Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 Release Date: April 15, 2011 Studio: Warner Home Video Packaging/Materials: Three-disc Blu-ray case with slipcover Year: 2010 Rating: PG-13 Running Time: 2:26:05 MSRP: $35.99 THE FEATURE SPECIAL FEATURES Video 1080p high definition 16x9 2.40:1 High definition Audio DTS-HD Master Audio: English 5.1 / Dolby Digital: French 5.1, Spanish 5.1, Portuguese 5.1 Various Subtitles English SDH, Spanish, French, Portuguese Same The Feature: 4.5/5 Voldermort (Ralph Fiennes) has dealt his enemies a crushing blow - robbing the Order of the Phoenix of its founder and most powerful wizard. It seems like only a matter of time before the Wizarding World is taken over completely by the Dark Lord and his ruthless Death Eaters, but the Order remains steadfast in its mission to protect the world from their dominion, though it may ultimately cost their lives. For the trio of Harry, Ron and Hermione (Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson), the battle takes a significantly different tack, as they embark on a secret and seemingly impossible mission to locate and destroy Voldemort's horcruxes, objects that hold the key to the Dark Lord's very existence. With nothing to guide them but near-indecipherable clues from the enemy's past and time running out, the bonds of their friendship will be tested more than they ever have. When they ultimately stumble on critical information about the legendary Deathly Hallows, magical items that prove integral to Voldemort's end game, the future only seems all the more hopeless. Knowing what he plans to do is ultimately leagues away from actually stopping him. Author J.K. Rowling's seventh and final book in the Harry Potter series is unequivocally dark and grim. Its film adaptation is made all the more so by being split into two parts, as the first half becomes all about the main characters' struggles with frustration, loneliness, resentment and fear. There's barely a sliver of hope that good will triumph over evil, and – based on the movie's final moments – even that seems questionable. Indeed, the point becomes so clear that it begs the question of whether it could have been made more economically, without recreating the main problem from the novel – that is, what seems like an awful lot of time for the heroic trio to wander aimlessly in search of answers. But, being split into two parts, the complete film cannot be judged solely on its first half. Once the film is released in its entirety will it be easier to evaluate the overall narrative, whether the amount of time spent in doom and gloom in the first part was necessary for things to payoff convincingly in the second. I suspect it will, as nothing short of the miraculous will save Harry and his friends now. And to close out one of the finest movie franchises created, we should expect nothing less than something that phenomenal. "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part Two" will arrive in theaters in just three months on July 15, 2011. Video Quality: 4.5/5 The film is accurately framed at 2.40:1 and presented in 1080p with the AVC codec. Where "Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince" was a visually dark film "Deathly Hallows Part One" shows a bit more variety in the color palette. There are more splashes of color thanks to the wedding scenes, moments in the city, and the trio's initial wanderings through the country, but grays and earth tones come to dominate the palette as winter sets in. In any case, the transfer shows excellent depth all around - from the black levels to the range of colors on display. Likewise contrast is strong, showing the full range of values with no signs of compression. Fine object detail and overall sharpness are impressive as well, though some shots may look a little too crisp at times, resulting in kind of inorganic look to the image. However, there's none of the usual indicators of excessive digital sharpening, like edge haloing. A healthy amount of grain also suggests minimal use of noise reduction measures. Audio Quality: 5/5 Dialogue in the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is consistently clear and intelligible, though some may need to enable the subtitles to get through the accents. Surround effects - ambient, directional and 360-degree wraparounds - are balanced, seamless and masterfully mixed. Low frequency effects are used sparingly but effectively, and rattle the foundation at their most extreme depths. High frequency details are similarly excellent, at their most pleasing with the film's orchestral score and at their most anxiety-inducing with various atmospheric flourishes. Special Features: 4/5 The most in-depth feature comes in the form of Maximum Movie Mode, with the only limitation being having to watch much of the film to see the material. Of course for die hard fans this won't be a problem, and even for the more casual viewer it's an enjoyable way to watch both the movie and go behind the scenes. A DVD and digital copy provide some added convenience for those looking for more portable viewing options. Maximum Movie Mode (2:47:56) incorporates behind-the-scenes special effects footage, additional scenes, "walk-ons" by the cast and crew to explain various aspects of the production, and access to several "Focus Point" video featurettes as one watches the feature. It makes for a dynamic and efficient method of viewing relevant behind-the-scenes material, though some of the most interesting material (e.g. the special effects break downs) cannot be accessed outside of it. This won't please those who want discrete accessibility to all the material, but there's also something to be said about it being presented in proper context with the film. Overall it's a nicely implemented feature and should please anyone looking for more information about the making of the film. Focus Points (19:21, HD) highlight various aspects of the production, viewable concurrent with the feature through Maximum Movie Mode or independently. The Last Days of Privet Drive (2:36) features the actors who played the Dursleys reflecting on 10 years of work together. Hagrid's Motorbike (4:01) shows how the scenes with Hagrid's flying motorcycle and sidecar were staged using practical stunts and special effects setups. Magical Tents! (2:18) offers a closer look at the wedding tent and the traveling/camping tent. Death Eaters Attack Café (2:51) includes behind-the-scenes footage of preparation for and filming of the café wand fight, featuring the actors' stunt doubles. Creating Dobby and Kreacher (3:48) explains how the filmmakers brought all-digital house elves to life, using little people as stand-ins and having the voice actors on-set to work with the cast. The Return of Griphook (3:45) features actor Warwick Davis talking about his preparation for and portrayal of Griphook the Goblin (who was played by Verne Troyer in the first film). Behind the Story (HD) The Seven Harrys (5:29) highlights the challenges and hilarity of making seven Harry Potters in one scene. On the Green with Rupert, Tom, Oliver and James (13:38) follows Rupert Grint (Ron), Tom Felton (Draco), and James and Oliver Phelps (Fred and George) as they embark on a golfing weekend in Wales just before production wraps on the film. During the trip they look back on their years of off-screen friendship and work together. Dan, Rupert and Emma's Running Competition (2:45) illustrates the trio's competitive nature that came out while running through the woods for the forest chase scenes. Godric's Hollow / The Harry and Nagini Battle (6:00) takes a look at the Godric's Hollow set and goes behind the scenes of Harry's fight with Voldemort's pet snake. The Frozen Lake (4:10) goes behind the scenes of preparing for and filming the frozen lake scenes. Additional Scenes (10:54, HD) Sc. 7 - The Burrows Shed (:41) reveals where Ron got his magic radio. Sc. 15 - The Dursley House (:52) shows a moment of vulnerability with Aunt Petunia. Sc. 16 - Dudley and Harry (2:05) shows the cousins making peace. Sc. 61 - The Granger House (:27) shows a Death Eater visiting Hermione's abandoned house. Sc. 83 - Ministry of Magic Lifts (1:51) includes antics in the Ministry's enchanted elevators. Sc. 89 - Tent (1:38) shows Harry, Ron and Hermione trying to figure out where to find more Horcruxes. Sc. 108 - Rabbit Chase in the Forest (1:28) shows Harry and Ron hunting in the forest and things turning tense. This was really a standout scene as it shows how horse play can turn into outright aggression when there are unresolved issues between people (I had a few of those moments myself when I was teenager). Although it probably didn't fit anywhere in the movie, it's an emotionally honest and wonderfully complex scene. Sc. 108 Montage - Ron and Hermione Skimming Stones (1:52) shows Ron teaching Hermione how to skip stones. Trailers and Spots (HD) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1: Behind the Soundtrack (3:51) gives a brief look behind the scenes of composing and recording the film score, with Composer Alexandre DeSplat. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Promotional Trailer (6:25) provides a recap of the Harry Potter theme park grand opening in Orlando, Florida, with members of the cast and crew and author J.K. Rowling. Sneak Peek of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two was specifically removed from review copies as the preview could not be distributed before the Blu-ray street date. Though it would have been nice to have for review, I have no doubt it will be readily viewable everywhere come April 15th. A DVD includes the feature in standard definition 2.40:1 anamorphic video and Dolby Digital 5.1 at 384 kbps audio. It also includes subtitles in English SDH, French and Spanish. A Digital Copy, compatible with Mac and Windows platforms, is available for download through a provided web address. The offer expires September 13, 2011. Recap The Feature: 4.5/5 Video Quality: 4.5/5 Audio Quality: 5/5 Special Features: 4/5 Overall Score (not an average): 4.5/5 Warner Home Video turns in an excellent presentation of the penultimate Harry Potter film. Maximum Movie Mode is the most detailed and expansive of the special features, covering a wide variety of subjects in an interesting and dynamic way. While it would have been nice to have discrete access to all the material, the feature does such a good job of enhancing viewers' understanding of the story and production process that it's hard to complain too much about a minor interface issue.