Harry Potter's (Daniel Radcliffe) second year begins with a run-in with a House Elf named Dobby (Toby Jones). The Elf warns Harry that he must not go back to Hogwarts for his second term. However, Harry ignores the warnings due to the fact that the Dursleys make his life a living Hell.
Upon his eventual arrival at Hogwarts, Harry begins to hear mysterious and murderous voices, whispering throughout the halls. Eventually, a series of attacks prompt the trio of Harry, Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) to dig deeper. Soon, Ron and Hermione end up learning about Harry's strange ability to communicate with serpents, and his potential tie-in with the attacks have them working hard to try to clear Harry's name.
It ends up getting rather interesting just to see how much darker this story is than the last one. Where 'Philosopher's Stone' felt like a good, fun adventure for kids of all ages, this one manages to speak to a more mature audience, as well as tell it's younger audience that the 'Harry Potter' universe doesn't exactly just mess around. Students end up getting "petrified" left and right, as a result of these mysterious attacks, it features giant spiders that have no qualms about straight up eating people, and the overall atmosphere of the film can get rather eerie, especially upon learning that sudden death seems to be a potential thing in the Harry Potter universe.
Perhaps the most interesting thing to take away from this story is the subtext in some of the themes here. Perhaps most noteworthy, the concept of "muggle-borns" vs "pure-bloods". In other words, if you were a witch or wizard born from either two non-magic users, or your parents were half and half, you could earn the unfortunate nickname of "mud-blood". On the flip-side, pure-bloods who thought this way were, when it gets right down to it, essentially Nazis boasting about their perfect Aryan Race. Now, whether I'm looking into that too deeply or not doesn't necessarily matter, because the young audience watching this is to learn the valuable lesson about not discriminating just because someone's different.
Wiith this chapter in the Harry Potter Saga, however, comes a spot of rather major sadness. With these first two films, the character of Albus Dumbledore (Headmaster at Hogwarts, and arguably the greatest wizard alive) was played by Richard Harris, who sadly passed away shortly before the release of the second film. He is replaced by Michael Gambon in the later films, who, by all accounts, does a fine job of it. Harris, though, fit the overall description of Dumbledore much better.
It's a longish movie to get through at 2 hours and 43 minutes. But in the end, it's a fun enough adventure that it's hard to imagine it's actually that long. The time does go by nice and fast, as no part of the movie really drags. There's always something being revealed, always something happening, and often a very genuine empathy for those involved.
COMPARING THE BOOK
Once again, most of this one managed to make it to the screen, as the book is one of the smaller ones. Not a whole hell of a lot got cut out here either, and the overall adaptation is very well done.
A few things that would stand out to the hardcore would likely include Nearly Headless Nick's deathday party. Taking place at Halloween, this is where the trio actually first meet Moaning Myrtle. Another aspect can be sort of seen in a deleted scene, in which Harry finds an envelope for the caretaker, Argus Filch, for a beginner wizarding correspondence course. This leads to him being revealed as a "squib" (a non-magic person born into a wizarding family).
There's a few other things that end up being bigger deals in the book than the movie as well, for example, the relationship between Percy Weasley and Penelope Clearwater - they are seen together in the halls once in the film, and are only known by being greeted by Nearly Headless Nick. In the book, it ends up being a sort of big, secret reveal Percy is a bit embarrassed about. In the end, though, none of it ends up being vitally important. The main story is all still there, and the film remains one of the better HP adaptations, in my opinion.