In celebration of the 4K Ultra HD release Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, the latest adventure and series starter in the wizarding world lived in by J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter, Warner Bros is format jumping the original films in the series. They’ll all get that higher resolution with High Dynamic Range applied to them, to look sharper, prettier and newer. In my opinion, Warner Bros has been one of the more impressive studios when it comes to upgrading their catalog titles to 4K. One would think they are going to a lot of attention to one of their biggest franchises ever. They are releasing them in waves, with the four David Yates films (The back half of the series) being the first to come out. No date is set yet for the first four, but they’ll be here soon enough. This review will focus on the first part of the finale of the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 from 2010. It, and the others will be available March 28th.
Without the guidance and protection of their professors, Harry, Ron and Hermione begin a mission to destroy the Horcruxes, the sources of Voldemort’s immortality. Though they must rely on one another more than ever, dark forces threaten to tear them apart. Voldemort’s Death Eaters have seized control of the Ministry of Magic and Hogwarts, and they are searching for Harry — even as he and his friends prepare for the ultimate showdown.
Harry Potter’s first half of his grand finale is my favorite film in the series. Its a darker, personal journey that features some bigger action piece but also some more fun grounded chases. The film is a really good hybrid of adventure, mystery and being on both the run and the hunt. David Yates’ film really follows the book to a T, even if its picking up on threads that didn’t make the scripts for the previous films. It never feels awkward, and is almost a natural fit.
One aspect I really love about Yates’ film, on that the first Hunger Games was afraid to do, is let the story be what it is on the page, which is our characters confined to each other with no real glimpse of information of what is going on in the outside world. They have a radio and that’s it. It could have been tempting to add some surrounding scenes to colorize what was happening while this journey is going on, but they restrained. This film is left to Harry, Hermione and Ron to go out and figure things and succeed in their mission before returning to their world for the big showdown.
Our famous trio is set on a mission to look into Harry’s roots, also dealing with conflicts among them. Its done through a Horcrux that slowly angers them and feeds into jealousy, but these are things that had been ever boiling in the series for a while. What it really points out and that I love that the series and Rowling has done, is that Harry and Hermione are allow to be the main boy and the main girl and they can just be FRIENDS. And good ones at that. Of the big 3 (Harry, Ron, Hermione) in the books and the films, Hermione was always my favorite and she’s really given a chance to show all of her strengths in this film and Emma Watson, to no surprise, really knocks one out of the park. One of the best moments in the entire series comes when Hermione and Harry have a nice, paternal dance following a tougher moment for the both of them.
While the series hasn’t feared going for darkness, this one really embraces it. Its mean spirited without being a turn off and it does make everyone feel like their backs are against the wall and evil has the upper hand. Its just like the book in the sense that right away you feel that everything goes. Deathly Hallows is the last run and the stakes are extremely high. Voldemort on has really one scene in the film, but its of his most sinister. We get some great Greyback stuff as well as a nice sequence featuring Wormtail and Bellatrix LeStrange. Harry and company are entering adulthood and the film really takes it to that level as well.
Splitting the book into two felt like a cash grab (And I’m sure some of that was an influence in the decision), but it really benefits the Deathly Hallows story. In a more crunched film, much of the focus would have gone to the events of the second film and this meatier, more character driven and dramatic material would have been more brushed over. And its the best stuff of the entire series. We saw from The Half-Blood Prince adaptation that they were willing to cut all the best stuff for some of the more on the nose and bigger playing material and it would have been a damn shame had Deathly Hallows been bitten with that bug. Luckily, it hasn’t been, and this first half is the best film in the series, leading to an incredibly satisfying finale. That’s not to say it isn’t without action, there are many great chases (Like the Greyback one in the woods) and the like. The action in this one is more suspense-focused than big and loud. Yates makes with it some of his most effective work in making a great fantasy film. As Forbes’ Scott Mendelson said when the film came out in 2010, “congratulations Harry, now you’re Luke Skywalker and/or Frodo Baggins.”
Encoding: HEVC / H.265
Resolution: 4K (2160p)
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:01
Clarity/Detail: For those that read this one first, I’ll reiterate that I can’t confirm that this is a brand new transfer for this release, but it does look like a nice uptick in quality from the Blu-ray. Where this one really helps to improve is on the rich blacks for a film that is a really sorta dark and murky all around. Details are very clear in this crisp and share image. It presents a nice, confident image that can show you its betterment in places, like the usage of fire, candle light, street lights or magical energy glowing on the screen. Some of the outfits worn at the wedding or in the Ministry of Magic get to pop. The streets of London with lights and the light look really swell too. Overall, this is an improvement, but how much of one may depend on the eye of the beholder (Or disc owner).
Depth: All these films are going to see real improvement on their motion and confident image. Deathly Hallows Part 1 is no exception. The image feels much more free and three dimensional in its appearance. A lot of the camera tracking, especially through the woods, looks really impressive. Everything is solid and at ease here, with CGI effects holding up very well with a higher resolution display.
Black Levels: This one takes on a little bit of that “dark” look that some 4K UHD titles have had, whereas some brighter scenes appear dimmer. NOW, that’s not a bad thing here. This a dark movie, but I will say I felt it a couple times, but it didn’t detract and if you’re not doing a direct comparison, you’re not going to care or notice. This thing handles deeper more saturated blacks very well. Its a very dark film as I said, and this manages to help shadow, deepen and detail it to the best of its ability.
Color Reproduction: With how dark the film looks, when there is some color, it really stands out. Magical energy bursts glow tremendously, including a patronus and Voldemort’s celebration as the film closes. Skies seem “easy” on 4K UHD titles, but these particularly look really lovely, with more than just blue ones to speak of. The scenes in the city and the wedding in the opening are some of the more poppy moments in the film that can but the HDR to work and provide some appealing coloring on the eyes. Overall, this keeps it real and doesn’t overdo the coloring, but does improve it and make its mark where it feels appropriate to do so.
Flesh Tones: Skin tones are a little cooler, but mostly appear natural throughout the feature’s runtime. Facial details come noticeable at any reasonable given distance (medium, close up). Scuffs, scrapes, dirt, sweat, blood, wrinkles, stubble, lip texture, all of it looks quite discernible and clear in this transfer.
Audio Format(s): English DTS:X, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Dynamics: HERE’s where see some fun happen. Deathly Hallows Part 1 has a really wicked and involved DTS:X mix. Things are constantly sweep and frollicing around your speakers. Amazing ambient work is happening throughout too. It has a beautiful, balanced blend of the film’s score, sound effects and vocal track. This damn thing rocks pretty hard and is one of the most fun viewing experiences solely on this audio mix and presentation alone.
Height: Magic flies around up top, and people whiz by in the opening broom chase. There is also some good ambiance in the Ministry of Magic and within the cellar of the house while the gang is kidnapped. Everything feels a good fit.
Low Frequency Extension: Explosions, spells being cast, Nagini creeping around, underwater blubbing and some crashing of people against walls among other things make for some really good pounds and rumbles from your subwoofer.
Surround Sound Presentation: Here’s where the fun is. From dirt exploding to the side of you in the woods, to a random dog barking behind you from outside while you’re in the living room of the Weasley house, you’re friggin living in the wizarding world! This is one of the most fun mixes of traveling and realized environmental sounds I’ve heard in a while. Its quite the experience.
Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue finds itself to be crisp and clear with every bit diction holding strong in the mix.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 comes with the Blu-ray edition (2-Discs) and an UltraViolet Digital Copy of the film. All of the supplemental material is on the Blu-ray edition, which is the same 2-Disc special edition that has been available for a few years.
Blu-ray Disc 1
Maximum Movie Mode
Blu-ray Disc 2
Behind The Story
- Creating the World of Harry Potter Part 7: Story (HD, 47:28)
- Behind the Magic (HD, 44:09)
- On the Road (HD, 19:37)
- The Return of the Order (HD, 5:35)
- Scabior and Greyback (HD, 4:10)
- Dobby’s Farewell (HD, 4:28)
- The Look of Bill Weasley (HD, 3:41)
- The Weasleys (HD, 3:33)
- The State of Evil (HD, 9:58)
- The New Guys (HD, 7:06)
- One Book, Two Movies (HD, 4:38)
- The Wizarding Prop Shop (HD, 5:28)
- The Seven Harrys (HD, 5:29)
- On the Green with Rupert, Tom, Oliver and James (HD, 13:38)
- Dan, Rupert and Emma’s Running Competition (HD, 2:45)
- Godric’s Hollow/The Harry and Nagini Battle (HD, 6:00)
- The Frozen Lake (HD, 4:10)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 Sneak Peek (HD, 4:24)
Deleted Scenes (HD, 10:54)
- The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Promotional Trailer (HD, 6:25)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows-Part 1: Behind the Soundtrack (HD, 3:51)
- Teaser Trailer (HD, 2:31)
- Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:23)
Harry Potter and the Deatlhly Hallows – Part 1 is Harry Potter’s finest hour. The seventh feature truly is his Empire Strikes Back journey. Its personal, revealing, unfolds mysteries and plays for some really suspenseful chases and action. This 4K UHD Blu-ray may be a bit of debate on just HOW MUCH of an improvement it is in the video department over its predecessor. What works against it is that its inherently a darkened, murky film by its nature. But when color comes through you can see a difference and you can easily make it out in the spacing and motion. The audio here rocks, and you’ll find its easily better. Bonus-wise, nothing new, but you get to keep everything you used to have. Fans, it is very much an upgrade, so you’ll want to grab it.