Right up front, I want to say that HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX ($35) is my least favorite book in the J.K. Rowling series. However, for some reason I found myself liking the movie far better than the book. I don’t know if it is the tightening of the story or other necessary changes made to transition the tale from the printed page to the silver screen, but I found the film version of HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX to be an overall satisfying experience. Of course, there are a few key plot points that probably should not have been omitted from this film, but then again, I am sure that the film series will have no trouble moving forward without them.
The plot of HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX finds Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) in his fifth year at Hogwarts’ School Of Witchcraft And Wizardry, along with best friends Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint). However, things are looking rather bleak from the get go. Before the beginning of the school year, Dementors attack Harry and few in the wizarding world are willing to believe the Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) has returned, thus leaving Harry and his inner circle ostracized.
Making matters worse, the Ministry of Magic has hand picked their own Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton) to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts. Of course, this is little more than a political maneuver and way to undermine Harry and Hogwarts’ Headmaster Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), because the ministry refuses to accept the fact the Dark Lord has returned. After several unpleasant turns in the story, Umbridge is placed in complete control of Hogwarts, which forces many of the students turn to Harry, requesting that he give them proper instruction in the Defense Against the Dark Arts. The marvelous cast of HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX also features also features Gary Oldman, Mark Williams, David Thewlis, Maggie Smith, Julie Walters, Jason Isaacs, Natalia Tena, Brendan Gleeson, Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Robbie Coltrane, Helena Bonham Carter, Katie Leung, Matthew Lewis, Evanna Lynch, James Phelps, Oliver Phelps, Bonnie Wright, Robert Hardy, Chris Rankin, Sian Thomas, Tom Felton, Jamie Waylett, Josh Herdman, David Bradley, Devon Murray, Afshan Azad, Shefali Chowdhury, Warwick Davis, Harry Melling, Kathryn Hunter, Fiona Shaw and Richard Griffiths.
Warner Home Video has made HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX available on DVD in a 2.35:1 wide screen presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays. In general, the transfer is very good, but it is not outstanding. My biggest problem with the presentation is the compression. There are a number of sequences that suffer from mosquito noise and rather obvious compression artifacts, which detract from what appears to be a rather good transfer. Image sharpness and detail generally appear quite good, but there are individual moments, where things can appear a little soft. Colors have a good level of saturation and flesh tones tend to be natural. Blacks appear on the money, plus contrast and shadow detail are fine. The film elements appear clean, but there is some graininess in places. I would imagine that my concerns about compression artifacts will be addressed in the hi-def formats- Blu-Ray in particular, due to its higher capacity and overall data throughput.
HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX comes with a pretty terrific Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack. The sound design is aggressive during the action sequences, but is a lot more subdued during the talky portions of the film. The outlying channels see a nice bit of activity. Surround usage is very good, with the rear channels creating effective acoustic spaces. Fidelity is first rate, with the music sounding quite marvelous. The bass channel is deep and authoritative. Voices have natural quality, plus the film’s dialogue is always completely understandable. French and Spanish 5.1 channel tracks are also encoded onto the DVD, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.
Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental materials, most of which have been relegated to disc two of this set. Disc one includes a few negligible game previews. Moving on to disc two, one will find the remainder of the supplemental programming. The Hidden Secrets Of Harry Potter is a forty-four minute program designed to promote the theatrical release of the film. Additional Scenes rescues ten minutes of footage from the cutting room floor. Trailing Tonks is a nineteen-minute set tour hosed by actress Natalia Tena. Finally, Harry Potter And The Magic Of Editing offers five-minute introduction to the film’s editing, then provides an interactive editing suite for the viewer to play with.
For my money, HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX is far more satisfying film than it was a book. Due to some compression issues, the DVD is less satisfying than the movie itself. If you are transitioning to hi-def or planning to do so, you’ll probably want to pick up the film on one of the next generation formats.
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