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Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix(2007)
Lord Voldemort has returned, but few want to believe it. In fact, the Ministry of Magic is doing everything it can to keep the wizarding world from knowing the truth - including appointing Ministry official Dolores Umbridge as the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts. When Professor Umbridge refuses to train her students in practical defensive magic, a select group of students decides to learn on their own. With Harry Potter as their leader, these students (who call themselves "Dumbledore's Army") meet secretly in a hidden room at Hogwarts to hone their wizarding skills in preparation for battle with the Dark Lord and his Death Eaters.
For more about Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Blu-ray release, see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Blu-ray Review published by Greg Maltz on December 10, 2007 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Harry Melling, Jason Boyd (III), Richard Macklin, Kathryn Hunter, Miles Jupp
Director: David Yates
» See full cast & crew
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Blu-ray Review
Marking the Potter series' BD debut, "Order of the Phoenix" features spectacular A/V detail.
Reviewed by Greg Maltz, December 10, 2007
Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) are not small children anymore. They face their gravest challenge yet in the fifth episode in the series, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix". In the first few minutes of the film, Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) returns and attacks Potter. The danger posed by Voldemort is exacerbated by wrangling at the Ministry of Magic. For political reasons, the ministry refuses to acknowledge the evil threat. Worse, the ministry compromises Hogwarts, the school for young wizards, by appointing Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton) as the new professor against the dark arts. Umbridge polices and punishes students and refuses to teach them self defense. By the time the ministry acknowledges Voldemort's threat and removes Umbridge from her post, the damage is already done. Potter finds himself facing off against an enemy that mainlines through his subconscious and threatens to take over his identity. In the end, his feelings of resentment and solitude are mollified by Hermione, Ron and other friends, who assist him in his battle against evil.
Although director David Yates succeeds in establishing the film's engaging pacing and dark textures, many elements of the narrative are formulaic. There are only so many ways to use the same characters to set up themes of wizardry, self-discovery and good versus evil common to all of J.K. Rowling's Potter novels. The young wizard's resourcefulness and individuality are no longer as fresh as they seemed in earlier episodes. But the special effects of each successive film pushes the envelope in innovative ways, and Order of the Phoenix is no exception. The CGI graphics are absolutely mesmerizing. From small details like the animation of framed pictures to the expertly choreographed fighting scenes, the special effects are indeed extraordinary. The only question is whether Warner would do it justice on BD. The finely detailed 1080p release using the VC-1 codec puts to rest all questions and concerns.
One complaint about Warner and other studios dabbling in both Blu-ray and HD DVD is that they seem to produce content for the 30-GB format and simply port it over to BD. This effectively negates Blu-ray's superior capacity and snubs early adopters. The suspicion that Warner is not delivering the best possible product is borne out by its releases typically falling short of reference- level material compared to studios that are BD-exclusive. But Order of the Phoenix gives up very little to the highest quality BDs available. While not quite the best A/V content to show off Blu- ray, Order of the Phoenix is an excellent effort from Warner that fully capitalizes on 1080p resolution.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in 2.40:1 with a VC-1 codec, the video quality of Order of the Phoenix is crisp and detailed. The overall dark, shadow-heavy picture, featuring excellent black level and contrast, still delivers warm skin tones and light effects--fireworks and magical flashing lights. In CGI-laden productions, the processing required for merging the artificially generated graphics with the film reduces the element of depth. But the effects in Order of the Phoenix are rendered very convincingly and some sacrifice in depth is worth it. Indeed, this Harry Potter production has a slight edge over another VC-1 BD-50 Warner epic that features copious CGI content: 300.
Watch the resolution of the ghost-like, animated spirits created by the students as they practice their defensive spells. The spirits are rendered with organic motion and flawless opacity characteristics. But the greatest CGI effect is the vast migration of airborne shards of glass that fly through the air and transform into sand during the final showdown with Voldemort. The effect is so precise that each piece of glass and each grain of sand shows solid definition--hundreds of them rendered individually. Likewise, the actors' hair, facial features and fabrics benefit from the gorgeous 1080p resolution.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The audio is presented in 16-bit PCM 5.1 at a sampling rate of 48 kHz. With excellent use of surrounds and prodigious LFE content, the mix is produced with great attention to detail. It will give any system's tweeters and woofers a serious workout. One of the technical triumphs of the BD's audio content is the good definition of massed strings. Orchestral compositions by Nicholas Hooper figure prominently in the score. Making good use of the 5.1 soundstaging, "Order of the Phoenix" carries these symphonic passages through the scenes dense with audio effects and dialogue. Rather than constrict each element of the mix, the music, voices and effects maintain good clarity and resolution, even during the loudest moments of the battle scenes.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Finally, studios are making better use of Blu-ray's capacity and including content that the HD DVD version cannot accommodate. While the HD DVD version of Order of the Phoenix does not include an important A&E documentary, "The Hidden Secrets of Harry Potter", it is included on the BD. This documentary is essential viewing for Potter fans, taking viewers on a retrospective study of each film in the series to find clues about upcoming plotlines. Also included are 17 minutes worth of additional scenes not in the theater version of the film. A featurette hosted by actress Nat Tena takes Potter fans on a tour of the sets built for Order of the Phoenix. Additional supplements called "Focus Points" take the viewer through the making of various scenes and characters. Rounding out the bonus material is "Harry Potter: The Magic of Editing", in which director David Yates and editor Mark Day discuss in some detail the art and science of editing raw footage to produce a good scene.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Harry Potter's fifth installment ushers in the entire series to Blu-ray. The other titles will be reviewed separately, but Order of the Phoenix gets an easy recommendation. The video and audio nearly achieve reference-quality and only viewers who like bright, deep cinematography devoid of film grain will find room for criticism. The film is sombre in subject matter, lighting and set design, as the young wizard wrestles with inner demons and an evil lord.
Ultimately, Order of the Phoenix is an important addition to the Harry Potter saga. The ongoing triumph of good over evil, individualism over beaurocracy and the sheer power of imagination and creativity make the Potter series apropos viewing material for children and adults alike. As with the previous films, small children may be quite scared by some of the content.
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