The Good

The Harry Potter franchise tries to stretch itself here. A solid Blu-ray package.

The Bad

If you've seen one you've seen them all.Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince is the sixth film in the beloved Harry Potter saga. We begin this "new" tale at Hogwarts School where Harry comes to believe that that Draco Malfoy is a new Death Eater recruit that has been sent to the school by the Dark Lord. As this is happening, Professor Dumbledore starts to prepare Harry for the dark path that lies ahead, and Dumbledore begins to train him for what he is up against. Amidst all this, we finally get a glimpse into the past of Lord Voldemort so we can understand why he is the character that he is.

Professor Horace Slughorn is soon introduced and it is revealed that he holds a key to helping defeat Voldemort as well. Harry soon is assigned with the task of getting to the bottom of the Horcrux, Voldemort's darkest weapon. Somehow, director David Yates has managed to keep Harry, Ron and Hermione interesting by actually delving into their characters somewhat. As this trio is reaching that awkward age between adolescence and adulthood, we get to see how they deal with the pains of growing up.

While some people have derided Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince as being boring and focused too much on the characterizations, I was actually surprised with how much breadth and depth this movie has. Sure, it follows the typical trappings of all the Harry Potter movies (ie. we know Harry is going to seem like he has evolved, we realize he has much to learn, he's never in any real danger, though we will think he is, etc.), but at the end of the day this movie was a lot more entertaining than I both thought and heard it was.

Features

Maximum Movie Mode

Daniel Radcliffe supposedly takes users on the journey of making this movie with such things as:

- Picture-In-Picture

- Focus Points

- Scene Comparisons

However, this experience mainly takes the above three supplemental features and meshes everything together so this movie becomes a very intuitive and interactive experience. We get to watch the movie, hear stories from the cast and crew, focus on certain production aspects of the film (ie. Professor Slughorn, Building Relationships, Director David Yates Returns, Wool's Orphanage, etc.), all while following along with the movie proper. Basically, if you enjoyed this film in the theater and you had questions about various aspects of the production, the actors or what the director intended, all of that will be answered for you in this easy to navigate Maximum Movie section.

Close-Up with the Cast

One-Minute Drills

In this section, the cast of the film (or at least those who have been in a decent amount of the movies) has to tell their character's story over the course of the 6 films. As somebody who really hasn't kept up with this franchise since the first or second movie, I found it interesting getting to hear how these characters have come to evolve over time. While people who are die-hard, didactic fans of this franchise might want more, for the newly initiated this is a nice extra piece of material.

J.K. Rowling: A Year in the Life

First Footage from The Deathly Hallows

The amount of new footage from The Deathly Hallows clocks in at about 50 seconds. Fort all the talk, for all the hype (they even a include a sticker on the Blu-ray cover!), this is essentially a trailer for this upcoming movie. Fan sites will no doubt buzz about this, trying to scoop and outdo other fan sites, and at the end of the day it all won't matter too much because this is clearly a case of style over substance.

What's On Your Mind?

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

I guess one might call this the cherry on top. Clocking in at 12 minutes people all over the world can now see the Harry Potter attraction that is being built at Universal's Orlando Resort in Florida. While I wonder what kind of legs a place like this will have, I think it's amazing that this franchise was able to spawn this sort of creation.

Video

Video codec: VC-1. Video resolution: 1080p. Aspect ratio: 2.40:1. Original aspect ratio: 2.39:1. Since this is one of the darker offerings in the Harry Potter world, the look of this movie follows suit. While I love the almost colorless look that this film managed to achieve on Blu-ray disc, at times I thought that it was cold, dyspeptic and made the whole experience kind of boring. Sure, one doesn't want things to be bright and rosy the whole time, but I think there can be a happy medium where both aesthetic choices can thrive. David Yates and his cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel have done a solid job with the presentation, I just wish that on Blu-ray things didn't feel so labored.

Audio

English: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 - French: Dolby Digital 5.1 - Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1- French: Dolby Digital 5.1 - Subtitles - English SDH, French, Spanish. The audio on this film is big, bold and loud. As I have stated in other reviews, I don't have the audio in my home set-up in any sort of a surround sound way. That didn't matter at all here as everything felt very rich. Sure, it wasn't anything that I hadn't heard before, but the presentation was awesome and this had a hand in making the whole Harry Potter experience feel as big as Blu-ray disc is meant to feel. While I still think that this format is a lot of overkill, I also feel that if you are a home theater enthusiast there is a lot to be gained by having Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince in your collection.

Package

Harry Potter and Dumbledore are shown on this front cover which, if you move it a certain way actually changes and Harry turns into Draco Malfoy and Dumbledore becomes Severus Snape. The back portion of this slip-over cover gives us one tiny shot from the film, a Special features listing, cast list and technical specs. All three discs are economically stored in this Blu-ray case. Good work, Warner Bros.!

Final Word

The Harry Potter series is loved by a lot of people. Sadly, I find that these sorts of fantasy films play by the exact same rules as every other film of its ilk. Harry is basically going on the same adventure. No real important characters are going to die (and if they do then they weren't that important to start with, right?), and this whole nonsense of "the chosen one" is getting a bit old. Sure, it was new in Star Wars, The Matrix, and all the other films of that nature but as Avatar has proven, we don't really need another one. If Harry was so great, if he was so special, would he really be continuing to get into the same predicaments again and again?

As a Blu-laser beam release Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince delivers with exceptional picture, audio and bonus features. From a purely consumer standpoint, this 3 disc set is surely worth owning. However, if you like things that aren't paint by numbers there are certainly mainly other ways (and Blu-ray D's) to go.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was released July 7, 2009.