Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: Ultimate Edition (Blu-ray)

January 28, 2012 11 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

When it comes to some things, I’m a very early adopter and when it comes to others, well I tend to be one of the last ones to catch on. Such is the case with “Harry Potter”. I’d heard of the boy wizard and the books, but I’ve never fancied myself much of a reader. Movies, as you can all tell, were much more of my forte. But “Harry Potter” wasn’t just another flash in the pan and it’s equal appeal to both children and adults alike is most of what made it an international phenomenon. And, I might add, that phenomenon is far from over. Though the books have now been written, we’re still waiting the final two installments of the film franchise. But we’ve a way to go before those. Yes, this is what started it all: “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” or as it’s called in the USA “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”. The book, released in 1997, was such an instant success that it wasn’t a question of if it would be made into a movie but when. And, as it turned out, on November 16, 2001 the film was released in the US to both critical and commercial acclaim. Anyone reading this review I assume has either seen the movie and/or read the book(s). If not, well there may be some general spoilers and for that, I apologize. So here we go!

Harry Potter’s (Daniel Radcliffe) parents have just been murdered by Lord Voldemort. Harry’s mother tried to save him from the killing curse, but to no avail. Harry was to be next, but something happened and the spell that was supposed to end his infant life backfired and killed Voldemort instead. This gave Harry the instant moniker “The Boy Who Lived.” Harry lived with his muggle (human) Aunt and Uncle who mistreated him, even to the extent where his room was under the stairs. But, on his eleventh birthday, Harry finds out that he’s been invited to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizadry to learn to become a wizard. After a little back and forth between Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) Harry finally boards the magical train and the adventure begins. Once at school, Harry immediately befriends Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) as the three are put in the same house of the school; Gryffindor (the others being Slytherin, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw – each with it’s own defining characteristic). As Harry and the other first years try to adjust to life at the school, there seems to be some strange goings on. A mysterious stone believed to have magical powers is the quest and the children, being nosy as they are, stumble upon it. Could it be that Lord Voldemort isn’t dead after all and now he’s back to finish the job he started?

Ok, let’s face it, the first few “Harry Potter” books were more for the children than the adults. The first “Harry Potter” book and subsequent movie was mainly setting the stage for what was to come. It introduces us to the main characters in the books and films: Draco Malfoy, Severus Snape, Headmaster Dumbledore and Hagrid. We get to see the school as a whole, meet some of Harry’s friends who will be with him through the series and really get a feel for what’s going on in the world of Harry Potter. This first movie and the second for that matter, are pretty much literal adaptions of the books. I think I once read “they didn’t even skip a semicolon” so if you’ve read the book then you’ll have seen the movie, in essence. Still, seeing the visual effects and images on screen gives the books new life and to date the first “Harry Potter” movie is the highest-grossing in the series. I’m sure that will change with the last film, set to debut in July 2011. Still, if you’ve even picked up a “Harry Potter” book and enjoyed it then this is where you need to start.

Video: How does it look?

This is the second incarnation of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” on Blu-ray as the previous edition was released around the same time “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” was coming to Blu-ray. That said, I compared the two and couldn’t tell any discernible difference between the two. That’s not a bad thing, of course, as this is by far the best the film has looked. Warner’s 2.35:1 VC-1 HD transfer makes the image seem sharper than its standard DVD counterpart. Colors are bold and vibrant, though the film has a lot of dark sequences as well and these hold up amazingly well. Flesh tones, even those of the goblins, look amazing and the level of detail is almost off the charts. There are a very few instances, one of which is the opening scene, that seem to have a bit of artifacting to them but they’re few and far between.

Audio: How does it sound?

“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” has been given a DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack and it really makes the movie come to life. Yes, dialogue is at the forefront of the film but in a world of witches and wizards, you can rest assured that there’s going to be something in your rear surrounds. The score sounds amazing and get used to it because that same chime will become ever so familiar in the subsequent films. While not a “rock the room” sort of soundtrack, there is a lot going on. It’s active and robust and perfect for this film. A great effort on this Blu-ray disc, for sure.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Warner Brothers wisely timed the release of the first two films as “Ultimate Editions” as the most recent film “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” is set to make it’s Blu-ray debut. Hey, if you can sell it to them once, you can sell it to them twice. This four disc set contains most of what the previous Blu-ray disc did but there are a few added incentives, of course. The first disc contains the movie, but we get an added picture-in-picture commentary track with director Chris Columbus. This isn’t necessarily screen specific and it doesn’t run the length of the entire film, it’s more a pop up here and there. We’re also treated to some storyboard to screen comparisons throughout. Additionally, pardon the pun, the Extended version of the movie is included with seven minutes of scenes that have never been seen before added into the movie. I found it fun to watch a movie I was so familiar with and see some new scenes inserted.

Moving onto the second disc we find more of an interactive game. There are various object you can select, but each relies on the other. For instance you can’t go to class unless you have a book, you can’t get a book unless you have money and you can’t buy a wand without money as well. Interesting as it is, I really couldn’t figure it out and I don’t see much entertainment value in this. So I moved onto the third disc where we have some more new content. First off is an introduction with a much older Daniel Radcliffe and he energetically tells us of all the things to expect and we’ve got new scenes, screen tests and the like. Turns out he wasn’t lying. The main draw of these “Ultimate Editions” is the never before seen footage and we see how the stars were selected, we see some of their screen tests, how the script made its way to the screen and plenty of footage with director Chris Columbus and producer David Hayman. This is part I of “Creating the World of Harry Potter” and part I is aptly-titled “The Magic Begins”. Each subsequent Ultimate Edition will contain a new installment, 8 in all for all 8 movies. Next up is a 10 minute special on Harry Potter that was originally broadcast in 2001. It’s essentially a long trailer, but is interesting nonetheless. Next up are seven deleted scenes and all are shown in a VC-1 HD transfer. And if they look familiar, they’re seen in the extended version of the film. Nothing too new or revolutionary here, but nice to see some new scenes after all this time. Finally we get around twenty TV spots and original theatrical trailers. The Blu-ray also uses BD-Live functionality for an added experience and the fourth disc is a digital copy of the film. Friends, this is where it truly all began and I couldn’t recommend this enough.

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