The latest Ultimate Edition releases for the Harry Potter franchise are out, and while I have been a big fan of these releases from the beginning, they may have moved into the category of “strictly for die-hards” at this point. The Order of the Phoenix Ultimate Edition boasts “Over One Hour” of never-before-seen bonus content, which is already at the bare minimum, I think, of really selling fans on the idea that there is enough to make it worth another version of a film, but unless there is something I’ve missed, the only new bonus is the Ultimate Edition continuation of the Creating the World of Harry Potter series. Which means that there isn’t really any new bonus content that is specific to this film.
This year’s go at the series is Evolution, and focuses on the journey and transformation of Harry Potter. As usual, these are actually fantastic bonus features, and this one runs about an hour, just like the previous installments. You get snapshots from all the films of the series, with a variety of talking points, this time exploring how things have changed for Harry, and how he has changed to meet new challenges. Of course, it would be hard to avoid also talking about how Radcliffe changed, and similar point of managing the production across so many films. As usual, it’s pretty impressive how this comes together, and the series is, I’m sure, a hit with fans, and this one will be no different.
Of course, there is a lot more in the box, as fans are well aware. The release comes with a 44-page book of images from years 1-7 in the franchise, and as such things go, this is a pretty nice offering. It’s a mix of a variety of subjects, and in its own way serves to showcase the Evolution of the world to a certain degree. You also get two more of the character cards that have come in all these packages.
The question is, is there really that much more in store for you than with the previous Blu-Ray release of the film? That answer is going to depend on the buyer, but the fairly objective look seems to suggest that there isn’t really. For the most serious of fans, this is a no-brainer, and the book, character cards, and bonus Evolution have some real value, but the must-own status may be as much a result of the simple fact that any next thing that comes out is must-own, as opposed to anything about this release that really sells.
There is a certain disparity, and perhaps it is something that is hard to avoid considering the timeliness of the initial release of this film, between the first releases in this series and these latest ones. When the Ultimate Edition of the first few films came out, they really were no-brainers. The extras, and plain old massive shininess of the Ultimate Editions made that DVD sitting on your shelf hide its head in shame. These don’t quite set themselves apart to anything like the same degree.
You get the bonuses from the initial release, and there you have a fine assortment of extras. All in all, those bonuses add up to a couple of hours or so, and offer a nice variety. You have the “In-Movie Experience” talking points that play while you watch the movie. This is a nice effort, and gives you a mix of behind-the-scenes investigations into certain scenes and the production in general, as well as explorations of various locales, etc.
You also have the same featurettes from the original release – a general behind-the-scenes effort, one focused on sets and set design, one with a focus on editing, and several others. There are also several deleted scenes, trailers, and the usual odds and ends. Again, this is all the same stuff as the original Blu-Ray release.
Of course, this is all just to take a hard look at the thing. If you happen not to already own the Blu-Ray, it’s beyond obvious that this is the one to choose. And, if you’re looking to make a Potter fan happy, it would be hard to imagine not going for this release as well. If you’ve seen the other Ultimate Edition releases, you know that they are exceedingly nice packages, and generally they aren’t going to disappoint. Evolution is not really the very best of the Creating the World of Harry Potter series, but these are all very nice productions. Some may simply be a little disappointed that there isn’t a bit more that adds to Order of the Phoenix itself.
This stands out a bit, because there is so much that we might have taken a look back at now, given that David Yates comes on board here as director, and this is the point at which things become decidedly darker and more serious, both in the franchise generally, and in the films. The objective judge wants to deduct some points for missing out on the opportunity to put one or two film-specific treatments into the new set, but the overall score remains very high.