Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Blu-ray Review
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince comes to Blu-ray with the now standard 1080p transfer in the theatrically correct 2.40:1 ratio. Whatever mistakes the director made with the pacing, he certainly shot this movie exceptionally well. Each Potter film looks stylistically different, and with this film Yates bleeds the film of colour completely. The result is a world that seems drained of its very life and soul, a deliberate metaphor for the world as it faces Voldemort's return.
This stylistic choice means that this will never be a film you reach for in order to show off your system to its best advantage. The colours that Blu-ray is capable of showing are simply not present here. But this doesn't mean that detail isn't present in the transfer. Just watch the scene where Harry arrives at the Weasley House, each individual corn stalk waving in the wind. Or the stunning scenes at Hogsmeade in the snow, each flake standing out clearly as it falls. Even with the crushed colour palette the detail is still impressive.
The other strength of the picture is in the contrast. It doesn't matter how much the picture is crushed and drained, the contrast always remains impressive and striking. Blacks are deep and whites are crisp, clean, and vibrant.
I was thoroughly impressed with the transfer offered on this disc. It may not be your conventional, vibrant, mind-blowing modern blockbuster transfer - but as a representation of how the director wants the film to look this is pretty much perfect. It adds a great deal of atmosphere to the film, and when you compare it to the standard edition DVD then the difference is chalk and cheese - as it should be.
Holy cow! I am one of those reviewers who do not believe in giving a ten. I have never given a ten before for anything - for how can anything be perfection? However, I am finding my resolve being severely weakened by the Dolby TrueHD soundtrack on offer here. This is quite simply stunning from beginning to end. Dialogue is clear and precise, even when whispered and the front soundstage is wide and enveloping.
From the very beginning, when the Harry Potter logo slowly moves towards the screen, the LFE is deep and stomach-churning without being overbearing. Throughout the film the sub kicks in regularly to underpin the action when needed. From beginning to end the surround speakers are used effectively and with the sound well placed and accurate to the events occurring on screen.
However, the truly spectacular thing about this mix is despite all the channels being used constantly all the way through the film, at no time does it overwhelm the listener. From the loudest cacophony to the smallest whisper, every sound within the mix is well placed, accurate, and never intrusive. This is possibly the most well- balanced mix I have heard so far on Blu-ray. It is quite simply stunning. The dynamic range is also wide and breathtaking in its scope.
Normally, I can find at least one small flaw to justify myself not giving the 10, for taking one mark off. A dropped line of dialogue here, an over-intrusive explosion there. But there is quite simply no flaw I can find here. For this reason, after all my time reviewing for this site I am going to bite the bullet. Yep - this is my first ten folks!
This is a bit bizarre. The back cover trumpets a Maximum Movie Mode : Presented by Daniel Radcliffe. However, what you actually get is a simple Pip commentary track which features all the participants, and perhaps features less of Radcliffe than anyone else. This is still an informative and excellent track which gives much behind the scenes information. Some more detailed Focus Points are also accessable separately should you wish to. The rest of the extras appear on disc two, and are far more extensive than we have seen on previous first-release Potter discs. Close Up with the cast of Harry Potter features key members of the case finding out about one particular technical job behind the scenes. This has potential to be extremely interesting, but sadly each segment is so short (around two minutes) that we never really learn anything. One Minute Drills see each actor given 1 minute to describe their character's arc over the first six films.
Then another misleading extra. The front cover boasts : "be the first to see footage from The Deathly Hallows". We get a brief interview about the film, and then about 30 secs of a teaser trailer. Hardly worthy of a massive sticker on the box, but I am sure that many will be ecstatic. Much better is A Year in the Life of J K Rowling. This is a 50 minute documentary that I saw on TV a few years ago. It covers her in depth in the year coming up to the end of the novels, and is full of fascinating revelations.
Finally, on disc, we have What's on your mind? in which Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy) asks other actors a question and they have to answer immediately, and some deleted scenes. Considering how much crucial material is missing from the film - I hoped to see some interesting additions here, but to be honest there is really not much here that would have added anything to the film itself. There is one notably creepy scene involving the school choir which is certainly worth watching, and should have been in the film - but none of the missing character stuff, or the missing battle are included..
There are also some BD_Live features. These include some special events (at the time of writing, a special viewing for people to watch it alongside Radcliffe and the Director is planned), as well as a few minor extra documentaries, mainly about the video game adaptation, and the special effects.
The version I received for review came with a very nice lenticular 3D slipcase - I have no idea whether this is standard. The box also contains a DVD copy and a digital copy as well
However you approach it, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the least successful of the franchise so far. It may be the most stylistically impressive since Cuaron's vision, and it may be represented extremely well on Blu-ray - but the film is ultimately too confused to really be effective. It seems as if the director got caught between two stools - unsure whether to concentrate on action or character and as a result manages to give neither strand enough time to fully develop. In addition to this, a key part of the novel is dropped and I cannot help but feel this is to the film's detriment.
However, fans of the film or Potter completists will want to be rushing out to buy this straight away due to the exemplary AV. The picture is a perfect rendition of the director's intentions and the sound track is so good it garners my first ever full mark. Add in some excellent extras and you get a package that is well worth it. Just be aware that the Ultimate Edition is probably little more than 18 months - 2 years away.
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