Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 Blu-ray/DVD Review

Published on SoCal.com

  Ten years ago, a bespectacled orphan by the name of Harry Potter made his debut on the silver screen and won the hearts of children and adults across the world. With the Blu-ray release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (Warner Home Video; three-disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack with UltraViolet digital copy MSRP: $35.99), enthusiasts have not only been given the final installment of the saga that followed actors Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint as they grew from awkward kids into confident young adults, but also a number of special features that truly make this set a love letter to fans of both the movies and the original books by author J.K. Rowling.

The movie begins immediately where Part 1 left off, with Voldemort’s (Ralph Fiennes) triumph at finding the elder wand, the last of the coveted Deathly Hallows. Harry and his friends, having narrowly escaped Malfoy Manor alive, question Griphook the goblin (Warwick Davis) and Ollivander the wandmaker (John Hurt) for clues to the finding the last of the horcruxes.

A shaky plan is formed to break into Bellatrix Lestrange’s vault at the wizard bank Gringotts, which quickly goes awry. Some great acting by Helena Bonham Carter playing-Hermione-playing-Bellatrix provides some humor in an otherwise grim sequence, including almost being buried alive by expanding treasure and a narrow escape on the back of a wildly unpredictable dragon. The CGI blends beautifully with live actors and props to give the scene a very real, intense feeling. As the heroes cling to the back of the frightened dragon, rising through the floor of the bank to soar gracelessly over the rooftops of London, viewers catch their breath, never doubting the reality of what they’re seeing onscreen.

That reality extends to battle scenes at Hogwarts, where students and teachers band together with the last members of the Order of the Phoenix to fight fantastical creatures, such as giants and spiders, amidst the Death Eaters. The good guys have their share of magical help as well, in the form of stone guardians which McGonagall (Maggie Smith) animates to protect the castle, and a huge protective shield which defenders cast around the property.

Digital effects don’t stand a chance next to the human element, however. It’s amazing to see Hogwarts students, teachers and members of the Order reunited in battle, even if there are only glimpses of favorites such as Lupin (David Thewlis), Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane), Tonks (Natalia Tena) and Trelawney (Emma Thompson). Many beloved characters also meet their end throughout the course of the film, bringing home the reality that they’re fighting a war.

In the end, it should come as no surprise that good triumphs over evil and love conquers all. What may be surprising is how emotional the ending might be for many who have followed the series from the beginning. While the movie’s coda takes place 19 years in the future (and includes the most tear-jerking scene in the entire movie), it almost feels like an anti-climax. The real end seems to be after the battle, when the three friends stand overlooking the rubble of Hogwarts. It’s the end of their quest, and the future is uncertain. Where do they go from here? It’s a question to which Harry Potter fans can certainly relate.

For an even richer viewing experience, forget the traditional audio commentary—Maximum Movie Mode is the way to experience this movie. Hosted by Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom), this mode treats viewers to the theatrical version of the film intercut with cast commentary, deleted scenes, director’s notes and, best of all, select readings from the book Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows performed by various cast members. Far from being a distraction, the clips and the movie flow together, adding touches of humor and sentiment to what is already an emotionally charged film.

There is also the option to click through to the nine Focus Points featurettes during the Maximum Movie mode, or they are available to view individually on the Blu-ray disc. Featuring in-depth looks at characters like Aberforth Dumbledore and Neville Longbottom, these mini-documentaries give some insights into character motivations, backstories and actor challenges.

The special features disc includes even more treats for fans, including more than six minutes of deleted footage (also available in the Maximum Movie Mode as well as on the single-disc DVD release,
MSRP: $28.98). While fun to watch, these scenes ultimately slowed the momentum of the movie and were better left on the cutting room floor.

Other filmmakers might use CGI effects to populate Gringotts with its supernatural workforce (after all, all of their scenes combined last less than 10 minutes onscreen), but “The Goblins of Gringotts” offers a behind-the-scenes look at the casting, makeup design and timing it took to coordinate stylists and makeup artists to create 40-plus goblins in just 4 hours. It’s nothing short of amazing.

Hermione Granger wasn’t the only strong female character in J.K. Rowling’s arsenal. In “The Women of Harry Potter,” viewers learn more about the witches behind the wizards, the inspirations for the characters and Rowling’s theory on why mother love could have legitimately saved Harry’s life, while lack thereof caused Voldemort’s ultimate downfall.

The best of the special features by far is the nearly hour-long “A Conversation with
J.K. Rowling and Daniel Radcliffe.” Harry Potter’s creator and the young man who brought him to life talk about their experiences from the beginning, and it is poignant and touching to watch—and also quite funny. The author debunks some famous rumors (did she really have the last chapter written before the first book was published?), and the actor reminisces about some of the more painful aspects of playing Harry (such as an allergy to the original glasses). Each of the two are certainly fans of the other, and it is wonderful to witness the closure they both come to with regards to the end of the series.

Viewers are also given a sneak peek behind the scenes of the upcoming Harry Potter attraction at Warner Bros. Studio Tour London, opening in the spring of 2012. Visitors will be able to walk on the actual movie sets (including the Great Hall, the Gryffindor common room and Dumbledore’s office), learn secrets of filming and examine props up close.

Rounding out the extras is a PlayStation 3 game demo for LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7 and an advertisement for the new Pottermore Web site (currently in Beta), created in part by J.K. Rowling. The Web site promises readers the chance to experience the story like never before, with new writings by the author and interactive areas, games and a shop where audiobook and e-book versions will be sold.

Fans looking to add this (or any of the other seven movies) to their collection will want to act fast: Warner Bros. has said it will stop shipping DVDs and Blu-rays of the entire Harry Potter franchise as of Dec. 29 (digital sales and Video on Demand will not be affected), allegedly to focus on putting together the limited edition Harry Potter Blu-ray boxed set, teased on the movie disc for a 2012 release.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.

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