Superior to the first in almost every way.
Firstly, the lead trio can actually act this time around. That alone is enough to make this film infinitely more engaging. Another huge improvement is the overall story and execution. Without the need to devote so much time introducing the world and characters, we are allowed to dive into the story immediately, and despite being longer, this film moves at a much better pace and feels much more assured.
It is still very similar in tone to the previous film, and it’s extreme faithfulness to the book does lead into some scenes and subplots that do feel like they would have been better cut. But this fanboy nerd isn’t complaining too much. The joy of seeing so many scenes from the book faithfully translated, almost made up for the most of
the unnecessary parts.
Another huge improvements is Chris Columbus’ direction. While it’s still very classiccal and straight forward. The overall cinematography, composition and staging was much stronger this time around. That taken with the stronger story, better pacing and improved acting make this second trip to Hogwarts far more
satisfying and engaging.
The tone is darker as well. There’s still plenty of whimsy to be found. But the dangers feel much closer and more real. The overall increased creepiness sells the level of threat in a way I never really felt in Sorcerer’s Stone.
The returning cast is excellent as are the newer additions. Kenneth Branagh is perfect as the buffoon, Gilderoy Lockhart. Jason Issacs brings an appropriate level of cold, sneering malevolence to the role of Lucius Malfoy. And Mark Williams is delightful in his limited screen time as Arthur Weasley, AKA the best Dad ever.
Unfortunately, it does suffer some of the same flaws as the previous entry. Namely the slavish faithfulness to the books which occasionally bogs down the pacing.
And since the film is geared towards younger audiences, a lot of the dialogue is painfully obvious. Characters often restate everything we just learned to make sure every idiot in the audience is following along.
The final scene is epically cheesy to the point of almost being painful, but the film had by this time earned so much goodwill for these characters I may or may not have had a huge silly grin as I was rolling my eyes.
Another huge improvement are the effects. One shining example is the Quidditch Match here. In this film, thanks to the vastly improved CGI, it’s actually fun and exciting, as opposed to simply embarrassing.
Another standout sequence is the climactic battle with the Basilisk. Th
e entire scene is intense and legitimately scary.
And I must again mention the production design. While it was already excellent, it’s even better this time around, the film continues to convince me that Hogwarts is a very real place.
While it’s at time’s childish tone and strict adherence to the book bog it down at times, it is on the whole, a more assured, confident and overall much more well made film than it’s predecessor, and another delightful journey into Rowling’s wonderful world and story
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