Follow the Spiders

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets plants the seeds for even darker adventures moving forward. By increasing the stakes, deepening the themes, and offering a far more complex sequel. The Chamber of Secrets was one of the harder books for J. K. Rowling to write. Since the sudden fame from The Sorcerer’s Stone (The Philosopher’s Stone) gave fans high expectations. It nevertheless earned the same level of admiration. Scooby-Doo ticket sales even increased when the trailer premiered with it. Although I ignored the movie in 2002, certain images from The Chamber of Secrets stood out the most in the series.

Like the flying car, living tree, and far more magical creatures. With the likes of house-elves, large spiders, and even a giant snake threatening Hogwarts. Director Chris Columbus was kept on board since the actors were still young. He just realized the PG rating needed to be challenged a bit. So the Warner Bros. logo is a bit more atmospheric, the mood feels more mature, and some blood can be seen in the climax. That’s not to say it hasn’t gotten far funnier and more polished in the child acting department. The only tragedy was the sudden loss of Richard Harris as Dumbledore. Who past away prior to the film’s release. SPOILER ALERT! in case you haven’t followed the spiders…

3. The Chamber of Secrets

Harry and Ron drive a flying car

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is the longest film in the franchise. With a staggering 2 hour & 41 minute runtime. Due to nearly every detail from the book being included in the movie adaptation. Some fans hold it in less regard because of that, but I still think it’s a very strong and crucial follow up. Since one year has past, Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Tom Felton, and more have all hit puberty. So now the boys have slightly deeper voices. The Chamber of Secrets begins right back at the awful Dursley house. Only now Harry has earned moderately better treatment. Like his own room and less abuse from Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia, and Dudley. Except Hedwig is the only one who keeps him company after not receiving a single letter from Ron or Hermione. The reason being the biggest scene stealer in the movie, Dobby the house-elf. In the Wizarding World, diminutive elves are slaves to magical families. Toby Jones lends a very imitatable voice to the nervous elf. Prone to comically punishing himself.

Dobby’s one of the only creatures done entirely in CGI. It’s not bad, but it is dated looking (especially considering Lord of the Rings was in the same year). Dobby is responsible for the missing letters since he’s trying to keep Harry out of Hogwarts this year. Going to such extreme measures as magically sabotaging the Dursley’s important dinner. Not even bars on the windows can keep Harry from school. Fred, George, and Ron all come to break Harry out. Using an impressive flying blue Ford Anglia owned by their father. The Weasley family Burrow is large, though the family is still mostly poor. Mark Williams is a fine choice for the oddball Muggle obsessed Weasley patriarch Arthur. Molly practically adopts Harry into the family. Which makes things awkward between him and Ginny. Bonnie Wright had one line in the first movie, but her role has increased since she’s now attending Hogwarts. When their clumsy owl delivers a list of supplies, another magical detail is revealed. That you can travel through fireplaces using Floo powder.

Harry butchers the pronunciation of Diagon Alley and winds up in the spooky Knockturn Alley. Kindly Hagrid comes to the rescue and Harry is also reunited with Hermione. Who once more repairs his glasses. They all attend a book signing for Gilderoy Lockhart. A dashing wizard that all the witches want and all the wizards want to be. He’s famous for his unbelievable stories of heroism which turns his attention to Harry. Although not known exclusively for his looks, Kenneth Branagh pulls off Lockhart’s egotism. Draco is also there and more slimy than ever. Equally slimy is his father Lucius Malfoy. A wizard purist who looks down on Muggles and Muggle-borns just as his son does. Hence his long hair, robes, and wand concealed within a cane. Jason Isaacs based his performance on Felton’s and he’s just as despicably magnetic in the role. Something goes wrong again when Harry & Ron are unable to cross Platform 9¾ and board Hogwarts express.

Instead they take the flying car in full view of Muggles. It has a cloaking function, but it’s faulty. Their harrowing ride lands them in the branches of the Whomping Willow. A clearly dangerous tree on school grounds. The car drives off and Ron gets yelled at via talking Howler letter. Ron’s wand is also broken for the remainder of the year. Suitable since Ron is an even bigger comic relief this time around. While Hermione’s braininess comes in handy even when she isn’t around. Professor Snape immediately scolds the boys for their foolishness, but Professors Dumbledore and McGonagall let them off with a detention. Neville, Seamus, Dean, Professor Flitwick, Filch, and other students & staff all return. With the exception of Madame Hooch since the actress wanted a pay increase. Miriam Margolyes makes her debut as herbology professor Pomona Sprout. She teaches an important class studying screeching Mandrakes. Gemma Jones also makes her debut as magical healer Madam Pomfrey. Since way more students will need to go to the hospital wing.

After Professor Quirrell turned out to be wicked, Gilderoy Lockhart became this year’s Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. You can tell he doesn’t know what he’s doing when he lets bright blue Cornish pixies loose on his class. The main theme of The Chamber of Secrets is prejudice. The first such incident comes when new Slytherin seeker Draco calls Hermione a “Mudblood.” A derogatory slur for magic born people with Muggle parents. Since the Grangers are Muggles, but Hermione is a witch. Ron shows he cares by attempting a spell on Draco, but it has sluggy results. Hagrid comforts all of them and they hear more about perceived blood purity. The main conflict centers around the titular Chamber of Secrets. Brought to everyone’s attention when Filch’s cat Mrs. Norris is petrified next to a message written in blood. During McGonagall’s transfiguration class, she explains the Chamber’s history. How Godric Gryffindor, Rowena Ravenclaw, Helga Hufflepuff, and Salazar Slytherin formed the school with the latter having his own agenda.

Only the “Heir of Slytherin” can open the Chamber and put an end to all Muggle-borns. The staff gets increasingly nervous when more bodies wind up petrified. Harry, Ron, and Hermione investigate with plans of interrogating top suspect Draco. It takes a month to perfect the Polyjuice Potion necessary to disguise themselves as Slytherin students. Hermione brews the potion in the abandoned girls bathroom. It’s there that other scene stealing nuisance Moaning Myrtle haunts. She’s a deceased Hogwarts student played by the perpetually youthful squeaky voiced Shirley Henderson. Christmas is when Hermione perfects the potion. Leading Harry & Ron to disguise themselves as Draco’s cronies Crabbe & Goyle. They get some answers, but Hermione stays behind since it was cat hair that she found. This year’s Quidditch match is just as fast paced and fun as last year. With the added rivalry between Potter & Malfoy. It just gets dangerous again when a runaway Bludger nearly kills Harry. Lockhart screws up again when he botches Harry’s broken arm by giving him a revolting noodle arm.

Dobby returns in the hospital wing and takes full responsibility for the blocked platform and Bludger. The increased danger leads Lockhart to organize a dueling demonstration between him and the more competent Snape. They pit Harry vs. Draco and their exciting duel conjures up a deadly snake. Another pivotal moment comes when Harry speaks Parseltongue in front of everyone. The snake language most associated with Slytherins. Students suspect Harry is the heir and so he tries to get answers from Dumbledore. The Sorting Hat offers an explanation when Harry meets Dumbledore’s pet phoenix Fawx. The only answers Harry gets are from the enchanted diary of Tom Riddle that tells him all about the dead Muggle-born girl that Draco mentioned. The young Riddle accused Hagrid of opening the Chamber years ago and that makes him the primary suspect. Harry & Ron have to go see Hagrid alone since Hermione is unable to help due to becoming petrified.

While under the Invisibility cloak, Harry & Ron witness Dumbledore, Lucius, and Cornelius Fudge escorting Hagrid to Azkaban prison. Robert Hardy portrays Fudge, an important figure in the yet to be seen Ministry of Magic. Before he leaves, Hagrid cryptically tells the boys to “Follow the spiders.” Ron’s fear of spiders is hilarious, but it’s something my brother fears as well. Making the appearance of Aragog, Hagrid’s Acromantula giant pet spider, extra creepy for him. Aragog explains that he’s not the Chamber beast, but that doesn’t stop him from sicking his children on the two. The car saves Harry, Ron, (and Fang) long enough for them to get back to Hermione. Even in petrification, she helps the boys with a note revealing the beast is a Basilisk. A giant snake that kills with a single stare, slithers through the pipes, and very conveniently petrified every victim who looked into some form of reflection.

Snape goats Lockhart into going after the Basilisk, but he’s a complete fraud and a coward who erases wizard’s memories to become famous. Harry & Ron force him to help and they both realize Myrtle is the girl killed by the Basilisk. So she shows them the passage to the hidden Chamber. While entering, Lockhart using Ron’s broken wand backfires an amnesia spell. The franchise’s only after-credit scene shows him locked in an insane asylum. Harry discovers Ginny was behind the Chamber opening and bloody messages. Thanks to a spell cast by a physically projected Tom Riddle. Turns out Tom Marvolo Riddle is really an anagram for “I am Lord Voldemort.” Not sure why he needed the “I am” part, but I digress. The giant snake-like Basilisk is the best creature effect next to Aragog and Fawx. Fawx flies in to scratch out the Basilisk’s eyes and supply him with the Sorting Hat. Which contains the fabled Sword of Gryffindor.

Making Harry Potter even more of a hero than he already was. He slays the beast and uses the Basilisk fang to destroy Riddle’s diary (remember that). Fawx flies Harry, Ginny, Ron, and Lockhart out of the Chamber and the school is safe again. Dumbledore encourages Harry with an important lesson in choices over birthright. Lucius reveals Dobby works for house Malfoy and Harry costs him his elf by inadvertently freeing him. A grateful Dobby saves Harry from Lucius’ bloody Killing Curse and a bond is formed. A cured Hermione has a friendly embrace with Harry and an awkward handshake with Ron. Year 2 concludes when Hagrid is warmly greeted upon returning to his home at Hogwarts. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is positively stuffed, but it’s an excellent means of magical worldbuilding.

4. The Chamber of Secrets

Harry and Hermione comfort a sick Ron

Preceded by: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone & Followed by: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

2 thoughts on “Follow the Spiders

  1. Why is it always spiders? I never related to Ron more than that!

    Plus Kenneth Branagh’s never been a favorite of mine but he was obviously having so much fun chewing scenery here Lockhart is still one of the best acted parts in the films!

    Liked by 2 people

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