It’s been a long, odd journey revisiting these movies with no distractions and dedicated to diggin into the audio-visual details to judge the improvement of the “Harry Potter” series to 4K. How could I go without telling you which ones are worth the upgrade?
8. ‘Order of the Phoenix’
I covered this in my article dedicated to the movie, but it really feels like they barely touched this movie while transferring/upgrading. The blue color grading, as previously mentioned, is so prominent with HDR that the other color-theme in the movie (pink invoked by the intrusive Professor Umbridge) is muted, negatively impacting some of the subtext of the story.
7. ‘Chamber of Secrets’
While there is no detriment to the upgrade for this one, and despite many other disc reviews noting otherwise, I found few significant changes that make watching this version of the movie worth more than others.
6. ‘Deathly Hallows Part 2’
From here on out, these movies are worth upgrading (of course, second-hand or by borrowing if you can). There is a satisfying application of film grain and blending of digital effects that makes this feel darker and more colorful than ever. The audio is fueled by the score more than sound design, and in general it seems like a simple step up in quality.
5. ‘Deathly Hallows Part 1’
I didn’t think these two would be next to one another, but the only real improvement more significant than those in ‘Part 2’ is the way HDR pulls color from the environment through the gray-ish color grading. It feels warmer when it needs to be than it does on other platforms/in other formats.
4. ‘Goblet of Fire’
Possibly the worst installment in the series feels more alive, true to its’ source, and richly detailed in practical sets like the maze and graveyard. The benefits wear thin towards the end of the movie, and a few digital effects show signs of aging (the dragon’s interactions with its’ environment, the Black Lake, etc.), but it’s definitely the ideal version for fan’s of the book or even just of the movie.
3. ‘Prisoner of Azkaban’
One of the stronger artistic statements in the franchise is only benefitted by rich colors from the wooded sets and magical objects like the ‘Knight Bus.’ This upgrade allows the tone of the movie to cling a bit more to the more colorful production elements of the first two, helping bridge the gap to the more jarring aesthetic changes.
2. ‘Half-Blood Prince’
This might be more of a personal bias, but the way they reeled in David Yates’ use of color grading, which previously was an earthy green on many scenes, leaves a sepia tone that echoes story elements of memory and nostalgia. It also results in a near absence of color in a cave of black-magic and a gray hollowness in the damaged great hall and with the death of Dumbledore (who Snape killed!!!). It’s the most significant instance of 4K upscaling/remastering acting as a supplement to the story being told.
1. ‘The Sorcerer’s/Philosopher’s Stone’
Maybe it’s because it’s the first one I watched, or maybe it’s because the studio felt so many would jump for this one first (it did get it’s own individual 20th anniversary re-release this year). The world feels sharper, brighter, and the contrast gives depth to the image. Moments that should age poorly (“Fluffy” and a screaming book) don’t while other moments (the troll in the bathroom, the forbidden forest) might have. Even without a spectacular sound system, small audio reformations stand-out to an ear so familiar with rewatching/hearing the same sounds. There are so many practical elements in the first two installments that upscaling the image is more effective than with heavy CGI (which , fun fact, can’t yet be rendered at a 4K resolution). It’s gorgeous. It’s the preferred viewing experience hands down.
I’ll get off my soapbox now. HAPPY NEW YEAR! Enjoy (in a watch party if you can) the 20th Anniversary special for “Harry Potter” on HBO Max!
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