Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Parts 1 & 2 - Ultimate Edition
Release Date(s)2011/2012 (November 13, 2012)
Studio(s)Warner Home Video
Despite the release of the Harry Potter Wizard Collection box set, which collected pretty much all of the material contained within most if not all of the previous releases of the Harry Potter film series on both DVD and Blu-ray, fans who had been patiently collecting the Ultimate Editions of each film as they were being released were concerned that the final films in the series, Harry Potter and the Death Hallows Parts 1 & 2, wouldn't be included in the line-up. Thankfully, the distributors were well-aware of this and gave these fans what they wanted.
At this point, I think it's a fair assessment to state that the Harry Potter series is currently the biggest film series in the world, topping even The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars in just the sheer amount of widespread appeal it seems to have garnered. Despite that, I've never been an enormous fan. I’ve grown more fond of the films over the years, but I wouldn’t call myself a fan by any means. That's not to say that I don't like the films though. I respect them a great deal. In this day and age, any film that’s well put together with some character development and logic to it is definitely a winner in my book. To be honest, I had only actually seen the first two or three films until right before the release of the last one. Knowing that I was going to see it when it was released to theatres, I borrowed all of the films from a friend and just had a week-long marathon of all of them. While some I like better than others (The Prisoner of Azkaban is actually my favorite), I didn't any feel any compulsion to run out and buy them, nor did they end up feeling near and dear to me. I enjoy them, but I can separate myself from them easily.
As for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Parts 1 & 2, they’re arguably two of the more rewarding films in the series, and not just for fans of the books. They may have the least amount of visual variety, but there are plenty of impressive uses of landscape instead of being locked behind the doors of Hogwart's. It’s a nice change-up, especially being that they're the epic final parts of the story. The color palette has even been dialed back, letting us know that these are the darkest of times in the story (even during the more colorful moments). My only real problem with the films are their pace. There seems to be too many moments that feel unnecessary to tell the story more succinctly, or even develop characters properly. I know I'm going to get taken to task for this, especially by fans, but this really could have been one film and still serviced the source material well. The wedding at the beginning of Part 1, for instance, serves no real purpose to the overall story. Heck, it's not even one of the supporting characters getting married. The only reason for its inclusion was to have most of the main and supporting characters present when the news that the Minister of the Ministry of Magic has been killed and that Voldemort is coming to get them. Yes, that’s vital information that the characters need to know, obviously, as well a few tidbits of information for Harry to discover from some of the wedding guests. However, it could have been spaced out a bit better. There's also Harry, Ron and Hermoine's long trek across the world to find all of the Horcruxes and their quest to destroy them. While there’s some nice character stuff in there, ultimately, it didn't need to be this long, or drawn out, on film. In my opinion, a lot of scenes from Part 1 could have been excised and the rest could have fit snuggly in with Part 2 to make one grand finale, but that’s one fellow’s opinion. Despite this, there are some great heartfelt moments that resonate beautifully, more so than the previous films. The best example would be Harry's acceptance of his... well, I won't spoil things for those who haven't seen the films. Although, to quote my friend when I borrowed them from him: "If you haven't seen them by now, what are you waiting for?"
I actually don't have the boxed set or the original Blu-ray release of the films to compare these transfers to, but to my memory they look about the same, which is extremely good. Blacks are incredibly deep and aid the image detail tremendously. I already mentioned the color palette being desaturated to reflect the films' moods, but they really could have brightened things up a bit. Contrast is fine, but there are some moments that may make you wonder if the brightness setting on your monitor is too low. It's a gorgeous picture, for both films, but they needed a bit of a boost in the brightness department. Perhaps Ron's Deluminator is to blame?
The audio, on the other hand, is virtually perfect, if not perfect. Dialogue is well balanced with the sound effects and the music, and the 5.1 DTS setup is immersive as hell, not to mention gripping. The moments that stand out the most in the soundtrack are the punch-ups, such as those involving Nagini the Snake. During these moments, the sound roars to life with amazing aural aggressiveness like few soundtracks of recent memory. If you have the proper setup for this, you will not be disappointed, at all. Definitely a bang-up sound job, to say the least. Additional audio options include both French & Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital tracks. There are also a few subtitle options for those who might need them: English SDH, Spanish, French and Portuguese.
And then there are the extras, which are so numerous that it'll take you a couple of days to get through everything, but first let's take a look at the packaging. You'll receive a foldout box housed in a slipcase with a lenticular card on the cover. Inside the box is the disc booklet contains all six discs, an envelope containing four large character trading cards and a 48-page booklet entitled Growing Up, which features images from all of the films in the series. I rather like the packaging for these sets, but the only drawback is the flimsy slipcase. Otherwise, perfect design and packaging, fitting snuggly on the shelf.
Discs 1 & 4, which are the Blu-rays of Parts 1 & 2, respectively, contain a Maximum Movie Mode option, which allows you to watch the film with Picture-in-Picture. You'll be treated to some behind-the-scenes material hosted by some of the films' cast and crew. You can also view these segments separately under the option Focus Points. Disc 1 contains the following featurettes under that heading: The Last Days of Privet Drive, Hagrid's Motorbike, Magical Tents!, Death Eaters Cafe, Creating Dobby and Kreacher and The Return of Griphook. Disc 4 contains Aberforth Dumbledore, Deathly Hallows Costume Changes, Harry Returns to Hogwarts, The Hogwarts Shield, The Room of Requirement Set, The Fiery Escape, Neville's Stand and Molly Takes Down Bellatrix. Disc 4 also contains the additional featurette Final Farewells From Cast & Crew. Both discs also support BD-Live. Discs 2 & 5 are simply DVD copies of the films, both containing deleted scenes as an extra, with Disc 2 containing five and Disc 5 containing eight. Discs 3 & 6, which are both Blu-ray discs, are where the bulk of the main extras can be found, and they are quite vast.
Disc 3 is entitled Creating the World of Harry Potter Part 7: Story, which also contains a documentary of the same name featuring a free-flowing discussion between J.K. Rowling and screenwriter Steve Kloves. Also on this disc are a multitude of featurettes under the heading Behind the Story. They are as follows: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1: Behind the Magic; Harry Potter: On the Road; The Return of the Order; Scabior and Greyback; Dobby's Farewell; The Look of Bill Weasley; The Weasleys; The State of Evil; The New Guys; One Book, Two Movies; The Wizarding Prop Shop; The Seven Harrys; On the Green with Rupert, Tom, Oliver and James; Dan, Rupert and Emma's Running Competition; Godric's Hollow/The Harry and Nagini Battle; and The Frozen Lake. Following all of that up is a sneak peek of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, eight Deleted Scenes (three more than the DVD), the Wizarding World of Harry Potter promotional trailer, the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 - Behind the Soundtrack featurette, the teaser trailer and the theatrical trailer.
Disc 6 is entitled Creating the World of Harry Potter - Part 8: Growing Up, which also contains a documentary of the same name again, but this time featuring new and vintage interviews with various cast & crew. Also on this disc are another multitude of featurettes to cull through under the heading Behind the Story. Again, they are as follows: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2: Behind the Magic; A Conversation with J.K. Rowling and Daniel Radcliffe (Extended Version); Hogwarts' Last Stand (Extended Version); The Women of Harry Potter; The Goblins of Gringotts; The Great Hall of Hogwarts; Ron and Hermoine's Kiss; That's a Wrap, Harry Potter; Neville's Battle Makeup; The Gringotts Disguises; and Harry's Death: The Courtyard Confrontation. Under the subheading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: The Quest, you will find even more featurettes: Secrets of the Cast Revealed!: Emma Watson Gets a "Red Card"; Secrets of the Cast Revealed!: Daniele Radcliffe Discusses His Mentors; The Magic Behind the Movies Revealed: The Secrets of Flight; Secrets of the Cast Revealed!: Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort; Secrets of the Cast Revealed! A Look Back at Severus Snape; Exclusive Footage from the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 London Premiere Revealed!; The Love Life of Ron Weasley; The Weasleys: A Look Back at Harry Potter's Favorite Family; Dumbledore and Harry: A Look Back; Favorite Lines with the Harry Potter Cast; Favorite Props and Costumes with the Harry Potter Cast; Riding Along Memory Lane; Finding Luna: A Dream Come True; A Tribute to Dobby: The Beloved House-Elf; A Special Message to the Fans of Harry Potter; and The Cast of Harry Potter Says Goodbye. Following all of that up are eight deleted scenes, the featurette Warner Bros. Studio Tour London - The Making of Harry Potter, a preview for the Pottermore web site, the teaser trailer and the theatrical trailer. Whew. Exhaustive, to say the least. Keep in mind that all of the extras on both discs also come with the same subtitle options as the main features. The only thing that I can find that’s missing is the When Harry Left Hogwarts featurette that was included on a bonus disc in the Part 2 4-disc Blu-ray set, which with the amount of featurettes on this set, can be overlooked (unless you‘re a hardcore fan, then you might want to hang on to that release if you have it).
If you're a Harry Potter fan at all, then this set should be a no-brainer. It's quite extensive and about as ultimate as ultimate gets. Despite the lack of the 3D versions of the films (which I'm very surprised weren't included), this set should leave a minimal amount of room for complaint. Yeah sure, compared to the boxed set it may seem trivial to even bother with this set, but for any reasons, good or bad, it’s a superlative release. I also would recommend it to those who can't afford that boxed set. If that’s the case then this is definitely as good if not a better option for you.