This week's must-see DVD/BD, and why we're lovin' it.
What? Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I
Who? Directed by David Yates and starring Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Ralph Fiennes, Bill Nighy, Bonnie Wright, Alan Rickman and Helena Bonham Carter
Why? What started out as a fantasy adventure for children in 2001 has, over the years, matured into a more adult tale as the Harry Potter movies move towards the final showdown. The stakes are high for Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) in Deathly Hallows: Part I as the evil Lord Voldemort (a CGI-contorted Ralph Fiennes) closes in on Harry's whereabouts with the intent on killing the boy wizard. But not only is Harry no longer really a boy (Radcliffe is old enough to buy himself a beer), this sequel ups the action and trades in the syrupy teen-romance vibe of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince for darker material and even some impromptu sensuality.
One of the most entertaining scenes in the entire series comes early in Deathly Hallows: Part I when Harry's friends drink Polyjuice Potion to transform themselves into Potter clones before taking to the air and eluding the Death Eaters. Harry is hell-bent on finding the remaining Horcruxes so he can destroy them and, subsequently, the Dark Lord. Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) search for items that hold bits of Voldemort's soul as well and infiltrate the Ministry of Magic in an ingenious scene where they drink Polyjuice Potion to disguise themselves as employees and literally flush themselves into the Ministry via a public restroom. There is a palpable sense that no one is safe and, when a favorite character does meet his end, it carries dramatic weight that other films in the series lacked. There is also a wonderfully animated "Tales of the Three Brothers" sequence that mimics shadow puppets and is unlike anything else in the Potter movies. It all ends on a cliffhanger that whets fans' appetites for the franchise finale, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II, which opens in theaters on July 15.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I
, the seventh movie in the series, isn't going to win over new fans despite its more mature direction and darker tone. The sequel doesn't stand on its own and, like every other sequel in the series, relies heavily on the films before it or in-depth knowledge of J.K. Rowling
's books. Otherwise a casual viewer will leave wondering, say, why Hermione erases her parents' memories or why Harry flies through a wall of an old house into a child's playroom. For fans that have grown up with the books and movies, it's rewarding to see the three leads enter young adulthood and grapple with more adult concerns, like when Ron feeds his mounting paranoia and feelings of inadequacy by having a hallucination about a topless Harry and Hermione in a romantic embrace. Like its eponymous character, the series has now graduated into adulthood with a film that Muggles of all ages can get into.
What Else?: Both the DVD and Blu-ray contain several short making-of featurettes. The Blu-ray adds the interactive Maximum Movie Mode, plus "The Seven Harrys," "On the Green with Rupert, Tom, Oliver and James," "Dan, Rupert and Emma's Running Competition", eight additional scenes and a behind-the-soundtrack featurette. You'll want to check out: An opening scene from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II.