Ultra HD
Highly Recommended
4.5 stars
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Overall Grade
4.5 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
4 Stars
HD Video Quality
4.5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
4.5 Stars
Supplements
4.5 Stars
High-Def Extras
0 Stars
Bottom Line
Highly Recommended

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - Ultra HD Blu-ray

Street Date:
March 28th, 2017
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
April 11th, 2017
Movie Release Year:
2009
Studio:
Warner Bros.
Length:
153 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
PG
Release Country
United States

Editor's Notes

Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of the Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Blu-ray. Specifically, Aaron Peck wrote about the Movie Itself, while Bryan Kluger penned new Vital Disc Stats, Video, Audio, and Final Thoughts sections. Both Aaron and Bryan contributed to Special Features.

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

With Lord Voldemort growing more and more powerful, Harry, Dumbledore, Ron, and Hermione find themselves smack dab in the middle of another adventure. At one point Professor McGonagall approaches the three of them after a student is attacked by an unseen force, and asks them "Why is it, that whenever anything happens, it's always you three?" Ron Weasley replies, "Believe me, Professor. I've been asking myself that same question for the past six years." One of the strengths of this newest 'Potter' film is its ability to poke fun at itself. The story has become self-aware and points out things viewers might be wondering too.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince finds itself almost completely disregarding the last movie, where Harry built up Dumbledore's Army with some of the students at Hogwarts. As a person that has been slow to get to the books, this is bothersome. Half-Blood Prince takes full advantage and assumes that the audience has indeed read the books (Example: Never, ever in the entire movie is the Half-Blood Prince thing ever explained. We find out who it actually is, but not what it means at all). Even after my second viewing of the film, I still find myself confused as to why Harry and Dumbledore know they need to go to that cave. I'm sure Potter purists will be able to fill me in on that, but a movie based on a book needs to be able to stand on its own.

Our three heroes find much more than danger from the Dark Lord this year at Hogwarts. They're all grown up and are ready to act like angst-ridden teenagers with overactive libidos. Much of the movie is spent going over the soap opera-esque relationships. Ron is being stalked by an insanely weird girl named Lavender. Hermione is jealous of Lavender's relationship with Ron. And to top it all off, Harry is trying to get with Ron's sister Ginny, but she's dating someone else. Far too much of the film is spent worrying about these relationships, which seem to flounder about 90210-style, until the very end.

The most interesting parts of the movie are the flashback memories of Tom Riddle. I'm informed that there are many more memories stored in the books that give us much more information on Riddle and his plans. I'm saddened by the exclusion of these flashbacks, as I think Voldemort is truly the most interesting character in the whole series. The flashbacks are engrossing, but when they end it's right back to the awkward teenage love stories. The transitions are somewhat jarring.

The climax of the film has an air of incompleteness to it. Even without having read the books it feels like something is missing, imagine my surprise when I found out that a large and ferocious battle between the students and the Death Eaters is completely disregarded. As I have said, I think a movie based on a book should indeed be able to stand on its own, but overlooking something as big as that seems like it gives the movie an anti-climatic ending. A big battle involving Hogwarts students would have also, tied the fifth film into this one much better.

With this installment, the Potter franchise is diving deeper and deeper into darker territory, which is not at all kid friendly. The PG rating on this film is, in this reviewer's opinion, a joke. I personally enjoy the darker aspects as the franchise matures, but I don't think younger children should be watching this.

It would seem by my review that I think pretty harshly of the film, but after all is said and done; I think it's one of the better movies in the franchise. It isn't without its flaws, but how do you please everyone anyway? Especially a fan base as rabid as Harry Potter fans. For me, Half-Blood Prince is arguably the best of the series (this is very debatable I know), but its lukewarm climax holds it back.

Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince comes with a dual-layered UHD66 Disc, a Blu-ray Disc of the film, and a second Blu-ray Disc with all of the Bonus Materials. The Blu-rays are Region A Locked. There is an insert for a Digital HD copy as well. The discs are housed in a hard, black plastic case where two of the three discs are stacked on top of each other. There is a cardboard sleeve too.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

The UHD release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is presented in 4K Ultra HD with an HEVC H.265 encode in 2160p and a 2.40:1 aspect ratio. Half-Blood Prince was filmed in Super 35mm and finished as a 2K Digital Intermediate before this release, which was up-converted to 4K UHD with an impressive HDR10 / WCG grading.

The image looks simply fantastic here and is a definite upgrade from previous releases. There is more grain with this movie than Order of the Phoenix and Deathly Hallows I & II, and I imagine as Warner Bros. releases the rest of the films, we will see more grain, meaning grain reduction wasn't used as much in the earlier films in these new transfers. With heavier grain though, we get a deeper image and not the digital flat look, which is always welcome. Individual hairs on Dumbledores face and head look excellent, as well as the landscapes of Hogwarts. The glass memory vials show light and the imperfections in the glass and ink labels perfectly as well. Other wardrobe and facial features show up nicely here too. Wider shots never go soft, nor do the heavier CGI effects. It all looks organic with a ton of image depth.

The HDR shines above all with bright, bold, and nuanced shades of color in every scene. Oranges, yellows, and reds in the well-lit rooms of Hogwarts are warm and inviting, giving lighting textures to glass objects and the memory vials, that truly shine. The spells that emit from the wands look impressive as well with their bright white and blue color scheme. The more vague color scheme when the villains are on screen look exquisite and look to be void of any real warm colors, but a simple black and white look, which is always well balanced.

Colors pop off the screen at all times. Black levels are deep and inky with no evidence of crush, and the skin tones are natural throughout. There are no issues with any banding, aliasing, or any other video noise that I noticed. When this film was released in theaters, the opening scene was in 3D, but that's not the case here with this 4K UHD release, which is just fine by me.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

This UHD release of Harry Potter and the Half -Blood Prince comes with a great English DTS:X track that sounds excellent.

Like the other UHD re-releases, this is an upgraded audio track from previous versions in that there is an extra heft here on all sound aspects. All of the magic spells are full of fury and have a great low end. You'll really feel like wands are lighting up inside your viewing room all over. There are some excellent overhead sounds to when the death eaters are flying around, which is fairly haunting as well. Background chatter, screams, and people walking can be heard through the surround speakers nicely too.

The bass is full and never overly done, and does not cross into rocky territory. The dialogue is always clear and easy to follow along, no matter if it's an intense exchange between angry characters or soft spoken material in quiet places. It all sounds natural with the right dynamics in each scene. The score has a darker tone here and comes through nicely and always adds to the suspense in each scene. There are no pops, cracks, hiss, or shrills here, leaving this audio mix with great marks. 

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

Blu-ray Disc 1 (Movie)

Maximum Movie Mode - This is a Picture-in-Picture feature that pops up during the film with the cast and crew offering information on the film.

Focus Points (HD, 38 Mins.) - This is a behind-the-scenes featurette that can be either viewed during Maximum Movie Mode, or viewed individually on your own time.

Blu-ray Disc 2 (Extras)

Creating the World of Harry Potter Part 6: Magical Effects (HD, 64 Mins.) - This is by far, one of the best segments of the 'Creating the World' series. It goes in-depth about the visual effects used to create the world of 'Harry Potter'. They travel through each and every movie covering aspects of the look of casting spells to every visual effect you see on screen. It's a wonderfully immersive documentary that runs the gamut on special effects. With all the special effects throughout the 'Potter' movies you'd be able to do an eight-hour presentation on that alone. Still, here they're able to cover all you'll want to know about how the movie's effects were created throughout the different movies.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Behind the Magic (HD, 47 Mins.) - Hosted by Ben Shephard, this is a TV special that aired that featured the behind the scenes of Half-Blood Prince. There are tons of cast and crew interviews, on-set footage, and much more. 

J.K. Rowling: A Year in the Life (HD, 50 Mins.) - This is a very intimate and deep look into how JK Rowling finished the last book. This is a very in-depth documentary and will be loved by casual and hardcore fans. Rowling reveals a lot about herself and the story of Harry Potter. A warning is given at the beginning of the documentary that warns people that specific plot points will be given away during the runtime. Some really bad macro-blocking happens during this feature, especially as flashbulbs are going off during a movie premiere.

Close-Up with the Cast of Harry Potter (HD, 28 Mins.) - here are eight different segments here, each with a member of the cast talking about some aspect of the film. Matt Lewis (Neville Longbottom) and Alfie Enoch (Dean Thomas) introduce us to the special feature by telling us that spending ten years together filming the Harry Potter films they have discussed which jobs they would like to do in the movie if they weren't acting. Lewis and Enoch are annoying and basically narrate the entire thing. Text facts pop up every now and then telling you certain facts that aren't being covered by the people on screen.

One-Minute Drills (HD, 7 Mins.) - Each of the main actors gets 60 seconds to describe, to the best of their ability, their character's story arc throughout the last 6 films.

What's On Your Mind (HD, 7 Mins.) - Actor Tom Felton asks the cast different questions and they have to answer right away.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (HD, 12 Mins.) - A promo reel for the Disney attraction theme park.

First Footage from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (HD, 2 Mins.) - A teaser trailer for the Deathly Hallows film.

Deleted Scenes (HD, 7 Mins.) - There are 8 deleted scenes here, all of which are worth watching. 

Interstitials (HD, 5 Mins.) - Very short promos for the film. 

Trailers (HD, 9 Mins.) - Trailers for the film.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

There are no HD exclusives. 

Final Thoughts

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince goes into very dark territory, laying the ground work for the last film. The kids are all grown up and all situations have mostly become very mature and adult in this film. Characters die as the impending doom of the evil wizards reign supreme over Hogwarts and even London. It's an excellent film from top to bottom.

As an Ultra HD Blu-ray, the video and audio presentations are top notch, and all extras have been imported from prior releases. Highly Recommended!

Technical Specs

  • Ultra HD/Blu-ray/Digital HD

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 2160p HEVC/H.265

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 2.39:1

Audio Formats

  • English DTS:X
  • Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1
  • French: Dolby Digital 5.1

Subtitles/Captions

  • English, Spanish, French

Supplements

  • Maximum Movie Mode
  • Focus Points
  • Behind the Scenes
  • Featurettes
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Trailers

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