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 sixth film in the series, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince from 2009. It, and the others will be available March 28th.
As Death Eaters wreak havoc in both Muggle and Wizard worlds, Hogwarts is no longer a safe haven for students. Though Harry suspects there are new dangers lurking within the castle walls, Dumbledore is more intent than ever on preparing the young wizard for the final battle with Voldemort. Meanwhile, teenage hormones run rampant through Hogwarts, presenting a different sort of danger. Love may be in the air, but tragedy looms, and Hogwarts may never be the same again
As I discussed in The Order Of The Phoenix review, that was one of my least favorite books turned into one of my favorite movies. Well, here is the opposite. My absolute favorite book in the series is The Half-Blood Prince. Unfortunately, this turns out to be one of my lesser favorite movies in the series. Its still fully watchable and entertaining, and if you haven’t read the book before, you have no idea my gripes. And no, I don’t think its nit picking when a gigantic portion of the book is removed in favor of focusing on and elevating some rather irrelevant storylines in the film.
What made this book tick for me was its almost noir, gumshoe mystery aspect it had going for it. Throughout the school year, a now mysterious Albus Dumbledore had called upon Harry to help him try and figure out an altered memory of Voldemort (Tom Riddle) by journeying through his past. This was a much more detailed and intriguing journey that felt like a page turning mystery with clues and the like keeping an interactive touch with the reader all the while Harry had a hold of this mystery book formerly owned by “The Half-Blood Prince”. In the film version, this memory plotline, which is the main one in the book, is trimmed down to just one or two and its the main one with no extensive looking in on the background. Its a damn shame.
Instead of that, David Yates and company decide that they need to focus on all the boy and girl relationship dramas in the film. Its not all bad, but it starts wandering back to some of the uncomfortable silly and juvenile quality of Goblet of Fire. Yates seems to handle it better, but this stuff is really all irrelevant when it comes to down to the importance of the series and the overall story arc. However, we do get more examples of how much Harry and Luna Lovegood have great chemistry in this series.
While there I do have my problems, outside of that it does get a whole lot right. Scenes revolving around Horace Slughorn work as they should. The film’s final act is absolutely dynamite. Yates really nails Harry and Dumbledore’s journey into the cavern. And, yeah, the underwater zombie stuff is pretty frickin’ awesome. The film’s final minutes are quite a downer, but they are a powerful one and manage to get you set, geared up and ready for the big finale. Though, when you take a look at the back half of the eight films in the Harry Potter series, The Half-Blood Prince is the weak link, serving as just a little more than a bridge when it could have been so much more and had a unique identity among the series.
Encoding: HEVC / H.265
Resolution: 4K (2160p)
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:01
Clarity/Detail: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince sees another improvement in the series to the 4K UHD Blu-ray format. How much so may be up to the viewer, but I was quite fond of the work done here. While this one may not be obvious from the HDR and coloring perspective, it is in the overall sharpness and crispness of the image. There is also much more distinct detail present in the image. The handing of blacks, particularly for this movie is an overall strength as well.
Depth: The depth on this UHD release is rather nice as the separation of character an environment/background becomes even more apparently with a bit more pushed back feel. Camera movements and sweeps are much more confident, smoother and cleaner. Characters also move with more confidence, cinematic-like as they look more 3 dimensional in their existence here.
Black Levels: One of the strengths on this one is how well it handles and saturates the blacks in the film. This is a very dark and murky film. The work on the deep blacks is able to work out to a more revealing look to make for a tighter and defined image. Detail in darkened areas and nighttime scenes is kept intact shows a little more than before on things like hair follicles, darker clothing and even surfaces or trails or trees in the woods. No crushing witnessed in this viewing of the film.
Color Reproduction: The film features a waivering color that comes in strong then washes out and is black and white (pretty much) at times going for some sort of artistic vision with everything. HDR comes in pretty good with fire during Dumbledore’s defense on the zombies as well as many spells cast in the film. Some of the filtering, particularly blues get a bit more of an edge to them.
Flesh Tones: Flesh tones range via how the movie looks. As mentioned there are times where this thing becomes so washed out it is almost black and white. Facial details like wrinkles, blemishes, freckles, cuts and bruises and the like all come through pretty clean and clear.
Audio Format(s): English DTS:X (English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD ready), English Descriptive Audio, French (Canadian) 5.1 Dolby Digital, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, German 5.1 Dolby Digital, Italian 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish (Castilian) 5.1 Dolby Digital, Dutch 5.1 Dolby Digital, Japanese 5.1 Dolby Digital, Chinese (Traditional) 5.1 Dolby Digital, Korean 5.1 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish (Latin American) 5.1 Dolby Digital, Czech 5.1 Dolby Digital, Flemish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Polish 5.1 Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English SDH, French, German SDH, Italian SDH, Spanish (Castilian), Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Spanish (Latin American), Portuguese, Arabic, Czech, Danish, Swedish, Finnish, Polish, Norwegian
Dynamics: While what many are looking forward to (Or were looking forward to when buying these) with these 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray Harry Potter releases is how the video will upgrade, its the sound that is really the key player here. Once again, this DTS:X track is complete dynamite and a joy to listen to. With good crisp, loose clarity, from the start you’re going to love all the thought put into this fully immersive track which rates as maybe the best of all the films.
Height: Ceiling speakers are not forgotten, they get accurate play with not being abused or used excessively.
Low Frequency Extension: Many different sort of magical bursts, acts of destruction, roaring of fire or explosions get a nice jolt and thump from your subwoofer.
Surround Sound Presentation: This is a really fun mix. All seven channels bring their A-game. Right from the start, when Horace Slughorn’s apartment begins to put itself back together, you know you’re in for a treat. In fact, lets just focus there. Every speaker gets put to use putting something back together exactly as it would be if standing in the room. Objects float from back to the side to front even all the way to the center channel. And mind you, stuff is all going on at once with a full range of loud and soft, distinct sounds. Its the perfect kind of scene to demo a 7.1 or DTS:X track to your friends.
Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are crisp and clear. Good and clean dialogue is audible throughout the quietest room or the most intense of action.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince comes with the 2-Disc Blu-ray edition and an UltraViolet Digital Copy of the film. All the bonus features are on disc 2 of the Blu-ray edition.
Blu-ray Disc 1
Maximum Movie Mode
Blu-ray Disc 2
Behind the Story
- Creating the World of Harry Potter Part 6: Magical Effects (HD, 1:04:09)
- Behind the Magic (SD, 46:50)
- JK Rowling: A Year In The Life (HD, 49:46)
- Close-Up With the Cast of Harry Potter (HD, 28:34)
- One-Minute Drills (HD, 6:45)
- What’s on Your Mind? (HD, 6:43)
- The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Sneak Peek (HD, 11:40)
- First Footage From Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (HD, 1:50)
Deleted Scenes (HD, 6:51)
Interstitials (SD, 4:42)
Trailers (HD, 8:28)
Yes, I still think Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince is entertaining, and probably many people love it more than the first couple early years Potter films. But, it could have been so much more. Is this 4K UHD Blu-ray “so much more”? Well, bonus features all carry over so they remain the same (A good thing). The picture is indeed an uptick and the audio feels quite a big jump once again. Its rather up to par with the others in the series in terms of how its plays on this new format.