Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was a turning point in the Harry Potter film franchise. The film had a darker and much more mature tone then the previous films setting and brought the urgency of Voldemort’s return to the forefront of the viewer’s minds. This Ultimate Edition release of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix contains a number of excellent supplements that serve to make this great film even better.
The film had been previously released on Blu-ray as a standard edition and the movie itself has not been altered in the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Ultimate Edition version. The Order of the Phoenix opens with Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) still living with the Dursleys and dealing with their constant abuse. A series of events between Harry and Dudley (Harry Melling) lead to an encounter with some Dementors. Harry is forced to use his Patronus spell and chases them off. Nearly immediately Harry is contacted by the Ministry of Magic having been charged for using Magic outside of Hogwarts while under age.
This is a farce of justice mostly because Harry, with Headmaster Dumbledore’s (Michael Gambon) backing, is trying to convince the world that Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) is very much alive and back with full Death Eater support. Even with Dumbledore’s prestigious support, the wizarding world, for the most part, is denying Voldemort’s return. The Minister of Magic has gone so far as to publically state that Harry is lying. This of course leads to friction in the wizard community.
Following his trial, Harry is reunited with Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) and returns to Hogwarts. Outside the school, the Order of the Phoenix is reformed with Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), Mad-Eye Moody (Brendan Gleeson), Remus Lupin (David Thewlis), and others believing Harry and trying to find and stop Voldemort. Hogwarts, once a safe haven under Dumbledore, has a new Defense of Dark Arts teacher appointed by the Ministry, the vile Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton). She fully believes in the ministry’s stance that Voldemort is not alive. She also believes that children should not be allowed to use true magic until they are of age.
Over the course of the film, Umbridge usurps Dumbledore’s role as headmaster and enforces strict rules over the students and teachers. Harry, in desperation, decides to start teaching his classmates defensive and offensive magic so they will be ready for Voldemort. Harry, Ron, Hermione, and friends also embark on a journey to learn more about Voldemort and his plans.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is an important chapter in the story; it sets a darker tone for the final leg of Harry’s journey. Voldemort is back, the world doesn’t believe it yet, and Harry along with his friends has to keep the fight going. The young actors truly start to shine in this film as well. We see much more nuanced performances from all three of them, truly embodying the spirit of the characters. The supporting characters, in fact the entire mythical world of Harry Potter, all click together by this point, adding a believable edge to this fictional universe. You hate Umbridge, sympathize with Lupin, are conflicted about Snape, and generally want to see the good guys win despite all odds.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is a terrific film and one that ends with a true turning point for Harry as he faces a shattering loss. The growth of the characters in their pursuit of magic and in their relationships together was well represented and helps make this one of the better films in the series.
It should come as no surprise that Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Ultimate Edition looks fantastic on Blu-ray. Presented in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio with a VC-1 encoding the look and feel of this Blu-ray transfer is nothing short of brilliant. Textures are detailed enough to touch, colors are bright, and vibrant and small details stand out in nearly every scene. This is a CGI heavy film and the effects are convincing and are seamlessly integrated into the look of the movie.
The true star of this transfer is how well blacks are reproduced. There is a key scene late in the film where Harry and his friends are in a black room with only the lights from their wands and the scene is nearly flawless. The inky black darkness is pervasive feeling and the light form the wands is convincing in the shadow detail and glow radius. Other more mundane scenes at night or in dark areas look suitably stunning as well. This is a fantastic looking film that is reproduced flawlessly on this Blu-ray release.
The Order of the Phoenix sounds as good as it looks with this 16-bit PCM 5.1 soundtrack. The mix is nearly perfect with excellent use of the surround fields to bring an immersive feel to many scenes. Conversations are always clear and crisp with the center channel being used effectively. Bass is present in many key scenes and it makes your subwoofer work without being obnoxious. A soundtrack like this is further proof that a great audio experience enhances the overall experience of a film.
Following the standards set by previous installments Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Ultimate Edition is just what it aspires to be: the ultimate version of the film on Blu-ray. Presented in a thick hardbacked case with a removable cover (containing a slick holographic image) this release comes packed with extras. There are the collectable cards, the picture book looking at rare images from the first five movies, and a code to download a digital copy of the film. There is also, of course, a digipack for the two discs; the first has the movie proper and the second has most of the special features.
- In-Movie Experience (Disc 1, HD, 138 minutes): This is an extremely well done in-picture feature and is hosted by an obviously interested (and interesting) Daniel Radcliffe. All aspects of the film are looked at from visual effects to casting choices. Many mini interviews with cast and crew are part of the feature and this is well worth watching as it adds a lot of depth to the movie.
- Focus Points (Disc 1, HD, 63 minutes): There are 28 Focus points that can be viewed either as part of the In-Movie Experience or separately outside of the film experience. These are all mini featurettes that show a behind the scenes look at key scenes from the movie. These are really well done and a welcome supplement.
- Creating the World of Harry Potter Part 5: Evolution (Disc 2, HD, 57 minutes): This Feature is the key addition to the Ultimate Edition release and is yet another great addition in the ‘Creating the World’ series of features. This one looks at the 10 year evolution of the actors and the series itself as the franchise developed. This was a very enjoyable supplement as it examined how they maintained continuity, evolved the wizarding world, and gradually made the series darker and darker.
- Additional Scenes (Disc 2, HD, 11 minutes): Featuring nine deleted and extend scenes that add a little bit of depth to the movie: “Professor Trelawney Eating in the Great Hall,” “What Neville Heard About the Daily Prophet,” “Students in Gryffindor Common Room,” “Professor Umbridge Evaluates Professor Trelawney,” “Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle Bullying,” “Filch Blows Out Professor Umbridge’s Hair,” “Harry, Hermione and Professor Umbridge in the Forbidden Forest,” “Harry Enters Professor Dumbledore’s Office” and “Harry Packs and Talks with Ron.”
- Building the Magic: Behind the Sets of Harry Potter (Disc 2, HD, 20 minutes): This featurette is similar to ‘Creating the World’ but looks only at the Order of the Phoenix. This is another great supplement that gives a behind the scenes view at creating the look and feel of the film. They dig into a lot of the aspects centering on the sets, tone and maintaining threads from the previous films.
- The Rebellion Begins (Disc 2, SD, 23 minutes): Unfortunately presented in SD this featurette is actually a pretty good look at the story and characters of the Order of the Phoenix.
- Fulfilling a Prophecy (Disc 2, SD, 13 minutes): This is a fairly boring and routine look at the films story that uses too many clips and voiceovers instead of actually behind the scenes details. Not terribly good compared to the other extras.
- Behind the Magic (Disc 2, SD, 47 minutes): Don’t let the fact that ‘Behind the Magic’ was a TV special, it is actually an insightful deep look at the film. It is hosted by Ben Shephard and looks at production overviews, deleted scenes and the cast and crew.
- Trailing Tonks (Disc 2, HD, 19 minutes): Natalia Tena brings viewers on a tour of the studio and gives some behind the scenes looks at production. A bit hit or miss, but otherwise entertaining.
- The Magic of Editing (Disc 2, HD): A throwaway feature that takes to long to get going. Once you dig in you can edit and create your own scenes. Yawn.
- Theatrical Trailers (Disc 2, HD, 3 minutes): Teaser and theatrical trailers are also available.
The Final Word
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Ultimate Edition is a fantastic package centered on a great entry into the franchise that looks and sounds outstanding. Warner Brothers continues to outdo itself with these Ultimate releases and I can’t recommend this highly enough for fans of the Harry Potter franchise.