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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Harry Potter Limited Edition DVD Collection Years 1-5
Harry Potter Limited Edition DVD Collection Years 1-5
Warner Bros. // PG // December 11, 2007
List Price: $119.97 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Preston Jones | posted January 24, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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The Movies

In the annals of film and literature, the impact of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series is nigh incalculable, both in terms of sheer revenue and the life-changing introduction to a rich fantasy world experienced by many millions of eager childrens and adults. It's arguably the defining fantasy epic of our time, a sweeping, fiercely imaginative creation that only grows more compelling and rewarding with each installment.

It's probably worth noting here that I've never so much as flipped a page of any of Rowling's seven novels; instead, I've sampled her world through these films, which distill the narratives down to their essence. Perhaps someday, I will take the time to immerse myself in the sprawling universe bound in hardback, but these films, I feel, do an admirable job of both placating rabid fans and telling an engaging fantasy story to an audience that may not know a Muggle from a Mandrake.

The five films contained in this limited edition repackaging (all the DVDs are identical to the versions already in print) are as follows:

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001)
This first cinematic adaptation hits a home run -- the cast is uniformly excellent, Steve Kloves' screenplay deftly balances humor and chills and Chris Columbus marshals special effects and child actors with aplomb. I won't dig too deeply into the plot mechanics or other specifics, as my colleague Aaron Beierle's thorough review of the film and its original two-disc set does a fantastic job of that.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)
A worthy sequel to an almost universally beloved debut, this installment ups the ante and cranks the intensity -- despite having a rough idea of what was in store for Harry and friends, I found myself flinching a few times. One of the most impressive aspects of Rowling's story is how she refuses to play soft, always placing her characters in dire situations with definite consequences. Again, I'll refrain from wading into who does what to whom, as my colleague Aaron Beierle's thorough review of the film and its original two-disc set sums it up nicely.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
Director Chris Columbus handed the reins over to Alfonso Cuaron for the third adaptation, largely regarded as one of the most successful book-to-film translations in the series to date. The atmosphere is at once more grim and more fanciful than the previous two Potter films and here, with the third film, is where I personally feel the cast really starts to come into its own. As before, I'm taking a pass on narrative synopsis as my colleague Holly Ordway's excellent coverage of the film and its original two-disc set does a bang-up job.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)
Mike Newell takes over for this fourth edition of the Harry Potter series, continuing the narrative's ever darker themes and trying mightily to balance the often unwieldy mixture of magic and exposition. Of the five thus far, Goblet of Fire feels the most uneven to me, but my colleague Holly Ordway's overview of the film and its original two-disc setlays it all out for you.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)
And last, but not least, David Yates assumes control of the wildly profitable and hugely popular film franchise for its latest installment (IMDb says that Yates will return later this year as director of the sixth film, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince). It's an intoxicating brew of political intrigue and increasingly raised stakes for Harry and friends as Voldemort draws ever closer and begins making his presence felt in many ways. My colleague Brian Orndorf's look at the film and its original two-disc setprovides plenty of information about the narrative and supplements.

The DVDs

The Video:

Each of the five films is presented as it was originally released on DVD, in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfers. While the first film in the series looks great, it doesn't quite have the visual pop of each successive movie that, as technology has progressed, the transfers are getting cleaner, more crisp and vividly detailed. The difference between the images are barely discernible. Overall, an excellent set of transfers.

The Audio:

As with the visuals, the aural end of things is unchanged from previous DVD incarnations, retaining the immersive, detailed soundtracks. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets each have Dolby Digital 5.1 EX tracks, while the other three films have Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Stone and Secrets also feature Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 EX tracks. The remaining films' audio options are: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (French Dolby Digital 5.1); Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1) and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1). Stone features optional English and Spanish subtitles, while the remaining four films all include optional English, French and Spanish subtitles.

The Extras:

As noted above, each of the five films in this set are identical to the versions already in print, except for the packaging, which resembles schoolbooks (the interior are clear plastic trays that hold a DVD on each side). The external packaging, designed to look like Harry Potter's trunk suitcase, is very handsome and latches closed. In addition to all of the supplements included on the original two-disc sets, the previously released "Hogwarts Challenge" DVD is included, as is a disc of new-to-video, mini-documentaries for all five films, each presented in 1.33:1 fullscreen (except where noted), with a Dolby 2.0 stereo track and optional English, French, Spanish or Portuguese subtitles. The docs break down thusly:

Stone: The nine minute, 14 second "A Glimpse Into the World of Harry Potter"
Secrets: The 13 minute "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets ... Revealed"
Azkaban: The 13 minute "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Something Wicked This Way Comes"; the 10 minute "The Making of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" and the eight minute, 13 second "An Interview in Spanish with Alfonso Cuaron" (playable separately or all together)
Fire: The 48 minute, 44 second "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Behind the Magic" (presented in anamorphic widescreen); the 23 minute, 23 second "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Some Animal Magic" (presented in anamorphic widescreen) and the 13 minute "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Dark Masters, New Masters" (playable separately or all together)
Phoenix: The 23 minute, 10 second "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: The Rebellion Begins" and the 13 minute "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: Fulfilling a Prophecy" (playable separately or all together)

A quintet of Harry Potter bookmarks, along with 16 collectible trading cards, rounds out this extensive set.

Final Thoughts:

In the annals of film and literature, the impact of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series is nigh incalculable, both in terms of sheer revenue and the life-changing introduction to a rich fantasy world experienced by many millions of eager childrens and adults. It's arguably the defining fantasy epic of our time, a sweeping, fiercely imaginative creation that only grows more compelling and rewarding with each installment. This set, an ideal investment for those who haven't picked up any of the Potter films on DVD, is a lock for DVD Talk Collectors Series.

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