If anyone is balking at the price of this massive set, let it be known that it’s worth paying the £200 purely for the footage of Ralph Fiennes reading Voldemort’s entrance in the fourth book. That’s just one of the many great things you get with the Harry Potter Wizard’s Collection. For any Harry Potter fan it’s an absolute must. It won’t win any new fans but at this point that’s hardly the reason for releasing these sets. Along with all eight films on DVD, Blu-ray, Ultraviolet and 3D DVD for the final two, you get a documentary series called Creating The World Of Harry Potter, countless videos taking you through the making of each film and other extras plus a range of memorabilia including Slytherin’s locket, a canvas map of the locations used in the films and sketches of locations. It all comes in a decently designed box bigger than most people’s head and tall enough to provide a sturdy seat for a 10 year old.
The films themselves are as great as they always were but the earlier ones, who originally were available on DVD and VHS (!!) are now on Blu-ray and what a difference it makes, both good and bad. Scenes that weren’t done using CGI, like Harry finding his wand in Ollivander’s in Philosopher’s Stone, come to life and the same goes for the giant chess game. On the other hand, the CGI used in the Quidditch games in Philosopher’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets looks horribly dated and whilst allowances must be made for the films being over ten years old, perhaps the transition to Blu-ray wasn’t the best idea for them. When you get onto Azkaban, which just happens to be the best film, it all gets better and the films really benefit from the upscale. The Potter films are a great example of how film techniques and technology have evolved over the past decade with one of the greatest triumphs being the Department of Mysteries in Order of the Phoenix which was filmed using only CGI and looks fabulous in HD. It’s also great to get a chance to see scenes that are in the book but weren’t necessary to the film such as Hermione’s empty house and a conversation between Dudley and Harry in Deathly Hallows 1 which really should have been left in. For films six to eight there’s a feature called Maximum Movie Mode which gives you a behind the scenes look at the films courtesy of the actors and crew. As the film plays, actors pop up and take you through key scenes with members of the crew pitching in to show you how and why things were done the way they were. Most interestingly, you are told why the Boathouse was added for Deathly Hallows 2 and how much input JK Rowling has had throughout the entire series.
Most people will own all the films already by now, surely, but they aren’t the reason for getting hold of this. The real reason is for the documentaries and hours of extras they’ve stuffed into it. Creating The World Of Harry Potter is a fascinating insight into the films which takes you through everything from translating the book to film, creating the creatures and how the stars grew up over the ten years they were filming. The best one of these is with the fifth film, called Evolution. It starts with the producer, David Heyman, discovering the book and leads on with an interview with JK Rowling about her issues with bringing the American Christopher Columbus in to direct the first film. You’re also introduced to Stuart Craig the production designer, who along with David Heyman, has been with the Potter series from start to finish. He designed everything from the Great Hall to the wonderfully wonky Diagon Alley. There’s a sweet moment when Heyman describes how Craig wanted to use expensive York Stone for the floor in the Great Hall but was initially told no because no one knew if there would be more than one film. Another great installment in the documentary series is the one that focusses on the characters. Each actor reads their character’s entrance in the books and in the first installment, you get to see how the crew dealt with children who were just thrilled to be on set and how the costume designer collaborated with Maggie Smith. On the final disc, there’s a particularly poignant documentary called When Harry Left Hogwarts showing the filming of the final scene, wrapping of various characters and the three main actors’ reactions to being back on the set they started on.
If you think about it, £200 isn’t a lot for this. Each film with the documentary costs £25 and you don’t get the postcards, DVD extras and Slytherin’s locket with that. You also don’t get the box which, as was pointed out to me by a 10 year old, looks a lot like Lupin’s case in Azkaban. It’s another limited edition set with 63,000 being made and a certificate to prove it. It’s almost the perfect Harry Potter collection; my only gripes are 1) the box could be made out of wood and 2) I have to give it back.