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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.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1
There's an early scene that makes things perfectly clear as to what's at stake for Harry, Ron, Hermione and the entire wizarding world in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1. In it Harmione casts a spell that wipes out all memory of her from the minds of her parents in order to keep them safe from harm and quite possibly from the grief of her not returning from what would have been her last year at Hogwart's. The gleefully fun and magical world that we have come to know throughout the series has slowly been building to this point, a world wherein a mistake in casting a spell no longer results in a bad grade but is a matter of life and death.

I have not read one page of any of the Potter novels, but have may friends who have gone over them multiple times. As far as many of them are concerned this is the best Harry Potter film as besides a few quibbles here and there it stays truer to the novel than any of the preceding films. Speaking strictly from the point of view of seeing only the films I would agree that it is a good film, but it doesn't completely work on certain levels for me since it is only half of a completed story. The main protagonist and antagonist never share any real screen time as each are off on their own separate quests, and when the film does come to its conclusion it isn't fulfilling enough for the nearly two and a half hours invested in the picture.
 
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1
The upside there is that it's definitely a much more character driven piece than any of the previous movies due to the time afforded by splitting the final novel into two films. When the three seclude themselves on their journey to seek out and destroy Voldemort's Horcruxes it is the first time in the series that Ratcliffe, Watson and Grint have to carry the series on their shoulders without the benefit of more veteran actors such as Alan Rickman and Michael Gambon getting much screen time. I'm not sure that if the three lead actors were any younger in their acting abilities or didn't have the knowledge of playing these characters through six movies that they'd be able to pull it off, but they do so brilliantly and save the movie from being a largely dull buildup to the final film.

Ultimately that's what this really is--the buildup towards the climactic battle that this now seven film series has been building towards for ten years--and those who have chosen to wait until the final film's release in order to view The Deathly Hallows in its entirety will easily find this first part more satisfying. Due in small part to the anxiousness of friends for the upcoming conclusion I have no doubt that the final film due this summer will be a fantastic and exciting time in the theater. I'm rather looking forward to Part 2 myself, with part of me relieved that the majority of the exposition has been dealt with here. Still, another part of me will miss this more intimate look into the world of Harry Potter, which is the first time in the series that I felt the world of wizardry was tangible and a place closer to reality due to the quieter moments shared between Harry, Hermione and Ron.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1
Video
Warner Home Video presents The Deathly Hallows Part 1 on Blu-ray with an exceptional 1080p, AVC encoded video transfer at an aspect ratio of 2.40:1. As this series of films has continued to grow darker and more ominous so has the color palette of each succeeding film, and this may be the gloomiest yet. The transfer's black levels are never inconsistent and the light starved cinematography of the film is perfectly replicated for home viewing. Contrast, color rendering and skintones are all gorgeously reproduced as well and as expected with a newer theatrical release to Blu-ray I could not find any instances where the transfer suffered from any sort of degradation due to damage from the source print such as dirt or debris. Other anomalies that might pop up in lesser efforts such as aliasing or artifacting never pose a threat. Overall, this might be the best video transfer that a Harry Potter film has seen on Blu-ray.

Audio
Warner Home Video has provided the film on Blu-ray with an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track as its primary selection and the film sounds just as good as it looks. Every channel is used to excellent effect with sounds swooshing from left to right and back again and enough use of the LFE channel that will keep the neighbors awake, yet dialogue remains perfectly audible throughout all the whizzes and bangs of crackling spells and broomsticks. There are plenty of nice scenes throughout the film that could be deemed demo worthy, yet it's the simple immersiveness of the quieter scenes such as the lead's stay in the forest and Harry and Hermione's trip to Godric's Hollow that set the film's soundscape apart from other blockbusters. Overall this is an excellent audio track and it bears repeating that it's very much demo worthy material.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1
Extras
Like all of the previous outings in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 has been graced with a nice assortment of high definition extras that still manages to frustratingly leave out a couple of key ones. Most prominent is the return of Warner's Maximum Movie Mode picture-in-picture feature, this time hosted by actor Jason Isaacs who portrays Luscious Malfoy in the films. Offering plenty of background on the making of the film this is an exceptional track that includes optional Focus Points featurettes, interviews and trivia as well as readings from the book by Tom Felton who portrays Draco Malfoy in the series. As cool a feature as this is and has been in the past, I still would prefer an actual audio commentary or two. As it stands this is one of the better renditions of Warner's signature Blu-ray feature.

Next up are a set of featurettes, "The Seven Harrys", "On the Green with Rupert, Tom, Oliver and James", "Dan, Rupert and Emma's Running Competition", "The Frozen Lake" and "Godric's Hollow and the Harry & Nagini Battle". Of these I quite enjoyed the golf outing with Rupert, Tom, Oliver and James the best, which is odd because it has little to do with the film itself, but it allows these young men to truly be themselves while playing on a golf course that most can only dream of playing on. Also included are eight additional scenes, and while some were understandably removed for pacing they are all worth the time in watching as they add to the overall narrative of the story.

"The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Grand Opening" follows some of the cast including Daniel Ratcliffe and author J.K. Rowling on a tour of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida. Speaking from personal experience this is a nice featurette that goes over the main points of the attraction, only without the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds that were in attendance when I visited last November. The rest of the features are rounded out by a short piece on the scoring of the film, "Behind the Soundtrack", access to the Focus Points from the Maximum Movie Mode and BD-Live support. A standard definition DVD copy is also included as is a digital copy for the mobile device of your choosing. A feature not made available on my review copy is a sneak peek of the new film, but retail copies will include this feature.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1
Overall
Many of my friends who have read the entire series of Potter books have proclaimed that this is their favorite adaptation yet and are anxiously awaiting the conclusion due in a few months. I thought it was the best since the third entry mainly due to the outstanding performances of the three young leads, but the feeling that I only got half a movie still lingers in the back of my mind. Still as a primer for the last film this is essential viewing. Warner Home Video's Blu-ray presentation of the film is without a doubt superb with reference quality video and audio and a nice selection of extras. Overall, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 on Blu-ray is a must purchase, unless of course you are holding out for inevitable Ultimate Collector's Edition to roll around.


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