Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1 appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. Though not a poor presentation, this one presented more problems than expected.
Actually, my only real complaints stemmed from shadow detail. When we found low-light sequences – and those occurred quite often in this grim tale – the elements tended to be really dark. And I don’t mean “moody dark” – I mean “what the heck is going on???” dark. During these shots, I found it awfully tough to tell what was happening. Some of this likely came from photographic choices, but I saw the movie theatrically and don’t recall having so much trouble being able to discern the action. Hallows offered a really dense image during its many low-light scenes.
Everything else was perfectly solid. Sharpness seemed accurate and distinctive, without any hints of softness or fuzziness. Jagged edges and shimmering remained absent, and I saw no edge haloes or artifacts. The image also lacked print flaws.
Colors weren’t much of a factor in this largely monochromatic piece. Even when potentially lively hues appeared – such as Umbridge’s pink outfit – they were low-key and subdued. Though not very exciting, that was appropriate and fine within the movie’s design. Blacks were deep and tight, so I had no complaints there. Unfortunately, those heavy shadows created a definite distraction and caused me to drop my grade to a “C+”.
On the other hand, the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack provided a consistent delight. One of the more action-oriented Potter films, Hallows boasted a lot of intense material that utilized all five speakers in an involving manner. Various elements appeared in logical locations and zipped around the room in a convincing way. This meant Death Eaters flew to various spots, and different kinds of magic and mayhem exploded around the spectrum. The track meshed together in a splendid way to create a stunning sonic impression.
Audio quality always excelled as well. Effects were accurate and bold, with clear highs and deep lows. Music showed nice range and punch, while speech seemed concise and distinctive. This was probably the best Potter soundtrack to date, as it was a total winner.
With that we head to the set’s extras. On Disc One, we open with Maximum Movie Mode. Actor Jason Isaacs introduces the piece; he comments along the way as well, and we also hear from producers David Heyman and David Barron, production designer Stuart Craig, makeup effects supervisor Nick Dudman, director David Yates, and actors Tom Felton, Nick Moran, Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Frank Dillane. These cover deleted scenes, production design and inspirations, makeup and effects, cast, characters and performances, sets and locations, background/refresher from the prior films, music, and various trivia tidbits. We also find occasional excerpts from the novel that intend to help set us up for the final film.
Some prior “Maximum Movie Modes” such as Watchmen offered “Director Walk-ins”. These would shrink the movie image to feature the filmmaker as he manipulated elements and explained various components. The “Walk-ins” tended to show up infrequently, so the “Modes” usually acted as pretty standard picture-in-picture features.
The Hallows “Mode” consists of almost nothing other than “Walk-ins” with the participants listed. Through those moments, we see footage from the set and other components, but they remain the main focus. This “Mode” starts fairly well, as we get a reasonable amount of content through the movie’s first act. Unfortunately, the breakaways tend to dry up as the film progresses and they appear less frequently.
This wouldn’t be an issue if the Blu-ray boasted the user-friendliness of the Half-Blood Prince “Mode”; that would allowed you to easily skip from one segment to the next. We don’t find that ability here, so if you want to experience the whole “Mode”, you must watch the entire flick – and then some, as the participants occasionally pause the film and make the whole package run about 23 minutes longer than the flick itself.
Which isn’t satisfying. You can’t enjoy Hallows as a film with the “Mode” activated; it’s just too disruptive when it appears. You also will find yourself impatient as you await the next component; without a way to jump ahead, some long gaps appear. Diehard fans will still want to go through the “Mode”, as it has some enjoyable content, but it comes with a frustrating format.
We can check out the six Focus Points on their own or as branches of “Maximum Movie Mode”. These include “The Last Days of Privet Drive” (2:36), “Hagrid’s Motorbike” (4:01), “Magical Tents!” (2:18), “Death Eaters Attack Café” (2:51), “Creating Dobby and Kreacher” (3:48), and “The Return of Griphook” (3:45). In total, they run 19 minutes, 21 seconds. Across them, we hear from Yates, Radcliffe, Heyman, Craig, Watson, Dudman, special effects supervisor John Richardson, stunt doubles Joanna Whitney, Nick Chopping and Marc Mailley, 2nd unit director Stephen Woolfenden, set decorator Stephenie McMillan, 1st AD Jamie Christopher, Framestore animation supervisor Pablo Grillo, chief mould maker Jamie Iovino and actors Richard Griffiths, Fiona Shaw, Harry Melling, Julie Walters, Rupert Grint, Warwick Davis, Toby Jones, Diane Gibbins, and Bindi Johal.
They look at shooting the final scenes at the Durley residence and the relationships among the actors, stunts, action and effects, set and production design, camerawork, cast, characters and performances. The “Points” exist as quick, tangential featurettes and don’t intend to tell a complete story; they’re kind of video footnotes, really. In that regard, they satisfy. While they’re never particularly impressive, they’re consistently enjoyable and give us some nice tidbits.
Disc One opens with ads for the Harry Potter “Ultimate Editions” and the Lego Harry Potter videogame.
Over on Disc Two, you’ll find a Sneak Peek for Deathly Hallows – Part 2. At least that’s what WB promises; review copies of the Blu-ray omitted this sequence. In my quest to avoid spoilers, I wouldn’t have watched it anyway, so that’s fine with me!
Under Behind the Story, we locate five featurettes. These include “The Seven Harrys” (5:29), “On the Green with Rupert, Ton, Oliver and James” (13:38), “Dan, Rupert and Emma’s Running Competition” (2:45), “Godric’s Hollow/The Harry and Nagini Battle” (6:00), and “The Frozen Lake” (4:10). During these, we find notes from Radcliffe, Watson, Yates, Barron, Heyman, Grint, Felton, Craig, McMillan, Christopher, visual effects producer Emma Norton, stunt coordinator Greg Powell, visual effects supervisor Tim Burke, VFX previs animation supervisor Ferran Domenech, and actors Andy Linden, James and Oliver Phelps, and Hazel Douglas.
The shows look at effects, performances, cast relationships and reflections, set design, stunts and action. Essentially, these follow the same template as Disc One’s “Focus Points”. They give us quick featurettes that flesh out a variety of topics. None excel, but all provide some nice info; I especially like the look at making “Seven Harrys”.
Eight Additional Scenes occupy a total of 10 minutes, 54 seconds. We see “The Burrows Shed” (0:41), “The Dursley House” (0:52), “Dudley and Harry” (2:05), “The Granger House” (0:27), “Ministry of Magic Lifts” (1:51), “Tent” (1:38), “Rabbit Chase in the Forest” (1:28), and “Ron and Hermione Skimming Stones” (1:52). The first few are the best; in particular, “Dursley” and “Dudley” flesh out the brief departure sequence we see at the start. Though I suspect the filmmakers thought those two would slow down the opening, I would’ve liked them to make the final cut; they add even more emotional resonance to the film.
“Shed” also helps set up the use of a radio that becomes prominent during the third act. As for the other scenes, they’re interesting but not especially important. “Chase” and “Stones” are good cuts, as they would’ve padded the movie’s less action-oriented moments and made the film drag a bit.
Two ads appear within Trailers and Spots. We get “Behind the Soundtrack” (3:51) and a promo for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (6:25). “Soundtrack” features Barron, Heyman, and composer Alexandre Desplat. We get a few notes about Desplat’s work on the film, but don’t expect much depth; the piece remains pretty shallow.
“Wizarding” takes us to the June 2010 grand opening of the new development at Universal Studios Florida. Various members of the cast attend and we learn more about the park’s design. This is pure promotion, though it’s good promotion; it makes me want to visit.
A third disc provides a DVD Copy of Hallows. This is a barebones release, not the same one you’d find on the store shelves.
Not only does Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1 set up the series’ finale, but also it stands on its own as arguably the best film of the seven to date. It provides a grim experience that proves to be tight and often moving. The Blu-ray comes with excellent audio and a good collection of supplements, but visuals tend to be awfully murky in dark shots. Despite that drawback, the Blu-ray usually satisfies, and the flick acts as a terrific lead-in to the franchise’s finish.