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Kevin Krock, editor
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
(2001)
| Approx. 152 minutes | Rated PG | Reviewed by Tony Phoenix
Cover Art
Click to Buy
Ratings Summary
(Scored out of a maximum of five)
Audio Video
Goodies Interface
Value
ADVANCED HOME THEATER - Just try to get to some of that bonus content...

The Movie

My first introduction to the world of Harry Potter came from my parents, who were living in Europe at the time. My mother told me about these wonderful children’s books that were oh-so-much more. I passed on them at the time, but decided, soon after the fourth book was released, that I had to know what all the fuss was about. I obtained a set of the books, and was immediately hooked. The storytelling is the best since Madeline L‘Engel’s Wrinkle in Time or the Narnia series from C. S. Lewis.

Promo art © Warner Bros.
Promo art © Warner Bros.

When the announcement of the movies came out, I was truly torn. So many movie adaptations of movies have been awful. The migration from novel to screen is rarely easy or faithful to the original print. However, the opportunity to see the world of Hagrid, Hogwarts, and Diagon Alley come to life on the screen had cast a strong pull on me. Thus opening night of the movie found me in line to experience the story of young Harry Potter again.

Rumor has it that the original rough cut of the film clocked in at over four hours. The final release of the film was trimmed to a not-so-slight two-and-a-half hours. While so many elements I had hoped to see in the movie were missing (“Where was the Sorting Hat song?” I grumbled), the adaptation stayed true to the core story of a young boy who meets his destiny.

The Goodies

While the movie and story are wonderful, the goodies on this DVD leave a lot to be desired. It seems the directors wanted to allow you to explore Harry’s world without allowing you to see “the man behind the curtain.” While this is understandable for the children’s market, adults who want to see more will come away disappointed.

Promo art © Warner Bros.
Promo art © Warner Bros.

The best goodies are seven deleted scenes available on the second disc that are rewarded to you after navigating several puzzles. My biggest frustration was having to dig out my copy of the book in order to solve one puzzle (as the answers to the questions are in the deleted scenes). It was a bit disappointing that only seven scenes are available, especially given the amount of material that was cut.

Probably the biggest hyped goodie is the interactive tour of Hogwarts. While it is interesting from a technical standpoint, it will only ever interest those over the age of 12 after the first time. It quickly loses its appeal after the first viewing.

The Video, Audio and Interface

The transfer for the movie is first-rate. The movie can be very dark at times, and the blacks come out truly black. There is also a noticeable lack of artifacts frequently seen in darker movies. The quality can probably be attributed to the fact that so much space was saved by putting the goodies on a second disk, that the movie was not compressed as much as normal. Be sure to go with the widescreen edition of this movie, because to a significantly greater extent than most movies, a pan-and-scan edition cuts out too much of the action.

Promo art © Warner Bros.
Promo art © Warner Bros.

I truly believe that John Williams writes movie soundtracks with the goal of using a maximum of bass and trumpets. While the movie sounded good on a simple surround system, moving to a 5.1 digital system comes close to duplicating the theater experience. The music and effects are crisp and clear, with lots of rumbling bass. My only complaint is that the differences between speech and music are often so great that the characters become drowned out. This is a problem with the film, rather than the DVD, which I had noticed it in the theater as well.

The interface is pretty standard, but nothing special.

The Advanced Home Theater

Picture quality is very good on a big screen - as Tony noted in his review, this is a dark movie, and they've really taken great care to make sure the action doesn't get lost in the shadows. Make sure you are getting the widescreen version - you lose way too much of the picture in the full frame edition.

Although this is an uncharacteristically lackluster effort for composer John Williams (I dare you to find any kind of melody in the score) sonically the 5.1 mix captures both the highs and lows of the orchestra quite well. Sound effects are especially bombastic (your subwoofer should get a nice workout), and the rear channels are used to good (if not more constant) effect. The dialog problem Tony notes in his review can be common to films mixed using the THX specification (George Lucas, as amply demonstrated by his last two Star Wars movies, isn't much focused on dialog or script)  - a quick boost of your center channel level should easily address this though.

Promo art © Warner Bros.
Promo art © Warner Bros.

The only place this rather generous edition of the film lets the customer down is in the way-too-complex supplemental disc interface. You literally feel as if you are playing Myst to try and get to any of the special features or deleted scenes hidden away.

Warners should have taken a cue from how Disney has handled this same issue on their recent deluxe DVD editions: If you want to use fancy menus to get to something you can, but a simple listing with direct links to all the content / features is also provided. (Great examples of this were the Atlantis and the Snow White sets.) After the title sits on your shelf for a while you may not want to bother with all the steps it takes to get to something on follow up viewings.

- Al Lutz

Promo art © Warner Bros.
Promo art © Warner Bros.

The Final Evaluation

Some of the best new fantasy in years, this movie is worth adding to your collection. I do not recommend this for little ones under 8 or 9 years of age, given its dark theme at times. Ultimately, anything that encourages children to read (especially a book 700 pages long) is worth the price.


Artifacts: An artifact is a visual anomaly or error that is created in compressed video formats such as DVD and direct broadcast satellite, when the compression cannot render fast action or complex scenes. They are rare, and occur only momentarily. When they do, artifacts may appear as clumps of colored blocks or pixels that obscure part of an image.

Promo art © Warner Bros.
Promo art © Warner Bros.

DVD FEATURES

Goodies

  • Deleted scenes
  • Self-guided tour of Hogwarts
  • Theatrical trailers
  • Search the library, mix potions, explore Diagon Alley, and more
  • Interview with director and producer

Technical Specifications

anamorphicdvd.gif (2563 bytes)

  • Region 1 Encoded
  • Single-sided, dual-layer
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • English, Spanish subtitles
  • 35 chapters
  • Widescreen anamorphic - 2.20:1

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