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Warner Home Video presents

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Combo DVD and HD-DVD (2007)

"As I told you, Mr. Potter, naughty children deserve to be punished."- Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton)

Stars: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson
Other Stars: Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane, Warwick Davis, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon, Brendan Gleeson, Richard Griffiths, Jason Isaacs, Gary Oldman, Alan Rickman, Fiona Shaw, Maggie Smith, Imelda Staunton, David Thewlis, Emma Thompson, Julie Walters, Evanna Lynch, Natalia Tera, Matthew Lewis
Director: David Yates

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of fantasy violence and frightening images
Run Time: 02h:18m:06s
Release Date: 2007-12-11
Genre: fantasy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- B+A-A B+


DVD Review

The series of Harry Potter books may be complete now, but the movie series is just heading toward its finale. This fifth of the seven movies about a school of wizardry is the darkest yet, but it admirably trims the unwieldy bulk of the novel while keeping it from being too painfully grim. The combination of whimsy and deadly serious action makes this one of the best so far in the series.

In his fifth year at Hogwarts School of Magic, aspiring wizard Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) must deal with the undeserved reputation he has obtained as a liar, since the Ministry of Magic refuses to acknowledge that evil Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) has returned from the dead. At a critical time in his studies, Harry is left without any effective training in Defense Against the Dark Arts, since the Ministry has placed officious Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton) in charge of that class and she refuses to give them any practical training. Harry and his friends Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) decide to provide the training themselves, secretly assembling "Dumbledore's Army" in order to practice against what will surely be the dangerous confrontation against Voldemort.

While J.K. Rowling's novel is packed with an overwhelming number of subplots and events, the script amazingly trims this unwieldy tome down to its most significant elements, while still keeping much of the flavor of the book intact. The most essential moments are intact, although a great deal of the character interaction is left by the wayside. Another 20 minutes of running time probably wouldn't have hurt, but it provides a satisfactorily taut viewing experience that keeps the viewer interested all the time. Familiarity with the books, or at least the previous movies, is assumed, and that's probably for the best with a series that has become such a cultural phenomenon. Otherwise there'd be far too much laborious exposition.

Radcliffe is really growing into the role, although he is getting a bit too old to play Potter at the correct age. He has a confident air of leadership that makes Potter credible, with enough teen angst to keep him grounded as well. The supporting cast is notable and enormous, though the movie is rather too crowded for them to get proper attention. Most notably the villains get short shrift, such as Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter) and Voldemort himself. Although they're necessarily not the principal focus, they're seen so little that they almost don't seem like a credible threat until they actually start killing Harry's friends. That makes their actions all the more frightening under the circumstances, and the climactic battle is quite suspenseful and featuring some amazing visual design.

The picture offers a look into the Ministry of Magic, previously mentioned but never really seen. The main atrium set is an outstanding piece of design that is predictably destroyed in substantial part at the finale. The effects work is as usual quite good, with plenty of solid production values throughout. The intensity of the drama, including the barely-disguised sadistic cruelty of the pink-garbed, kitten-loving Umbridge, is made palatable by delightful moments of fun that form a perfect balance and don't wander off into self-indulgence. The result makes this one of the best and most enjoyable in the series so far.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

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 One Two
Aspect Ratio2.40:1 - Widescreen 2.40:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes yes
Anamorphicno yes

Image Transfer Review: The HD DVD side generally is quite satisfactory on the whole. There's very little sign of edge enhancement, though there does appear to be some mild noise reduction present. There's still plenty of detail and texture here, with the biggest difference between the HD and the SD sides being the shadow detail. Umbridge's costuming also provides a significant point of comparison, with much greater texture revealed on the HD side. The CG image of Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) speaking to Harry from the fire of the Hogwarts fireplace looks striking indeed in HD, as do the shots around the cottage of the giant Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane). The dark scenes in the Forbidden Forest reveal much more detail on the HD side. Closeups seem a bit lacking in fine detail but that could be intentional.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
English, French, Spanishno

Audio Transfer Review: English DD+ and TrueHD tracks are provided, though there's not a huge difference between the two other than the TrueHD version seems mixed rather louder. There's some terrific low bass in several sequences that will challenge most subwoofers. There is plenty of directionality throughout, including in the musical score. The audio is pleasingly detailed and often presents a visceral listening experience that will gratify nearly every listener.

Audio Transfer Grade:

Disc Extras

Animated menu
Scene Access with 32 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
9 Deleted Scenes
1 Documentaries
29 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Elite
1 Disc
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. In-Movie Experience
  2. Web-enabled bonuses
Extras Review: Exclusive to the HD DVD is the In-Movie Experience, which includes bits of trivia and picture-in-picture comments from the cast and crew. It tends to be a little spotty and feels like there are sometimes long gaps. There is also the option to interrupt the viewing at 28 "focus points" that take to brief featurettes of one to three minutes in length. These focus points can also be watched from the menu individually, or through a "Play All" button. They cover such matters as Rupert Grint's habit of cracking up on set to design of the fireworks sequence of the Weasley twins.

Trailing Tonks (19m:02s) follows actress Natalia Tena, who plays Nymphadora Tonks, as she tours the sets and behind-the-scenes facilities. She's obviously having fun and that helps make this enjoyable if a bit light on substance. Harry Potter: The Magic of Editing (5m:20s) emphasizes the effects of music and sound effects to getting the right selection to get the proper effect. That's followed by an exercise allowing the viewer to assemble a short scene and assign one of three musical scores and a choice of sound effects, which provide very different results. A selection of nine additional scenes offers some of the missing character moments, with emphasis given to Emma Thompson's portrayal of hapless Sybil Trelawney; the highlight of these is a deliriously funny slapstick sequence as she listens to Umbridge's welcome speech. It would have been far too distracting in the finished film, but it offers a great look at Thompson's comic skills.

The package is wrapped up with three "web-enabled extras." These include the ability to select your favorite scenes, rearrange them and share them with others. Once the HD DVD is actually released, there will be an option for a "live community screening" that allows you to watch it in tandem with others owning the disc, with chat options. We weren't able to properly evaluate this feature at press time since the disc hasn't streeted yet, but it certainly opens up some intriguing possibilities for the future. And of course, there are the usual ringtones and screensavers to download.

Extras Grade: B+

Final Comments

Darker than the previous entries, this fifth picture in the series is quite solid and offers a streamlined version of the story with excellent production values as usual. Some interesting extras are provided, and the transfer is quite good.

Mark Zimmer 2007-12-11