Case Number 12569


Warner Bros. // 2007 // 138 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Kent Dixon (Retired) // December 11th, 2007

The Charge

Harry Potter: This connection between me and Voldemort...what if the reason for it is that I am becoming more like him? I just feel so angry all the time. What if after everything that I've been through, something's gone wrong inside me? What if I'm becoming bad?
Sirius Black: I want you to listen to me very carefully, Harry. You're not a bad person. You're a very good person, who bad things have happened to. Besides, the world isn't split into good people and Death Eaters. We've all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That's who we really are.

Opening Statement

There aren't many people who don't love the Harry Potter series. Whether you're a fan of the books, the films, or both, you appreciate the world J.K. Rowling has created and enjoy returning to it again and again. The real challenge for first-time Potter director David Yates, is bringing Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix to the screen, while remaining true to Rowling's book; at more than 800 pages, this is no small task.

Facts of the Case

Now in his fifth year at Hogwarts, Harry faces new challenges at every turn, as everything he once knew and trusted seems to be turned upside down. With new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher Dolores Umbridge seemingly set on making an example of him, and Lord Voldemort invading his mind, Harry and the gang form Dumbledore's Army to prepare for the battle to come!

The Evidence

If I can coin a phrase, I'm not what you would call a "Potter Snob." I enjoy both the books and the films and am capable of looking at them as unique visits to the same wonderful world. Unlike other fans, I don't cringe at omissions or changes to Rowling's books when they're brought to film, and I have sincerely enjoyed seeing the world of Harry Potter brought to life through the unique visions of directors Chris Columbus, Alfonso Cuarón, Mike Newell, and now, with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, David Yates.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is my favorite book of the series. While some bemoan the darkness of the story, I found it refreshing and more challenging to the imagination than the earlier books in the series. Perhaps most of all, I found myself getting angry, thinking "Why can't Potter get a break!?" Of all the actors in the film, I found Daniel Radcliffe showed the most growth and development in his character, wrestling with Harry's increasing fame, his skill as a wizard, and the clear realization that his destiny is intimately entwined with that of Lord Voldemort.

As a film, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix focused on Harry most out of all the characters. This was obviously a choice screenwriter Michael Goldenberg made, no doubt with J.K. Rowling's input, as he translated the book to film. Due to the time-tolerance limits of average moviegoers, and likely the budget allocated by Warner Bros., some serious cutting had to be done to bring Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix to the screen. The most notable absences from the book included: all quidditch games or any references to the sport; Percy Weasley's falling out with his family (he only appears prominently in one scene in the film and has no lines); the details of Mr. Weasley's stay at St. Mungo's Hospital; the centaur teacher Firenze; Harry, Ron and Hermione's decontaminating of Grimmauld Place; and extensive details of the end battle with the Death Eaters, that actually ranged through several rooms and many pages of the book. Yes, there's a lot missing from the film that is covered in the book, but I was impressed at just how effectively the filmmakers grasped and translated the darkness of the novel, while retaining enough of the content to make it as true as possible to the source material.

Although I'm not a big fan of giving up disc art to accommodate it, HD/SD combo releases are great for reviewers. They give us the opportunity to compare the HD and SD versions of a release almost literally side-by-side. It's one thing to review an HD title by saying the quality is far superior to the DVD release, as we all know it should be, but it's nice to be able to confirm that for myself as well. Apologies to those who don't have the opportunity to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in HD, but this presentation is simply stunning. Comparing the HD and SD versions, the difference was like day and night; as candles float above the students during a supper sequence, not only can you make out each individual candle (and there are lots of them!) in the HD version, but you can also see the drips that have solidified beneath them. And as Dolores Umbridge delicately spoons HD sugar into her HD tea, the sugar is nearly as white as snow and you can make out each individual grain; as expected, the SD version, at less than half the resolution, doesn't show detail nearly as well, and the color palette is far less vibrant and true to life. Fortunately for viewers, cinematographer Slawomir Idziak's world is both beautiful and expansive, the perfect match for HD.

Not only is Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix a feast for the eyes, it also performs exceptionally well on the audio front. Both the Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Digital Plus soundtracks are a treat for the ears, fully immersing the viewer in the world of Harry Potter, but I personally found the Dolby Digital Plus track to be more powerful overall.

Although there does seem to be a small amount of extra features included on the single and two-disc SD releases, the HD version is where the studio really went to town on the extras. The first feature, "Tailing Tonks," follows Nat Tena, the actor who plays Nymphadora Tonks, as she tours around the various departments involved in making the film; it's pretty fluffy, but fun. Eleven minutes worth of additional scenes are included here, and this content is ported over from the SD version. Conspicuously absent is the "Hidden Secrets" feature, hosted by actor Jason Isaacs, which appeared on the two-disc SD release. The final feature shared with the two-disc SD version is "Harry Potter: The Magic of Editing," a five-minute chat with director David Yates and his long-time editor Mark Day, that serves as a decent primer on the editing process and how it affects the final release of the film.

On the HD exclusive front, extras include no less than 28...that's right, twenty-eight short featurettes, bundled together as "Focus Points." The featurettes cover topics as diverse as Dementors, Professor Umbridge's Office, and everything in between. A picture-in-picture feature called "In-Movie Experience," exclusive to the HD release, allows the viewer to watch cast members share memories and anecdotes from their involvement in the film in a small window, while the film is playing; this feature also provides pop-up fast facts and draws from the "Focus Points" content where applicable.

There are three Web-enabled features, including an opportunity to pick your favorite scenes from the film and have your friends, who must also be connected to the Web and own their own HD version of the film, vote on your choices. You can also host a "Live Community Screening," again with friends who own HD copies of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, that allows the host to control disc features (pause, play, etc.) on everyone's player (crazy, if that actually works!) and anyone viewing can supposedly text each other or instant message chat while watching. The final Web-enabled feature is the "Mobile Downloads" section where fans can purchase ring tones and wallpapers for their mobile phone. Until I have friends who take the HD plunge and add Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix to their collections, I won't be able to test out some of these truly geeky, but very cool, features.

Closing Statement

I have nothing negative to say about Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, especially on HD. While the single and two-disc SD releases found themselves significantly lacking in the extra features department, the HD release more than rises to the occasion with a wealth of extras that will entertain even hard-core fans. There are also sequences in the HD version I would happily put up against the HD release of Transformers for great "wow" factor opportunities to impress my friends.

The Verdict

As director David Yates prepares for the theatrical release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in 2008, I think Potter fans the world over can breathe a sigh of relief that their beloved Harry and his world are in good hands. Not guilty.

Review content copyright © 2007 Kent Dixon; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 100
Audio: 100
Extras: 95
Acting: 100
Story: 100
Judgment: 100

Special Commendations
* Top 100 Discs: #87
* Top 100 Films: #30

Perp Profile
Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
* 2.40:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (Spanish)

* English
* French
* Spanish

Running Time: 138 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13

Distinguishing Marks
* Deleted and extended scenes
* In-Movie Experience
* Web-Enabled Features
* "Trailing Tonks"
* "Focus Points"
* "Harry Potter: The Magic of Editing" Interactive Featurette

* IMDb

* Official HD DVD Site

* Official Film Site

* Wikipedia: Harry Potter

* Wikipedia: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

* DVD Verdict on Sorceror's Stone

* DVD Verdict on Chamber of Secrets

* DVD Verdict on Prisoner of Azkaban

* DVD Verdict on Goblet of Fire

* DVD Verdict on Order of the Phoenix: Two-Disc Special Edition