New on DVD/Blu-ray: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 (2010)

Nearly ten years and seven movies later, it’s the end of the road for Harry Potter, Ron, and Hermione. Well, almost. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -Part 1” is the first of a two-part franchise finale, and marks the beginning of the end for moviedom’s magical trio. J.K. Rowling’s latest box office monster will be available on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD, On Demand and for Download April 15, 2011 from Warner Home Video, just in time to get you ready for “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -Part 2”, due out three months from now.

Harry, Ron and Hermione set out on their perilous mission to track down and destroy the secret to Voldemort’s immortality and destruction – the Horcruxes. On their own and on the run, the three friends must now rely on one another more than ever…but Dark Forces in their midst threaten to tear them apart. Meanwhile the wizarding world has become a dangerous place. The long-feared war has begun and the Dark Lord has seized control of the Ministry of Magic and even Hogwarts, terrorizing and arresting all who might oppose him. The Chosen One has become the hunted one as the Death Eaters search for Harry with orders to bring him to Voldemort…alive.

Movie Review:

It’s dark times for Harry Potter, Ron, Hermione, and the boys and girls (and adults) of Hogwarts. Voldermort, the darkest of all the Dark Lords, have risen and taken over, forcing our heroes to go on the run and sending the world of magic into utter turmoil. The world of Harry Potter has gotten darker than it’s ever been. Can anyone survive? God, we hope so, cause there’s at least one more installment to go!

“Deathly Hallows” is definitely unlike any of the previous “Potter” films. Not only has the action been almost entirely transplanted outside the walls of Hogwarts, but any semblance of those old carefree, magical days filled with magic classes and Quidditch matches are nothing more than memories now. In their place is a brooding, deliberately paced drama, a road movie of sorts, with lots of talking, exposition, and bursts of magic action every now and then. This is the build-up, the slow “getting there” part, with Potter and company confronting the evil Voldermort in the second part opening later this Summer.

“Potter” veteran David Yates, who previously helmed “The Order of the Phoenix” and “The Half-Blood Prince” returns for his third outing (or is that four, counting “Part 2”?), does well to maintain the somber aesthetics of the last few installments. There is still magic and the leads are still supposed to be teenagers, but “Deathly Hallows”, like its title, certainly feels a lot more mature than any “Potter” film that’s come before it, so parents need to at least give the movie a whirl before letting their younger children see it. You have Death Eaters, a bounty of Harry Potter’s head, and some pretty heady stuff going on between the three friends as they seek out pieces of Voldermort’s soul in order to take him down. As the penultimate episode in the “Harry Potter” universe, “Deathly Hallows – Part 1” does exactly what it’s supposed to do — make you anxious to see the finale.

That said, if you’re new to the franchise, “Deathly Hallows” will hopelessly confuse you. Heck, it might even seem somewhat boring. It is, after all, the seventh movie in an ongoing franchise, so this is definitely not the time to be picking it up. Young leads Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint have certainly taken things upon their young shoulders, with the three actors sharing the bulk of the screentime, and it’s safe to say they’ve really grown as not just characters, but also actors. Radcliffe in particular has grown by leaps and bounds, but so has Emma Watson, who is clearly destined for great things beyond the franchise.

Supporting work by the adults, including Helena Bonham Carter, Jason Isaacs, and Rhys Ifans keep things steady when we’re not focusing on the kids, as they’ve always done throughout the franchise. The “Harry Potter” movies have always been good with filling out the cast with competent adult castmembers, while still allowing the kids room for growth. Ralph Fiennes is particularly good as the slimy and Muggles-hating Voldermort.

Blu-Ray Review:

The Blu-ray Combo Pack contains the Blu-ray and standard DVD copy of the movie on separate discs. The movie presentation is flawless, so no complaints there.

The Blu-ray disc comes with Maximum Movie Mode hosted by Jason Isaacs and features the cast and crew appearing throughout the movie with behind-the-scenes mini-featurettes that delves more into a particular scene or sequence. The featurettes themselves can be seen separately in the movie’s Focal Points feature.

There is a third and strangely unlabeled disc that features more bonus material, including a “Behind the Story” section that includes about 30 minutes worth of mini-featurettes. Included are various behind-the-scenes goodies, along with a golf outing by the film’s “lads”. What exactly did we learn from this? Well for one, Daniel Radcliffe is one fast dude. The rest of the disc includes about 11 minutes of additional scenes, a 6-minute featurette with the cast as they attend the grand opening of the Harry Potter theme park at the Universal Orlando Resort in Florida, and finally, a 3-minute session on the making of the film’s soundtrack.

Get “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1” on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD, On Demand and for Download April 15, 2011 from Warner Home Video.