Harry Potter and
the Chamber of Secrets
November 15, 2002
One year after the record-breaking performance of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (AKA The Philosopher's Stone), Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is set to debut in theaters. Based on the second book in J.K. Rowling's ridiculously popular series of children's books, Harry Potter is a global phenomenon that has made its humble creator very rich and its tens of millions of fans very happy. And in spite of Rowling's recent dry spell when it comes to publishing the next installment of the series, the movie franchise continues to roll along faster than the Hogwarts Express.
Filming for The Chamber of Secrets actually started a few weeks after the record-shattering release of the original film, with the only major cast addition being Kenneth Branagh in the role of Professor Gilderoy Lockhart. Chris Columbus once again directs from a script by Steven Kloves, with heavy involvement by Rowling herself. Returning are Daniel Radcliffe, who instantly became the biggest child star in the world after his portrayal of Harry, along with Rupert Grint and Emma Watson as the three trouble-finding friends who attend Hogwarts School of Magic and Wizardry.
Now unless you've been living under a rock or have been under the Crutatious Curse for the last four years, then you have most certainly heard of the Harry Potter books, even if you haven't read them yourself. The wonderful blend of humor, imagination and mystery has fascinated children all over the world, and it did not take much convincing by Warner Bros. to get these kids to see the first film in the series. Opening to the biggest three-day weekend total in history - $90.29 million - without the benefit of a holiday opening weekend, Potter has become the fifth-largest grossing film in North American history, pulling in a magical $316 million. In a year that produced four of the five biggest openings ever, Potter rose above them all and the year's second place wasn't even close, as Planet of the Apes came in almost $22 million behind; that's almost as much as the opening of Tom Cruise's last movie. The magnitude of the success of Potter cannot be understated so the question is, will the sequel be able to repeat this success?
In a way, this is the same question as whether Attack of the Clones will be able to repeat the success of The Phantom Menace. Parallels can be drawn between Menace and Potter due to their pre-existing fan base and the level of success they enjoyed. Now the question is; how much success can a follow-up film to one of the biggest movies in history have? The second Potter film won't have to be the litmus test, but will most likely be the affirmation needed after Clones opens.
The film can by no means be considered a normal sequel in terms of its box office potential. Where normal sequels enjoy differing levels of success, it is improbable that Chamber of Secrets will act in the same vein. For example, comparing Blade II's numbers with Blade's, we see a jump of almost 100%; the same can be said for Rush Hour and Rush Hour 2. So clearly, Chamber of Secrets cannot be seen as a run-of-the-mill sequel. More accurately, the film should be viewed as a standalone blockbuster with the realistic potential of opening to $90 million. The one caveat here is that the newness and the hype will most likely not be at the same fever pitch that it was for the first film. The opening weekend-to-total multiplier for the first film was a paltry 3.49, second-worst in the top ten films of all time. This is clearly an indication of tremendous anticipation and a really high must-see factor. Will this factor be existent for Chamber of Secrets? That's a difficult question to answer at this point, but Attack of the Clones should give us a good idea.
As for the film itself, Chris Columbus will have to do much more than rehash the book almost exactly page-by-page to make this film work. Chamber of Secrets is a much longer book with a few more characters involved, which is scary considering that the first film did not give nearly enough time to many of the great characters that were in its respective source book. Not only is the second book longer and filled with more characters, it has a much more complex story and features a character that, if Hollywood-ized, can easily become a potential screen-time stealer, definitely a bad thing. Overall, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone felt flat and lacked any real emotion and, ironically, lacked any of the magic that Rowling captures in her books. The film chose to dwell on story and faithfulness to the source material rather than actual entertainment (and the parallels to Menace continue), so it will be interesting to see what will happen when Columbus is forced to cut out much of the book. Also of importance to note is that the Sorcerer's Stone clocked in at 152 minutes, so again, it will be fascinating to see how Chamber of Secrets is affected.
Expect long lines and much hype around this film, and expect the mania to continue but the novelty to wear off. You can also expect an average movie to make an extraordinary amount of money in an extraordinarily small amount of time. But what we must absolutely hope for is a new book by Rowling before this sequel hits theaters, as it will be a tremendous reminder - to this reader, anyway - of what makes Harry's world so great. (Walid Habboub/BOP)
November 11, 2002
Since the first Potter film exploded into theaters, setting the opening weekend record by a landslide, it’s been crushed by geeky fanboy phenomenon Spider-Man. Even at that, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone stands as the second-highest grossing film of all time worldwide, while books two through four continue to hold steady on the best-seller lists (Chamber of Secrets is number ten on USA Today’s). Every time it seems as though the furor must have died down, some sort of evidence appears to the contrary. A middling trailer appears in front of a family film - children murmur amongst themselves. The video is released to record-shattering numbers (though those would also quickly fall to The Fellowship of the Ring and Spider-Man). Stories coming out of Britain indicate that fans are every bit as excited for Chamber of Secrets as they were for the first film.
And the reviews, at least so far, are even better than the ones the first film received. While Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone has been criticized by many for missing the magic present in the books, advance reviews for the sequel are indicating marked improvements. Considering that last year’s release was received pretty positively, the even more glowing reviews for Chamber of Secrets are strongly encouraging, though they’re probably more significant for long-term success than debut weekend numbers.
Despite all these considerations, there are other important factors to take under consideration. Kids are fickle, there’s just no arguing that fact. There’s a definite tendency to jump on bandwagons and follow whatever is most popular with friends and peers, though at least with Potter the attention was deserved and a welcome change of pace - it got kids reading. The boy band that was popular last year is forgotten today, and Pokémon trading cards have been replaced with…Yu-Gi-Oh trading cards. You have to keep the attention of this vital demographic, and with J.K Rowling repeatedly delaying the release of book five, there’s been nothing new or exciting to keep young Harry and his friends at the top of youthful minds (note to Ms. Rowling: while you’re sitting there not finishing the book, a lot of other great literature for kids is coming to the forefront - Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events, Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl and Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials Trilogy are easily filling that niche that you may think you own).
What does all this mean? Nothing, except for the fact that this film is impossible to get a read on, even this close to release. There’s no doubt that it’s going to be huge, but will it be considered a disappointment if it doesn’t beat Spidey’s record? For that matter, what if it doesn’t even exceed the opening weekend numbers of the first film? That’s exactly the scenario that I see playing out, though I don’t believe Chamber of Secrets will fall far short of its predecessor. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that analysts are a bit too quick to dub failures when movies fall anywhere short of lofty expectations, so my belief is that Potter 2 will be painted with just such a brush. It’s just a lamentable trend that befalls us as we grow more cynical and frankly, out of touch with that childhood innocence and wonder that make movies such a magical experience. (Kim Hollis/BOP)
Vital statistics for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Robbie Coltrane, Kenneth Branagh, Richard Harris, Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith
Alfred Burke, John Cleese, Christian Coulson, Warwick Davis, Tom Felton, Julian Glover, Gemma Jones, Julie Walters, Shirley Henderson, Richard Griffiths
Steven Kloves, J.K. Rowling (novel)
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