Daniel Radcliffe strides into action with a new confidence in his role of this dark, even sinister tale. And the result is a spellbinding two hours and 40 minutes which glides by as swiftly as his pal Ron’s fabulous flying Ford Anglia. Director Chris Colombus has stuck to the magic formula of the Philosopher’s Stone – not surprising considering it was the second biggest grossing film of all time. But he’s come up with some new tricks to make the sequel slicker, scarier and with even better special effects.
There are laughs, such as The Howler – a letter in the form of a pair of paper lips which hovers next to the recipient’s face, screaming an angry message. There are gasps, such as in the sensational quidditch game which has you ducking in your seat as the balls hurtle between Harry and his enemy Draco Malfroy (Tom Felton).
And there are the heart-stoppers, like the ghastly spiders’ den which is so scary the film actually carries a warning for arachnophobias… Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets’ is the sequel to last years Hollywood Blockbuster ‘Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone’ which became the second most successful film of all time, second only to James Cameron’s Titanic – opening to a record of $93 million, and gaining a further more $600 million worldwide when released onto video and DVD this year.
Starting in October of last year, the marketing of The Philosopher’s Stone reached everywhere within the UK, creating the hype of what was said was going to be the ‘movie event of the year. Because of the popularity of the first film, and the extensive promotion the second, The Chamber Of Secrets has already taken over $700-800 million worldwide. In its opening weekend the film took over $88 million in the US. Since the release of the first film, the sales of the book have soared – the films appeal to newer audiences, children and adults, to pick up the book and read.
The distributors and screenplay writers were faced with the task of changing the book appearance and putting it up on screen successfully – creating the world of what so many people have in their heads. Whilst Chamber Of Secrets is a sequel to Philosopher’s Stone, it is important to the film’s distributor Warner Brothers that the potential cinema-going audiences, the fans of the book and of the original movie are reassured that this film will not be just a repeat of what was done before, but to offer something newer and better than the one these people viewed last year.
It has been described to as ‘darker’, ‘funnier’ and ‘finer’ than Philosopher’s Stone. Audience expectation is important to the industry so that they fulfil what they have set out to accomplish, to make a better movie – and the marketing campaign of the film must also offer something new – not simply ‘more of the same. ‘ But is that because Philosopher’s Stone was so media-hyped up that the marketing of this film could just simply rely on the same promotion?
Already, the marketing campaign of the film has been steadily brought out – starting a full eight months before the actual release date – the first ‘teaser poster’ appeared in cinema foyer’s around the UK, before more and more being released- teaser trailers, games, action figures, and again media hype has helped in the further promotion of the film. What does this style of marketing do to the film and how does it help? What is it about the trailers that draws potential audiences into the films narrative and representations?
I am going to question why the marketing of Chamber Of Secrets is as important as the film itself, by looking at a collection of some of the marketing artifacts, and what it is about the Harry Potter books and films that appeals to a whole range of readers and cinema-goers. Is competition against other movie releases a factor in the way in which a film was promoted + how does this link to our broader expectations of modern Hollywood marketing?
Sequels are a guarantee to the film production company (in Harry Potter’s case, Warner Bros. ) that, depending on the popularity of the original film, the box office success and income will reach an equal, or close to amount. Success of a film is important to studios, and so making what is popular also guarantees that they can be successful. Chamber Of Secrets was, like Philosopher’s Stone, marketed from a start. In order for the film to be successful, the marketing campaign has to be successful.
Textual Analysis of Marketing. This Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets poster was the third promotional poster to be released before the film had opened at the Box Office. Posters for the marketing of this film began just three months after the release of the original film – starting with a teaser poster of just the name of the film written in the recognisable way that the first movies’ title was wrote, to promote audience recognition and thus restarting the hype and build up to this film.
Warner Brothers then released a second teaser involving an image of one of the film’s major new characters, which readers of the book would recognise, and become even more energised to see the film when released – posing questions to themselves such as ‘what has changed about the book to the screen? ‘ ‘What has been kept in? ‘ The film did skip major parts of the book (The ‘Deathday’ Party featured in the Chamber Of Secrets book being an important segment, but because being a movie, film maker Chris Colombus couldn’t include everything).
Though there were disappointed fans about the appearance of the character that was included on the poster (Dobby the House Elf) the poster continued to keep audiences spellbound. Over the next few months more posters were released – each illuminating more of the plot and the appearance of the film. The function of this type of marketing campaign with posters is a popular method to all film distributors because of the hype that it creates… further tension to the growing anticipations of the fans.
Such major films as The Lost World: Jurassic Park and the Lord Of The Rings phenomenon are good examples also for this type of marketing campaign. As time goes by and the release date of the film gets closer, the posters released in cinemas begin to show more and more, and so acknowledging to the audience more about what this film will be about, in a way releasing parts of the film in picture, so readers of the book can guess which scene this will involve, and create a furthermore tension to see the finished movie.
By the release of the final poster put up in cinemas and on buildings around the country the film had been released – This poster presenting about the new scene of the Quidditich game (the wizzarding sport in Harry Potter), previously shown in the last movie, Philosophers Stone, and again, audiences will be fervent to witness this ‘new’ angle to it. How does it differ to the one seen from the previous movie? The films directors had to include something new so that audiences were not just seeing a repeat.
The result was stupendous – there was no build up to the game, but a ‘straight into the action’ type sensation – in consequence to what actually the film had set out to do – draw the viewer straight in from the beginning. The new quidditch game featured dazzling and terrific camera views, with a feel of realism merging into it at the same time – there was so much more brutality, depicting a view of what crowds and sports are like in real life – soccer games, and ice hockey all can become a clash beside sides, and so drawing in the viewer.
It’s a catharsis – causing emotion to be released inside the viewer about knowledge and feeling of these sort of events – the views soccer team against the away side, good vs evil, and so when the ‘good’ team of Gryffindor wins, even though the film is not yet over, there is still a sense of contentment and relief. This poster composed a set of narrative conflicts that were recognisable to the audiences and viewers… The ever-continuing clash of the two house-teams.
The representations of two of the main characters are clearly publicised by presenting them at the front of the poster (and of their teams). Not only is this a battle to win the game, but it is also, like in many cases of Hollywood main-star conflicts, a battle to beat one another – Harry Potter (Gryfinndor) versus Draco Malfroy (Slytherin). All of these are used to help in the appeal to its audiences and gain the success it needs – the appeal to children is because of the magical and gripping storylines of each film- The films are made as a whole combining many childhood fairy tails into one.
It begins in a normal street that has strange winds and strange things falling from the sky. However, this is a household where the poor relation is treated cruelly and made to live in a cupboard under the stairs. Harry is a young, male Cinderella and the evil family will stop at nothing to prevent him going to Hogwart’s (the Ball). Harry has a dead mother (Oliver Twist), and his wand seems to ‘find’ him just like Wart and his weapon in The Sword In The Stone, and a magical train awaits him through a wall, like the burrow for Alice in Alice In Wonderland.
The book is so full of the magic that all Disney movies and childhood stories hold – flying like in Peter Pan and magic mirrors like in Snow White. All existing stories have been effectively threaded together to make one. This poster was the third to be released in the UK (October 2002), and shows the three main characters from the first film as well as the character Dobby featured in the last teaser poster. All the posters followed a familiar theme, just like the marketing of the last film Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone.
One of the main differences between the two that stands out is the colour. Philosopher’s Stone posters had a blue and white shade to them, whereas the posters for Chamber Of Secrets have a dark green and black shade to their appearance – the denotative reasons for this is because Chamber Of Secrets is meant to be a much darker film than Philosopher’s Stone, and maybe because, featured as an important part in the film, is a giant serpent, and so the poster shade plays on people’s knowledge about snakes and serpents, and that most people correlate snakes to be a dark green colour.
But, the green and black shades to the posters’ appearance also helps to generate the sense of the darkness of the new film. The Chamber Of Secrets is a very shadowy and sinister film in contrast to the original movie – the forcefulness and manifestation look of the lead character is expertly illustrated by these uses of colour and dark shadows. The films most noticeable darker scenes are Harry and his friend Ron’s encounter with enormous spiders, and Harry’s battle with a gigantic snake in the climatic final scenes – both bearing excessive resemblance to 1993’s Jurassic Park.
Throughout the new Harry Potter film, there is a feeling of recognition and indentification and there is a set of relationships evident to scenes seen from other movies. The new Quidditich game has similarity to the ‘trench attack’ scene of the Death Star in the original Star Wars film, the access to the actual Chamber Of Secrets resembles to the films of Indiana Jones, and the battle with the enormous snake is evident from the T-Rex attack scene in Jurassic Park and Godzilla.
Like the book, the film uses these intertextual aspects for viewer identification, but also puts its own mark on them – recycled scenes from movies before it, but to match the wizzarding world of Harry Potter. These darker underlining scenes are depicted within the movie posters of Chamber Of Secrets – the tagline on the poster reads ‘Something Evil Has Returned To Hogwarts’ which not only illustrates the darkness, but also promotes the film as a sequel – ‘returned to Hogwarts’ – the character of Harry Potter is back and set to deal with something more sinister and evil than his encounter with Lord Voldermort from its predecessor.
In both posters the character of Harry is the main image that draws the audience’s eyes. Harry is the main character of the film and so showing his appearance in this way gives it the ‘hero’ feeling, and that this is the person who the film will be following. Harry, like in the books and because of the names of all the titles, is the protagonist of the film. The film follows him through the story – the audience are placed in the situations that Harry is in, his actions cause effects which changes the outcome.
His appearance differs to an extent between both posters, mainly to portray him as a more older person now, and again the darkness – his appearance is more rough, and unclean, but both trademarks are still visible. Not only because of the media coverage of this and the last film, but also because of the books, Harry’s appearance is seen as a ‘trademark. ‘ His character is recognizable by almost everybody, and so showing the lightning bolt scar and the round spectacles additionally on the poster creates the recognition of audiences.
Also, in both posters, pictures of his two friends – Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, accompany Harry, yet they accompany him in the order of the placement of character status – Ron is more of the known and recognisable characters than Hermione. Showing the two other main characters is also an important feature. Not only is Harry Potter back, but so are his two close friends, to help him with this ‘evil that has returned to Hogwarts. ‘ Like Harry, both of their appearances have changed also, they too look more grown-up.
All three characters each hold something within their hands. Hermione Granger’s will be recognizable to all audiences who witnessed the last film. Hermione is a book worm, always reading to discover ways in which may help them get through difficult situations they are faced with throughout the film and so showing her with her pile of books is helping to ‘shape’ her character – to give her a specific impression that will always be recognized. What Harry and Ron are holding would not be as obvious to audiences who haven’t read the book.
Ron is holding his broken wand, sealed together by a piece of cellar tape, and Harry is bearing the a sword, which plays a significant part within the film. By showing these on the posters the distributors are principally predicting the audience to have read the book because of its popularity and so will be able to put the meaning to these objects. But another use of showing these characters with these items is that it links to the narrative and the representations of the characters – instead of one main star conveying all of the traits that a ‘hero’ of a film usually does, the qualities are divided.
Harry is the rapid exploiting hero, whereas Ron is the ‘comic lead’, and Hermione is the ‘thinker’. The poster from Philosopher’s Stone has a backdrop which contains most of the elements of the film – images of the school, the dark forest, the Hogwarts Express and of most of the main characters. The second Chamber Of Secret’s backdrop simply shows the design of some sort of structure, which is actually the Chamber itself. The reason for this is because Chamber Of Secrets does not need to put in any of the associations.
Philosopher’s Stone was the start of a new franchise of movies and so showed as much about the film as possible – all of the wizzarding elements featured within the film. Chamber Of Secrets didn’t need to repeat because the wizzarding world had already been set up by its predecessor. Audiences, whether they had read the book or not, knew now what this magical world was like… and how it was going to grow. The basics had been placed there, now they could dive further into it to give a bigger picture of the world of Harry Potter. Is this also one of the reasons for the mass global appeal of the films and its books?
The Harry Potter films are not just ‘you’re standard children’s movie’: They challenge the rules of a normal children’s film – there is violence. People collapse unconscious, blood is shed, and the actual fact that Harry’s parents were both murdered also places a shadow over the ‘normal. ‘ But, I also believe some of the success of the Harry Potter films might be owed to the fact that it is an anarchic strike to today’s anxious, guilty parent. These kids in the books are kids set free – they’re at a boarding school – they may be unloved, daring, solitary, but they’re essentially empowered by magic – and that’s all they need.
They don’t get parental quality time, instead they get three-headed dogs, a snarling bad guy potions teacher and earwax vomit-flavoured jellybeans. It’s a children’s dream, and through these books they can experience this. And, for the appeal to adults, I think it’s on a similar line – youth. Childhood stories being revamped, and so the great appeal of the books to children, the world which they have created in their heads, also become part of the adults imagination again – imagination they may not think they still had.