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.
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 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.
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.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.