Kenneth Branagh

REVIEW: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)

Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) ignores warnings from Dobby the House Elf (voiced by Toby Jones) not to return to Hogwarts, but there he finds the school is plagued by something attacking students and Harry starts hearing a voice that no one else can hear.

The Chamber of Secrets is darker in tone compared to its predecessor, but it still has a lot of childlike wonder about it. Just when you think you know everything about Hogwarts, there’s hidden dangers and rooms waiting to be discovered. Some of those dangers include giant animals that no one would want to meet in real life.

The scenes at The Burrow, the Weasley’s home, are wonderful. It’s the first chance for both Harry and the audience to see a proper wizarding family’s home and there’s a lot to see; dishes washing themselves and a fascinating clock are just the tip of the iceberg. It’s lovely to see more of the Weasley’s, especially Mrs Weasley (Julie Walters) who is a force of nature but it’s clear she loves her children, and Harry, very much.

The young cast have improved since their first outing, though aren’t as good as they grow up to be, but Rupert Grint shows the beginnings of some great comedic timing. They’re still surrounded by some great acting talent and there’s some new faces in the form of Kenneth Branagh as Professor Gilderoy Lockhart. His ego makes him hilarious! Also joining the cast is Jason Isaacs as Lucius Malfoy, Draco’s (Tom Felton) father. He’s an imposing presence, and is both slimy and charming in equal measure.

The Chamber of Secrets is probably the most faithful of the adaptations but that does mean it can get a little bogged down with scenes and characters that don’t particularly further the plot. Anything with Dobby though is brilliant. For a computer-generated creature, he’s so emotive and easily likeable, his scenes with Harry are often funny.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets starts to raise the stakes as you learn more about Lord Voldemort, but it still feels like there’s a safety net around our young heroes. But that is all about to change very soon. 3/5.

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REVIEW: Thor (2011)

After Thor’s (Chris Hemsworth) reckless behaviour, his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) banishes him from their home in Asgard, to live amongst humans on Earth. There he must learn to be a better man and face his jealous brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston).

Thor combines the action and adventure of superhero films with royal family feuds. Thor is a Prince and so is his brother Loki, but Loki has forever been in Thor’s shadow and wants to be seen as his brothers equal in their father’s eyes. Loki is a fascinating character and is one of the best villains in the MCU. His jealousy over his brother is justified from what you see and when its revealed how his father has been lying to him all his life, his actions are somewhat understandable, although very misguided.

On Earth, Thor meets scientist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and her friends and colleagues Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) and Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings). They attempt to show him how things are on Earth which allows for many fish out of water scenarios for Thor which are played brilliantly by Hemsworth. Thor is a more serious film, but its humour comes from its characters in a really honest and unforced way.

Thor’s fantastical elements come from the idea that science and magic are one and the same. The scene where Thor explains how he see’s the universe to Jane helps to fully ground Thor and his people in the everyday world Jane, and us as the viewers, inhabits.

Asgard is a beautiful place. The camera work along with the tech wizards who brought Asgard to life, show off this world in all its glory. The score helps with that too. Composed by Patrick Doyle the score is as magical and epic as it should be, and is worthy for the story of a God. Thor is directed by Kenneth Branagh and he handles the grandeur of this royal family in conflict brilliantly. By focussing on the family dynamics between Thor, his brother, and their father, it makes them all seem more human and relatable while still being incredibly powerful Gods.

Thor is a sweeping drama with battles, humour and romance. It’s a solid first outing for the character, setting up his world and people near-perfectly, and gives us a star performance in Hemsworth and one of the most interesting characters in the MCU in Loki. 4/5.