Based one the wildly successful Harry Potter series of novels, this film is based on book two of the series. As sophomore jinx’s go this one could have been far worse, the problem here is we no longer have the wonder of a new world to explore but, we still have characters that are not fully fleshed out yet either. The plot is somewhat predictable in that we have the same villain as the previous novel, albeit in a different form. Harry Potter and the usual cast of characters return for another year of adventure at Hog…arts, this time we see a story line that is much darker then the first as the kids have grown up a little and are ready for bigger and scarier things. Parents with small children who where a fan of the first film may want to watch this with out the kids first to insure that it is appropriate for their kids as there are a couple of very frightening scenes.
The first film was criticized for a couple of things, firstly the quidditch scenes where kind of flat and all though the DVD release boasted that it had lots of great extra features it fell somewhat flat as well. I can safely say that they made great improvements to quidditch, you will have to read on though to find out if the extra features have improved.
As far as the film goes I think that they have done a very good job with what is arguably the worst book in the series. Having read all four books in the series I can say that if well done the next film is going to bury the first two at the box office (from what we have seen so far on the net it is shaping up to be a great film). Anyways this is a good film and with the addition of some better special effects and a darker story line it turns out be a worthy second effort to the Philosopher’s Stone.
One problem that I noticed with the first film was that the DVD release was somewhat soft and grainy, I am glad to say that this has for the most part been corrected with this release. The transfer will not blow you away with its quality, but it is much better then the first film. This film features some very dark and dreary scenes and the film maintains all of the contrast and definitions in these scenes. Watching the spider scene in the forest will quickly let you know how good your TV can reproduce a proper grey scale. If it cannot, you are going to find it very difficult to see all of the shadow detail in the forest as this has been very well preserved in the DVD, and is free of the noise that plagued the first film. I did not notice any dirt or debris from the film transfer which is always a good thing. So overall the image is better then the first film but, still not perfect, it could still be a little sharper.
Having watched this film in the theater I was very excited for the DVD release as the audio in the theater was incredible. Sadly I was let down by the DVD, I found four major issues with the 5.1 mix on this disc. I found the voices from the center channel to be somewhat chesty and sibilant with everyone sounding like that had a slight cold.
Next I noticed that at times the vocal levels where inconsistent, as we shifted from one character to another in a scene at a couple of different points. One thing I noticed in the theater was that a couple of the scenes made amazing use of the surrounds (Quidditch and the spider scene in the forest), the surrounds on the DVD though where lower in level and where overpowered by the front speakers. I found that if I used my reference levels for my rears that I had a hard time hearing what was going on in the surrounds, after bumping up the levels a couple of notches things improved.
Lastly the bass in the Whomping Willow scene was very present but, I found it to be somewhat bloated and boomy sounding with two much mid-bass instead of good powerful low bass information. I was really looking forward to this disc having a reference quality audio track and was disappointed to find it plagued with problems.
This disc has certainly made up for the lack of special features on the first disc. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the content is all worth while but there is one heck of a lot to sort through here (two and a half pages of notes). So let’s get going…
On disc two, we have 20 deleted scenes, most of these are your typical deleted scenes that should have been cut. One deleted scene did stand out though involving an encounter early on between Harry overhearing a conversation between Lucius Malfoy and one of the shopkeepers in Diagon Alley. This scene being cut does make sense but, including it also adds foreshadowing relevant to the next couple of films.
We have interviews with J.K. Rowling (writer of the books) and Steve Kloves (screenwriter) that offers up some interesting incites to the films. We have your usual cast and crew behind the scenes interviews and production sketches. Farcical looks at Gilderoy Lockhart’s classroom complete with all his books, a photo gallery and award certificates.
We also get to go on a tour of Dumbledore’s office in two different ways, first we go through the production process with a look at how we get from an idea in a book to a finished set. Secondly we can interactively go through the room and look at all of the different items in the room, this room is either full of easter eggs or is just a little unusual to navigate, nonetheless there is a ton of stuff to see here. (to navigate or find the easter eggs, when the green backwards arrow appears push down and parts of the image will get sparks all over it, push the enter button and enjoy).
Moving on we have a tour of Diagon alley with the same easter egg/navigation system as Dumbledore’s office and a couple of games. The Chamber Challenge will test your trivia knowledge and the Forbidden Forest will drive you crazy as there does not seem to be any logic to it. An interesting feature called Collin’s Darkroom lets you create your own Hogwarts photo gallery.
Disc 2 also has DVD-ROM content, a lot of this is either available on the website though or is just a re-hash of some of the content on the disc, you can install the demo of the EA game for the Chamber of Secrets. Disc 1 gives us a pretty basic year one (film one recap) and theatrical trailers. The menus are all decent quality motion menus with score.
I came into this film with high expectations and was rewarded with improved extra content (even though there is a lot of fluff there, there is also lots of cool stuff as well), drastically improved video quality, but a disappointing audio track. The audio not withstanding this is a great discs of a decent film from an OK book and would be a welcome addition to any semi-serious collectors library.
Special Features List
- 19 additional/extended scenes
- Self-guided tours allowing viewers to linger on the details of the Chamber of Secrets, including places never shown in the film such as more Diagon Alley shops
- Visit Lockhart’s class and get a closer look at his photos and memorabilia through the use of still galleries
- Activities allow viewers to escape the Forbidden Forest, sneak into the Chamber and more
- Keep track of events with the Hogwarts official, animated timeline
- DVD-ROM features