Ultra HD
Highly Recommended
4.5 stars
Overall Grade
4.5 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
3.5 Stars
HD Video Quality
5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
5 Stars
Supplements
0 Stars
High-Def Extras
4.5 Stars
Bottom Line
Highly Recommended

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray

Street Date:
November 7th, 2017
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
November 27th, 2017
Movie Release Year:
2001
Studio:
Warner Bros.
Length:
152 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
PG
Release Country
United States

Editor's Notes

Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone Ultimate Edition Blu-ray, where Aaron Peck wrote about some of the Bonus Materials and film. This review features new Vital Disc Stats, Video, Audio, some Bonus Material and Final Thoughts sections.

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

When Warner first announced that Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone would be adapted for the big screen, the growing legions of Potter fans held their breath as they awaited word on who would direct the project. Expectations for the film were stratospheric, and many A-list names were being bandied about (including Steven Spielberg and Tim Burton). So when the final selection was unveiled to the world to be Chris Columbus -- the competent helmer beyond such trifles as Bicentennial Man and Adventures in Babysitting -- eyebrows were raised among both Potter fans and critics alike. Would Columbus be able to take the reins of such a plum assignment, and not only bring a faithful retelling of J.K. Rowling's beloved book to the screen, but also create a transcendent experience that could stand on its own as a classic piece of fantasy filmmaking?

As it turned out, Columbus certainly delivered on at least one of those counts. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is downright reverential to its source text, and takes no grave liberties with Rowlings' creation. But at the same time, it also never truly lifts off as the grand, cinematic experience it could have been. It's still a very fine film -- one that's entertaining and well-made, even if it is ultimately as manufactured as a studio theme park ride.

Since anyone reading this is likely familiar with the basics of the story, I'll dispense with the plot synopsis, other than to say that since Sorcerer's Stone was engineered from the get-go to be a franchise-starter, it has the huge burden of introducing us to the entire otherworldly universe of Harry Potter. It must explain to us what a muggle is, how a sorting hat works, and just how the heck a jump through a wall at a train station can magically lead to Hogwarts Academy -- all without coming off as some sort of Cliff's Notes version of Rowling's original vision. Despite all of these expositional hurdles, screenwriter Steve Kloves does an admirable job at keeping everything coherent, without overburdening us with too much magical minuate. It's no wonder Kloves went on to adapt most of the subsequent Potter books for the screen -- his light touch manages to balance just the right amount of cinematic whimsy with Rowling's more literary leanings.

Sorcerer's Stone also carries the weight of introducing us to many key characters that will inform Harry Potter's entire seven-story coming-of-age saga. Rowling contractually required Warner to only use British actors to fill out the many denizens of her world, and the studio certainly assembled a first-rate adult cast to buttress the film's less experienced younger actors. Simply put, this may be the most colorful band of thespians you'll ever see in a movie, with Maggie Smith (Professor Minerva McGonagall), Robbie Coltrane (Rubeus Hagrid), Julie Harris (Mrs. Molly Weasley) and the late Richard Harris (as Albus Dumbledore) being the particular standouts. Though Harry Potter carries the label of "children's fantasy," such smart casting goes a long way toward ensuring that adults will still find plenty to tickle their fancies as well.

Without a doubt, however, it is camaraderie between the film's three young actors that remains most crucial to the sustainability of a seven-strong franchise. The characters of Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasly (Rupert Grint) are ones we must love by film's end, but it is to Columbus' great credit that our first on-screen introduction to them is underplayed. He gives Radcliff, Watson and Grint the freedom to be natural and convincing, helping to make them engaging and believable heroes despite their inexperience (Radcliffe had never even acted before). Likewise, Columbus never lets style get in the way of story, demonstrating above all a respect for the heroes of Rowling's original novels.

Alas, this respect is also what prevents Sorcerer's Stone from ultimately being a truly transformative film -- simply put, it just plays it too safe for greatness. Columbus and Kloves are so slavish to the source text that there's no real sense of cinematic authorship to the movie. Unlike a Spielberg, who still manages to infuse even his most commercial projects with his own distinct sensibility, much of Sorcerer's Stone feels like it could have been made by anyone. Such admirable devotion certainly makes for a faithful and satisfying filmed version of Rowling's book, but it also ensures that it can never be anything more than that.

Still, for any Harry Potter fan, Sorcerer's Stone is certainly a must-see. It sets the stage very well for the future (and in my opinion, far superior) chapters, which only grow more complex and darker as the series wears on. Sorcerer's Stone  is also a wonderful achievement on all levels of its production, from the fantastic set design and costumes, to John Seale's fanciful photography, to yet another pitch-perfect score by the legendary John Williams. Although I personally would have liked for Columbus to have taken a few more risks in filtering Rowling's text through his own vision, Sorcerer's Stone remains a respectable and, at times, breathlessly exciting first installment in what has become one of Hollywood's finest fantasy franchises.

Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone comes with a dual-layered UHD66 Disc, a Blu-ray Disc of the film, and a second Blu-ray Disc with all of the Bonus Materials. The Blu-rays are Region A Locked. There is an insert for a Digital HD copy as well. The discs are housed in a hard, black plastic case where two of the three discs are stacked on top of each other. There is a cardboard sleeve, too.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

The wizarding world has never looked so crisp and clear as it does with Warner's new 2160p UHD discs of the early Harry Potter movies, now with HDR. There is a huge difference and upgrade with these older films from the Blu-ray versions to the new 4Ks. Everything just looks smoother and more realistic with better detail and exquisite color. Each scene has more clarity and it's easier to see background items in the lower lit hallways of Hogwarts here. In these films, there is so much going on in each scene. There are so many kids running through the dorms or magical staircases that it could be easy to get murky and hazy during the heavier effects moments.

That's not the case with the 4K UHD. Every part of the picture is perfectly clear. In close-ups, every visual effect and facial feature is striking. Look at Dumbledore's bear hairs. You can see each scraggly strand easily. Even the full CGI three-headed dog looks excellent with every computer generated hair standing out. You'll even be able to see the wax drippings from all the candles in the movie. Wider shots look just as good with school inform textures looking great and individual hairs popping out when the many students are going from class to class. The heavier CGI work on the Quidditch field also looks incredible without any softness to talk about.

Colors are vibrant in all locations, from the dreary England country setting to the brightness of the grand hall of Hogwarts. The warmer colors, including the reds, oranges, and yellows all have distinct layers to them, depending on how they are shown on screen, but always have a brightness to them that other releases lack, thanks to the new HDR here. The green colors of Slytherin and the green landscapes surrounding Hogwarts are all rich and bold. Black levels are very deep and inky without any crush and skin tones are natural at all times. There are no issues with any aliasing, banding, or video noise here, making this new HDR 4K image simply outstanding.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

This release comes with an excellent DTS:X track. I know some of you wish there had been a Dolby Atmos mix here, but the DTS:X really does deliver from start to finish here. The sound effects are now fluid in transition from speaker to speaker and very loud. It really immerses you into the entire magical world of Hogwarts. Simpler sounds such as the students walking from class to class along the insane stairwells sound impressive. I loved it.

Not only was it the sound dynamics of the overhead speakers that got me smiling, but it was also the echoes and reverbs of being in a large castle that bounces the sounds off all the walls in a large space. Of course the Quidditch match sounds good, but the best sounding scene was the big wizard chess sequence with the large stone chess pieces moving around. It really sounded like something was on top of the house moving around as the DTS:X track smoothly moved those noises overhead. Another good scene came at the beginning of the film with the millions of Hogwarts letters flying in at once.

Each sound was nuanced and detailed. The bass kicks in at all times to provide a good low end and packs a good punch with the more suspenseful moments. John Williams' score is legendary and never drowns out any other sound aspect. Dialogue is always clear and easy to follow, and free of any pops, cracks, and hiss. Lastly, the ambient noises of students walking and even the paintings that talk on the walls sound wonderful and provide an amazing sound experience. 

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

N/A.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

There are no bonus features on the 4K UHD Disc, but all features from the Ultimate Edition are included on the Blu-ray here.

In-Movie Experience - This feature is only available on the theatrical version. It offers up a PiP video commentary, which includes storyboards, explanations about scenes with Chris Columbus, and other tidbits from the cast and crew. It's an interesting, but somewhat underwhelming extra just because it seems like it only sparsely pops up.

Creating the World of Harry Potter Part 1: The Magic Begins (HD, 63 min) - If you’re a Harry Potter completist, this right here, is the reason to get your hands on these Ultimate Editions. This is a comprehensive and exhaustive look into the world of Harry Potter, and the making of it. Nothing here feels like promo fluff. It's an in depth and frank look at creating the magic that is Harry Potter. You can tell that Warner didn't rush their way through this just to push out another special feature. They took their time, and created something that fans of the franchise should enjoy and treasure. 

Introduction by Daniel Radcliffe (HD, 2 min) - Harry Potter himself offers up a brief introduction to the new material that is found within the brand new documentary. He makes some promises that Potter fans should be happy with the new additions. 

A Glimpse Into the World of Harry Potter (HD, 9 min) - Here's the promotional mumbo jumbo. Skip.

Additional Footage (HD, 10 min) - Seven scenes are included here:

"Dudley's New School Uniform"
"Petunia Cracks Eggs with Letters Inside"
"Tube Ride"
"Kids Leave Girls' Bathroom"
"Harry Sits by Fire in Great Hall"
"Harry Finds Nicholas Flamel Card"
"Snape’s Classroom"

Trailers and TV Spots (HD, 15 min) - I'm still flummoxed as to why studios think we want to watch commercials of the movie. Trailers are great, but just promotional TV spots are ridiculous. 

Capturing the Stone: A Conversation with the Filmmakers (HD, 16 min) - Writer Steve Kloves, director Chris Columbus, and others talk about what it was like adapting such a widely popular story to film. 

Classrooms (HD) - You can cast spells and mix some potions here. 

Diagon Alley (HD) - Test your wits with this witless little game that demands you to solve fairly involved puzzles to keep moving forward. Like I said before, your kids that are nuts about Harry Potter may find this entertaining. 

Library (HD) - A tour of the library in Hogwarts that really doubles as a discreet way to stick in a still gallery of the film. 

Hogwarts Grounds (HD) - Using a few scenes from the movie you can explore different parts of the grounds at Hogwarts like Hagrid's hut. 

Sorting Hat (HD) - A very short explanation about the four houses of Hogwarts. 

Interactive Tour (HD) - This is a mildly entertaining virtual tour of Hogwarts where you can choose where you want to go. It continually tells you exactly what happened in each of the rooms. 

Final Thoughts

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was the start of something special in cinema. It introduced us to a new world and lovable characters that we all grew up with over time. There were top notch visuals, performances and a great script that captured the good elements of the book. This new 4K UHD release with HDR is the definitive way to watch these movies. The detail and colors are life-like without having the digital car-wash look to it and the DTS:X audio mix sounds amazing. I'd even say it would be demo worthy in a couple of scenes. There are no new extras, but all extras from the Ultimate Edition have been transported over on the Blu-ray Disc. This is worthy of an upgrade for sure. Highly Recommended!

Technical Specs

  • Ultra HD/Blu-ray/Digital HD

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 2160p HEVC/H.265

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 2.39:1

Audio Formats

  • English DTS:X
  • English: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1

Subtitles/Captions

  • English SDH, Spanish, Korean, Mandarin

Supplements

  • In-Movie Experience
  • Behind the Scenes
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Trailers
  • Featurettes

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