Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 3D Blu-ray Review
This set contains four discs with the 3D Blu-ray being the only addition, the other three have been available for quite some time, and are, in fact, identical to the previously released set, which are the 2D Blu-ray, special features Blu-ray and a DVD/Digital copy disc.
- Maximum Movie Mode (2.47.56) – Warner’s own take on the Picture in Picture feature, and one which takes into account all that is good about Blu-ray. Introduced and hosted by Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy), the actor talks us through all things ‘Deathly Hallows’ with contributions from the main cast and crew, plenty of behind the scenes footage, artwork and production designs as well as talks with J.K. herself and readings of the book. As with most of these features the run time exceeds the film itself by pausing the film to expand upon various ideas, set pieces and themes, as well as the various ‘Focus points’ that are interspersed featurettes the delve even further into the production. A vast font of knowledge hides within.
- Focus Points (19.21, HD) – From the MMM above, the focus points can be watched individually or all together with the play all, titles include: The Last Days of Privet Drive, Hagrid's Motorbike, Magical Tents, Death Eaters Attack Cafe, Creating Dobby and Kreacher and The Return of Griphook.
Special Features Disc
Encompasses a number of featurettes that further expand upon the inner workings of the film.
- The Seven Harrys (5.29, HD) – A closer examination of how Harry was created seven times for the scene in question.
- On the Green with Rupert, Tom, Oliver and James (13.38, HD) – The Weasley brothers and Draco on a golfing trip discuss the fun they’ve had playing their respective characters from the film.
- Dan, Rupert and Emma's Running Competition (2.45, HD) – The three main’s discuss how competitive they became during the many running scenes in the film.
- Godric's Hollow and the Harry & Nagini Battle (6.00, HD) – Cast and crew give us a slightly closer look at the ‘birth place’ of Harry with special consideration to the graveyard set and then his subsequent battle with the CG snake and how the effects were achieved.
- The Frozen Lake (4.10, HD) – As above only this time looking at Harry’s near death experience under the ice when the locket tries to kill him.
- Additional Scenes (10.54, HD) – A collection of eight scenes that will no doubt be re-instated for the up and coming ‘Ultimate Edition’. Their titles neatly describe what each is about, and whilst most are a bit frivolous there are one or two character beats that might have helped out the final film. Titles are: The Burrows Shed, The Dursley House, Dudley and Harry, The Granger House, Ministry of Magic Lifts, Tent, Rabbit Chase in the Forest and Ron and Hermione Skimming Stones.
- Behind the Soundtrack (3.51, HD) – An all too brief examination of Alexandre Desplat’s score for the film with discussions from the producers and a look at the recording.
- The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (6.25, HD) – little more than a promotional trailer (it’s even named as such) whereby the main cast and J.K. visit the new Universal theme park in Orlando.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 is the first part of the closing chapter of this immense franchise that has spawned eight films and a worldwide cult of fans. David Yates once again holds the directing duties and takes us down a very different path than we have seen before. Less concerned with the fantasy elements, a large portion of the film is a dramatic character study of the three main leads as they come to terms with the isolation, emptiness and resolve needed to survive as ‘fugitives’ battling to stop a megalomaniac from destroying everything they hold dear. Yates sticks very close to the book in terms of story and thus inherits the books problems, in that he glosses over some early emotional elements to get to the character aspect, but in doing so slows the film down to a near crawl, that whilst is excellently acted, struggles to hold the attention in what is an ‘action/adventure’ franchise. The blame can be rested on the commercial decision to split the final film into two parts rather than tighten up a dramatic script for a single film outing. However, the film is not a total loss; it contains many stand-out moments and is dramatically the best of the bunch; it's just not a great Harry Potter film as it cannot exist without its surrounding films.
As a 3D Blu-ray package Warner has released a set that contains everything that has already been available, this is no bad thing as the previous set is excellent in terms of picture, sound and extras – however the 3D disc, which only exists on Blu-ray as Warner pulled the theatrical run due to it being unfinished, is a rather poor convert exhibiting all the problems associated with a convert – it is flat and lifeless, although the sound more than makes up for any deficiencies, being loud, boisterous and immersive - but I must say that the 2D version is my preferred option for watching.
The disc presents a theatrically correct widescreen 2.4:1 1080p 3D transfer and is Region Free.
This picture is somewhat unique in that Warner pulled the 3D theatrical run of the film due to it being unfinished and not “of the highest standards of quality” therefore this blu-ray is the only way to see the 3D film and, we can assume, fully represents the makers immersive intentions. So, clearly then, this is another convert and exists purely to cash in on the, then, 3D craze that swept across the cinema. And in that bid, at least Warner did the honourable thing and pulled it when the image was clearly not ready for release and did not push out an inferior product just to meet demand. Whist that is laudable I still question the decision to release a 3D version at all when the resultant product does nothing to enhance the viewing aspect.
The 3D image suffers with all the recurring problems associated with the post conversion process, i.e. there is no real volume to anything within the frame, layers have little to no distance between them, depth into the frame is pretty much non-existent and even when the effects do manage to convey a sense of ‘space’ the image simply looks forced and thus false. Take a look at the very beginning scene with Rufus Scrimgeour addressing the Ministry of Magic, his face, whilst it is given some sense of ‘rounding’ it looks false; the shot looking along the hall from behind him demonstrates a decent scale and there is a sense of depth into the frame as the rows of wizards recede back into the darkness of the tunnel – but it looks false, separation is wrong, depth perception is wrong and there is no volume to the individual layers. So whilst there is an idea of 3D seen, the illusion is shattered as your brain picks out the errors and thus the elements are lost. This is a recurring theme throughout the run time of the piece, look at when Dobby and Kreacher walk along the table after capturing Mundungus Fletcher – there is a decent sense of depth into the frame with a good perspective holding the near, middle and distance down the room, but your eye soon becomes accustomed to the trick as there is so little volume to the layers and the illusion fails and everything shortens becoming flat. Indeed most of the picture remains almost permanently flat; scenes set in the woods should be alive with depth, when Harry is trapped under the ice he should be seen to be under it, exterior shots should disappear into the distance, but there is none of this, just weak attempts at depth that are very quickly lost. The recounting of the Deathly Hallows story does look pretty good, but that is because it's CG and animated, and it stands out as looking good, therefore you ‘see’ it surrounded as it is by very lacklustre effects. And lastly the film is very dark and black is never very good for demonstrating 3D, even if the film was shot natively it might struggle to convey depth with the amount of darkness the picture exhibits, so being a convert it is on a hiding to nothing.
Luckily the rest of the picture is extremely good. Detail is excellent from the notches in the Elder Wand to individual leaves in the forests; from skin detail to clothing weaves; from crumbling brickwork to wispy clouds – everything has a definite edge and is clear and precise, right into the distance.
Colour is intentionally drained to give a rather drab, grey pallet, but what colour there is, is strong and bold – take a look at the green/black of the tiles in the Ministry, of the earth hues of the leaves in the forest, or the brighter reds in the wedding tent, all have a richness, even if the overall tone is somewhat drab.
Brightness and contrast are set to give incredibly deep blacks, one might almost say too dark, especially in the Ministry, the court rooms, Grimmauld Place and the dungeons, but look close and you will see a depth to the black, it is inky and distinct but contains shadow detail when required. Though a combination of this darkness and the drab colour scheme conspires to make this the least good looking film of the series so far.
Digitally there are no compression artefacts, nor banding, posterization or any edge enhancement; it's a clean as a whistle. Using passive tech. to view the 3D lead to no crosstalk whatsoever. Overall the picture is a good one and fully representative of the directors intentions; it is dark and dour but rich in detail and colour – but is seriously let down by an inferior 3D offering which offers little in terms of immersion or effects; the 2D picture would score an 8, but the 3D picture, the one we are here to see, scores a far lower 6 as it simply does not stand up to scrutiny.
Not so with the sound, though, which is as immersive as the 3D picture should have been. Right from the off you know you are in for a treat with an aggressive soundscape that utilises all the speakers to fill the room. The ‘seven Harry’s’ escape scene is particularly impressive with sound being steered around the room to really improve upon the visuals, with curses, thunder, wind and rain whipping up a storm front to back and left to right placing right in the centre of the action. Quieter moments are well catered for with dialogue being clear and precise and sounding very natural with a little directionality when required, and the surrounds piping up to provide ambience, such a wind and rustling leaves in the forests, or the creaking of a settling house in Grummauld Place. Bass is well realised to give some weighty oomph to the various wand battles as well as rock the walls during thunder storms, with some really deep sub action that will test you system to its limits. The score is well catered for and given full reign of the speakers, again, placing you in the centre of the action.
In all a terrific sound accompaniment that pushes all the right buttons leaving it firmly in reference territory.
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