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Blu-ray Reviews

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Parts One and Two (Ultimate Edition) Blu-ray Review



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#1 of 1 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

Cameron Yee

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Posted December 04 2012 - 04:43 PM

Collectors of the Harry Potter Ultimate Editions can breathe easy – the final installment covering “Deathly Hallows” Parts One and Two is finally here after a period of non-communication and confusion about its release. In spite of the problematic PR, the title properly closes out an extras-packed Blu-ray series that started way back in December 2009. As with the previous Ultimates, the producers managed to gather up some significant additions to the previously available bonus material. The “ultimate” moniker of course should still be taken with a grain of salt considering the continued money-making potential of the franchise, but any future releases will have a hard time topping what Warner Home Video has pulled together.

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Parts One and Two (Ultimate Edition)

Release Date: November 13, 2012
Studio: Warner Home Video
Packaging/Materials: Six-disc Digipak and extras in a heavy cardboard case
Year: 2011
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: (Part One) 2:26:05 | (Part Two) 2:10:26
MSRP: $64.99

  THE FEATURE SPECIAL FEATURES
Video 1080p high definition 2.40:1 Standard and 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 Various


The following includes material from the HTF review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 and Part 2 from 2011.

The Features
Part One: 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.

Part Two: 4/5
The losses continue to mount for Harry and his allies as they fight to stop Voldemort and his Death Eaters from taking over the Wizarding World. But the death of Dobby (voiced by Toby Jones), killed as he was rescuing his friends in a supreme act of loyalty, has only strengthened Harry's resolve to complete his mission of finding and destroying Voldemort's horcruxes, objects in which the Dark Lord has planted parts of his soul in a heinous quest for immortality. The search will take Harry, Ron and Hermione into the bowels of the goblin-run Gringotts Bank, and ultimately back to Hogwarts Castle, where Professor Snape (Alan Rickman) has taken over as headmaster and where Death Eaters call the shots. With the help of resistance forces – made up of the Order of the Phoenix and the student-led Dumbledore's Army – buying time for the trio to find the last of the objects hidden somewhere in the castle, there remains a thin sliver of hope that Voldemort will be defeated. But with Harry's fate intertwined with the Dark Lord's, destroying horcruxes will prove easy compared to what must be done for everlasting victory.

Where "Part One" suffered at times from a sense of aimlessness – mirroring the psychological state of its protagonists – "Part Two" sometimes progresses at a breakneck pace, reflecting both the urgency of Harry, Ron and Hermione's mission as well as how close they are to completing it. The events of the second film are practically all action set pieces, giving little time to explain the dense mythology at the heart of Voldemort's vulnerability. Consequently, expositional moments around wand lore and the Deathly Hallows objects – as critical as they are – aren't integrated very smoothly into the dialogue or plot. Some of this is forgivable given the difficult task of adapting and condensing such rich lore into a two-hour feature film. Less understandable are significant changes to – of all things – how Voldemort meets his fate, so powerfully ironic in the novel but robbed of all its power through cinematic flourish and excessive visual effects. Though the misstep is not severe enough to upend the film – or the franchise for that matter – it does prove to be a lingering point of dissatisfaction in an otherwise satisfying final installment.

Note: Unlike some of the earlier Ultimate Editions, this release for “Deathly Hallows” does not include extended versions of the films.



Video Quality
Part One: 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 Piccadilly Circus, 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.

Part Two: 4.5/5
The film is accurately framed at 2.40:1 and presented in 1080p with the AVC codec. The transfer doesn't look too different from its predecessor, showing excellent depth all around - from the black levels to the range of colors on display, though they tend toward the dark and/or earthy. Contrast is likewise strong, though the cinematography can be particularly shadowy at times, making blacks look almost compressed. Fine object detail and overall sharpness are impressive as well, though, as with the previous film, things can look a little too crisp at times. Signs of excessive digital noise reduction and sharpening are likewise absent from the image.


Audio Quality
Part One and Part Two: 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: 5/5
Though the original release of “Part One” had a decent collection of extras, the bulk of the material was wrapped up in the Maximum Movie Mode feature. Now in this Ultimate Edition, the items are expanded beyond the enhanced commentary mode, providing several more video pieces that venture behind the scenes.

Comparatively, the original Blu-ray release of “Part Two” had a more significant collection of bonus material, but even so the producers managed to dig up even more. This will no doubt please those who have been eagerly awaiting this last Ultimate Edition, as it offers the most comprehensive set of extras available for the final two films, though by the time one gets to the “Quest” featurettes, it’s reached an obvious level of redundancy. Nevertheless, with the inclusion of a couple physical items and digital copy, it makes for an impressive complement of special features.

Items not previously found on the previous Blu-ray releases are identified with an asterisk.

[Part One: Disc One]
Maximum Movie Mode (2:47:56, HD): 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 breakdowns) cannot be accessed outside of it. This won't please those who want discrete access 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, HD): Features the actors who played the Dursleys reflecting on 10 years of work together.
  • Hagrid's Motorbike (4:01, HD): Shows how the scenes with Hagrid's flying motorcycle and sidecar were staged using practical stunts and special effects setups.
  • Magical Tents! (2:18, HD): Offers a closer look at the wedding tent and the traveling/camping tent.
  • Death Eaters Attack Café (2:51, HD): 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, HD): 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, HD): 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).

[Part One: Disc Two]
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.

[Part One: Disc Three]
Behind the Story

  • *Creating the World of Harry Potter Part 7: Story (47:28, HD): Taking a less produced and edited approach, the seventh part of the eight-part documentary is a simple sit-down between screenwriter Steve Kloves and author J.K. Rowling. Together they discuss their first meeting, how their working relationship developed and grew, their favorite (and more challenging moments) from the films, and their approach to their respective writing forms. At times the discussion gets rather candid, as Rowling confesses to things she probably should have cut from the books, though there is also a fair amount of admiration between the two (and really, who can blame them?). Though much more straightforward than previous installments, it’s fascinating to see two talented writers providing their take on characters and stories for two different forms of media.
  • *Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One: Behind the Magic (44:09, SD): The 2011 promotional piece produced for British television covers the main story elements with behind the scenes footage and on-set interviews and visits with the cast and crew with host Ben Shephard.
  • *Harry Potter: On the Road (19:37, HD): Identifies major locations along the course of the Trio’s journey, providing a look at the sets and behind-the-scenes footage from key scenes.
  • *The Return of the Order (5:35, HD): Actors who play members of the Order of the Phoenix talk about their experiences returning to the set and filming “Part One’s” opening sequence.
  • *Scabior and Greyback (4:10, HD): The actors playing the Death Eater snatcher and the vicious werewolf talk about their characters.
  • *Dobby’s Farewell (4:28, HD): Toby Jones explains how his involvement changed from doing voice work in a booth to actually being on set and influencing how the character was animated.
  • *The Look of Bill Weasley (3:41, HD): Looks at the rock star-inspired costume design for the eldest Weasley child.
  • *The Weasleys (3:33, HD): The various members of the ginger family reminisce about their work over the years.
  • *The State of Evil (9:58, HD): Briefly profiles each of the major players in Voldemort’s Death Eaters.
  • *The New Guys (7:06, HD): The actors playing Bill Weasley, Xeno Lovegood and Rufus Scrimgeour talk about their characters and their approach to playing them.
  • *One Book, Two Movies (4:38, HD): Director David Yates and Producer David Heyman explain the lead up to and reasoning for splitting the film into two parts.
  • *The Wizarding Prop Shop (5:28, HD): Looks at everything from wands to masks to hats used in the film.
  • The Seven Harrys (5:29, HD): Highlights the challenges and hilarity of making seven Harry Potters in one scene.
  • On the Green with Rupert, Tom, Oliver and James (13:38, HD): Follows Rupert Grint, 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, HD): 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, HD): 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, HD): Goes behind the scenes of preparing for and filming the frozen lake scenes.

Additional Scenes (10:54, HD)

  • Sc. 7 - The Burrows Shed (:41, HD): Reveals where Ron got his magic radio.
  • Sc. 15 - The Dursley House (:52, HD): Shows a moment of vulnerability with Aunt Petunia.
  • Sc. 16 - Dudley and Harry (2:05, HD): Shows the cousins making peace.
  • Sc. 61 - The Granger House (:27, HD): Shows a Death Eater visiting Hermione's abandoned house.
  • Sc. 83 - Ministry of Magic Lifts (1:51, HD): Includes antics in the Ministry's enchanted elevators.
  • Sc. 89 - Tent (1:38, HD): Shows Harry, Ron and Hermione trying to figure out where to find more Horcruxes.
  • Sc. 108 - Rabbit Chase in the Forest (1:28, HD): 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, HD): Shows Ron teaching Hermione how to skip stones.

Trailers and Spots

  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1: Behind the Soundtrack (3:51, HD): 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, HD): 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.
  • *Teaser Trailer (2:31, HD)
  • *Theatrical Trailer (2:23, HD)

*Sneak Peek of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two (4:24, HD): Though previously removed from review copies of the original “Part One” Blu-ray release, the preview of “Part Two” can now be seen in its entirety.

[Part Two: Disc One]
Maximum Movie Mode (2:47:25): Another finely implemented picture-in-picture commentary goes deep into the making of the film, with access to various Focus Point featurettes.

Focus Points (26:27, HD): Highlight various aspects of the production, viewable concurrent with the feature through Maximum Movie Mode or independently.

  • Aberforth Dumbledore (2:37, HD): Looks at the makeup applied to actor Ciaran Hinds to make him look related to Michael Gambon's Dumbledore.
  • Deathly Hallows Costume Changes (3:13, HD): Looks at the wardrobe elements, how have they have changed as the characters have developed and grown.
  • Harry Returns to Hogwarts (3:21, HD): Looks at filming the pivotal scene in the Great Hall.
  • The Hogwarts Shield (2:27, HD): Looks at the visual design and effects for the magical shield charm used to protect Hogwarts Castle.
  • The Room of Requirement (3:13, HD): A look at the design, construction, and dressing of the massive set.
  • The Fiery Escape (3:49, HD): A look at the stunts in the action-heavy scene set in the Room of Requirement.
  • Neville's Stand (4:15, HD): A look at filming Neville's critical scene in the courtyard.
  • Molly Takes Down Bellatrix (3:27, HD): A look at filming the cathartic duel.

Final Farewells from Cast and Crew (3:07, HD): The cast and crew reflect on their experiences over the last several years.

[Part Two: Disc Two]
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.

[Part Two: Disc Three]
Behind the Story

  • *Creating the World of Harry Potter Part 8: Growing Up (49:19, HD): Going film by film, the final installment of the documentary culls interviews and behind the scenes footage to look at how the three principal actors have grown over 10 years of moviemaking, not just physically, but also personally and professionally. Though not the most original way to end, it does provide a stark reminder of how far the actors – as well as the movie franchise – has come over the years. Recollections of their experiences include their first stunts and exposure to acting with visual effects, dealing with the attention and fame, and their last day of production and saying goodbye.
  • *Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two: Behind the Magic (47:01, SD): The 2011 promotional piece produced for British television covers the main story elements with behind the scenes footage and on-set interviews and visits with the cast and crew with host Ben Shephard.
  • A Conversation with J.K. Rowling and Daniel Radcliffe (53:03, HD): Rowling and Radcliffe sit down for a candid discussion about the films, elements from the novels, and their experiences with fame. Although some of the stories are familiar territory after countless special features, it's somewhat rare for Rowling to show up in the extras, so hearing her thoughts on the films and memories of working with the filmmakers turns out to be rather refreshing.
  • *Hogwarts’ Last Stand (Extended Version) (30:27, HD): Following some setup, the piece tracks with each major moment of the climactic battle sequence, from the destruction of the walking bridge to the battle between Harry and Voldemort. Visual effects and set design figure prominently alongside major points in the narrative, including Ron and Hermione's kiss and the conflagration in the Room of Requirement.
  • *The Great Hall of Hogwarts (4:13, HD): A look at the design and destruction of the longest standing Potter set.
  • *Ron and Hermione’s Kiss (4:12, HD): A look at the actors’ preparation for and anxiety about the exchange.
  • *That’s a Wrap Harry Potter (4:55, HD): A look at the final days of production and saying farewell.
  • *Neville’s Battle Makeup (4:11, HD): A look at how artists apply burns, cuts and bruises to a beloved character.
  • *The Gringotts Disguises (4:07, HD): Helena Bonham Carter and Emma Watson talk about how they prepared for the Hermione-Bellatrix body swapping scenes.
  • *Harry’s Death: The Courtyard Confrontation (10:14, HD): A look at the major story elements and shooting of Voldemort’s apparent triumph over his arch enemy.
  • *Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: The Quest: Video pieces from the now non-functional harrypotterthequest.com website cover many of the same topics in the preceding pieces, but this should please completionists.
    • Emma Watson Gets a “Red Card” (2:02, HD): Watson gets a “red card” (penalty) for “corpsing” (laughing) during a take.
    • Daniel Radcliffe Discusses His Mentors (4:27, HD): Radcliffe talks about working with Gary Oldman and Imelda Staunton.
    • The Secrets of Flight (4:03, SD): An excerpt from the “Behind the Magic” TV special shows the variety of broomstick designs and the host getting his turn riding one.
    • Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort (4:05, HD): Fiennes talks about playing the character.
    • A Look Back at Severus Snape (3:18, HD): An overview of the character and a teaser of what is to come.
    • London Premiere Footage (2:23, HD): A look at the turnout and response to the cast arriving on the red carpet.
    • The Love Life of Ron Weasley (2:56, HD): An overview of Ron’s romantic entanglements, ending with the one everyone was hoping for.
    • The Weasleys: A Look Back at Harry Potter’s Favorite Family (3:27, HD): A look at the members of the beloved ginger family.
    • Dumbledore and Harry: A Look Back (3:23, HD): Radcliffe reflects on working with the actors who have played Dumbledore and his working relationship with Michael Gambon.
    • Favorite Lines with the Harry Potter Cast (3:44, HD): Taken from a 2011 press conference, members of the cast share their favorite moments of dialogue with reporters.
    • Favorite Props with the Harry Potter Cast (3:31, HD): Another excerpt from the 2011 press conference where the cast talk about their favorite props and costumes.
    • Riding Along Memory Lane (4:37, HD): Warwick Davis gives a quick tour of the back lot of Leavesden Studio, stopping at Privet Drive and the Great Hall.
    • Finding Luna: A Dream Come True (2:27, HD): Evanna Lynch talks about being cast and portraying the eccentric Hogwarts student.
    • A Tribute to Dobby: The Beloved House-Elf (2:43, HD): A look at the development of the house elf character, from his introduction to his final act of heroism.
    • A Special Message to Fans of Harry Potter (2:25, HD): Cast members offer a thanks to fans for their support.
    • The Cast of Harry Potter Says Goodbye (2:26, HD): Cast members look back on their 10-year experience and express their gratitude to fans.
  • The Women of Harry Potter (22:31, HD): J.K. Rowling talks about her books' female characters, both the good and the bad, and their importance to the series' themes and story arcs.
  • The Goblins of Gringotts (10:56, HD): Provides a tour of the goblin-making process, including casting, prosthetic makeup, and performances.

Deleted Scenes (6:33, HD)

  • Sc. 184 - Shell Cottage (1:16, HD): Bill warns the trio about Goblins.
  • Sc. 185 - Harry and Luna at Dobby's Grave on the Beach (1:51, HD): Harry and Luna say goodbye as Luna returns to Hogwarts.
  • Sc. 215 - Hog's Head (:53, HD): Aberforth complains about his brother.
  • Sc. 229E - Marble Staircase, Harry and Ginny (:31, HD): The two hold hands as they enter the Great Hall.
  • Sc. 242 - Wooden Bridge (:30, HD): Seamus prepares the bridge for destruction.
  • Sc. 245 - Hogwarts' Battlements (:23, HD): Lupin and Tonks share a moment before the battle.
  • Sc. 274 - Slytherin Dungeons (:42, HD): Students escape from lock-up.
  • Sc. 346G - Marble Staircase, Ron and Hermione (:23, HD): Ron feels pressed to share something with Hermione.

Warner Brothers Studio Tour London (1:33, HD): Promotional for "The Making of Harry Potter" tour opening Spring 2012.

Pottermore Preview (1:07, HD): Promotional for J.K. Rowling's online Potter experience.

Trailers

  • *Teaser Trailer (1:59, HD)
  • *Theatrical Trailer (1:59, HD)

[Additional Items]
"Creating the World of Harry Potter: Growing Up" Book: The final volume of books that serve as companion items to the eight-part documentary includes photos and artwork highlighting the various characters as they’ve matured over 10 years of moviemaking.

Character Cards: Include four 4" X 6" heavy cardboard trading cards of Bellatrix Lestrange, Ginny Weasley, Neville Longbottom, and Lord Voldemort.

UltraViolet Digital Copy: The offer to add both Parts One and Two to one’s UltraViolet streaming collection expires September 25, 2014.

Recap
The Features: (Part One) 4.5/5, (Part Two) 4/5
Video Quality: (Parts One and Two) 4.5/5
Audio Quality: (Parts One and Two) 5/5
Special Features: 5/5
Overall Score (not an average): 4.5/5

The final Harry Potter Ultimate Edition Blu-ray closes out the series in fine style, adding a sizable number of quality extras to the previously available features and bonus material. Though anyone who believes this is the end of all further Harry Potter editions and special features is fooling himself, most collectors should be satisfied with what Warner Home Video has put together, particularly for its final entry. Less enthusiastic fans of the franchise are still advised to check out the standard releases, however, given the higher price point the Ultimates ultimately demand.





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