In celebration of the 4K Ultra HD release Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, the latest adventure and series starter in the wizarding world lived in by J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter, Warner Bros is format jumping the original films in the series. They’ll all get that higher resolution with High Dynamic Range applied to them, to look sharper, prettier and newer. In my opinion, Warner Bros has been one of the more impressive studios when it comes to upgrading their catalog titles to 4K. One would think they are going to a lot of attention to one of their biggest franchises ever. They are releasing them in waves, with the four David Yates films (The back half of the series) being the first to come out. No date is set yet for the first four, but they’ll be here soon enough. This review will focus on the fifth film in the series (Also the longest of the novels), Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix from 2007. It, and the others will be available March 28th.
Now in his fifth year at Hogwarts, Harry learns that many in the wizarding community do not know the truth of his encounter with Lord Voldemort. Cornelius Fudge, minister of Magic, appoints his toady, Dolores Umbridge, as Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, for he fears that professor Dumbledore will take his job. But her teaching is deficient and her methods, cruel, so Harry prepares a group of students to defend the school against a rising tide of evil.
As a fan of both the books and the films, the Harry Potter series has a weird bit of a switcheroo with me. My favorite book (The Half-Blood Prince) is one of my least favorite films and the my least favorite book (The Order of the Phoenix) is one of my favorites. Rowling’s fifth adventure is the longest book in the series and felt as if we had Rowling unchained (or unedited). It was a bloated, super long journey about a prophecy we had to wait until the end of the book to find out that Harry and Voldemort would have to square off against one another in a battle to the death. No, duh, right? Coulda told you that after 2 seconds of the first book/movie.
When it came to the film, of course things would have to be tightened to make for an adaptation. And my, it made for one hell of a film. Everything that works in the book is focused on and most of the drivel is shortened or excised. Its a good one focusing on character growth and really giving us some good rebellion from the kids at Hogwarts. The film also ends in probably the biggest spectacle of the series up to this point, a huge, crowd pleasing battle of legendary wizards that felt like something we’d been waiting to see forever. A more successful rendition of what we saw with Jedi battle on Geonosis in Attack of the Clones (Ironically, that is also the 5th film in the Star Wars saga).
Three significant new players show up in this film. There’s the super irritating cat lady, uber conservative Delores Umbridge. Say what you will, but she is SOOOOO HATEABLE that its incredibly admirable and a big time achievement. Imelda Staunton really brings it. I mean, you just want to cause the woman physical harm because she gets under your skin and on your nerves so much. There’s ‘love to hate’ and then there’s another level and its Umbridge. Another who makes her debut is Luna Lovegood. And she is so weird and fun, you can’t help but love her. She’s one of my favorites as she’s adorable and makes you laugh. Oddly enough, she winds up having some of the best romantic chemistry in the entire series. You almost wanted them to rewrite the narrative to put them together its so good. Lastly, but oooh my, not leastly is Bellatrix LeStrange played by Helena Bonham Carter in one of her greatest roles. She’s one of the best villains in the series and girl is alllll in on the craziness. She is batshits crazy beyond belief. And in this movie she commits a perfectly heinous act to prove her worth in the pantheon of great villains/henchpersons.
Order of the Phoenix is the first for the long tenured Harry Potter director David Yates. While he makes a journey himself to perfectly harnessing the films, he seems to have gathered what worked best in the previous films while moreso adhering to the vibe and tone set by fan favorite film (at the time) The Prisoner of Azkaban. Its much less arthouse in the presentation, but manages to bring the darkness an slight oddness of that film into a more blockbuster, popcorn friendly affair, but totally (and rightfully) ditching the silliness of Goblet of Fire. Its also grand in a way that feels intimate.
Before The Deathly Hallows films, Order of The Phoenix could have been argued as the best Harry Potter film of them all. I’m sure there are those that might still hold on to that. But, its still one of the best. Its a fantastic little tale of rebellion, growing up and learning how to lead. It also has a hell of a showdown at the end that features thrills as well as shocks and surprises. The Harry Potter series is highly regarded as one of the best ever and this film is a big part of why.
Encoding: HEVC / H.265
Resolution: 4K (2160p)
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:01
Clarity/Detail: I don’t have confirmation as to whether or not this is a new transfer or not, but it is still an incredibly detailed and very clean and well kept even in such a dark and shadowy film. The image is rather crisp and pretty sharp (Oddly, the opening shot looking downward on a playground/field from the sky is kinda blurry and had me a little worried at what we were getting). Water always impresses me with how far we’ve come since DVD and while its a CGI trick, there is a spell cast by Dumbledore which involves trapping Voldemort in a ball of water and it just looks really impressive. In the same moment, Dumbledore turns glass shards into dust and you can pretty much see individual salt-like grains on the floor. I have to say this upgrade was well worth it for me. I was very impressed with how the film looks in 4K Ultra-HD, with the color and crispness giving the film a more wealthy feel. In comparison, the previous Blu-ray of the film is still rather impressive, but this is a nice step up in terms of depth, clarity and most the HDR.
Depth: Here’s some very marked improvement. Characters and spacing is much improved than the old Blu-ray transfer. Movements are much smoother and just feel confident. No jitter or any blurring taking place at all. Camera movements sweep much more clean and backgrounds and foregrounds don’t feel as attached to one another in that process.
Black Levels: Blacks are a real strong component of this transfer. They are very well saturated, deep and feel of their own character. The Harry Potter films are inherently dark, but this film’s big action finale takes place in an off hours Ministry of Magic and the place also has black walls, tiles and the like. Its all well crafted here, keeping details. The Dementors carry a nice rich look with very specific details on their facial textures and smoky looking apparel showing better than ever.
Color Reproduction: The HDR on Order of the Phoenix is really fun. There is a wonderful palette on display and all the colors feel much more confident and strong. It doesn’t ever feel false and compliments the film perfectly. Skies, of course look real nifty. Stained glass windows get a cool little uptick here as well as some clothing, bedsheets and the Hogwarts express. There was one scene where the straps on backpacks really stood out. All the magical energy in the film lights up the screen with good force, especially going a little bonkers in the finale (Dumbledore VS Voldemort is wicked). Voldemart also casts a giant fire snake that just rips right off your screen pulsates with wow’ing power. To add, at the Ministry of Magic when the characters transport through the fireplace and turn into a green haze it looks really cool. Too keep drooling, there is a scene where the Weasley twins burst in shooting fireworks all over the dining hall at Hogwarts that include a firework-like dragon and its a pretty awesome display of the HDR.
Flesh Tones: Skin tones look natural and keep consistent throughout the duration of the film. Features like make-up, lip texture, scars, wrinkles, dried blood, facial lines, bruises and more show up with great ease at most reasonable distances. There was a scene in the film where I noticed there was sweat on the characters’ necks and chests where I can’t recall seeing it before. This new release has some very fine work on it and you easily see more and from further out than you could prior.
Audio Format(s): English DTS:X, English Descriptive Audio, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese.
Dynamics: All of the Harry Potter 4K UHD titles will be including new DTS:X tracks. Being someone who’s previous copies of this release only had 5.1 Dolby Digital (The original Blu-ray releases), this was a quite a step up. The track is fully immersive, plays around, is loud and carries quite the whallop. The film’s final act is a whole new world of fun.
Height: There are plenty of swoops, bursts, echoes, crumbles and energy bursts that float around in the ceiling speakers.
Low Frequency Extension: Plenty of boom from the subwoofer in this one. Destruction and magical energy as well as fire works bring all different levels of bumping. Also fire and apparating pound. There is a fiery snake summoned by Voldemort that roars pretty hard.
Surround Sound Presentation: Zipping and zapping around 7 channels is this pretty awesome mix. Each individual speaker is full realize with a good mix for ambiance and contributions of carrying a sound or throwing its own piece to the mix. Character and action placement finds precise accuracy and wizarding battles prove to be a burst of concert-like fun.
Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp. They feel nice and present, and on their own.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix comes with the Blu-ray edition (2-Discs) and an UltraViolet Digital Copy of the film. All of the supplemental material is on the Blu-ray edition, which is the same 2-Disc special edition that has been available for a few years.
Blu-ray Disc 1
Blu-ray Disc 2
Behind The Story
- Creating the World of Harry Potter Part 5: Evolution (HD, 57:16)
- Behind the Magic (SD, 46:46)
- Building the Magic: The Sets of Harry Potter (HD, 20:22)
- The Rebellion Begins (HD, 23:13)
- Fulfilling a Prophecy (SD, 13:02)
- Trailing Tonks (HD, 19:25)
- The Magic of Editing
Deleted Scenes (HD, 10:57)
Trailers (HD, 3:14)
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is in the upper echelon of the Harry Potter films. David Yates is able to craft one of the best Hogwarts adventures with one of the most crowd pleasing finales before the end. This 4K UHD debut, I found to be a nice upgrade over what was a really good looking Blu-ray in terms of the image. The sound is an easy uptick as its now added multiple channels on a terrific mix. Extras area all carried over via the previous 2-Disc Blu-ray release that is included. I say upgrade, especially if you’re a fan.