Written by: Steven Kloves, based on the novel by J.K. Rowling
Directed by: Chris Columbus
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Richard Harris, Maggie Smith
My Advice: Don’t Miss It
Welcome to Year Two. Harry (Radcliffe) has been imprisoned yet again at the home of his only living relatives, the Dursleys (whom we don’t see a lot of, but are perfectly horrid–Richard Griffiths, Fiona Shaw, Harry Melling). He’s not allowed to practice magic outside of school (Hogwarts’ rules) and not allowed to do much of anything else either (the Dursleys’ rules). He’s also bummed because he hasn’t heard a peep out of either of his best friends from school, Hermione or Ron (Watson and Grint, respectively). However, when a house elf (voiced by Toby Jones) shows up unexpectedly in his room and warns Harry that he must not, under any circumstances, go back to Hogwarts this year…Harry understands that he’s in for trouble–but he has no idea that size of said trouble.
[ad#longpost]It’s no secret that of the three books of the series I’ve read, the second wasn’t exactly a letdown–but simply a weak book. So many things had already been done, so many things took too long, and so many things didn’t make sense. I bring this up because it’s rare that an adaptation of a book actually improves on its source material, but here it’s true: Kloves manages to distill the good story out of the book and leave the weaker parts behind. Granted, Hermione and Ron take an extreme backseat to most of the story (Hermione especially), but this is all right because it’s Harry’s story first and foremost.
New cast members Kenneth Branagh (the most dead-on casting of the year) and Jason Isaacs (who seems to be channeling Julian Sands) are perfect. The action sequences are appropriately intense for what is still a young teenager’s film and the humor is handled quite well. The Quidditch sequence has improved since the last film (and it wasn’t shabby there), and so has the majority of the CG effects. About the only weak point during the film is a glaring bit of exposition from a character during the climax of the film–something to do with eyes, I’ll say. But other than that, it’s fairly solid–not to mention well edited so that it certainly doesn’t feel like a film that strays past the two and a half mark.
It’s best seen on the big screen, of course, and for good reason: better effects, better developed characters, decent spooks, and good fun. I’m intrigued to see what happens with chapter three in the hands of a new helmer.
One last note: it’s depressing as hell to see Richard Harris for the last time on screen. I do hope they do some kind of tribute to him on the DVD release, seeing as how they didn’t have time to dedicate the film to him after his passing.