Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 Blu-ray ReviewNovember 11, 2011
All great sagas eventually come to an end, and what an unbelievable end the Harry Potter universe receives with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. This decade long tale of Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and his friends Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) battling against the Dark Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) finally draws to a dramatic and emotional close. Whereas Deathly Hallows Part 1 was very story (and camping) heavy, this part is action packed from the get-go and is unrelenting until the very end.
Part 2 picks up immediately where Part 1 ended, save for a brief montage of moments to get everyone back up to speed. Harry, Ron and Hermione are tracking down the remaining Horcruxs that Voldemort has created, knowing that each one they destroy takes away another bit of Voldemort's power. Voldemort has also acquired the Elder Wand from Dumbledore's tomb and, along with his armies of Death Eaters and Dementors, is actively hunting down Harry to put an end to him once and for all. What follows is an incredibly thrilling and heartbreaking tale filled with danger, death and, most importantly, the fulfilling of destiny.
With a long running series such as this, there's obviously an emotional attachment that a fan builds, and that attachment aids in making this last half of the final chapter all that much more impressive and heartfelt. The three main actors have literally grown up along with their characters, and it's truly impressive to see how they have progressed as characters and as actors. Radcliffe is finally able to shirk the angsty, moody Harry and become a man of action who constantly has the weight of the world on his shoulders. It does feel like Hermione and Ron, although they are around a lot and always play important roles, are quite as prominent in this feature, but that comes understandably as this has always been Harry's story, and that's how it should be.
Speaking of that emotional attachment, nothing gets one more emotional than death, and this last arc of Harry Potter's tale is chock full of death. The loss of a character in a story is always painful, and to see these characters that one has followed for years and grown to care about sacrifice themselves for the greater good, or become victims of their own life choices, is at times heartbreaking but undoubtedly necessary to illustrate the cost of war and one's choices within it.
There are definitely aspects that fans of the book series are no doubt going to be upset about, whether its moments missing or things added that conflict with their own ideas of how things should be. Even J.K. Rowling herself says in one of the special features that they could have made 6 hour Harry Potter films and there would still be people complaining about stuff missing, and I couldn't agree with her more. Having a story so near and dear to someone's heart is going to always pale in comparison to the filmed version, but I personally feel like the entire creative team behind these films do a stellar job bringing these stories to life to the best of their abilities within the film format. I will say that there are things within the film that receive little to no explanation, so having some background in the book can be very helpful.
After this last installment, the Harry Potter series of films has become the most successful movie franchise of all time, and, in my opinion, will continue to be one of the most endearing. There is so much love and care put into this series, especially this final chapter, and it's evident in every single aspect.
Boasting a 1080p AVC encode, Deathly Hallows Part 2 looks, quite simply, amazing. The Harry Potter series, starting with Prisoner of Azkaban, have all had a darkened palette to them, and Deathly Hallows Part 2 is the darkest of them all. Yet, it contains a mind-blowing amount of detail and will instantly become reference material for millions of Blu-ray owning wizards and muggles alike. Hair, clothes and debris all enjoy high levels of clarity and as the movie goes on and the characters become grimy and wounded, every miniscule detail of this wear and tear is on display. There are some close-up shots during the final battle that are simply beyond breathtaking. When people say they can't tell the difference between DVD and Blu-ray, this is the type of film that will change their mind.
To go along with the incredible transfer is an equally impressive 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio surround track that truly is a force to be reckoned with. There's destruction and doom and every turn, and all of it is accompanied by one of the most powerful audio tracks I've come across in the format. All speakers get used to the fullest of their abilities, most noticeably the rears providing an incredibly immersive experience, whether it be the faint whispers of a character as if they are whispering in your ear, to the destruction of Hogwarts coming down all around you. This is truly a track to behold, and a must-have for the audio connoisseurs.
Beyond The Feature
It's the last chapter of the Harry Potter series, and Warner Bros went all out with the special features. Between the Maximum Movie Mode, the deleted scenes, the interviews, and behind the scenes moments, there is a wealth of information for every Potter fan to ingest and enjoy.
This review is based on the three-disc Blu-ray set, which is comprised of two Blu discs, with the supplements spread out between them, and the third disc being a DVD version of the film. The package also includes a code for a digital copy via the new Ultraviolet streaming service.
Maximum Movie Mode (HD, 2 Hrs 46 min) - These Maximum Movie Mode features are one of the greatest things to come about since the advent of Blu-ray, and this one for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is no exception. In fact, it blows all previous ones I've seen out of the water. Hosted by Matthew Lewis (who excellently portrays Neville Longbottom), but also featuring several key cast and crew members, this is a picture-in-picture look that goes above and beyond covering storyboards, VFX, deleted scenes and even comparisons to passages in the book that correlate to what is happening on scene. This is a must see feature, and reason enough to encourage any Potter fan that hasn't made the Blu-ray jump to do so immediately.
Focus Points (HD, 26 min) - This feature is broken up into 8 segments covering different sets and visual effects from the film. They can be watched separately or collectively via the play all feature. They include "Shell Cottage", "Grave on the Beach", "Hog's Head", "Marble Staircase: Harry and Ginny", "Wooden Bridge", "Hogwart's Battlement", "Slytherin Dungeons" and "Marble Staircase: Ron and Hermione".
BD-Live - The disc does feature a BD-Live portal, but as of right now there's only a couple trailers for various WB releases and as well as a commercial for the new Lego Harry Potter Years 5-7 video game and an ad for the Maximum Movie Mode featured on Disc 1, which is odd since you have to have that disc to access this anyways.
A Conversation with J.K. Rowling and Daniel Radcliffe (HD, 53 min) - This is an incredible and touching discussion between Harry Potter's creator and Harry Potter himself. Clocking in at almost an hour, the two have such an easy going and informative back and forth, making this worth the price of admission alone. The pair recall the early beginnings of the books and the films as well as Rowling's personal opinions on things missing from the books or things that were added, even discussing how the three main actors managed to not have bad acne. It's a must-have feature for die-hard fanatics and casual fans alike. It's also refreshing to see the genuine care that someone has for their creations.
The Women of Harry Potter (HD, 22 min) - Another stellar feature revolving around all of the strong female characters of the Harry Potter universe. It focuses primarily on Rowling revealing her backgrounds on the creation of these female roles and things in her life that inspired said characters. It also features quick interviews with each actress that portrays these characters within the films. This feature contains some incredible insight and is another must watch.
Deleted Scenes (HD, 6 min) - This section features a collection of scenes that, contrary to most deleted scenes, are actually quite good and would have been excellent additions to the completed film, maybe in an extended capacity, as they help flesh out certain moments in the film, like where Hermione got clothes that look like Bellatrix's and some explanation behind Harry's mirror. Well worth checking out.
The Goblins of Gringotts (HD, 10 min) - A short feature on the casting and creation of the goblins found in the film series. There's a bit of focus on Warwick Davis, who portrays Griphook (as well as Professor Flitwick) in the last film and features some cute moments including his wife and children all portraying various goblins in the film.
Lego Harry Potter Years 5-7 Demo (PS3 only) - A demo of the latest Lego Harry Potter game, but only for the Playstation 3 faithful.
Both discs also have their own ad for J.K. Rowling's Pottermore website, which promises to further explore the Harry Potter universe. There's also an ad promising an "Ultimate" Harry Potter film collection sometime in 2012. I'd go ahead and start saving money for it. It looks like it's going to be a good one.
Whereas most film franchises are beyond well worn by their eighth film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 proves that an excellent story can still be told, even this late into a series. The film is filled to the brim with action, drama and excellent performances by every cast member involved. This is a tale that's importance is felt between the fans and the creative teams alike, making for a truly beautiful and compelling story that will surely last the test of time. Throw in an audio/visual presentation and a no-holds barred supplements package and you may just have the release of the year.
- Matt Hardeman
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