. Dialogue -- be it delivered by wizard, muggle, or creature -- is crystal clear, Quidditch crowds envelop the listener, and prioritization is spot on throughout. Some scenes pack more punch than others (a basilisk battle is an immersive show-stopper), particularly since The Chamber of Secrets is often a chatty whodunit, but warping spells and roaring monsters tap into the LFE channel and the rear speakers, creating a genuinely unnerving sonic spectacle. Low-end tones are powerful and earthy, the tracks' soundfields are convincing, and dynamics are bold and lively. Did I mention how swiftly effects dart from one speaker to the next? Pans are golden-snitch smooth and directionality, though a tad two-dimensional on rare occasion, is precise and exciting. It's an altogether magical experience worthy of the set's Ultimate Edition moniker.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Ultimate Edition release of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is more satisfying than its Sorcerer's Stone counterpart, but primarily because the features on its third disc are more substantial and enjoyable. Otherwise, it feels strikingly similar, offering fans a mildly disappointing Picture-in-Picture video commentary, a phenomenal documentary (the second of eight scheduled parts), and various supplemental content ported from previous DVD and Blu-ray releases. There's certainly more to be had in Warner's second Potter UE, but it still struck me as less-than-mind-blowing, particularly since the PiP track is such a letdown.
The case it all comes bundled in bears a striking resemblance to its attractive, albeit ungainly Sorcerer's Stone cousin. Unfortunately, that means it also shares the same design flaws. A thin slipcover nestles a sturdy cardboard cardboard box that seals with a hidden magnetic clasp. Tucked inside is a 48-page hardcover booklet, an envelope containing two heavy character cards, a digital copy disc (in its own paper sleeve), and a digipak that houses the set's main discs in safe, plastic trays. Sadly, the hefty box set will make for an unsightly addition to most consumer's shelves; a problem that can't be remedied by removing and displaying the equally oversized digipak. The dimensions of the components are as follows:
I don't mind large box sets, but I wish studios would start putting standard sized Blu-ray cases inside of these monstrosities so fans without ample shelf space could discard whatever pack-ins and boxes they deemed unnecessary, and slide an oh-so-slim case alongside the rest of their collection.
Disc 1: Movies
Along with two sprawling versions of Potter's sophomore outing -- a 161-minute theatrical cut and a 174-minute extended cut -- the Ultimate Edition of The Chamber of Secrets includes a Picture-in-Picture video commentary with director Chris Columbus. Alas, like the track featured on the concurrently released Sorcerer's Stone UE, it's a hit-or-miss affair that only seems to offer content at obvious points throughout the film. It's a shame there's so little to go around. Columbus' anecdotes are fantastic, the behind-the-scenes footage is a real treat, and the storyboards and stills galleries inject some life into the proceedings. It even picks up steam as the film barrels along. If it weren't for the track's lengthy gaps, I would be screaming its praises. Sadly, as it stands, it's an average, somewhat underwhelming experience that could have been a lot better.
Disc 2: Special Features
Next up is a solid helping of more traditional special features, the main draw being another enthralling portion of a wonderfully conceived eight-part documentary Warner is spreading across the Potter franchise's eight Ultimate Edition releases. Previous and future segments include "The Magic Begins" (currently available on the Sorcerer's Stone UE), "Magical Creatures," "The Music of Harry Potter," "The Evolution of Harry Potter," "Special Effects," "Growing Up Potter," and "The Harry Potter Phenomenon."
Disc 3: Special Features
The set's third disc houses a number of special features that have appeared on previous home video releases of the film. Thankfully, it's a more captivating collection of supplements; one that outclasses The Sorcerer's Stone's cumbersome, chore-based activities.
Disc 4: Theatrical Cut Digital Copy
Instead of adding an extra disc inside the primary digipak, one users will presumably toss aside after redeeming the DC code anyway, Warner has wisely tucked The Chamber of Secrets Digital Copy in the cardboard envelope that holds the set's character cards. The disc's access code expires on December 8, 2010.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is better than The Sorcerer's Stone in some ways, but stays too close to the first film's formula to rise to the level of later entries. However, Warner's Ultimate Edition release is better. It delivers a stronger video transfer, a pair of powerful DTS-HD Master Audio tracks, and more pleasing supplemental content (thanks to the more traditional featurettes that grace its third disc). While its Picture-in-Picture experience falls flat and its packaging is woefully oversized, it also offers the second part of Warner's enormous eight-part documentary, a production that single-handedly justifies any fan's upgrade to the Ultimate Editions. I was disappointed with The Sorcerer's Stone UE release, but The Chamber of Secrets hints at the greatness to come.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: Other Editions
Blu-ray bundles with Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (1 bundle)
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Harry Potter Wizards Collection Blu-ray - March 22, 2012
This fall, Warner Home Entertainment will bring the Harry Potter Wizards Collection to Blu-ray. This thirty-one-disc box set bundles together all eight features in the Harry Potter franchise and contains over thirty-seven hours of bonus supplements. The Harry ...
• Ultimate Blu-ray for Harry Potter Movies 3 and 4 (Update) - July 13, 2010
Warner Home Video has announced that on October 19 it will release Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Ultimate Edition and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Ultimate Edition. Like the UEs of Sorcerer's Stone and Chamber of Secrets, released in 2009, each ...
• Today on Blu-ray - December 8th - December 8, 2009
When the Harry Potter film series concludes in 2011, star Daniel Radcliffe will have aged 10 years since first appearing as the young sorcerer and, if the films' success continues, generated over $9B in world-wide box office receipts. Today, the sixth film in the ...
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