As I must acknowledge before each one of my 'Harry Potter' reviews, I have not read the books. I am currently stuck somewhere in the middle of the fourth book, but at times I find that my interest wanes in them. So, because of my limited knowledge of the 'Harry Potter' universe I must use my wife's brain for a lot of the background information. She's a 'Harry Potter' fanatic.
I enjoyed 'Half-Blood Prince' when it came out, but it always seemed like it was missing something. The movie felt anti-climatic and bogged down with too much teenage, wizarding angst. Too much soap opera stuff going on with the young Hogwarts students trying to find love in all the wrong places. Imagine my surprise when I found out that the sixth movie did indeed leave out a lot of the action that took place in the book. That's exactly what the movie was missing, and that's exactly what 'The Deathly Hallows: Part 1' makes up for.
Harry and his friends are now facing a very real threat of being killed by the Dark Lord. Voldemort is closing in on Harry's whereabouts, but Harry's colleagues are willing to help him try and escape. The sequence where Harry's friends drink Polyjuice Potion in order to turn into replicated Harry's is one of my favorite scenes of the entire series, and it really sets the tone for this seventh movie. It's light and humorous, but it's also the first time where the 'Harry Potter' films have actually made it feel like Harry and the people around him were in immediate danger.
Whatever action was missing from 'Half-Blood Prince' is well represented here. As Harry and his friends who now look like him fly through the air, the Death Eaters intercept them. Pluses of energy blast from wands as a wizarding dogfight takes place above London. It's a fun and intense scene. Director David Yates know his way around an action scene. Sure there are a lot of quick cuts, but it's still easy to see what's going on.
Harry has tasked himself with finding the remaining Horcruxes so he can destroy them and once and for all rid the world of Voldemort. He's joined by Ron and Hermione as they search for the items that hold bits of the Dark Lord's soul. They infiltrate the Ministry of Magic in a pulse-pounding scene that is one of the best 'Harry Potter' moments ever, and it doesn't even star the big three. They sip down some more Polyjuice Potion and sneak into the Ministry disguised as three adult employees. Watching these up-until-now unknown actors shuffle around the Ministry is simply hilarious.
Still, 'The Deathly Hallows: Part 1' does have a fault that many of the other movies have had. If you haven't read the books, you'll find yourself lost during many of the scenes. What is that shard of glass Harry keeps looking into? How did Harry know that he had to open the locket to destroy it if he never tried doing that when they were shooting it with their wands? Why isn't the Elder Wand protected at all? Why did Hermione erase her parents' memories? Why does Harry fly through a wall of an old house into a child's playroom? All of these questions and more, I'm sure can be answered by the books (although my wife assures me that the playroom scene is out-of-this-world weird, because it isn't in the books).
'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1' picks up where the sixth movie left us wanting. It's a magic-packed, action thrill ride with quite a few engaging action scenes. It's fraught with danger and destruction, and has done away with most of the doe-eyed teenage lovey-dovey stuff that almost ruined the last movie.
Vital Blu-ray Statistics
It all makes sense now. The screener I got from WB highly touted an "Opening Scene" from the last movie included as one of the special features. Only upon inspection the screener came without shrink wrap. I opened it up to find three discs. One Blu-ray for the feature film that was labeled as such, a second Blu-ray Disc without any labeling whatsoever, and a third DVD. After we finished the movie, my wife and I searched and searched for the opening scene that was promised, but to no avail. Then it dawned on me, and was confirmed by some online research, that WB intentionally switched out the second special features disc for one not containing the opening scene for fear that it would leak before release date. So, just keep in mind that this is a review screener, which is sad because I was really looking forward to watching that scene.
As the 'Potter' franchise continues on it's almost as someone is dimming the lights more and more. The next movie might as well be in total blackness. The darker color palette, and overall dreary look of the film is quite purposeful. Voldemort is taking hold, and there's no light following that guy around, that's for sure.
Warner's 1080p picture uses an AVC encode. The picture is technically proficient. I couldn't pick out any scenes like the scenes in 'Half-Blood Prince' that caused a grumble among some reviewers when that came out. Artifacting is non-existent, although there are a few occasional instances of ringing. I was surprised to not see one ounce of banding, though, especially in the gray to black gradient skies.
This is a dark, dark movie. Probably the darkest of the bunch. Shadows are well-delineated even though at times they may feel like they're taking over the entire movie. Crushing isn't a factor here, because the strong shadows work with the overall detail rather than crushing it. Fine detail is spot-on, from the tiny pulsating rings of light that slowly move out from a wand's tip in concentric circles to the scraggly facial hair that Daniel Radcliffe starts growing after they've been roughing it in the wilderness for a few days.
Special effects look superb too. The clouds produced by the Death Eaters when they fly around have never looked so realistic. Color, however infrequent, looks great when it's given time to shine. Amidst the backdrop of a gloomy black England sky, Harry and Voldemort lock into a battle of wands. Bright orange and blue streams meet in the middle providing some much needed, beautiful color.
The animated sequence about the story of the three brothers and the Deathly Hallows also looks quite amazing. Blacks are especially deep here, offering perfectly defined edges.
This is a great looking transfer that is demo-worthy in many of its scenes. It should please anyone who is planning on purchasing it.
The video has what can be described as maybe a few minor, negligible faults, but the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 presentation is perfect on ever level. This is an engaging, immersive mix that sucks you right into the dark world of magic looming around Harry and his friends.
You'll notice right off the bat, as the rusted WB logo slowly floats forward on screen, how great this track is going to be. The clink and clank of rusted metal smoothly pans from the center speaker, filling out the front speakers, and then traveling through the rear channels as the logo passes by. After that experience you know you're in for a great sonic ride. The battle in the sky over London is filled with zooming, whooshing brooms as they fly in and out of frame. The front and center channel handle these lightning quick pans with perfect clarity. The rear channels are constantly alive with the frenzy of magical action going on all around. LFE thunders as bolts of magic explode in the distance. From the opening scene, until the end, it doesn't seem like the subwoofer ever takes a break. There's always some sort of attack or intense scenes that need the attention of well-placed low frequency sound.
Other audio-tastic scenes of note include whenever someone dissapperates, when the big three jump into the green transport fires in the Ministry of Magic, and when the lifts in the Ministry shoot off into the distance with a resounding low frequency boom.
Dialogue is given a wonderful stage to shine front and center. Nothing gets lost in this chaotic mix of high-flying action, coupled with intensely dramatic talkative scenes. This is the kind of track that makes you glad you have the ability to play a lossless track. 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1' is as demo-worthy as they come.
The seventh movie in the 'Potter' franchise has been, by far, the best one. It's finally gotten to the point where we're actually afraid for the lives of the main characters. Yates does a tremendous job here keeping the movie intense and laden with danger around every turn. Even the camping parts of which so many people complained about while reading the books, aren't annoying here at all. They reveal a side to Harry, Ron, and Hermione that we haven't seen before. It's nice to see that this movie comes to Blu-ray with a wonderful looking transfer, bolstered up even more by its demo-worthy audio presentation. I was sad that I didn't get to witness the opening scene to the next movie, but rest assured -- it will surely be on the retail copies. 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1' comes highly recommended for 'Potter' fans and movie lovers alike.