Blu-ray
One to Avoid
3 stars
Overall Grade
3 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
4.5 Stars
HD Video Quality
1.5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
5 Stars
Supplements
3 Stars
High-Def Extras
5 Stars
Bottom Line
One to Avoid

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 3D

Street Date:
November 11th, 2011
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
November 14th, 2011
Movie Release Year:
2011
Studio:
Warner Bros
Length:
0 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13
Release Country
United States

Editor's Notes

Portions of this review also appear in coverage of the 2D Blu-ray.

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

The 'Potter' films are now the highest grossing movie franchise of all time. It helps that there are eight movies, but the immense number of fans this story has gathered is unbelievable. We've watched young actors Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson grow up before our very eyes. We've witnessed good 'Potter' movies and not so good ones. However, the best has been saved for last. Part two of 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows' is, by far, my favorite movie of the entire series.

It seems weird to say that in a summer filled with Green Lanterns, transforming robots, and superheroes that the best action movie of the year would come from the 'Harry Potter' franchise. The sixth film of the series was missing a huge action scene, for whatever reason, which made it feel a little less exciting. The seventh film started ramping up the action, but we were kind of still bogged down with the dreaded camping scenes. Then there's the eighth and final film packed full of so much wizarding action that it's impossible to look away. The sheer scope of the movie's action is what sucks you in.

The movie starts off with Harry, Ron, and Hermione traveling to Gringotts Bank to retrieve one of Voldemort's horcruxes. From then on it doesn't ever let up. Its magic and mayhem spill over the screen, giving us some of the best, most visceral cinematic images of the year. Director David Yates and his crew understand something about action. That it's a fluid motion, and even when the action is filled with numerous pieces of inserted-after-the-fact CGI animation, you can still create coherent, cohesive action set-pieces. It's nice to know that there are filmmakers out there who believe audiences can't just be fooled by big, shiny explosions. That real action is a dance of sorts. It's a story in its own right. You know you're watching good action when you care about what's going on. Perhaps that's the biggest reason the action in this movie is so good. We actually care about the people involved.

The final film still takes liberties here and there and may upset die-hard 'Potter' fans, the purists who want everything done according to the book, literally. There are still instances, for a person like me who hasn't gotten through every book, where I have to ask, "So, what in the world is that thing Harry is holding and why has it been so important for two or three movies now?" For a person who hasn't read the books that's been the most frustrating part of the movies as a whole. Throughout their run they've taken advantage of the large majority of fans who devoured the books and at times forgot to explain the tiny details to the rest of us. That's okay though, because in the end, 'Deathly Hallows: Part 2' is one of the most exciting movie-going experiences I had this year.

It's strange to see this franchise off. It feels like the past decade has flown by (pun intended). It seems like just yesterday Harry and his friends were entering Hogwarts for the first time and now it's crumbling around their feet as Voldemort and his armies attack, relentless in their pursuit of Harry Potter's death.

Voldemort has always made a good villain; because even with all his power he still let his arrogance and ignorance to seemingly small unimportant things blind him. Ralph Fiennes has truly created one of the most fearsome movie villains ever. He'll be one of the things I remember most about the franchise as a whole.

Though at its core 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2' is a story about characters we've grown to love. When we care about the characters amidst the action and mayhem it makes everything more exciting, believable and personal. That's what many action movies are missing nowadays, a personal touch. Not to worry though, because 'Deathly Hallows: Part 2' is as intimate a movie as you will ever see. It's the perfect way to send the franchise off on a high note.

The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats

'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2' hit most stores in a movie only edition and a three disc combo pack with a full load of features, but Best Buy stores across the country are stocking the final film in the 'Harry Potter' series in an exclusive four disc Blu-ray 3D combo pack. The Blu-rays for the film and extras, as well as the DVD disc are still included, as is the UltraViolet Digital Copy code. The film discs are BD50's, the extras disc a BD25.

This set is packaged in a fat pack Blu-ray case, with the standard lenticular slipcover. Box art beneath matches slip art. The 3D disc features a Warner titles pre-menu promo, and the 3D menu does not include an extras tab, as it is film only. The exclusivity window for this release has not been announced.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

I made the mistake of viewing 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2' in 3D before viewing 'Part 1' in the same format. I wanted to complete the series, having not seen the final film. I had also heard the 3D was so poorly conceived and executed that Warner refused to release it in theaters. So, bearing that in mind, I cannot say in good conscience that this disc is the worst 3D release of the year.

It definitely is in the running, though, and my expectations for 'Part 1' are now so very dashed that I don't exactly know how I'm going to go in there with any enthusiasm whatsoever. This not only puts a hamper on my hopes to see the previous 'Harry Potter' films converted, but for any future title done by anyone who had a hand in making this film look this awful. They went to work on the most successful film franchise ever, a billion upon billion dollar series of films, and wiped their noses on them. I still don't even know how Warner, who have made an insane amount of money off of this franchise, didn't just shoot in 3D from the start.

Where to begin? I suppose we can start with the fact that almost every single shot of Voldemort is ghosted like crazy, as he exudes some kind of magical aura to the left and right of his face at all times. Of course, there are plenty of other moments with ghosting, particularly in any layer not in the very forefront of the screen. The opening shots with Snape are awful, so dark you get little to no clarity on clothing, no detail in the shadows, making the cloaks a bit too absorbent, and the Diagon Alley scenes (amongst many others) suffer the same fate. Dark shots, of which there are many, are a major issue, and the blacks that adorn the villains all suffer dramatically, while skin tones and detail also drop down the tubes.

There are random shots that feel like they're being attacked with serious edge enhancement (no, not ghosting), on top of the jaggies that regularly attack straight hair, Harry's glasses, or damn near every wand or dragon horn, while the stairs in Hogwarts have a horrible shimmer in one shot. Did I mention the blown out contrast levels that affect the majority of the film? Yeah, they don't translate well in 3D. Detail levels are never all that solid, while facial features are often non-existent. See, not only does this failed 3D experience give off the appearance of edge enhancement, but it also just sucks the life right out of the characters. By the midpoint in the film, with Snape's scene with Voldemort, it's hard to not notice how very waxy and inhuman Alan Rickman's face looks, and shots on Ron later in the scene suffer the same plastic fate. Of course, that's not even the worst part, as skin has an odd gradient to it, as dirt or blood makes characters look like speckled horses rather than just dirty, with two tones of skin, and it's distracting and impossible to stop noticing once you spot it.

So, since the 3D screws up every portion of the video, it should at least be interesting and engaging, right? Oh, so very wrong! The added dimension is often barely noticeable, depth is awful, detail levels in the "deepest" layers are completely lacking, moments that could have had pop or flair have absolutely nothing to them, and...look, there's only one stand out shot, and that's the fire sequence in the Hogwarts battle. This is like watching a bootleg Blu-ray that someone tried to convert to 3D in Microsoft Paint. A spectacular failure. You know what would have been great? Seeing Hogwarts at night under siege, with plenty of depth for the random intricacies, not a flat, detail-less picture.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is just as demo-worthy as the 2D video.

This thing is one bombastically charged ride. Directionality is top-notch. From the wiz-bang action as spells zoom by in and out of frame to the distant crackle of Death Eater spells exploding on the shield above Hogwarts. Even the quieter moments are cause for rejoicing. When Hermione, disguised as Bellatrix, enters Gringotts Harry and Griphook are supposed to be standing right beside her under Harry's invisibility cloak. Griphook whispers to Hermione that the other goblins know they're imposters. The surrounds pick up this bit of dialogue so well you'll think Griphook is standing right next to you.

LFE is a constant force. From crumbling Hogwarts walls, to the stomping of angry giants the sub-woofer rarely gets a break from the action. Panning effects are always smooth. Take the fire in the Room of Requirement. The low-end rumble of the fire led by a fearsome-sounding image of a dragon sweeps through the stacks of artifacts. The whoosh of the fire zooms from one end of the sound field to the other, enveloping you in its fury.

Surrounds are lively and active for the entire movie. The battle scenes offer a wide variety of ambient noise as wizards, witches and students battle Death Eaters, enormous spiders, and giants. Spells wiz by on every side. The fights are ferocious. You can hear people dying all around. It's simply a completely immersive listening environment.

You'll be just as happy with the audio here as you will be with the visuals. Everything about this disc screams demo quality.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

Disc 1

  • Focus Points (HD, 26 min.) – This is a collection of short featurettes that covers a variety of behind the scenes material. The first is "Aberforth Dumbledore" which covers the transformation of actor Ciarán Hinds and how they made him resemble Michael Gambon. There's a costume featurette where costume designer Jany Temime discusses the way she designs the costumes based on the characters and script. Following that is "Harry Returns to Hogwarts," which spotlights the scene between Harry and Snape in the Great Hall. Something of note here is to see the actual warm lighting that was present when the movie was filmed, compared to the after-effect teal that was applied in post to give the movie a darker more sinister feel. "The Hogwarts Shield" covers the CG creation of the force field created by the teachers at the school. "Room of Requirement Set" shows the immensity of the actual set constructed of individual props. Like an antique store exploded. "The Fiery Escape" covers the stunts performed by the actors during the great fire in the Room of Requirement. "Neville's Stand" not only discusses Neville standing up to Lord Voldemort near the end but it also goes over Neville's evolution as a character, and we get some great insight into Ralph Fiennes' acting process here. Finally, "Molly Takes Down Bellatrix" features actresses Julie Walters and Helena Bonham Carter going at it on set during their witch duel to the death.

  • Pottermore (HD, 1 min.) – A commercial for the online experience called 'Pottermore' with J.K. Rowling teasing fans about even more 'Potter'-filled fun.

  • Final Farewells From the Cast (HD, 3 min.) – A few of the big name actors reminisce about the last decade working on these movies. Tears are shed. That's a wrap!

Disc 2

  • Deleted Scenes (HD, 6 min.) – There are quite a few good scenes in this short six minutes. Scenes that would have added a bit more to the movie and could've been used for some kind of director's cut if possible. There's a scene that explains much more about where Hermione got clothes that looked like Bellatrix's. There's a scene that gives a better explanation about the mirror Harry has been carrying around all this time. Another extended scene with Aberforth that shows his deeper disdain he had for his brother. And a comical scene where the Syltherin students are locked in the Hogwarts dungeon.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

Disc 1

  • Maximum Movie Mode (HD, 2 hr. 47 min.) – As always Warner has outdone itself with its picture-in-picture commentary on the movie. This is an extensive, exhaustive look inside the making of the film. Matthew Lewis (Neville) introduces the feature for us then we're off to the races. Producer David Heyman stops by occasionally to talk about the movie, but he's a little stiff most of the time. Warwick Davis (Griphook) comes on to talk about his role as the goblin who gets Harry and his friends into the vaults. Other notables include Rupert Grint coming on to give us detailed backstories of what is going on, Emma Watson reciting word-for-word passages from the actual books, and VFX supervisors explaining how certain things were done. Like, for example, a floor that continuously rose upwards so it gave the impression that Radcliffe was climbing a mountain of treasure to get to the horcrux. Stunt coordinators come on and show us step-by-step, with behind the scenes footage, how certain stunts were performed. It truly is an exhaustive look at the movie from the inside out. Deleted scenes are even added in seamlessly to the movie and labeled so you know what they are. Even now I've only scratched the surface of what's in store for you when you play this movie in Maximum Movie Mode. It truly is a treat.

Disc 2

  • A Conversation with J.K. Rowling and Daniel Radcliffe (HD, 53 min.) – This is one of the best special features in this set. Rowling and Radcliffe sit down with each other and candidly talk about their experiences with the story. Radcliffe asks her questions like what bits of the movies is she mad that they took stuff out of the books, and what stuff she was annoyed they added in. Radcliffe discusses his time working on the movies and how he was allergic to the Potter glasses at first. They talk about how the kids were miraculously acne free throughout the films, due mostly to great makeup artists. There is so much more talked about in this nearly hour-long sit down. It doesn't seem like much editing was done as they continuously talk over each other just like they're having a real honest discussion. It's quite revealing actually and allows you to get inside the head of Radcliffe and Rowling at the same time.

  • The Goblins of Gringotts (HD, 10 min.) – This is more, or less, a look at how the goblins for the film were designed and how they evolved from the very first movie up until now. They also profile the actor who plays Griphook and we get to see him getting his makeup applied.

  • The Women of 'Harry Potter' (HD, 22 min.) – Rowling takes point here and talks about the pride she has in her strong female characters which she created for her books. The actors are also interviewed and talk about their character's motivations and how they tried to do Rowling's story justice with their acting.

  • Lego 'Harry Potter' Game Demo (HD) – The second disc is a hybrid. For PS3 owners you'll be able to access a playable demo of the Lego 'Harry Potter' game for 'Years 5 – 7.' Just insert the disc then go to the game section of the PS3 menu. You'll see the demo as a selection that you can make.

  • BD-Live (HD) – As of right now there's a connection to Warner's BD-Live portal, but there's nothing really of note. I'm not sure if there's going to be anything added when the movie is released, but as of the writing of this review the only two things on there were a commercial for the Lego 'Potter' game, and a preview of Warner's Maximum Movie Mode for this release.

Final Thoughts

Aaron loves this film, and he has every right to. I have a hard time seeing it as nothing but a series of disjointed, slightly related sequences that have little to no narrative power, featuring a number of cop outs, deus ex machinas (a staple of the series, and a sign of awful writing), silly revelations, and an anticlimax if ever there were one. 'Harry Potter' fans, how you rate this film, that's your business, and I'm not going to dump on your beloved franchise. This Best Buy exclusive (for an unannounced window) features some of the worst video on the Blu-ray 3D market, and that includes all the crummy cash-in titles. It's cheap, and perhaps for a reason. If you buy this release, do so only to get the 3D disc as a bonus, and view it at your own risk. Buy this for the 2D disc, the loads of extras, or even something as petty as the lenticular slipcover. Just don't expect a single good thing from the 3D.

Technical Specs

  • Blu-ray 3D/2D combo pack
  • 2- BD50 discs, 1- BD25 disc
  • DVD + UltraViolet Digital Copy

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/MVC

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 2.40:1 (Discs 2 & 3)

Audio Formats

  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • French Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1

Subtitles/Captions

  • English SDH, Spanish, French, Portuguese

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