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Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)

tomatometer

82

Average Rating: 7.2/10
Reviews Counted: 216
Fresh: 178 | Rotten: 38

Though perhaps more enchanting for younger audiences, Chamber of Secrets is nevertheless both darker and livelier than its predecessor, expanding and improving upon the first film's universe.

72

Average Rating: 7/10
Critic Reviews: 46
Fresh: 33 | Rotten: 13

Though perhaps more enchanting for younger audiences, Chamber of Secrets is nevertheless both darker and livelier than its predecessor, expanding and improving upon the first film's universe.

audience

79

liked it
Average Rating: 3.7/5
User Ratings: 1,143,074

My Rating

Movie Info

Youthful wizard Harry Potter returns to the screen in this, the second film adaptation of J.K. Rowling's wildly popular series of novels for young people. Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and his friends Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) return for a second year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where Headmaster Dumbledore (Richard Harris), Professor Snape (Alan Rickman), Professor McGonagall (Maggie Smith), and Hagrid the Giant (Robbie Coltrane) are

PG,

Science Fiction & Fantasy, Kids & Family

Steve Kloves

Apr 11, 2003

$261.8M

Warner Bros. Pictures - Official Site External Icon

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All Critics (216) | Top Critics (46) | Fresh (178) | Rotten (38) | DVD (38)

This new Harry Potter has its flaws, but it's better, as well as darker, than the first.

November 26, 2013 Full Review Source: Wall Street Journal
Wall Street Journal
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Two down, presumably five to go, and already the franchise is entering dangerous territory: if you aren't one of the many who know their Harry Potter chapter and verse, prepare for a nap.

November 26, 2013 Full Review Source: New Yorker
New Yorker
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Radcliffe, 3 inches taller and an octave lower than last year, is growing comfortably into his character, as is Watson, the fetching and confident Hermione.

November 26, 2013 Full Review Source: New York Daily News
New York Daily News
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It doesn't help that Chamber is pretty much all business from the opening shot, trading in Stone's sometimes-clunky exposition for full-steam-ahead action.

November 26, 2013 Full Review Source: AV Club
AV Club
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Like many children I've met, director Chris Columbus seems never to have heard the word no.

June 27, 2011 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The franchise is safe! Columbus' second alchemical movie ups the thrill quotient to satisfy the faithful. There's more action, and it's scarier.

February 9, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Columbus carefully avoids overly replaying the visual wonders of his first episode, and heedfully edits and amplifies Rowling's story for the screen, preserving its spooky darkness.

November 26, 2013 Full Review Source: Metro Times (Detroit, MI)
Metro Times (Detroit, MI)

Better story, better acting, better characters and better effects. All they need is to sort out the dialogue next time, and everyone's a winner.

November 26, 2013 Full Review Source: Total Film
Total Film

[Chamber of Secrets] is more tightly plotted than the original film and boasts a welcome, lighter touch in its early scenes. But it devolves, during its wearying 161-min. running time, into a been-there-fought-that action hero yarn.

November 26, 2013 Full Review Source: People Magazine
People Magazine

Director Chris Columbus (again working from a screenplay by Steve Kloves) has allowed some mechanical repetition to creep in, but overall this manages to be ingenious as well as faithful to its source.

November 26, 2013 Full Review Source: Radio Times
Radio Times

The three main child actors, including Emma Watson as Hermione, have gained in confidence and grown nicely into their roles and all of the regular ensemble from the first film return.

November 26, 2013 Full Review Source: Screen International
Screen International

A good entertaining film with a lot of imagination...

June 15, 2013 Full Review Source: Cinema Crazed
Cinema Crazed

It's not all bad. But there are wasted, senseless scenes of characters about to head to the Quidditch pitch for a game that doesn't happen and time-eating speeches about how "This could mean the end of Hogwarts" (Crikey, again?)

January 13, 2013 Full Review Source: McClatchy-Tribune News Service
McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Possibly second only to Goblet of Fire of all the Potter films to date, Chamber of Secrets should please fans and muggles alike.

July 14, 2011 Full Review Source: Digital Spy
Digital Spy

Those who adore the books may bemoan the flat emotional landscape of the films, which are less easy to engage with. Fans of the first film will be suitably entertained.

June 27, 2011 Full Review Source: Film4
Film4

Scary spiders, impressive effects and a barnstorming Branagh add pizzazz to Potter.

June 27, 2011 Full Review Source: Observer [UK]
Observer [UK]

Action- and creature-packed Potter sequel.

December 24, 2010 Full Review Source: Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media

Everything about The Sorcerer's Stone pretty much applies to the adaptation of the second novel in the series.

January 29, 2009 Full Review Source: TheMovieReport.com
TheMovieReport.com

Allow yourself the luxury of discovering this enchanted world for yourself.

October 18, 2008 Full Review Source: Urban Cinefile
Urban Cinefile

The exciting second chapter in the Harry Potter chronicle that in many ways surpasses the original.

July 24, 2007
Cinema Sight

Though these films are trifles, they are at least high quality trifles.

July 14, 2007 Full Review Source: Big Picture Big Sound
Big Picture Big Sound

Audience Reviews for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Hollywood has long been criticised for its conservative, money-driven mindset. By prioritising the commercial success of a given venture over its artistic or critical merit, it has produced an inordinate number of bad or mediocre films over its long history, which exist purely because the numbers add up on a balance sheet. It's a fallacy that if loads of people see a film then it must be good, but Hollywood has played upon this fallacy for decades.

We are living in a period in which this continual promotion of mediocrity is reaching absurd and aggresive levels. But it is foolish to believe that it is only a recent phenomenon; rather, it is something seemingly inherent within the Hollywood model of filmmaking. All of which brings us to Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, which manages to be longer, duller and more episodic that its already disappointing predecessor.

At this juncture, it may be perfectly natural for you to accuse me of dismissing the film on the grounds of its reputation. Chamber of Secrets was created by the same people who made Philosopher's Stone, with principal photography starting merely three days after the latter had been released. It retains the same cast and largely the same crew, is produced by the same studio, and is still very much a product of Chris Columbus' imagination, or lack thereof.

But despite my feelings about Columbus as a director (which I have already discussed at great length), I actually believe that this film had a chance of being better - nay, should be better - than its predecessor. Having spent so long in the first film trying to set up all the different concepts surrounding Hogwarts and the world of wizards, we should now be able to go deeper into the characters without having to worry about all the jargon. While new ideas are still introduced throughout The Two Towers and The Return of the King, they do not faze us because we accept the rules of the universe from which these ideas come forth, based upon the knowledge we garnered from The Fellowship of the Ring.

Chamber of Secrets does have a number of interesting ideas buried in it, many of which foreshadow later developments in the franchise. Where Philosopher's Stone focussed on the threat posed specifically to Harry, the threat in Chamber of Secrets is much more all-encompassing, with the whole of Hogwarts at the mercy of some insidious, inexplicable evil. In the right hands, this film could have made more of the idea of Harry's special nature and how that places the people he cares for in increasing amounts of danger.

This film is also significant for introducing the concept of horcruxes, items which contain a fragment of Lord Voldemort's soul, through which he can live forever (unless they are destroyed). It's an idea that has a great deal of precedent in fiction, from Sauron's ring in The Lord of the Rings to the Necronomicon in The Evil Dead, which causes Deadites to rise up when its passages are chanted.

In whatever form it comes, the idea is an appealing one because it gives us a blend of tangible and intangible evil - a physical object which is either inherently evil or evil by association with a purely supernatural force or being. It raises all kinds of questions about the way that evil manifests itself, how temptation works, and how we should approach evil in our quest for good. At the very least, it's an interesting McGuffin which should serve as the basis for a compelling fantasy adventure.

Unfortunately, just like its predecessor, Chamber of Secrets is a film which could and should have been a lot better than it is. And once again it's Columbus' overly faithful, almost literal approach to the material which lets the film down, turning what should have been a gripping, creepy adventure story into a pedestrian, episodic and frankly tedious outing. For all the criticisms that fans might have about the later films' decisions regarding adaptation, the fact remains that this is not by any definition a good example of cinematic storytelling.

Many of the problems with Chamber of Secrets amount to the same flaws that plagued Philosopher's Stone being present for much more screen time. Because there is more plot to deal with this time around, we get a lot more scenes of lazy and confusing exposition in the corridors of Hogwarts. The scenes with Harry, Ron and Hermione discussing what is going on and plotting what to do next are all shot in the same fashion, with extremely similar pacing, camera movements and marks for the actors. Because it's hard to tell one from the next, we assume that we could watch them in any order and it wouldn't make a difference.

Likewise, the big magical set-pieces still feel like conscious intrusions on the plot rather than integral parts of it. The quiddich match may have a visually impressive chase in it between Harry and Draco Malfoy, but Columbus lets it go on much longer than it needs to: it simply isn't that important to the plot to warrant so much screen time, but Columbus indulges himself because that's what's in the book. Equally, the scene with Aragog the giant spider may be creepy on some level, but it's only a moment of terror rather than an incremental step towards a memorable climax.

Both of these elements together contrive to make Chamber of Secrets feel incredibly episodic. As before, Columbus' camera is chasing after the material in every shot, having seemingly no idea where the story is heading beyond the beginning and end of a given scene. You simply don't get the sense that Columbus knew what the focus should be and how to shape the film accordingly. Instead various plot elements move in and out of our attention for the best part of three long hours, and after a handful of special effects the film stops in a thorougly uncathartic place.

In all of these respects, Chamber of Secrets seems like the dictionary definition of 'more of the same'. This broadly extends to the visual sensibility: while there are more visually darker scenes and a number of obviously Gothic touches, the film retains the safe-Dickensian feel of its predecessor and is still pushing for a family audience in spite of all the creepy moments. There are even moments where you'd swear the sets for Philosopher's Stone had been reused to create a different setting this time, with the Chamber of Secrets itself looking remarkably like the wizards' chess board in the first film.

If Chamber of Secrets was just 'more of the same', it would not automatically warrant a lower score than the first film. What tips this over into being the worst Harry Potter film is the lack of logic in many of its climactic scenes. We're used to adventure stories which have one deus ex machina, and can just about tolerate it if it's used in a sophisticated way. But this film tests our patience by giving us numerous anticlimaxes, in which a difficult situation is dealt with in a manner which is either too straightforward or downright perplexing.

Some of these instances are caused by a contrived coincidence, such as Gilderoy Lockhart casting a spell with Ron's broken wand, causing it to backfire and bury him under rubble. Others give characters powers that were never explained beforehand and are not referenced again, such as Dobby preventing Lucius Malfoy from harming Harry after the former has been freed. Others still find the film simply pulling a solution out of thin air because it needs our hero to succeed, such as a sword magically appearing in the sorting hat so that Harry can kill the basilisk. Each of these examples on their own are disappointing, but the more they keep coming the less confidence and interest we have in the resolution of the story.

As before, the saving grace with Chamber of Secrets is the cast, who do a generally decent job with material that has not been properly shaped for the screen. Emma Watson deserves special credit for her performance as Hermione: she does her best with the reams of exposition and makes the character less of a grating goody-goody than before. Kenneth Branagh is underused as Lockhart but he does occasionally get the chance to prove his acting chops in amongst all the goofy humour. And Richard Harris acquits himself well as Dumbledore, in what would prove to be his final performance.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is a step down from the first film, being longer, more episodic and altogether less engaging. All the problems which dogged the first instalment are present in greater form here, and Columbus' uninspired approach to the material is likely to please existing fans a great deal more than any newcomers. While it's not quite awful, it remains the weakest of all the Harry Potter films, and provides a good case for all the changes that came with Prisoner of Azkaban.
June 14, 2014
Daniel Mumby
Daniel Mumby

Super Reviewer

Though it may be a similar formula of detective mystery + magic + quidditch to the previous installment, the second in the series does well to introduce more of the vast range of characters and pick away at the mystery underneath. Full review later.
March 3, 2013
TomBowler
Thomas Bowler

Super Reviewer

Here's round two of the adventures of young wizard Harry Potter and friends. While not a terrible movie, this one is probably my least favorite and the most forgettable. It's more faithful than the previous film, but that's not entirely a good thing, as this one really drags, and, at this point, it's not quite necessary yet since the books didn't start getting really detailed, ambitious, and overblown until part 4.

Columbus returns as director, and this time we follow 12 year-old Harry going through his second year of schooling. As if rival students, menacing teachers, and loads of schoolwork weren't enough, things start getting dire at school when people are found petrified like statues, threats are written on walls in blood, and a monster is on the loose. Even a gifted wizard like Harry may have some serious trouble coping.

I can appreciate that they were trying to be more faithful to the book, but they might have been too faithful. It's my least favorite entry, and, while it's not boring, it's just not gripping enough, I feel, to warrant a film of such length. At least the film is good about balancing the tone fairly well.

All the actors are fine, and they are only getting better and more comfortable with the characters with each new entry. Harris made his swan song here as Dumbledore, but his replacement in part 3 takes up the mantle with ease.

All in all, a decent movie, but like I said, probably my least favorite.
January 18, 2013
cosmo313
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

Chamber of Secrets is an improvement on its predecessor with a stronger story, stronger special effects, and livelier direction from Christopher Columbus. This was the film that started my love of the series, and looking back it is still one of my favorites. The acting from the younger cast is a little better and the tone is darker than Sorcerer's Stone. This is where the series hints at the great story to come and shows that the series will mature with each entry. Like Sorcerer's Stone however, Columbus is still just a little too slavish on the details and the film suffers just slightly from it. I fully appreciate everything he brought to the table undertaking a massive franchise for the first two entries, but I'm glad they went with a new director after this one. That being said, the series would not be the same and would not have evolved without him helming the first two to see what minor flaws needed to be ironed out.
December 19, 2012
jlewis07

Super Reviewer

    1. Neville Longbottom: Why is it always me?
    – Submitted by Chocolate F (6 months ago)
    1. Ron Weasley: Bloody bird's a menace!
    – Submitted by Matthew D (11 months ago)
    1. Madam Pomfrey: What d'you expect? Pumpkin juice?
    – Submitted by Baurushan J (18 months ago)
    1. Hermione Granger: It's got to be a Gryffindor. No one else knows our password.
    – Submitted by Baurushan J (18 months ago)
    1. Tom Riddle: It was Ginny that opened the Chamber Of Secrets.
    2. Harry Potter: No.
    – Submitted by Baurushan J (18 months ago)
    1. Madam Pomfrey: Who is ti that the monster's taken?
    2. Minerva McGonagall: Ginny Weasley.
    – Submitted by Baurushan J (18 months ago)
View all quotes (52)

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