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Up until recently I was bemused by the hype surrounding Harry Potter. Well, chances are if you are reading this review you are a fan of everyone’s favourite wizard (bar Gandalf of course!) and you could come up with some reasons for the hype.  The Potter books have sold by their millions worldwide and it was only a matter of time before they were adapted for the big screen. The first movie arrived last year and was closely followed by The Chamber of Secrets, which is the second in the series. I have not read a single Potter book and, wait for it; I also fell asleep towards the end of the first movie, so it’s safe to say that I am not the best person to review this DVD in a positive light! However, for some strange reason I was drawn to watching the second outing of young Mr Potter, and so I set about reviewing the Warner Brothers challenger for best selling DVD of the year.

Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets
The Chamber of Secrets follows on quickly from The Philosopher’s Stone. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) has returned home to live with his Aunt Petunia (Fiona Shaw) and Uncle Vernon Dursley (Richard Griffiths), but is regretting the decision because he is treated as an outcast, and spends most of his time locked away in his bedroom. Harry is also slightly disappointed that his friends from Hogwarts have not contacted him since the first year. Then one evening Harry is visited by Dobby, a mysterious elf who comes to warn him not to return to Hogwarts for the second year. The elf proves to be nothing but a nuisance as he gets Harry into serious trouble with his grumpy parents. For this reason Harry decides to ignore the warnings from the elf. Confined to his bedroom as punishment for Dobby’s behaviour Harry’s life looks far from magical and adventurous. However, as all good friends should, Harry’s posse (Ron and his brother) rescue the young magician and sweep him off for another year at Hogwarts.

Upon his return to Hogwarts Harry finds that life in the school hasn’t changed much. He is still close friends with Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson), while his nemesis Draco (Tom Felton) remains intent on causing trouble. Add in a few more characters like Gilderoy Lockhart (Kenneth Branagh) and Lucius Malfoy (Jason Isaacs), Draco’s father and it is easy to see that the sequel has every right to be as good as the original. During Harry’s first few days back at Hogwarts it becomes apparent that something is not quite right. A warning is issued stating that anyone who isn’t pure-blood will be in danger, and suddenly Dobby’s earlier caution doesn’t seem so farfetched. This warning comes to fruition when several students are found petrified and rumours start to spread about the cause of the incidents. The widespread view is that a chamber within the school, called the Chamber of Secrets has been opened, and all sorts of creatures are about to be unleashed. The rest of the movie focuses on the chamber and what is found within.

Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets
There is no doubt that The Chamber of Secrets is a worthy sequel, but it is also a lot darker in nature than its predecessor. The first movie was a little slow because it had the rigmarole of introducing the characters, but this sequel plunges the audience straight in at the deep end and the two plus hours fly by. Monsters are very much at the forefront of the film with spiders and snakes among many of the nasty beasts on show. For this reason it might be worth viewing this movie before letting young children witness it. Chris Columbus takes the reigns again for this second movie and he does an excellent job of picking up where the original left off. The two Potter movies appear to have been shot in the same way and play as if they were episodes from a TV series, as opposed to separate films shot a year apart. This is a major plus point and should add to the enjoyment once all the films have been released. If you were a fan of the original movie, then there is no doubt that you will enjoy this superior effort. It is more exciting, fun and didn’t make me fall asleep. What more can you ask for??  

Warner have presented the film in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and from even  the first sight it was apparent that they had produced a notable effort. It is not surprising that the print is faultless, due to the age of the movie, but what is particularly striking is the transfer’s ability to deal with dark colours. The Chamber of Secrets relies heavily upon low lighting, and this transfer deals impeccably with this aspect of the movie. Black levels are also flawless. Compliment that with the lighter scenes, in particular the Quidditch scene and the transfer also copes impressively with the opposite end of the colour palette.  As expected, grain levels are non-existent and edge enhancements are also kept to a bare minimum. This is not quite reference quality for reasons I cannot put my finger on. Maybe that’s me just being a little too fussy, but either way this is a mighty fine attempt by Warner!

Warner very rarely supply DTS soundtrack with their releases, and sadly the wait for a Harry Potter movie in DTS will go on. All that is provided with this release is an English 5.1 soundtrack. However, that is not to say that the Dolby track is poor by any standard. The rears are used to full effect throughout, with every little whoosh, bang and spell portrayed in its full glory. An impressive example of the full range of this track is the flying car scene towards the beginning of the movie. Recently my subwoofer has been quiet due to the nature of the movies I have been watching, so it was nice to have some meaty action for it to deal with.  John Williams returns once again for this second outing and his wonderful musical track is brought to the home cinema world with ease. With such an active track you might expect the dialogue to be somewhat subdued and muffled; however that is not the case. The dialogue is clear throughout and proves what an excellent job Warner has done with this track. As for subtitles there are three sets on offer with this disc. They are English, English for the hearing impaired and Arabic.

Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets
Strap yourself in because you are in for a long ride! The extras contained with this disc should keep even the most active of kids quiet for a few hours at least. Most of the extras can be found on the second disc, but there are a few bundled on the first disc. The first disc includes a simplistic Cast and Crew list which simply lists the people involves with the movie. Also included is a theatrical trailer which is presented in Anamorphic Widescreen and lasts for just over two minutes. The final extra on the first disc is entitled Year One At Hogwarts. This is basically a two minute advert for the original Potter movie. It might even be the trailer for the movie, but as I am not an expert on the matter I can’t be certain. This extra is also presented in Anamorphic Widescreen and runs for just over two minutes.

Now onto the second disc and this is where the funs starts! First up are the additional scenes which are accessible through a rather trendy menu system. Each additional scene is displayed on a wall as a portrait. The scenes also play simultaneously, so that you can get an idea of what each one involves. Altogether there are nineteen scenes for selection and they vary considerably in their position in the film and also their running time. I have to admit to being very impressed by this section and it is certainly one of the best groups of deleted scenes that I have come across on DVD. Scenes can be viewed individually or all together.

Next up is a Game Preview, which consists of six clips from the Harry Potter : The Chamber of Secrets video game. The game actually looks quite good and each clip lasts for roughly about six minutes. If games are your forte then you will be excited by the next section which is entitled Activities. This section contains four interactive games. The first game is called The Chamber Challenge and is based around a host of questions which have to be answered correctly in order for you to progress through the chamber. The second game is called The Forbidden Forest Challenge and involves the steering of a car through the forbidden forest. Every so often a few arrows are displayed on the screen and as a player you have to make a decision as to which way the car should move. One wrong turn and your car is a mess! The third game is called Colin’s Dark Room and in my opinion is the weakest of the activities. The final feature is named Tour Diagon Alley and is for the shopaholics among you. The activity allows users to tour shops in the alley and stock up on items for the new year at Hogwarts.

Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets
If the above extras don’t really appeal to you as an adult then you will be happy to discover the section called Behind Hogwarts. This section features interviews and discussions with various members of the cast. First up is a Conversation between J.K. Rowling and Steve Kloves (screenwriter). The conversation is conducted by Lizo Mzimba, whose title for the interview is a moderator (what does that mean exactly?). The interviewees seem to have a good working relationship and this is emphasised when J.K. Rowling mentions that she has told Steve Kloves more things about the novels then anyone else. This extra also talks about the creation of the movies and how they were are painstakingly adapted from the books. This is quite an interesting interview and shows how much detail goes into creating the films. It is also interesting to listen to the chat about certain aspects of the book that were incredibly hard to adapt to the movie without scaring children too much, in particular scenes involving spiders during the movie. This extra lasts for just over sixteen minutes.

Next up is an extra called Dumbledore’s Office. This feature is split into two sections where you can select to either Build a scene (This extra goes into the process of creating scenes for the movie) or to actually tour Dumbledore’s Office.  The build a scene option is a behind the scenes look at the process of building the world of Harry Potter, however it is very much orientated towards children. There are lots of diagrams shown to keep the attention of young audiences and the narrator also talks quite simplistically. The Tour Dumbledore’s Office option as the title suggests is a tour of the wizard’s office. As a user you also get the option to control where you would like to look in the office. Arrow keys are available so you can choose the direction of the tour. There are also items within the office which you can select and a description is given of the selected item.

Still in the Behind Hogwarts section can be found an extra called Interview with Students, Professors and More. This section allows you to choose various members of the cast and hear what they think about the characters that they play. The students section involves three clips from the younger actors/actresses and they talk about their characters and how they have developed as actors as a result of making the films. The Professors and More section allows you to click on a character and then the older actor/actress who plays the selected character gives a brief chat about their role in the movie. The professor section allows you to listen to twelve of the adult cast members from the film.  Finally in this section is a Gallery of Production sketches which features various sketches, displayed in a menu similar to the additional scenes. Users can select one of the portraits, and once selected each portrait brings up several production sketches on that subject. For example there are production sketches for the spiders in the movie.

Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets
The final extra with this release is called Lockhart’s classroom. This extra allows you to take a look around Lockhart’s classroom. Several options are available within it, so for example you can look at a gallery of images. This extra is a little tedious and is probably targeted at real fans of the movie. There is lots of information to be found, but a lot of it is only for the real die-hard fans. There are also plenty of Rom extras which are also accessible from this second disc.

As you can see there is a fair selection of extras provided with this release, but strangely there are no audio commentaries. This release is also lacking in ‘Behind the Scenes’ documentaries and for these reason my extras mark is slightly lower than it could have been.

Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets is in my opinion far superior to the first Potter movie. It has a stronger storyline and bags more adventure and monsters! It is a lot darker than the original and for this reason it maybe too scary for younger children. As for the disc, Warner have exceeded the high standards set by the first DVD and created a disc for all generations. It’s true to say that most of the extras are targeted at younger audiences, but there should be enough to keep all ages occupied for a while. Visual and audio elements are also of a high standard, proving that the DVD format is top of the class.