Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Ultimate Edition

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Coming directly off the heels of “Sorcerer’s Stone,” “Chamber of Secrets” ups the ante across all areas – the production design is richer and more intricate, the cinematography more deeply dramatic, and the script more focused (despite the film being the longest so far). The three principal actors also seem to be growing more comfortable with their characters and with the work in general. Though not the best film of the series, like the novel on which it’s based, it is surprisingly good when it probably could have gotten away with just doing more of the same.

The Ultimate Edition includes the theatrical and an extended version of the film. The latter adds 13 minutes to the run time, reinstating the scenes that were first made available on the DVD release (and which are available for viewing in two locations in this edition’s extras). The additional footage doesn’t add much to the film as a whole (and in some cases seems redundant), but those wanting more of the Harry Potter universe actualized on screen will probably be pleased.

The In-Movie Experience is engaging, the second part of the documentary is entertaining, the book and trading cards are nice, and the construction and design of the packaging is first rate. The Ultimate Edition makes for a nice package, but individuals will have to figure out for themselves how much more they are willing to pay for it. Currently, the Ultimate Edition is priced about $15 more than the standard single-disc BD. Probably worth it if the extras will be revisited, but if not, that $15 can buy a whole other BD title that is certain to be watched again. Given the choice, I imagine many will opt for the standard BD edition, making this Ultimate Edition only for the most ultimate of Potter fans.

Keep an eye out for Years 3-7  — if my guess is right 3 and 4 will come out around the time part 1 of Deathly Hallows hits theaters, 5 and 6, around the same time in 2010, and 7 about a year later.

Disc-Based Extras

Disc One

In-Movie Experience: The picture-in-picture video commentary feature incorporates still image galleries, storyboard comparisons, behind-the-scenes footage, and director Chris Columbus explaining technical and logistical challenges of numerous scenes. Though there is not a separate way to access the storyboards and image galleries, it does allow the viewer to skip to the next commentary segment without having to sit through the entirety of the film. It’s an improvement to the accessibility issues but still not a perfect solution.

BD-Live: Includes a streaming trailer and information about two BD-Live events on December 7th and December 12th. December 7th is a preview of the upcoming “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” and December 12th is a live community screening of “Half Blood Prince” with Daniel Radcliffe and David Yates. Go to www.harrypotter.com/blu-ray for more information.

Disc Two

Creating the World of Harry Potter Part 2: Characters (1:20:03, HD): The second installment begins and ends with the experience and development of the three main actors, from their total lack of experience when the franchise began to where they are now as seasoned professionals. In between these topical bookends, the documentary addresses practically every character from the first six films, usually with recollections and analysis from the actors who played them. Though the piece uses a fair amount of previously produced material, a nice organic flow to the narrative and enough recent interview footage keeps it from feeling like just a re-purposed set of clips. Though there aren’t necessarily any fresh insights, it makes a pretty familiar topic feel surprisingly unexplored.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Revealed (13:02, SD): The HBO “First Look” promotional special from 2002 hits the requisite topics of story and characters.

Teaser Trailer (2:06, SD)

Theatrical Trailer (2:11, HD)

TV Spots (9:01, SD): Seventeen commercials made for television.

Screen Tests of Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson (11:53, HD): First screen tests of the actors, as featured in Part One of the “Creating the World…” documentary. Radcliffe’s solo test runs 7:57 and the test with the trio runs 3:55.

Deleted Scenes (17:02, HD): Nineteen scenes, the same as those found on Disc Three.

Disc Three

Additional Scenes (16:25, SD): Nineteen scenes total.

Spellcaster Knowledge: Answer trivia about the various spells cast in the film.

Lockhart’s Classroom (1:28, SD): A guided tour of various items in Lockhart’s classroom, including his photos, awards and certificates, and his collected works.

A Conversation with J.K. Rowling and Steve Kloves (16:09, SD): Rowling and Kloves talk about adapting the novels to film, differences between the two mediums and their feelings about how “Chamber of Secrets” turned out.

Dumbledore’s Office: Take a walk-around tour of the office set or “build a scene,” which leads to a documentary (17:20, SD) that gives an overview of film production, including production design, set decoration, props, visual effects, cinematography, wardrobe, hair and makeup, and post-production.

Interviews with Students (8:43, SD): The child actors answer various questions, including the evolution of their characters, how they’ve developed as actors and experiences on set.

Interviews with Professors and More (10:35, SD): The adult actors talk about their respective characters.

Gallery of Production Sketches: Eighteen sets of sketches showing various treatments of the characters and scenes.

Activities (SD): Includes the Chamber Challenge (answer trivia), the Forbidden Forest Challenge (test your reflexes), Colin’s Darkroom (create a photo slideshow), and a walk-around tour of Diagon Alley.

Game Preview: Watch various clips from the “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” video game from Electronic Arts.

Disc Four

Digital Copy: Download a digital file of the theatrical version for playback on a computer or portable device. Compatible with Mac and Windows.