Plot: What’s it about?
Nearly fifteen years ago, a single mother on welfare authored Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (though in the UK it was called Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone). The book went onto become an international best seller and, as they say, the rest is history. And this is it. This is what all the fans have been waiting for…sort of. You see the Harry Potter franchise is finite in regards to the written material. There were seven books. There will be no more. Warner Brothers has made a lot of money off of the Harry Potter movies and anyone knows that pleasing the fans is great, but pleasing the stockholders is even better. And so it was deemed that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows would not be one movie, but rather two. This was great news to the fans (who believed that some of the previous movies should have been split in half as well) as it gave the filmmakers a chance to explore the final book dotting all the “i’s” and crossing all the “t’s.” As someone whose read all of the Potter books more than once, I was elated to hear this news. But as anyone knows all of the good stuff happens near the end of the book. Nevertheless, the penultimate chapter in the Harry Potter franchise is now on Blu-ray so let’s dive in, wands first, and see what’s happening.
It’s been a rough summer for Harry (Daniel Radcliffe). His best friend and mentor, Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) was killed at the hands of Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) at the end of the last movie. The Ministry of Magic is now in danger of being overrun by Lord Voldermort (Ralph Fiennes) and his henchmen, the Death Eaters. Harry, Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) are outcasts, forced to flee their homes and go into hiding. Hogwarts, their school, is no longer a place of protection for Harry and his friends, but rather the first place the Death Eaters will look. Harry is “Undesirable No. 1” and Voldemort will stop at nothing to get his hands on Harry. So what to do? Run! Harry, Hermione and Ron take off in an effort to avoid the Death Eaters, but have the added task of finding the horcruxes – pieces of Voldermort’s soul that are scattered around the globe. These horcruxes give him near immortality and if not found and destroyed, Voldermort will remain alive. And, in essence, that’s what Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I is all about: running, hiding and waiting. That might sound somewhat dull in comparison to the other Potter movies, but I assure you that it’s not. We see some new faces, some old faces and we lose a few of them as well. Perhaps it’s just because we haven’t yet been exposed to the final movie in the series, but this is a necessary step in the series to reach the finale.
The main trio of the Harry Potter films aren’t kids anymore. They’ve spent more than half their lives on the set of the movies and their journey is nearly over. The franchise has become the top-grossing series of films in the history of cinema and we’ve still got one more movie to go. As any casual fan of the books/movies knows, the story of Harry Potter gets darker as the books progress. The first two were for the kids, but as we progress deeper in the series, we’re faced with much more drama, death and desperation. The absence of Lord Voldermort in the sixth installment (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince) is more than made up for in this installment and he’ll play an even more important role in the final chapter. Diehard fans of the series will already know what the fates are for everyone involved, but to see it played out on screen is what it’s all about. I can prattle on about the movie and what’s forthcoming, but odds are that if you’re reading this then you already know. The wait is nearly over and this first installment of the final chapter is a necessary step.
Video: How does it look?
The Harry Potter franchise is obviously one of the jewels in Warner’s crown and, as such, we can expect it to look as best as possible. As with the other titles in the series, this has undergone a new 2K transfer and is presented in 4K. Naturally a majority of the film is done via visual effects, from the house on Privet Drive to Ralph Fienne’s snake-like nose. We see so much detail in some of the scenes, the creases in the clothing, the distinction in the clouds, the scales on Nagini (Voldemort’s pet snake) are just a few of the examples of how good this looks. Some of the scenes seem to have a washed out effect and I noticed a bit of grain during some of the forest sequences. There’s a nifty little animated sequence that explains the Deathly Hallows that looks amazing. It’s a step up from the Blu-ray and if all the purists out there want to have Harry Potter looking its best – this is it.
Audio: How does it sound?
The previous DTS HD Master Audio sound mix has been replaced by a next generation DTS X mix that really does improve in a few areas. As I mentioned, a majority of the film is void of action as it focuses on the trio and their quest for the horcruxes. Thus this is very dialogue-driven and it sounds very strong and well-focused. As we might expect, there are several action scenes that utilize all 7.1 speakers giving a very compassing effect that really brings you into the film. Like the other Harry Potter films, the technical aspects have never been anything to complain about and this new next generation audio format pulls no punches.
Supplements: What are the extras?
As with the other Ultra HD discs, most all of the content from the previously-released Ultimate Editions has made the cut here. This three disc set has tons of information on it.
Disc One – Ultra HD (no supplements)
Disc Two – Blu-ray
- Maximum Movie Mode
- Focus Points
Disc Three – Blu-ray (supplements)
- Creating the World of Harry Potter Part 7: Story – The penultimate installment of the “Creating the World of Harry Potter” and this one is simply stated as “Story.” I’d say that’s pretty important, wouldn’t you? Running at 45 minutes, this focuses on J.K. Rowling’s tale and writer Steve Kloves adaptation of it to the screen. They discuss the challenges of bringing such epic tales to the screen and even touch on the issue of Dumbledore’s sexuality. Suffice it to say these two know more about Harry Potter than anyone else out there and it’s well worth the wait.
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1: Behind the Magic – This TV special that was released before the movie aired, so there are a lot of “What If’s..” included. It’s more of a promotional piece as opposed to anything that’s genuinely informative, but still nice to have regardless.
- Harry Potter: On the Road – We follow the production crew all over jolly ‘ol England for location shots. It’s a nice thing to see and some of the more interesting places that the cast and crew went to and got those “perfect shots.”
- The Return of the Order – We get a look at some of the members who we last saw in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (along with some new faces) as they prepare to fight Voldemort and his Death Eaters.
- Scabior and Greyback – A look at two of the werewolves featured in the film.
- Dobby’s Farewell – We bid a fond adieu to our house elf friend and some of his “finer” moments from the series.
- The Look of Bill Weasley – Bill, the one Weasley brother who hadn’t been featured in the films…until now, is profiled as is his rather unique look.
- The Weasleys – Speaking of our ginger-haired supporting cast members, we get a look at all of them here.
- The State of Evil – Voldemort and his Death Eaters are given a good once over as well as how they relate to the film.
- The New Guys – A lot of new faces, human and otherwise, made their appearance in this film and we get a look at them.
- One Book, Two Movies – The filmmakers try to rationalize how and why they made one book span the course of two movies. What they don’t say is the obvious answer – money.
- The Wizarding Prop Shop – We get a crash course in some of the more “technical” items used in the film for the wand-clad wizards of Harry Potter’s world.
- The Seven Harrys – If you’ve ever wanted to see Daniel Radcliffe in drag, now’s your chance. We get a rather amusing look at how the “Seven Harry’s” sequence was filmed.
- On the Green with Rupert, Tom, Oliver, and James – Four of the actors are given some face time with two of them (James and Oliver) being two of the Weasley’s as well as Rupert Grint who played Ron and Tom Felton who portrayed Draco.
- Dan, Rupert and Emma’s Running Competition – It’s not a pun, it’s more than you think!
- Godric’s Hollow/The Harry and Nagini Battle – No, Daniel Radcliffe didn’t actually fight a 30 foot long snake, this shows some of the “tricks” used in this pivotal scene.
- The Frozen Lake – We get a look at how this was done and its role in the movie.
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 Sneak Peek – This is a moot point now, but at the time when this was released – it was cool to see clips from the final film.
- Deleted Scenes – Eight total, but considering the run time, these were cut due to pacing.
- The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Promo – Another moot point since this has been open since 2010, but you can’t blame them for trying to drum up some business, right?
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1: Behind the Soundtrack – We get a feel and sense of the music and how its role in the movie was defined.
- Teaser Trailer
- Theatrical Trailer
The Bottom Line
It might be argued that this marketing ploy by Warner set the standard for the future “two part” endings for movies like The Hunger Games and Twilight. It not only allows the story to be told in more detail but, let’s face it, makes the studio double the money. There’s not a lot of action in this first part, but it’s by design. The new picture and sound are both improvements over the already-released films and if you’re a fan (and I’m willing to bet you are if you’re reading this), picking this up in 4K is a no-brainer.