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Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Print E-mail
Tuesday, 01 January 2008

Image J.K Rowling's Harry Potter saga has become a worldwide sensation among all age groups. Children are actually reading books instead of playing video games and watching TV. They revel in the fantasy adventure portion of the story and characters. Meanwhile, adults are able to enjoy fabulous storylines, in-depth characters, and visual/auditory sensationalism.

In the latest Harry Potter installment, The Order of the Phoenix, all our favorite characters are back. One major draw in the Harry Potter saga is that the cast is dedicated to the story and return film after film. Nothing is more jarring than when a saga uses different actors from film to film. For example, the Batman films have gone through four different actors for the character of Bruce Wayne in five films. So, it is pleasant to see Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and the other young actors dedicated to the Harry Potter films all the way to the end.

Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) is back at home with his uncaring extended family. After being attacked by a couple of Dementors and expelled from Hogwarts for using magic in front of a muggle while under the age of 17, Harry is called to be present at a Council hearing to determine if Harry's expulsion should be overturned. The council votes in favor of overturning the decision. However, we are introduced to Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton), a council member that will prove to be a plague upon the students and grounds of Hogwarts. After the death of Cedric and the return of he who shall not be named in the previous film, the council spins the facts and persuades the public that Harry and Dumbledore are liars; the Dark Lord has not returned. Harry returns for his fifth year at Hogwarts, only to be ridiculed by his so called friends. Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) are able to convince Harry that the people need his experience in order to prepare for the Dark Lord's return. The three of them, along with a group of other Hogwarts students, begin training to defend against the dark arts.

Meanwhile, Umbridge has become the official inspector of the operations of Hogwarts, and begins to post decrees that must be obeyed by all students. Umbridge physically abuses the students and fires the teaching staff at Hogwarts in hopes of making the school more strict and traditional, as well as convince everyone that the Dark Lord has not returned.

Harry Potter knows better about the Dark Lord's return as he battled him first-hand at the end of the previous film. He also is experiencing his traditional nightmare prophecies. This leads him to the Hall of Prophecies where a final showdown begins to take place.

This fifth Harry Potter film continues the story, but lacks a strong script. Everything is straightforward throughout the film. There is no mystery, as is present in all the past films. We do not come to any revelation at the end of the movie, and we don't feel any further along in understanding the importance of Harry Potter and his destiny. Readers of the Harry Potter books may also be disappointed at the amount of details left out in the movie.

This HD DVD is definitely one to be considered Warner Bros. best in terms of video quality. The black levels are deep, while still maintaining details in the shadows. The film is primarily dark, so some grain is present along the way due to the film stock used. The colors are nice and crisp, although the push to blue and yellow may make it look as if everyone and everything appears pale. There are no artifacts present. The last 30 minutes of the film contain the final showdown, which truly shows off this title's video prowess. The visual CGI effects are cleanly integrated into the film, which one would come to expect from such a powerful studio.

Audio-wise, this HD DVD had its work cut out for it. I am happy to report that the sound designers and editors did a terrific job with the soundtrack. Every effort to pay attention to details is made. The wisp of the wands is so elegantly present in the surround channels. The soundscape is fully used and coherent between the music, dialogue, and sound effects. Again, the final showdown is an awesome display of the intricacies present in the audio editing. Each sound is clean and clearly present, while at the same time the entire soundtrack is tight and cohesive.

The HD DVD's special features are fairly decent. Due to the limited amount of space, this disc is missing some of the features present on the 2-disc Standard DVD Special Edition and the Blu-ray disc edition. However, the best of the special features are present on the HD DVD, but in a lesser resolution.

First, the best of the special features is “Behind The Story: Trailing Tonks”. While only presented in standard definition, it still looks amazing. This featurette follows Natalia Tena, the actress that plays Nymphadora Tonks in the film, around Leavesden Studios. We get to see the inner workings of a variety of departments, and some of the sets. It is a great treat, and Tonks is super-cute as well.

There are two other standard definition features on this disc. The “Magic of Editing” is a short featurette on the editing of a scene. However, this leads viewers into a more interactive extra that allows you to edit your own scene. Finally, there are the Deleted Scenes. These are not so much deleted scenes as extensions of scenes that are in the film or alternate angles/scenes. (Note: all these standard definitions features are available in 1080p on the Blu-ray.)

Presented in high definition are two features: “In-Movie Experience” and “Focus Points”. Each of these ties into the other one. The In-Movie Experience is HD DVD's picture-in-picture function. This will bring up the “Focus Points” at the appropriate times during film playback. The “Focus Points” are a collection of 28 featurettes, all about one to four minutes in length, which cover the key storylines in the film. These short features can be accessed by turning the In-Movie Experience feature on, or individually via the special features menu.

There are also a few web-enabled extra features. The Live Community Screening allows the host user of the HD DVD to invite users to join in on viewing the film via web video players. This feature also allows you to chat online with friends while watching the film. Share Your Favorite Scenes gives you the ability to bookmark your favorite scenes and share them with online users. Lastly, there are downloads available for things such as wallpapers and ringtones.

“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” yields a terrific visual and audio presentation. Most of the storylines lack any type of conviction, and at the end of the two and one half hours of movie, you may be left feeling that you learned nothing new. However, the characters are still loveable (or hate-able as is relevant) and the visual effects are absolutely stunning. Definite fans of the Harry Potter films will thoroughly enjoy this one. Others might be able to get away with just renting this title. Still, I can't wait to see what happens in the last two film installments.

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