Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Bill Hunt
  • Review Date: Mar 26, 2017
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (4K UHD Review)

Director

David Yates

Release Date(s)

2009 (March 28, 2017)

Studio(s)

Heyday Films/Warner Bros. Pictures (Warner Bros.)
  • Film/Program Grade: B+
  • Video Grade: A
  • Audio Grade: A
  • Extras Grade: A-

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (4K Ultra HD)

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Review

The truth of Voldemort’s return having been revealed at last, life returns to normal for Harry Potter at Hogwarts… at least for a time. He soon discovers a tattered old book of spells that once belonged to the so-called ‘Half-Blood Prince,’ a mysterious person whose powerful magic helps Harry to excel in his classes. But when people in the Wizarding community begin to disappear, either by kidnapping or by choice to join Voldemort’s side, Dumbledore gives Harry a new task: He must attempt to learn a secret known only by a new professor at the school, Horace Slughorn, a secret that could hold the key to defeating the Dark Lord once and for all.

Half-Blood Prince is a somewhat darker entry in this series, but that’s to be expected given its twists and plot. Director David Yates follows up his own Order of the Phoenix here with another solid turn at the helm, though this film is a little trickier. For one thing, it’s the Potter film that deviates most from the book upon which its based. The story is greatly streamlined. Much of Tom Riddle’s background is cut, along with Harry grieving for Sirius, and elements considered redundant (repeated in the surround films) have been removed. The Weasley’s Burrow burns in the film, but not in the book. More time is spent to develop the romance between Hermione and Ron, as well as Harry and Ginny, but not until other romantic interests have played out too and been dispatched. Some of this was done to add a measure of comedy, while some of it simply must be solidified here, as there’s little time to do it in the films that follow. The editing is also oddly-paced at times; for example, a scene of Slughorn and Harry talking ends and immediately cuts to Harry trying to speak with Slughorn again. Still, this film is arguably the most beautiful of the series, with striking imagery from start to finish. Alan Rickman’s Snape shines once again, as does newcomer Jim Broadbent as Slughorn. The film also offers the series’ most powerful and moving climax yet.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Price was again shot on Super 35 film and mastered to a 2K Digital Intermediate, which means it’s been upsampled for this release and given a new HDR color grading pass. The film is presented here with a running time of 153:30 at the 2.39:1 theatrical aspect ratio. (It’s worth noting that the film’s opening sequence was converted to 3D for its IMAX release, though not the entire film – of course, it's not in 3D here.) There’s a little bit more grain visible in the image on this film than in the 4K version of Order of the Phoenix, but a bit more fine detail is apparent as well, both suggestive of the idea that less grain reduction was done before upsampling to 4K. Overall detail and texturing are thus excellent. Once again, though, it’s the High Dynamic Range that really impresses – not just in the obvious things, like the brilliant flashes of spells, but little things too, all now shaded in richer and more numerous colors than ever before, such as Dumbledore’s glowing case of memory vials, the shimmering and semi-translucent gold curtains at Slughorn’s party, and Dumbledore’s backlit hair in the moonlight during the film’s finale. Simply put, this film looks tremendous in Ultra HD, with HDR lending a dramatic improvement over the previous Blu-ray image.

Audio options on the 4K disc include English DTS:X (compatible with any multi-channel speaker arrangement you may be using – 5.1, 7.1, etc). As was the case on the Order of the Phoenix 4K disc, the clarity and dynamic range of the DTS:X mix is about the same as the regular Blu-ray’s DTS-HD audio, but the object-based mix feels a little more open and natural sounding, as well as a bit smoother and at the same time more precise, especially at the beginning, when vaporous Death Eaters fly in great swirling patterns over and around London. The difference isn’t huge, but it’s notable. Additional audio options are more plentiful on this film and include English Descriptive Audio, French (dubbed in Quebec) and German 5.1 DTS-HD MA, and French, Italian, Castilian Spanish, Dutch, Korean, Mandarin, Cantonese, Spanish, Portuguese, Catalan, Czech, Flemish, and Polish 5.1 Dolby Digital (with optional subtitles in those same languages plus several more).

Warner’s 4K Ultra HD release is a 3-disc set. It contains the film by itself in 4K on the UHD, plus a movie Blu-ray with the film in 1080p HD. This is the same disc that was released previously in the Ultimate Collector’s Edition Blu-ray set for this film, and it includes the following extras in HD:

  • Maximum Movie Mode
  • Focus Points (14 short featurettes – 37:46 in all)

There’s also a second Blu-ray, all of extras and again the same bonus disc that was included in the previous Ultimate Collector’s Edition Blu-ray set, called Creating the World of Harry Potter: Part 6 – Magical Effects. Its extras, most in HD, include:

  • Creating the World of Harry Potter Part 6: Magical Effects (64:09)
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Behind the Magic (46:50)
  • J.K. Rowling: A Year in the Life (49:46)
  • Close-Up with the Cast of Harry Potter (8 featurettes – approx. 28:00 in all)
  • One-Minute Drills (6:45)
  • What’s On Your Mind? (6:43)
  • The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Sneak Peek (11:40)
  • First Footage from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (1:50)
  • Deleted Scenes (8 scenes total – 6:51 in all)
  • Interstitials (5 total – 4:42 in all)
  • Teaser Trailer (1:41)
  • Theatrical Trailer #3A (1:53)
  • Theatrical Trailer #4B (2:27)
  • Theatrical Trailer #5 (2:27)

These extras represent virtually everything created for this film in previous Blu-ray and DVD releases. You don’t get the UCE edition’s hardcover book or swag, but you do get a Digital HD copy code on a paper insert.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince scored well with critics and certainly raised the stakes in this series dramatically, featuring an event that was shocking to readers of the book series and is no less powerful and moving on film. Warner’s 4K release carries over all of the disc-based features of the fine Ultimate Collector’s Edition Blu-ray edition, adds minor improvements in image resolution and sound quality, and dazzles with its HDR. This is, by far, the best way to experience the film. If you can get the disc for a good price, it’s definitely recommended for fans and 4K enthusiasts alike.

- Bill Hunt

 

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