Release Date(s)2011 (March 28, 2017)
Studio(s)Heyday Films/Warner Bros. Pictures (Warner Bros.)
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: B
Having escaped the Death Eaters and destroyed a horcrux with the Sword of Gryffindor, Harry, Hermione, and Ron recover yet another horcrux from the Gringotts vault of Bellatrix Lestrange and then return to Hogwarts, where they believe the rest can be found. They arrive not a moment too soon, for Voldemort and his dark army have chosen to begin their conquest of the Wizarding World by launching an attack on the school. It’s here that final, terrible secrets will be revealed and here that both Harry and the Dark Lord will face their linked destiny.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 is, of course, the film the entire series has been building up to, featuring the long-awaited war between Good and Evil in Harry’s world. All the lead actors give strong performances, but it’s Daniel Radcliffe’s Harry and Alan Rickman’s Snape who truly shine. The supporting cast steps up too, including young Matthew Lewis as Neville Longbottom. And David Yates delivers fine spectacle in his final outing as director, offering moments of genuine emotion and poignancy. As a war film, you expect there to be casualties and there are certainly more than a few by the end of Deathly Hallows – Part 2. One of the things I’ve most admired about both the books and the films is that they don’t pull their punches on matters of death, loss, and sacrifice. This, I think, is one of the key reasons why the J.K. Rowling books are so successful in the first place – for all their trappings of magic and wizards, they speak to kids honestly about growing up and about the realities of life and adulthood, honesty that’s become all the more important in a world prone to helicopter parenting.
Now… Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 is a little bit of an odd duck in 4K Ultra HD. As with the other Potter films released thus far in 4K, this one was shot on Super 35 film, finished as a 2K Digital Intermediate, upsampled for this release, and given a new HDR color grading pass. The film is presented here with a running time of 130:26 in the 2.39:1 theatrical aspect ratio. (It’s worth noting that the entire film was converted to 3D for its theatrical release and was released on both Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D later – more on this in a moment.) Once again, grain is a little more apparent here than in the 4K version of Order of the Phoenix, but that means there’s more fine detail as well. Overall detail and texturing is quite good, and it’s particularly apparent in the stone tile and brickwork of Hogwarts, in fabric and skin tones, and the abundant battle debris seen later in the film. This is obviously a very dark film, the darkest in the series by far, and its colors are very strongly muted. However, the key benefit of High Dynamic Range here is that it opens up those colors a bit to more various shadings, even as it greatly enhances the intensity of darks and lights. When Maggie Smith’s Professor McGonagall leads the wizards in casting protective spells over Hogwarts, that protection shimmers intensely in the darkness of the nighttime sky. Harry visit with Dumbledore too, occurring in the spiritual representation of King’s Cross Station, glows a luminous green-white with touches of gold. It’s simply gorgeous. But all is not perfect here.
Something that’s always bothered me about the post-production on this film is that the contrast has been pushed strongly during the Hogwarts battle, so that there’s obvious haloing on not just high-contrast edges but around entire characters. This, I think, was done quite intentionally by the filmmakers to give those scenes an ethereal quality, evoking the powerful magic being used. The problem is, this effect has a tendency to make visual effects look like… well, visual effects. It also makes the overall image look too digitally processed and artificial. Now, it’s important to note that this effect was present in theaters and on the previous Blu-ray release, so it’s in the original Digital Intermediate. But here’s the problem: When you add HDR to the image on top that, it just makes everything look even more unnatural. This haloing simply isn’t visible in any of the other films. It’s also not there for this film’s brighter scenes, for example Snape’s memories as seen by Harry in the Pensive. But it’s apparent throughout the Hogwarts battle and it gets stronger when Harry goes out to face Voldemort in the woods. (The effect is particularly obvious from the point Harry finishes watching Snape’s memories, at about 1:23:07 into the film, and it continues – off and on – until Harry and Voldemort’s final face-off). It really pulls me out of the film every time I see it. Your own mileage will certainly vary and, again, it’s deliberately. It’s true to the original theatrical experience of the film. But personally, I find it a bit too much.
The film’s audio options on 4K UHD include English DTS:X (compatible with any multi-channel speaker arrangement you may be using – 5.1, 7.1, etc), along with English Descriptive Audio, and French (dubbed in Quebec), Italian, Mandarin, Cantonese, Latin Spanish, and Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital (with optional subtitles in those same languages plus several more). As with the previous Potter films, the DTS:X mix features similar clarity and dynamic range as the regular Blu-ray’s DTS-HD audio, but the object-based mix is more expansive and natural, more effortless sounding if you will, as well as smoother and more precise. In addition, low frequency extension is very strong. Particularly good moments of include the rollercoaster-like cart ride through Gringotts, the opening salvos of Voldemort’s assault upon Hogwarts (as literally thousands of cast spells explode against its shield of protective enchantments), and of course the film’s many battle sequences. This is really a sonic assault from about 41 minutes in right on through to the end.
Warner’s 4K Ultra HD release is a 3-disc set. It contains the film by itself in 4K on the UHD, plus a movie Blu-ray with the film in 1080p HD. This is the same disc that was released previously in the Ultimate Collector’s Edition Blu-ray set, and it includes the following extras in HD:
- Maximum Movie Mode
- Focus Points (8 short featurettes – 26:27 in all)
- Final Farewells from Cast and Crew (3:07)
There’s also a second Blu-ray, all of extras and again the same bonus disc that was included in the film’s previous Ultimate Collector’s Edition Blu-ray release, called Creating the World of Harry Potter: Part 8 – Growing Up. Its extras, most in HD but a couple in the original SD, include:
- Creating the World of Harry Potter Part 8: Growing Up (49:19)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2: Behind the Magic (47:01)
- A Conversation with J.K. Rowling and Daniel Radcliffe: Extended Version (63:20)
- Hogwarts’ Last Stand: Extended Version (30:27)
- The Women of Harry Potter (22:31)
- The Goblins of Gringotts (10:56)
- The Great Hall of Hogwarts (4:13)
- Ron and Hermione’s Kiss (4:12)
- That’s a Wrap, Harry Potter (4:55)
- Neville’s Battle Makeup (4:11)
- The Gringotts Disguises (4:07)
- Harry’s Death: The Courtyard Confrontation (10:14)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: The Quest (16 segments – approx. 50:00 in all)
- Deleted Scenes (8 scenes total – 6:33 in all)
- Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter (1:33)
- Pottermore Preview (1:07)
- Teaser Trailer (1:59)
- Theatrical Trailer (2:28)
These extras represent everything that was created for this film in previous Blu-ray and DVD releases. Unfortunately, the Blu-ray 3D version of the film isn’t included in this package, but it’s available separately. This release also doesn’t include the UCE edition’s hardcover book and swag, but there’s a Digital HD copy code on a paper insert.
For dedicated followers of this film series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 delivers some final surprises and heartbreaks, as well as a genuinely satisfying conclusion. Once again, Warner’s 4K release carries over all the fine Ultimate Collector’s Edition Blu-ray extras, adds a measured improvement in image resolution and sound quality, and its High Dynamic Range opens up the colors and greatly increases the intensity both darks and lights – if perhaps a bit too much at times. As such, Ultra HD is the best way to experience this film at home and it’s recommended for serious fans. Note that this title is also included in the Harry Potter 8-Film Collection 4K Ultra HD box set (available here on Amazon), but be aware that the Collection does NOT include the Creating the World of Harry Potter bonus Blu-rays – only the films on BD and 4K.
- Bill Hunt