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Category:    Home > Reviews > Fantasy > Literature > Teens > Harry Potter & The Chamber Of Secrets: Year 2 – Ultimate Edition (Warner Blu-ray) + Harry Potter & The Half Blood Prince: Year 6 (Warner Blu-ray + DVD w/Digital Copy)

Harry Potter & The Chamber Of Secrets: Year 2 – Ultimate Edition (Warner Blu-ray) + Harry Potter & The Half Blood Prince: Year 6 (Warner Blu-ray + DVD w/Digital Copy)


Picture: B+/B+/B-     Sound: B+/B+/B-     Extras: B+/B     Films: B/B-



To this reviewer the Harry Potter films have only gotten progressively better; each adding a new layer of depth and darkness that keeps the storyline edgy and interesting.  Whereas the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone turned many viewers off to the series all together, dismissing it as simplistic and childish, in actuality the first film was merely a launching point for a much bigger and epic tale.  After getting the introductory formalities out of the way with Sorcerer’s Stone the creative entities behind the films were able to mold and elaborate on J.K. Rowling’s fantastic vision.


The creative team that helmed the first film stuck around for part 2; giving the two films a seamless transition as they were shot back-to-back.  Chris Columbus did an excellent job of bringing J.K. Rowling’s novel to life with later directors learning and growing from his success, as well as his short comings.  The film is very faithful to the novel and seems to only depart with the very fine details and tangential side stories.  Many fans would have liked to see every minuscule detail included (like Peter Jackson’s LOTR series), but with a fan base that is composed of many, many small children a 3+ hour film was not feasible.  Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets has a wonderfully imaginative feel that keeps children interested, but slowly begins to depart from the ‘completely’ family friendly vibe, which slightly hindered the first film.  As many Potter fans can attest to, the Harry Potter series gets increasingly darker with each novel/film allowing for more emotional states and narrative twists to be explored.  Even Daniel Radcliffe states how he is somewhat ashamed of his early performances in the Potter films; though we can’t blame the little bugger too much.  Like pealing away layers of old wallpaper, each additional tale Rowling featured the same basic magic premise but revealed more and more about an extremely imaginative world.


The troubles that follow Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) seem to worsen year after year and whereas Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets only places our magical hero in mild dangers (for him); it is more than apparent that this is only the beginning of troubles to come.  With his team of friends by his side, Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson), it is revealed that there is much more to the world of Harry Potter than a mere child’s tale.  There is death, deception, love, hate, murder, conspiracy, double crosses and a fantastic darkness.  What makes the films work so well also is how they do not just center of Harry; whereas he obviously is the key feature, by involving and fleshing-out the plethora of other characters that Rowling has imagined the films gain an overwhelming sense of depth.  The aforementioned depth is only extenuated when the films are revisited, as J.K. managed to brilliantly (and discretely) blend in hints of what’s to come; with foreshadowing that could bring a smile to any fans face.


Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (though shot continuously with Sorcerer’s Stone) manages to give glimpse of the darkness that lies around each corner at Hogwarts, dismissing the child-like glow of Sorcerer’s Stone and establishing early on that Harry’s childhood is coming to an abrupt end.  As previously mentioned the Potter films only seem to get better with each passing year and whereas Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is far from perfect it manages to hint at the intensity that is to come.


Skipping ahead to Year 6 with Harry Potter we now are at Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.  The film is starkly different as far as style and depth when compared to Chamber of Secrets, but does deliver the continuingly dark progression that the Potter series has promised.  I must somewhat retract my statement from earlier when I said each Potter film has been better than the last; since Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (at least in its film incarnation) is a step back for the series.  In the end, the hugely revealing novel was too much for one film to contain and in turn too much from the novel was hack away at to make a stellar film.  By the end of the film the viewer is left wanting more (as each film has), but it is different as the film did not offer enough development and left out key events from the novel.  By dismissing vital facts and chopping out battle sequences the film was left gutted and empty.


Essentially Lord Voldemort is back and more powerful than ever; putting the magic and human worlds into a state of chaos.  Other than the aforementioned “rise of Voldemort” I consider the film quite stagnant with little development and a very assuming nature.  Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince was a literary work of art as it managed to pull back the curtain on many of the mysteries of the Potter universe and develop the characters physically and emotionally.  The film demonstrates a problem that was bound to catch up to the series (obviously) sooner father than later, as the novels began to grow in content and length, but the studio attempted to maintain a film that was under 3hours.  Whereas writers/directors like Peter Jackson fought for their films, Potter’s creators seemingly appeased the studio by delivering a less than adequate, yet short film.  Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince certainly should have been split into 2-parts; giving not only fans a faithful adaptation, but also putting money in the studio’s pocket (win-win).  However, I guess we get what we get.


The film, as previously mentioned, leaves out key elements of the novel and in turn leaves those who did not read the books lost and questioning many of the films events.  The assuming nature of the film leaves both casual viewers and hardcore fans demanding more.  The film often times feels rushed as it is trying to cover as many aspects of the novel as possible, while concurrently abbreviating everything.


The film is filled with odd events, raging hormones and danger around each corner; getting the general drift of the novel, but far from the true essence.  Whereas after viewing all of the other Potter films I was giddy with anticipation; I could not help but feeling unfulfilled and asking for a “do-over” for Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.  Many elements are unexplained and others are left out all together.  The only bright side of the film (oddly enough) is the darkness.  The film’s creative team does an excellent job of getting the tone and stylistic feel of the film correct, mildly making up for the number of other shortcomings.  Except the fact that Narcissa Malfoy was given a “skunk haircut” and Hermione has become too attractive the style of the characters are seemingly spot-on; and with wonderful sets and striking special effects the film is visually stunning.


If we were judging the film on visual appeal alone it would be an ‘A,’ but the lack of content and a missing climax truly detract from the film.  ‘Missing climax,’ you say?  That’s right; the end of the novel (an epic battle of students vs. Death Eaters) is completely cut-out as the director felt that it would be too close of an ending to the final Harry Potter film.  Well, in the end it was a dumb decision and left the film with an unfit, abrupt end.


Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: Year 2 – Ultimate Edition


The double-dip of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is contained in a massive box set that is just as thick as the later Harry Potter novels.  The set contains 3 sections inside; a 3-Disc foldout casing for the Film, a new featurette entitled Creating the World of Harry Potter: Part 2-Characters and a Bonus Features disc; a small hardback book of Creating the Characters of Harry Potter; an envelope with 2 hard cardboard pictures (Hagrid & Snape) and the Digital Copy disc.


The Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: Year 2 – Ultimate Edition is the same as the 2007 Warner Blu-ray release; just placed in a bigger fancier box.  The picture is presented in a 2.4 X 1, 1080p/VC-1 encoded image that whereas nice with its vivid colors and solid contrast; it lacks other key features as it is lacking a degree of detail throughout as well as being a tad soft.  Even with the previously mentioned shortcomings the picture is well done even if having a ‘blended’ feel at times.  The sound uses the entire speaker range in its DTS-HD Master Audio format sounding quite good throughout with solid directionality, a wonderful crispness/clarity and an overall powerfulness.  In the end, the picture and sound are not exactly perfect but very, very well done.


The extras on this set are the same as the previous release except that this release contains both the theatrical release (161 minutes) and the extended cut (174 minutes).  The theatrical release can also be viewed with picture-in-picture as key elements are explained through the In-Movie Experience Feature.  The second disc features a plethora of extras including Deleted Scenes, Screen Tests, Chamber of Secrets Revealed Featurette and Trailers and TV Spots.  Disc 3 features include Games, Behind Hogwarts featurettes, a Conversation with JK Rowling and Steve Kloves, Tour Dumbledore’s Office, Build a Scene, Interviews with Students-Professors-and More, Gallery of Production Sketches, Additional Scenes, Game Preview, Lockhart’s Classroom and Spellcaster Knowledge.  The best part about the set is the new 80minute featurette that details the characters of Harry Potter as only the actors who play them know; each character is looked at in depth with this featurette being a great enough reason to sell your old copy and grab the double-dip.


Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy)

The picture and sound on the Blu-ray are a mixed bag that many have criticized as poorly constructed; but in actuality the so called “flaws” are by the original designers and have nothing to do with the Blu-ray transfer.  The picture is presented in 1080p/VC-1 transfer that demonstrates muted colors, staggering graininess and an overall darkness that gives the film a creepy atmosphere, but does not make for the best Blu-ray presentation.  The darkness and graininess took precedence over detail and clarity for the creative team (apparently) opting for an overly stylized film rather than doing it the right way…but oh well.  The sound is a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround Sound that is better than the picture quality as it has great ambient noises, solid directionality, crisp/clean dialogue and an overall quality that is impressive; although not perfect.


The DVD is essentially just a big let down in terms of picture and only mildly passable for sound.  The picture looks grainier and darker than on Blu-ray; with even more detail being lost.  The sound is similar in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, but does not compare to the Blu-ray’s clarity or directionality.  Stick with Blu-ray.


The extras include a Picture-in-Picture Mode (available in other releases) that offers trivial facts here and there; other features include Focus Points, Close Ups with the Cast of Harry Potter; Editing with Daniel Radcliffe; Special Effects with Mathew Lewis, Oliver Phelps and Tom Felton; Stunt Training with Rupert Grint; Owl Training with Jessie Cave; Costume Designs with Ivana Lynch; Art with Bonnie Wright; Behind the Camera with James; Makeup with Emma Watson; One Minute Drills; First Footage from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows; A Year in the Life of JK Rowling; What’s on Your Mind; Additional Footage.  Then there are exclusive High Definition features.  The High Def features include Harry Potter Spells; The Making of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince: The Video Game; The Death Eaters Destroy the Great Hall: A Visual Effects Guide; Daniel Radcliffe Introduces Harry Potter the Ultimate Editions; Harry Potter Live Community Screening.


Phheeeew! That was a ton of extras to get through and trust me it will take time! The extras can be drab at times, but Harry Potter fans will enjoy taking a look. If nothing else the time and effort are put into these film’s extras; something that many studios neglect with newer feature films.


I recommend adding both of these films to your Blu-ray collection, but be aware that there will be an Ultimate Edition of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.



-   Michael P. Dougherty II


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