Warner Bros. already released “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Parts 1 and 2,” to high-definition Blu-ray in separate three-disc sets; now they’ve released both films in a single, six-disc box set, the “Ultimate Edition,” along with a bevy of additional materials. It’s perhaps still hard to justify an upgrade if you already own the BD issues, but if you don’t already have them or even if you do, this new edition is so attractive, it’s hard to resist.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1:
“These are dark times, there is no denying. Our world has perhaps faced no greater threat than it does today.” –Rufus Scrimgeour, Minister of Magic
Everything comes to an end. In this case, slowly. Very slowly. Warner Bros. couldn’t let one of the biggest franchises in movie history just end with a single film, so they divided the final book in the series, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” into two parts, releasing them in 2010 and 2011. Whether this was a good idea or a bad one, viewers will have to determine for themselves. Basically, you’ve got the slower, talkier section in “Part 1” and the more action-oriented section in “Part 2.” Personally, I find most of J.K. Rowling’s works wordy, overwritten, so I could have done with a single movie reduction of the final chapter in the saga. But I’m not a typical viewer or a typical “Potter” fan, so what do I know. I just like the movies but don’t particularly need to see any more in them than necessary.
Remember when the publishers changed the title of Rowling’s first book in the series, “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” to “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” for American audiences because they weren’t sure Americans would know what a Philosopher’s Stone was? OK, so what the heck are “Deathly Hallows”? To quote from Wikipedia, which puts it better than I could, “The Deathly Hallows refer to three legendary magical objects (supposedly obtained from Death himself) mentioned in a fairy tale: the Elder Wand, which could defeat all others in battle, the Resurrection Stone, which could bring back the souls of the deceased, and the Cloak of Invisibility, which could hide the wearer from most forms of detection and shield them from many magic spells. Together the objects were said to make their owner a ‘Master of Death.'”
Harry not only has the three Deathly Hallows to sort out, he determines to continue looking for the hidden horcruxes that can defeat Voldemort. So, essentially, this final pair of episodes is a quest adventure, with Harry, Ron, and Hermione seeking or using all these objects. It becomes a sort of fantasy video game where the heroes must find their way through a maze to obtain all the needed magical articles to win. Fair enough; since Rowling freely borrows from just about every other fantasy writer in creation (leaning heavily toward Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” and Malory’s “Le Morte D’Arthur,” with a dose of Orwell’s “1984” thrown in), why not use a video-game format for the action.
But so far it sounds as though I’m just grousing. Perhaps I am. The fact is, I found much to like in “The Deathly Hallows, Part 1,” as well as much that almost put me to sleep. Fortunately, the good outweighs the mediocre, so in the end this is an acceptable installment in the series.
David Yates, who directed “The Order of the Phoenix” and “The Half-Blood Prince,” also directed these final two chapters. He does so in an honest, straightforward, unmannered style; if you liked his previous work, you’ll like “The Deathly Hallows.” Most important to the story line, Yates and director of photography Eduardo Serra create a look and feel of loneliness in the film. Sure, you’ll find all the old, familiar characters here, from Hagrid to Snape to Bellatrix to the Malfoys, but they each show up only for a moment or two, practically cameos. This first half of the final book is all about Harry, Hermione, and Ron, their adventure, and their ever-more-complicated personal relationships.
As he has with all the “Potter” films except “The Order of the Phoenix,” Steve Kloves wrote the screenplay, this time without quite as many constraints on what he could adapt from the book and what he had to leave out. And composer Alexandre Desplat (“The Golden Compass,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “The King’s Speech”) did the music for a change, although you’d be hard pressed to remember much of the score.
An opening scene with the Death Eaters is rather grim. An escape sequence with the Harry look-alikes is quite exhilarating. And a sequence in the Ministry of Magic is appropriately suspenseful. Then comes a lengthy chain of events in the woods and mountains that seems to go on forever. There’s a little something here for everyone.
When the Wife-O-Meter and I first saw this motion picture in a theater, a man and his young daughter were sitting next to us. The daughter, who looked probably ten or under, appeared scared to death throughout the story. Beware: “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1” is not a children’s film.
Film rating, Part 1: 7/10
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2:
“He knows if we find them and destroy all the horcruxes, we’ll be able to kill him. I reckon he’ll stop at nothing to make sure we don’t find the rest. There’s more: One of them is at Hogwarts.”
Everything ends, even the “Potter” series, with “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.” Just don’t tell that to Warner Bros. Not too keen on seeing their most-lucrative franchise in history just stop with author J.K. Rowling’s final book, they broke it into two parts, two movies. It probably made “Potter” fans happy as well, as it ensured they wouldn’t miss even a smidgeon of the book’s detail, and it helped prolong the fun for one more picture.
“Part 2” begins where “Part 1” left off, with Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint), Hermione (Emma Watson), Luna (Evanna Lynch), Ollivander (John Hurt), Griphook the Goblin (Warwick Davis), and several others at the beach. Harry, Ron, and Hermione will continue looking for the horcruxes they need to defeat the evil Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), who has hidden bits of his soul in each of them, and the adventure will next take the heroes to Gringotts Bank and the vault of Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter). Meanwhile, Professor Snape (Alan Rickman) has taken over as headmaster at Hogworts, and he has confined the students there inside its fortified walls.
Now, besides the various horcruxes, there are a few other magical objects involved in the story. They are the three “Deadly Hallows”: the Elder Wand, the Cloak of Invisibility, and the Resurrection Stone. Voldemort is trying to get his hands on these items because together they can make a person the “master of death.” Voldemort wants them in order to control the Wizarding world. Then he plans to subdue our own Muggle world. What’s next? No doubt, he wants to hook up with George Lucas and acquire a Death Star to conquer the galaxy and beyond. Only Harry and his pals can stop him.
As Harry finds and destroys each horcrux one by one, Voldemort loses yet more of his power. The problem is that wounded, Voldemort is more dangerous than ever. Or maybe they just ticked him off so much it seems as though he’s more powerful. Who knows, except that he’s really out to get Harry, whom he thinks is the only person to stand in his way of world (or galaxy or universe) domination. He may be right. Moreover, Harry comes to realize he must face Voldemort alone. So it all comes down to the final moments of the saga.
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2” boasts some of the best special effects, CGI, sets, and costumes of any film to come out in 2011 or any other year. The film is truly a marvel to behold. Everything from dragons to castles to hairstyles seems to look better in this last installment. I especially liked the escape from Gringotts and the detail in the imagery.
More important, the characters have matured to the point that we care about them more than ever as real people. Now young adults, the characters interact more rationally, more intelligently than before, the actors, too, maturing into their roles and developing their craft more effectively. Understand, though, that in this concluding segment, you’ll see little or no bickering among the main characters anymore. They’ve developed beyond that stage and come to an understanding of their relationships. Where in “Part 1” we saw the interpersonal relationships among the main characters evolving, we now find the primary relationship in “Part 2” is between Harry and Voldemort alone.
In any case, “Part 2” is no longer a children’s narrative but a dark, sinister, psychological, physical, and very adult adventure. In this regard, it makes for a more absorbing, more gripping, more entertaining drama than previous “Potter” films as we see that the consequence of all the action is no longer just fun and games but life and death. And as in real life, expect the serious death of loved ones.
Just as recounted in the book, the majority of “Part 2” describes the final great battle, waged at Hogworts, between the forces of good and evil, where everyone we’ve met in the previous seven movies (everyone who is still alive and a few who aren’t) shows up to wage war. However, that final battle goes on for so long, well over an hour, that it kind of dilutes some of the energy of the tale, making the big finale almost anticlimactic to everything that had gone before. Besides, it’s kind of hard to tell where the final battle actually ends, and when it does it’s well before the actual end of the movie. Because it seems to end before we expect it to end, it creates a slightly disconcerting feeling.
Nevertheless, the movie’s closing scenes are so stirring, and ultimately so touching, it’s hard to resist their charms. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2” makes a fitting conclusion to a series that most of the film-going public had followed for over a decade.
Film value, Part 2: 8/10
The Warners video engineers do an excellent job transferring both 2.40:1 ratio films to Blu-ray, using MPEG-4/AVC codecs and dual-layer BD50’s. The engineers don’t appear to have fussed with it too much, leaving a thin veneer of natural print grain intact and eschewing much or any DNR or edge enhancement. It’s an extraordinarily dark film, even for this series, so don’t expect to see many bright colors or revealing details. Still, there is decent definition, about what I remember from seeing in a movie theater; good contrasts; and solid black levels that, nevertheless, admit a fair amount of particulars to show through. When the picture is good, it is very, very good, and even in the shadows it looks fine. There are soft spots, to be sure, but, overall, it looks excellent.
For Blu-ray, Warners employ lossless DTS-HD Master 5.1 to reproduce the audio, where you’ll hear some splendid surround sounds during the more action-packed sequences, as well as more-subtle, environmental noises throughout the film, things like leaves rustling, breezes whispering, thunder faintly rumbling, and voices making themselves known from all around the room. Strong dynamics, a wide frequency range, and a clear, quiet midrange round out an impressively nuanced audio experience.
For this six-disc Ultimate Edition of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” Parts 1 and 2, we get just about everything a person could want, and more. Blu-ray disc one contains Part 1, along with slew of extras. First, there’s a “Maximum Movie Mode,” a picture-in-picture affair hosted by Jason Isaacs with Focus Point featurettes along the way. Next, you can access the Focus Points separately, and there are six of them, totaling about nineteen minutes, their titles fairly self-explanatory: “The Last Days of Privet Drive,” “Hagrid’s Motorbike,” “Magical Tents!,” “Death Eaters Attack Cafe,” “Creating Dobby and Kreacher,” and “The Return of Griphook.” Also on disc one, you’ll find a BD-Live feature for those viewers who have player access to the Internet.
On disc two, a DVD, we find a standard-definition edition of the movie.
On disc three, a Blu-ray, there is another array of extras, mostly featurettes. The first is “The Seven Harrys,” a five-minute look at the sequence in which seven of the movie’s characters must all appear as Harry. Next is “On the Green with Rupert, Tom, Oliver and James,” thirteen minutes with Rupert Grint, Tom Felton, and Oliver and James Phelps on the golf course discussing their roles over the years; followed by “Dan, Rupert and Emma’s Running Competition,” three minutes with the director discussing the team’s competitive spirit. Then, we have “Godric’s Hollow/The Harry and Nagini Battle,” six minutes; “The Frozen Lake,” four minutes, more making-of material.
Also on disc three we get eight additional scenes for Part 1, totaling about eleven minutes; “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1: Behind the Soundtrack,” four minutes on the film’s music; a promotional trailer for “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter,” six minutes at the grand opening of the Universal Orlando, Florida, resort and amusement park; and a Sneak Peek at “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2”; and a ton of other stuff.
Blu-ray disc four contains Part 2 of the feature film and many more extras. The primary bonus here is another feature-length Maximum Movie Mode, “Blowing Up Hogwarts,” hosted by Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom). As always, it uses picture-in-picture, featurettes, film clips, and interviews to take one behind the scenes of the filmmaking. Then, if you’d like to watch the “Focus Points” separately, there are twenty-six minutes of them: “Aberforth Dumbledore,” “Deathly Hallows Costume Changer,” “Harry Returns to Hogworts,” “The Hogworts Shield,” “The Room of Requirement Set,” “The Fiery Escape,” “Neville’s Stand,” and “Molly Takes Down Bellatrix.” The featurettes conclude with a “Final Farewell from Cast and Crew,” about three minutes. Additionally, disc four contains another BD-Live connection.
Disc five contains a DVD copy of the movie in standard definition.
Disc six, a Blu-ray, contains even more bonus items related to Part 2. First, there’s “A Conversation with J.K. Rowling and Daniel Radcliffe,” fifty-three minutes. Next, there’s “The Goblins of Gringotts,” eleven minutes, followed by “The Women of Harry Potter,” twenty-two minutes. After those items are eight deleted scenes totaling about six minutes; a “Warner Bros. Studio Tour–London,” about a minute and a half; and a “Pottermore” preview where J.K. Rowling takes a minute to introduce her new Web site; and again a ton of other stuff.
The Blu-ray discs of the movies also include twenty-eight and thirty scene selections; English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese spoken languages; French, Spanish, and Portuguese subtitles; and English captions for the hearing impaired.
In addition to the six discs, the Ultimate Edition set contains “Creating the World of Harry Potter: Growing Up,” a 50-page hardbound book of text and pictures from all eight films; a Year Seven lenticular (3-D) card; Nos. 13-16 in a series of character cards; and access to UltraViolet streaming and downloading of the two films.
The six discs fasten to the inside of a separate, foldout Digipak-type container, which fits snugly into a beautifully decorated hardbound box, further enclosed by a hard-cardboard slipcover. It does make getting to the discs a bit of a chore if you use the whole shebang, taking the box out of the slipcover, opening it, extracting the inner packaging, opening it, and then removing the discs. It’s a box within a box within a box affair. Fortunately, you don’t have to keep the entire box on your shelf if you don’t want to; the Digipak alone suffices nicely, even if it’s not quite as handsome as the entire package.
Even though there is a certain sadness in good things coming to an end, with the magic of today’s movie reproduction in the home, one can relive the “Potter” adventures any time one feels the urge. Certainly, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” brings the Potter epic to a proper conclusion, preserving most of what author Rowling put into her final book. Whether we needed to have the book divided into two parts to preserve every last detail is open to question, but we have what we have, and it’s pretty darn good, which is not to say it’s everything I wanted. At almost five hours, the final two-film fling seems a little much, just as the book seemed inflated. But who am I to complain. If you don’t like parts of the movie, use the fast-forward button. The parts that do work are as enjoyable as anything in the series.