Release Date(s)2001 (November 7, 2017)
Studio(s)Heyday Films/1492 Films/Warner Bros. Pictures (Warner Bros.)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: B-
Harry Potter is not your ordinary English boy. Left orphaned as a baby, he’s been raised by his aunt and uncle, but lives under their stairs, barely tolerated by his would-be guardians. But things change on his eleventh birthday, when a stranger named Hagrid arrives to reveal Harry’s true identity: He’s a wizard, the son of late magical parents, and his birthright entitles him to attend the prestigious Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. No sooner does Harry arrive at Hogwarts than he meets two fellow students who will become his stalwart friends in life, Ronald Weasley and Hermione Granger. He finds a kindly mentor as well in the schools’ headmaster, Professor Dumbledore. But there are dangers in Harry’s new world too, including the very evil that killed his parents… an evil that may one day return to threaten them all.
Chris Columbus’ film adaptation of the wildly popular fantasy novel by J.K. Rowling seems almost quaint in retrospect, so it’s easy to forget the enormous challenge the director faced in bringing the most important details of the book’s magical world to the big screen. But succeed he did, with the help of cinematographer John Seale (The English Patient, Mad Max: Fury Road) and the legendary composer John Williams. Perhaps the greatest accomplishment of this first installment is to find such a talented young cast, including newcomers Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson as the three leads. They’re surround by a tremendous supporting cast including John Cleese, Robbie Coltrane, Warwick Davis, Richard Griffiths, Ian Hart, Fiona Shaw, Maggie Smith, and Julie Walters. It’s also bittersweet to see the late Richard Harris, John Hurt, and Alan Rickman give such fine and iconic performances here.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was shot on Super 35 film, with VFX rendered digitally in 2K resolution and printed back out to physical film. For this Ultra HD release, it appears that a new native 4K scan of the original camera negative was completed along with a subsequent HDR10 color grade. This is the Theatrical Version of the film (running time 152:21), presented in the proper 2.39:1 theatrical aspect ratio. There’s a steady wash of light to moderate film grain evident in the image, with an increase in fine detail and texturing over the regular Blu-ray that is modest at times (particularly in VFX shots) but significant at others; it tends to vary from shot to shot. The HDR enhances both the brights and shadows well, though blacks are occasionally a bit gray and lacking in detail, both in VFX shots and live-action moments that employ on-set atmospherics (smoke, fog, etc). The film has a warm push to its coloring once the characters arrive at Hogwarts, but the hues are rich and vibrant – noticeably more so than is apparent in regular HD. Metallic gold and silver items and set accents, in particular, gleam and shimmer in HDR. This is not as much of an improvement as the later films in this series are in 4K (which benefitted from a full decade of advancement in post-production technology over the early films), but it’s an improvement nonetheless.
Primary audio on the 4K disc is offered in a new English DTS:X object-based mix of excellent clarity and dynamic range. It’s very similar in tone of the regular Blu-ray’s DTS-HD lossless mix, but sounds just a little bit more open and natural, with smoother panning and a tad more precision in the surround staging. The height channels are employed mostly overhead atmospherics but are quite active during the film’s Quidditch match in particular. Additional audio options include English 5.1 Descriptive Audio, Cantonese 2.0 Dolby Digital, and Mandarin Chinese, Korean, and Latin Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, with optional subtitles in English SDH, Simplified Chinese, Mandarin Chinese, Korean, and Spanish.
Warner’s 4K Ultra HD release is a 3-disc set. It contains the film by itself in 4K on the UHD, plus a movie Blu-ray with both the Theatrical and Extended Versions of the film in 1080p HD. This is the same disc that was released previously in the Ultimate Collector’s Edition Blu-ray set for this film, and it includes the following extra in HD:
- In-Movie Experience (Theatrical Version only)
There’s also a second Blu-ray, all of extras and again the same bonus disc that was included in the previous Ultimate Collector’s Edition Blu-ray set, called Creating the World of Harry Potter Part 1 – The Magic Begins. It offers the following features (some in HD and some in the original SD):
- Introduction by Daniel Radcliffe (1:54)
- Creating the World of Harry Potter Part 1 – The Magic Begins (62:47)
- A Glimpse into the World of Harry Potter TV Special (9:15)
- Deleted Scenes (7 scenes – 9:36 in all)
- Teaser Trailer (1:55)
- Theatrical Trailer #2 (2:27)
- Theatrical Trailer #3 (2:21)
- TV Spots (15 spots – 7:46 in all)
That’s everything created for the UCE edition box set, though obviously you don’t get the hardcover book or swag. Missing from the original Blu-ray release are the Capturing the Stone interview, Ghost of Hogwarts, Year Book Character Clips, Quidditch Lesson, Dragon Egg Lesson, and all the Around the World Multilanguage Clips. And of course the original DVD release featured some extremely elaborate interactive games, hidden features, and ROM content that’s not here. You do at least get a Digital HD code on a paper insert in the packaging.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone isn’t the best film in this series, but it’s certainly charming and it accomplished exactly what it needed to, which was to successfully launch this franchise onto the big screen. Warner’s 4K Ultra HD release offers modest improvements in image and sound quality over the previous Blu-ray, though its HDR is sure to impress. It’s definitely the best way to experience this film at home, so buy it on sale and you should be plenty happy with it. Note that this title is also included in the Harry Potter 8-Film Collection 4K Ultra HD box set (available here on Amazon), but be aware that the Collection does NOT include the Creating the World of Harry Potter bonus Blu-rays – only the films on BD and 4K.
- Bill Hunt