Harry Potter Wizard's Collection

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August 31, 2012 at 04:00 AM EDT

At $499.99, the Harry Potter Wizard’s Collection needs to offer more than just a big old box set of DVDs to be worth a Potterphile’s Gringotts gold. It needs to be downright enchanting. And it is.

Beginning with the box itself, which measures 12 3/4” by 10 9/16” by 11 1/4” and weighs 19 pounds. It’s also a magic trick. Open the lid, and the box reveals itself to be a cabinet with pull-out drawers and spring-triggered secret compartments. Exploring this handsomely designed package for the first time is treasure-hunt fun. You get more than just a DVD of each movie — you get the Blu-ray and UltraViolet editions, too, all encased within smaller boxes. Fans should search the discs as well, for they’ll find five hours of new extras, headlined by an insightful filmed conversation between Potter creator J.K. Rowling and Potter screenwriter Steve Kloves.

The box’s hidden nooks and crannies also hold bits of movie memorabilia, including a blueprint poster of Hogwarts Castle and a hardbound catalog of ”artifacts” — a survey of film props like the Marauder’s Map, Hermione’s Time-Turner, and the Quidditch World Cup program. It’s all suffused with Potterverse charm…although I was disappointed that the Horcrux (a replica of Salazar Slytherin’s locket, as seen in Harry Potter and the Deathly HallowsPart 1) didn’t actually contain a piece of Voldemort’s soul.

The Harry Potter Wizard’s Collection would be an amazing starter kit for newbies if it weren’t so darn expensive. For hardcore fans with large allowances, the set is an irresistible collectible. Should they use this extravagant piece of pop culture as an opportunity to revisit the lavishly produced Potter movies, they will (hopefully) marvel anew at a franchise marked by real respect for the source material (sometimes too much so) — and one that constantly aspired to improve.

It’s great fun to watch Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, and especially Daniel Radcliffe evolve into confident, capable actors. David Yates’ urgent, sophisticated direction in the last four chapters brought the saga to a strong, artful finish. But Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the third installment, remains the best and most important. Abandoning a slavish approach to adaptation, director Alfonso Cuarón showed Team Potter how to chase after the heart and soul of each story and stamp them with a personal, idiosyncratic touch. Thanks to Cuarón, the series became worthy of enduring admiration — not to mention $500 box sets. A

Harry Potter Wizard's Collection

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Harry Potter Wizard's Collection

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