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Open the Chamber — it’s worth the ride

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets has a lot to live up to. How does it compare to the book? Is it better than the first movie?

Plus, last year’s initial installment grossed more than $900 million internationally (second on the all-time list behind Titanic). With even more fans now, how much will this one make?

But none of these questions are deep concerns to fans of the successful series. They will be there on opening day.

Rather, the questions represent what our culture has become. And what do you expect, with what Potter has done? It came out of nowhere a few years ago and has blossomed into this worldwide sensation.

But to end the suspense, the translation from second book to film is magnificent, and yes, it is better than the first movie. As for final box office receipts, it will have to take repeat viewership — but one can definitely expect this to be around awhile.

As for the franchise, author J.K. Rowling has taken her sweet time getting the fifth book out (there were originally seven total projected), and fans are getting impatient. Plus, actor Richard Harris, who plays Professor Dumbledore in the first two Potter tales, died earlier this month and will have to be replaced. And just last week, stories emerged that star Daniel Radcliffe isn’t willing to commit to a fourth film.

In other words, what once had the makings of a permanent pop culture staple has begun to fall apart — albeit slightly — and how this film does will be a deciding factor on the future of the franchise. This reviewer’s bet: Expect a lot more of Harry Potter.

Those who haven’t read the novels will notice a trend forming after seeing the second film. Lord Voldemort again takes another form — of someone inside Hogwarts — and goes after Harry. It seems there is a secret chamber that holds, well, secrets somewhere in the school. The only person who can open the chamber, which contains a deadly beast that has killed before, is the heir of Salazar Slytherin, after whom one of Hogwarts’ four houses was named. The chamber was opened 50 years earlier, and the school was almost closed. That is a prospect Harry doesn’t want because with Hogwarts gone, his only option is going back to live with his nasty aunt and uncle Dursley.

So, he has to save the day if he wants to stay.

The new film is 2 hours and 41 minutes long. It drags at times, but every minute is necessary. Rowling has created this fantastic world of witchcraft and wizardry, and it would be a shame not to show as much as possible. That means viewers should expect an even more engaging Quidditch match, a scary school bus-sized spider and a funny-looking flying car. Ron and Harry land the Mini into a whomping willow, which looks cheesy but should still be frightening to young children. However, at a recent screening, with a house packed with kids, the young audience members were so busy telling their parents what will happen next that they didn’t have time to be scared.

Actually, the effects look even better than in the first film, which some experts expect will look “too real” for tots. But even young ones will be more excited to see the story play out than be scared of what comes next, even if that means there is a 50-foot basilisk snake ready to devour Harry in the film’s climax.

But the new Potter will easily please viewers. Fans of the novel will enjoy it much more, but that’s only because they’ve invested time in the characters, who are as rich as any celluloid personality walking today.

And, if anything, it’s better than the first film.

Contact Will Albritton at

‘The Chamber of Secrets’ is rated PG and opens Friday.