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
- Year One at Hogwarts intro
- Theatrical trailer
- Conversation with author Rowling and scribe Kloves
- Interview section with snippets from the cast
- Gallery of production sketches
- Build a Scene featurette
- Tours of the sets for Dumbledore’s Office, Diagon Alley, and the Chamber of Secrets
- The Chamber Challenge game
- The Forbidden Forest Challenge game
- Colin’s Darkroom
- Gilderoy Lockhart’s classroom with reading list, certificates and a Lockhart photo gallery
- Spellcaster Knowledge Challenge game
- Additional scenes
- Game preview of the Chamber game by EA
- Voice-activated navigation
- Game demo
- Challenge games: Photo Hunt, Sliders, Jigsaw Puzzles, Matching Potions
- Hogwarts timeline
- Activities: 3-D Great Hall Cutout, Printable Mazes, Folding Posters
Released by: Warner Brothers
My Advice: Own it.
[ad#longpost]Welcome to Year Two. Harry Potter (Radcliffe) has another birthday and is about to head off to Hogwarts to continue his wizardly studies. However, there’s a slight snag: a house-elf named Dobby (voiced by Toby Jones) has shown up to warn Harry that he mustn’t, under any circumstances, go back to Hogwarts; if Harry does, he will be in incredible danger. And the little CGI bugger might have a point, because in the halls of the school, an ancient evil appears to have been unleashed–and Harry may or may not be the person responsible.
I’ve got to admit, I was impressed. For reasons I won’t bore you with here, the second book has been, in my opinion, the weakest of the series thus far. Suffice to say that character development vs. character situations and reactions to the actions of particular characters didn’t seem to jibe. However, Kloves (working closely with Rowling) appears to have distilled the strongest parts from the book and left the rest. So kudos to them; the film on the whole is a better one than the first.
There’s a couple of reasons for this: first, everybody’s established. You need no exposition as to who people are and why they are. And we’re not talking characters alone–the actors are all settled into their parts. I’m talking mainly about the kids, mind you. Maggie Smith needs no settling. But because Harry is actually doing things instead of, for the most part, having things done to him–Radcliffe has a lot more to work with. Watson and Grint provide great backup support, and they have to: the film rests on their backs. And it flies, Orville.
Everyone who has returned is in fine form, although points must be given to newcomers Jason Isaacs (terrific and evil) and Kenneth Branagh. Especially Branagh–casting the most egotistical actor in the world as the most egotistical wizard in the world. Good God, it’s brilliant. And, of course, with great sadness I reflect on the passing of Richard Harris. I’m sure Michael Gambon will do as good a job as possible taking over the role of Dumbledore, but damn, we will miss Harris.
I’m pleased to report that the DVD is a helluva lot better this time around. You can read the fun from last time for the full report, but this set is a lot easier to get through. Pop the first disc in, and you get a kind of remedial trailer that explains Year One and gets you setup for Year Two. Nicely done. Between that and the feature, you’re pretty much done with the first disc.
The second disc has a great deal of features to offer. First up, you’ve got a conversation with Rowling and Kloves regarding the books, the scripts, the books vs. the scripts and so on. Sure, some of the questions have that cheesy aftertaste to them–but consider the main demographic for these discs. We can’t fault them too much. You also have little snippets with the majority of the student and instructor actors–any of the bits with them are two minutes long if you’re lucky, so it does nothing but whet my appetite for a longer featurette, more in-depth interviews, or even a cast commentary. I still maintain that you really need to pull a Lord of the Rings with these and have three tracks worth of commentary: crew, student cast and staff cast. It would be nice to think that somebody already thought of this and Harris’ comments are locked away safe somewhere. We can only hope.
Probably the standout of the features here is a tour of three of the main sets for the film: Dumbledore’s Office, Diagon Alley, and the Chamber from the title. Unlike the Hogwarts tour from the last release–which were terribly blurry and weird–these are crystal clear and easy to get around in. A great deal of props and details are available to zoom in on, so it’s very cool. Potter fanatics will especially go apeshit in Dumbledore’s Office trying to figure out what that ginormous telescope is for.
The Colin’s Darkroom feature is kind of snazzy in that you get to basically build your slideshow of stills from the film, and I’m sure it will entertain small children for, oh, a good five minutes. The Lockhart’s Classroom bit is amusing, as it shows the character’s many awards and certificates, not to mention pictures from his various “adventures.”
The set is loaded with games, of varying degrees of novelty. The Chamber Challenge just involves trivia questions, mostly dealing with continuity, and it’s how you initially get into the Chamber set tour. The Forest Challenge is pretty pointless, as you have to simply guess which direction to take your car through the forest, lest you drive up a tree and eventually be consumed by large spiders. I really don’t understand the point of the game–there’s no skill involved in simply guessing left or right for however many number of times (I gave up–was bored). Same thing with a portion of the Chamber game where you have to guess a sink–unlike in the film, there’s no telling the sinks apart, it’s just process of elimination. Not exactly compelling gameplay. The Spellcaster Knowledge game basically shows clips from the film involving a character spouting off a spell and you have to state what the effect is going to be. Again, movie trivia.
The DVD-ROM features are hit and miss, but less miss that the first movie’s set. For some reason, it couldn’t load Shockwave enough times on my system to please it, but killing the InterActual Player and going back in seemed to work. Here, again, you have the opportunity to move around using voice commands–and you can simply ask “What Can I Say?” if you’re uncertain what your options were. The good news is that it didn’t look up my system like last time, but the bad news is many, many times it simply wouldn’t register what I was saying, no matter how many times I spoke or how clearly I enunciated. The navigation is worse than that, since if you, for example, decide to go to the Challenges section, you have to mix a potion in order to be able to do so. This gets old in a hurry. It gets worse, though, since you have to do this every single time you want to go anywhere in that section–even if you go back out to the menu and want to go in somewhere else.
They save themselves, though, with the “KwikClick” section which can take you anywhere you want to go. You can bypass most of the time wasting garbage with this handy menu. But it’s still annoying. Most of the games in this DVD-ROM section are fairly simple and will keep kids amused for a while, so they get points for that. They also have interesting bits that involve a color printer–such as making your own 3-D version of the Great Hall and some printable mazes–which are nice. Can’t vouch for them completely, since I don’t have a color printer, but A for effort.
My personal favorite of the DVD-ROM portion of the set is the Hogwarts Timeline. With lots of animation and bits from both years of Hogwarts thus far, it’s nice. I would have enjoyed maybe some more backstory before Harry was around, but maybe that will come as the series moves on. But hey, the thing looks sharp.
You have a much better set on your hands here than you did with the first film. It feels less thrown together and muddled, and seems to be worth your time. And, if you have kids, there’s enough stuff to keep them busy for this to be more than worth your coin. Granted, it’s not the UberMongo Edition that many would want, but it’ll do for now.