At home for the summer with the Dursleys (Richard Griffiths and Fiona Shaw), Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) finds his room invaded by Dobby (voice of Toby Jones), the Malfoys’ House Elf, who warns him that it is too dangerous to return to Hogwarts. Dobby causes chaos in the Dursley home, and they lock Harry in his room. He is rescued by his friend Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and the Weasley twins, Fred and George, (James and Oliver Phelps) in their father’s magical Ford Anglia.
The group is joined by Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) and Hermione (Emma Watson) at a book signing by the flamboyant, incompetent, Gilderoy Lockhart (Kenneth Branagh), who is the new Defence Against the Dark Arts Teacher. Harry is accosted by Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) and sees his father Lucius Malfoy (Jason Isaacs) slip a book into Ginny Weasley’s (Bonnie Wright) cauldron. Some power blocks Harry and Ron from boarding the Hogwarts Express, so they fly there in the Ford Anglia, which is almost run down by the train and ends up whomped by the Whomping Willow.
In detention, Harry hears voices and finds Filch’s (David Bradley) cat Mrs. Norris petrified. Nearby is a message in blood: “The Chamber of Secrets has been opened. Enemies of the Heir beware.” Professor McGonagall (Maggie Smith) reveals that Salazar Slytherin created a secret chamber containing a monster that only his heir can control, which has the power to destroy Muggle-born students, like Hermione. She, Harry, and Ron believe the heir is Draco, and they scheme to question him with Polyjuice Potion brewed up in a bathroom haunted by the ghost of Moaning Myrtle (Shirley Henderson).
Harry’s arm is broken during a Quidditch game, and he is visited in the infirmary by Dobby, who confesses that he caused all the mishaps to keep Harry away from school. The students turn on Harry when he uses parseltongue to speak to a snake, making many think he is the Heir of Slytherin. Harry finds the enchanted diary of Tom Riddle (Christian Coulson), who accused Hagrid, 50 years earlier, of opening the chamber. The diary is stolen, and Hermione is literally petrified. Hagrid is blamed and taken away, but he tells the boys to follow the spiders into the Forbidden Forest. There, they meet Hagrid’s pet, a giant spider named Aragog, who reveals secrets to them.
A clue reveals that the monster in the Chamber is a Basilisk, a giant serpent that kills those who see it, unless they see its reflection, in which case they are only petrified. Ginny Weasley has been taken into the chamber and Gilderoy Lockhart is chosen to rescue her. Lockhart, of course, is just a braggart and a coward and the boys discover him packing. The girl that the Basilisk killed was Moaning Myrtle, and it is in the bathroom she haunts that they find the entrance to the Chamber. Inside, Lockhart tries to escape, grabbing Ron’s wand, but the wand is broken and wipes his memory as it causes a cave-in. Harry enters the Chamber alone and finds Ginny unconscious, guarded by Tom Riddle, who is the young Voldemort. Dumbledore’s (Richard Harris) phoenix Fawkes turns up with the Sorting Hat. Fawkes blinds the basilisk, and the sorting hat produces the Sword of Gryffindor, which Harry uses to kill the monster. He is bitten in the process, but he stabs the diary with the basilisk’s fang, destroying Riddle and reviving Ginny. His injury is healed with the tears of the phoenix. Harry accuses Lucius of Ginny’s kidnapping and tricks Lucius into giving an article of clothing to Dobby, which frees him from bondage. Hagrid returns.
Principle photography began only three days after the release of the first film. It was written by Steve Kloves and directed by Chris Columbus again. Only the Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers topped its gross that year. The parseltongue language was created by Professor Francis Nolan of the University of Cambridge. Special effects teams created Fawkes, Dobby, the Whomping Willow, the 25-foot basilisk and the 18-foot spider Aragog. The film was a bit darker than the first. In fact, each film was darker than the one before, not only in tone but physically, with the lights turned down a bit, as Harry matures into a powerful wizard.
The Whomping Willow killed fourteen Ford Anglias during the shoot, which were the same model and colour as the one J.K. Rowling rode to school as a girl. The petrified characters were played by full-sized models. Moaning Myrtle was a member of the Ravenclaw house. John Williams’ music from the speeder chase scene in Attack of the Clones was used during the Quidditch match. Hugh Grant was originally cast as Gilderoy Lockhart but was unable to play the role because of scheduling problems. There are claims that Vladimir Putin was offended by Dobby the House Elf, who looks remarkably like him. Children watching the scene in which Ron Weasley vomits giant slugs actually threw up in a theatre in Norway. Director Chris Columbus put all four of his children in the movie. A real spider species was named after Aragog.
When Harry is healed by Fawkes’s tears, the music resembles that of the Holy Grail healing scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Bill Nighy was considered to play Lucius Malfoy. Jason Isaacs liked Malfoy’s walking stick so much he tried to walk off the set with it. Shirley Henderson was 37 when she played Moaning Myrtle. Rupert Grint is deathly afraid of spiders and Ron Weasley’s terror was not acting. When Emma Watson’s hamster died, the set department built a special coffin with the name Millie engraved on the top. No hamster, Watson said, had a better send-off. The animatronic phoenix was so realistic that Richard Harris (Dumbledore) thought it was a real bird when he first saw it. He died a few weeks before the movie was released.