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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (2011)

Warner Home Video
Blu-ray Disc Released: 11/11/2011

All Ratings out of
Video: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 11/11/2011

Given the chronic case of sequelitis which Hollywood has and has had for years now, it's very rare that we watch any movie with any sense of finality. Experience has taught us that even the slightest amount of money can be the deadest character back from the grave, and thus we always suspect that a sequel could be lingering out there. (I just watched The Lost World: Jurassic Park with my kids and we talked about how characters who died in the books magically made it into the second movie.) However, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 doesn't fit this mold. Even if you weren't aware that this was based on the last book in the series, the movie has a pageantry and pathos of closure which is lacking from many films, and this is just one of its positive qualities.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 picks up right where Part 1 left off. Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) are at a beach house, having narrowly escaped a battle with Lord Voldemort's (Ralph Fiennes) cohorts. They are continuing their hunt to find all of the horcruxs (piece of Voldemort's soul), so that they can defeat the "Dark Lord". After a harrowing theft from Gringott's bank, the trio make their way back into Hogwarts for the final showdown. They find the once bustling school to be a dark and depressing place, as Professor Snape (Alan Rickman) is now ruling it with an iron fist. As the school braces for an onslaught from Voldemort's forces, Harry rallies his allies, both living and dead, and prepares for the final battle against his mortal enemy.

That probably seems like a brief synopsis for an epic film, but Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 only gives us a small amount of new story at the beginning before moving into the big battle. And if you think about it, isn't that what we've been waiting for. Over the course of seven movies, we've watched the build-up between Harry Potter and Lord Voledmort and it's all come down to this. The movie doesn't feel underwritten in this respect (more on that in a moment) -- instead it feels like, for once, a movie is going the audience exactly what it wants. Now, this isn't too imply that there's no story here, far from it. This movie continues the plot-lines from the previous entries as we watch Harry and his friends devise a way to defeat Voldemort. But, once this loose plan is in place, the battle begins, and takes up the bulk of the movie, as we watch several key characters play their role in the fight. The war isn't just between Harry and Voldemort, and we are treated to several scenes involving good vs. evil throughout Hogwarts.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is undoubtedly the most action-packed film in the series and it more than makes up for the seemingly never-ending camping scenes from Part 1. The films have taken their time introducing us to the various characters and histories, so we don't get much of that here. The lone exception is a deeply-moving and well-done flashback which explains Snape's motivations and offers insight into his behavior over the years. However, the movie shouldn't be painted as a sheer action film either. Even while Harry and his gang are fighting wizards and trolls, the story continues to move along as we see what becomes of various characters. The film never loses its heart either. This isn't simply violence for violence sake. We understand (sort of) what everyone is fighting for and we cheer with every victory and reel at every setback. The battle sequences are very well-done and while there's no blood or gore here, we feel that the movie isn't holding back in showing the hatred between these groups.

When comparing novels to films, the complaints usually come from those who have read the books who are upset with what was changed or left out of the movies. The opposite is true with the Harry Potter movies. Given the popularity of the books and the fact that millions around the world have read them, I've always felt that the movies were geared towards those fans, and that some details (both major and minor) were left out of the films, thus leaving behind those of us who haven't read them, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is no exception. My only real beef with the film is that I felt like it glossed over some key information at times, and while trying to follow the story, I'm listening to my wife and daughter's explain how things were more thorough in the novels. The movie also seems to give us token shots of characters from earlier films as if to say, "We don't have time of focus on them, but we wanted you to know that they showed up for the fight."

That nitpicking aside, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is a fitting finale to the series. Exciting and moving, it showcases what modern movie magic can do, while still making us care about the characters. Will Harry return? I don't know, but for now, this is a great way for him to go out.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 never explained why trolls work for Voldemort on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Warner Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at 20 Mbps. Well, here we are again with another dark Harry Potter home video transfer. When are they going to learn? I actually saw this one in the theater and don't remember it being this dark. We had to turn off all of the lights in order to see the movie properly and some scenes were still too dark. (It should be noted that I checked my calibration and I don't have this problem with any other Blu-rays.) As over half of the movie takes place at night, this is a problem. In contrast, the opening beach scenes look fine. The level of brightness is perfect and the colors look great. The level of detail on the image is good, as is the depth. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The battle scenes sound great, as the audio is nicely dispersed between the front and rear channels. These effects are nicely detailed and we can pick out individual sounds. The subwoofer is also very effective here. None of this drowns out the dialogue and the now familiar score sounds fine.

The Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 Blu-ray Disc is loaded with extras, which are spread across 2 Discs. Disc 1 kicks off with "Maximum Movie Mode", which is hosted by Matthew Lewis (who plays Neville Longbottom). This involves picture-in-picture, audio commentary, behind-the-scenes photos & videos, and concept art. We get interviews with the cast and filmmakers who talk about specific scenes. There are also some deleted scenes here. This looks not only at this movie, but at the whole series. "Focus Points" (26 minutes) lifts particular bits from "Maximum Movie Mode" so that they can be viewed individually. These address specific scenes in the film, as well as important character moments. The segments are made up almost exclusively of on-set footage and interviews. "Final Farewells from Cast and Crew" (3 minutes) is exactly what it sounds like, as various members of the troupe give their feelings on the series ending. The remainder of the extras are found on Disc 2. "A Conversation with J.K. Rowling and Daniel Radcliffe" (53 minutes) is a very interesting piece, as the two interview one another. They've obviously known one another for years and this is a casual talk covering many topics, beginning with Radcliffe's casting. We've seen plenty of Radcliffe over the years, so it's nice to see Rowling being so open. "The Goblins of Gringotts" (11 minutes) examines the look and design of the little bankers from the movies -- specifically how they've changed over the years. "The Women of Harry Potter" (23 minutes) is a mini-documentary which looks at the important roles which female characters play in the books and movies. Rowling gets the ball rolling by talking about how she wrote female characters, and we then get comments from the actresses who have appeared in the series. The Disc contains eight DELETED SCENES which run about 7 minutes. These are all quite brief and most are simply extra moments from scenes already in the film. There are no new characters or ideas here.

Review Copyright 2011 by Mike Long