It all ends here, as the film’s strapline to David Yates’ third Harry Potter movie suggests and it’s been a hell of a journey. J.K Rowling has made a Sultan’s wealth from her massive seven-tome saga alone, but it’s safe to say that combined with the eight films’ (approx.) seven billion dollars in box office gross and all the merchandising wealth that comes along with it, she’s also made some obnoxious, suit-wearing businessmen very happy indeed (as they snort a line of caviar from cocaine-fed Sturgeon, through the rolled up deed to a soul).
The depressing cynic within urges me not to enjoy Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, even before the film begins. The same as it told me not to enjoy Part 1; and The Half Blood Prince; and The Goblet of Fire; and so on. “They’re just too huge, too budgeted, and too mainstream”, it cries, “How can they possibly be any good”? Then there was another… not voice, but influence; the inner fan-boy. “You loved the books, don’t deny it” it points out, “Not only do you have to watch the films; you’re probably going to like them too”. So, after much deliberation on the subject of why I shouldn’t, I invariably did (not just for this review, but for every film since 2001’s The Philosopher’s Stone). And life, it turns out, is so much sweeter when you just say ‘yes’.
Firstly, if you haven’t read any of the novels, or watched any of the previous movies – even if your memory of previous events is hazy – The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 will fly right over your head like a backdraft. There’s no period of exposition, no attempt to bring the audience up to speed. You’ll understand if you’ve seen the size of the book that there simply isn’t time for that. Within the first five minutes, we’re fully in, and dealing with Horcruxes, Diadems, Jibbijabs and Shabadoo’s; by this point though, the non-Potter fans should have all been weeded out, and if you’ve made it this far, then chances are, you’ll know the plot by heart as it is.
Continuing his quest to find and destroy the aforementioned Horcruxes (pieces of Voldemort’s soul that act as a nine lives type plot device); Harry is pursued relentlessly by the Dark Lord and his Death Eaters, their only goal to end his life and halt the prophecy the he will bring about Voldemort’s end. Gone is the loveable little fart from Potter’s past. Radcliffe now presents a withdrawn, steely, resolute Harry, who talks about killing and death almost matter-of-factly. I’ll be honest, Radcliffe still leaves a lot to be desired for me, in terms of acting prowess, but sharing the frame all these years with the host of magnificent British talent that have graced the franchise has obviously had a profound effect on his level of ability. He’s still not perfect in his role, but he’s a damn sight better than he was. And even though this was his final turn as Britain’s favourite magical son, I very much doubt we’ve seen the back of young Mr. Radcliffe.
There’s no familiar structure this time; no Platform 9 and 3/4, no Hogwarts lessons, no flying cars. The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is all grim beaches, moody backrooms and dark vaults. Production Designer Stuart Craig deserves a special mention for his stylish take on the post-Voldemort Harry Potter world – a dystopian setting that looks to be crumbling under the weight of evil – and in place of the warm, golden colours from the lighter previous movies is a darker, grittier palette that (combined with some truly marvellous, well-used visual effects) works in perfect tandem with the spiralling tone of the story.
In its essence, The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is a battle/siege movie, although it does have a relatively unorthodox, bespoke structure that comes from the splitting in two of the source material. I struggled to identify the act turning points for a while, until I realised that it’s essentially one giant third act. There’s a short introductory lead-in, which begins right where Part 1 left us. It takes us on a thrilling break in into Gringott’s Wizarding Bank, but then it gets us into Hogwarts relatively quickly, to the push for the last Horcruxes, and the stage of the drawn out final battle between Harry and Voldemort. In fact, my one gripe with this instalment was that with the gaze so fixed on Radcliffe, it’s background cast of secondary and tertiary characters (acted by greats like John hurt, Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman and Jim Broadbent) are largely useless; never have I seen such an incredible supporting cast do so little, but that’s the nature of the plot I suppose. It does, however, serve to maintain the established fabric of the world, and it’s always great to see so many familiar and respected faces, even if they do very little.
Make no mistake; this is, by a huge margin, the darkest hour for Harry Potter. We all know who famously died in The Half-Blood Prince, and that said prepare yourself for the worst if you don’t know what’s coming. It’s grim, death pocked, and it’s most certainly grown, as the books did, along with its audience. If you’re thinking of getting involved now and checking out The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 before absorbing the previous story, don’t bother, you’ll be completely lost. But for the millions out there who’ve paid to follow Harry’s journey through from the beginning, you’re in for, by far, the best chapter in the movie saga. Yes it’s huge; yes it’s massively budgeted and yes it’s mainstream, but for those who’ve let Harry’s world envelop them, there’s no doubt that you’re getting your money’s worth. And you can take that guarantee to Gringott’s.
Warner Brothers brings Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 on Bluray, and includes an additional DVD and digital copy. The Bluray version itself is presented in widescreen (2.35:1), in an AVC encoded 1080p. It looks beautiful, in its own stark, dirty way and the massive picture size and commendable transfer delivers a thoroughly detailed image which does a fine job of recreating the cinematic experience. Detail is intensely sharp, and does wonders to pick out the grimy detail of the decaying wizarding world.
With a rich DTS-HD 5.1 master audio track, the film certainly makes use of the space it’s been given and shines through with a fabulous sound mix that’s almost more satisfying than its picture transfer. Dialogue is perfectly placed; and from the braying of breath to the crack of the wand everything you hear seems to have been placed to perfection, catalysing a fully immersive aural experience for its listeners.
- Maximum Movie Mode
- Aberforth Dumbledore
- Deathly Hallows Costume Changes
- Harry Returns to Hogwarts
- The Hogwarts Shield
- The Room of Requirement Set
- The Fiery Escape
- Neville’s Stand
- Molly Takes Down Bellatrix
- Final Farewells from Cast and Crew
- Pottermore Preview
- When Harry Left Hogwarts
- The Goblins of Gringotts
- The Women of Harry Potter
- Deleted Scenes
- Warner Bros. Studio Tour London
- A Conversation with JK Rowling and Daniel Radcliffe
Fitting with the final instalment of a movie franchise of such epic proportions as Harry Potter, the Blu-ray release brings with it a whole host of great special features. The longest by far is ‘A Conversation with J.K Rowling and Daniel Radcliffe’; clocking in at a whopping 53 minutes it divulges a wealth of information that may clear up some of the films massive gaps in exposition for those who aren’t so familiar with the novels (as well as extensive behind the process info). ‘Maximum Movie Mode’ is an interesting feature in which actors and creative influencers pop up in movie to explain the process behind certain scenes in-depth. If you’re judging this Blu-ray on bonus features alone, then it’s going impress. There’s much more present than thoroughly discussed here (most of which are featurettes centred on different aspects of the film, that are fairly self-explanatory); for the most part, it’s a thoroughly interesting, engaging set of extras (many of which are in HD) that Warner Bros. have streamlined into a subtle and intuitive consumer experience.
The darkest, and clearly the most dramatically accomplished Potter film of the lot. It’s going to confound any parent who’s watching with a child without prior knowledge of the series, but for those in the know, get ready to have a spell put on you. It’s a thoroughly satisfying end to a largely satisfying, hugely-earning franchise.
It’s both a fantastic visual transfer and audio mix, combined satisfyingly to create a thoroughly immersive audio/visual experience. Detail is sharp, from landscapes to strands of hair and beads of sweat and colour temperature is note-perfect. The sound receives such an purposeful mix that during the final scenes, you’ll be ducking Avada Kedavra’s along with the rest of the Wizarding community.
There are more extras here than there is film, and that isn’t hyperbole. You might want to eat before you get ready to sift through these as it’ll take you a while. It’s a fantastic range of featurettes on everything you could wish for really; the creative process behind the book, the road to production, problems they faced, actors’ insights on the characters. If you’re into special features, and Harry Potter, then I can’t help but think Christmas has come early for you this year.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, the triple play Blu-ray version falls in at around a mid-range price (there’s also a 3d version that’ll heap a couple of extra notes on top). It’s great value. You’ve got a fantastic movie – provided you’re already sure you like the franchise – a great transfer and a seemingly endless range of features. I guarantee if you look at your Blu collection, you’ve got much worse titles that cost you much more.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is clearly the best in the franchise. And with its lovingly rendered transfer and insane amount of extra content, it should pretty much be already on the Christmas list of every Potter fan from here to Hogsmeade. And rightly so; even as the snivelling cynic I am, I was wowed by the grandeur of this final instalment, and I argue that anyone who presumes themselves a fan must pick up a copy as soon as possible.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 Blu-ray is available now.