How's the movie?
It's tough to judge Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 on its own merits because it is only half of a movie. Its sense of pacing and momentum is a little off as a standalone film, and if you happen to watch it without having seen Part 1, you'll be confused and disappointed. But no one in their right mind would do that, so paired immediately with Part 1, as it was designed to be, Deathly Hallows is a phenomenal piece of cinema. It may not be a slavish adaptation of J. K. Rowling's book, but as far as being the ending of Harry Potter's cinematic journeys, it's a simply marvelous piece of filmmaking and by far the best of David Yates' entries in the franchise.
But if you don't believe me, believe these impressive statistics:
IMDB: 8.2, #170 on the list of the Top 250 Films of All Time
Rotten Tomatoes: 96% Fresh with critics, 92% liked by audiences
Box Office: $1.3 billion worldwide gross, #3 for All Time Worldwide
What are the vitals on the disc?
Studio: Warner Bros.
Release Date: November 11, 2011
Edition: Combo Pack (There is also a Movie-Only version available)
Number of Discs: 3 (2 x BD, 1 x DVD)
Digital Copy: Yes (UltraViolet Digital Copy)
Runtime: 130 Minutes
Video: 1080p, 2.40:1 Aspect Ratio
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish DD 5.1, Portuguese DD 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese
How does it look and sound?
Harry Potter has gotten tonally darker as its gone on, but it also got literally darker when director David Yates took over the franchise. Cinematography on Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince kept getting more and more desaturated in an attempt to create an aesthetic that matched the darker tones of the movie, but it also covered those movies in a sort of haze. Fortunately Deathly Hallows shakes off this visual malaise thanks to Eduardo Serra's gorgeous cinematography, and it's all presented with a deep clarity here. The superb black levels, be they on the robe's of students or Voldemort's cloak, are often finely contrasted by gorgeous flourishes of magic. And once things start to get crazy and all hell breaks loose during the battle of Hogwarts, the disc really shines. Every feature, whether it's an axe-wielding giant in the background or a tiny spec of blood on Harry's battle-torn face, is presented with impressive fidelity.
And of course the sound design is as up to the HD task as the visuals. Honestly, there's only so many ways you can say, "It sounds awesome," so let's not dance around it: it sounds awesome. It's sweeping, it's intimate, it's weighted in all the right places. It's just a flat out great sound mix.
What about special features?
Gotta love it when a studio doesn't skimp on the special features for a high profile release like this just so they double dip in a few month's time. Sure, you can bet your replica sorting hat that this will not be the last Blu-ray release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, but there's plenty of material here to make you feel like you're getting more than your money's worth.
Maximum Movie Mode (167 Minutes, HD) - Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis) leads this picture-in-picture tour of the film that features appearances from a wide variety of the film's cast and crew. It's an incredibly informative experience for any Potter geek, providing a steady stream of insights as to how every aspect of the film was produced, and it's put together in an engaging, entertaining way. Having said that, there are some strange choices of things that are covered here. Often times an actor will pause the film to explain, say, the appearances of the sorting hat throughout franchise, or some equally common piece of knowledge that anyone who is a fan enough of the films will already be well versed in. But even with several moments of preaching to the choir, it's still a must watch for Potter nuts thanks to all of the behind-the-scenes material that's covered here.
Focus Points (26 Minutes, HD) - If you don't have the time to sit through a nearly three-hour long tour of the film, you can hit up the following focus points individually or as a whole. Their subject matter is pretty self explanatory from the titles: Aberforth Dumbledor, Deathly Hallows Costume Changes, Harry Returns to Hogwarts, The Hogwarts Shield, The Room of Requirement Set, The Fiery Escape, Neville's Stand, and Molly and Bellatrix. Each one is worth watching and they provide a lot of insights that are either absent or only brushed upon in the above MMM.
Final Farewells (3 minutes, HD) - A short and sweet little bit where the cast and crew bid adieu to one of the biggest parts of their lives.
A Conversation with J.K. Rowling and Daniel Radcliffe (53 minutes, HD) - This is a very candid and casual conversation wherein Rowling and Radcliffe essentially interview each other. They don't just ask each other easy questions, either. Sure, they discuss obligatory things like their favorite parts, but they also dive into deeper questions of how it's effected their lives, what kind of relationship they've had with each other, how Rowling felt about certain changes made in the film, endings and character deaths she thought about but never wrote, and a whole lot more. If you watch only one feature from this entire set, make it this one.
Deleted Scenes (7 minutes, HD) - There are about a half-dozen deleted scenes here which you can watch individually, though there's no explanation as to why they were deleted and most of them contain uncompleted effects shots. However, if you watch the Maximum Movie Mode, you can see every one of these scenes where they would have originally appeared in the film, as well as learn why they were left out.
The Women of Harry Potter (23 minutes, HD) - This is exactly what it says on the box: a celebration of the women of Harry Potter; the characters, the actors, the costume designers-- everyone. It's actually a very interesting featurette about the challenges of making and maintaining unique female characters in a Hollywood franchise.
The Goblins of Gringotts (11 minutes, HD) - A fairly standard, press-kit worthy look at the casting and creating of the many goblins seen in the film. They're a fairly minor part of the film, but it's fascinating to see how much work went into creating them. If you're a fan of practical make-up effects, this is the feature for you.
Warner Bros. has done a superb job of putting together a top notch release for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 right out of the gate. Yes, there will unquestionably be future releases of the film with even more special features, but there's so much here that there's really no reason whatsoever to wait and see what's to come. You can spend hours with the extras here and never once be bored, or you can just watch a helluva film. Either way, this is a very solid Blu-ray for any collection.