DVD Review: Harry Potter & The Sorcerer’s Stone (Magical Movie Mode Edition)



It’s the 20-year anniversary of Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone (or Philosopher’s Stone depending on what part of the world you’re in) and one of the ways the studio is celebrating is by releasing the film on Blu-ray and DVD with Magical Movie Mode included. Now, this release isn’t one that everyone will want to jump on, and I’m actually not 100% sure who the target audience for it is, as not only does it not offer much that is new, but it also takes away quite a bit when it compares to previous releases.

The thing is, 20 years in, most fans of the franchise own a copy of this film, be it on DVD, Blu-ray or the new 4K release, and for the most part those releases at the very least came with the same special features that have been passed along since the original 2002 DVD release, yet this release doesn’t even have those. What’s added alongside the theatrical version of the film is Magical Movie Mode, which is found on a disc of its own and has Magical Movie Mode burned onto it and engrained into the audio, so if you put in that disc, you’re taking the Movie Mode ride for the duration of the film.

Magical Movie Mode is a mixture of different things that trigger throughout the film, such as trivia bits and commentary from Director Chris Columbus. When you insert the disc you’re given an explanation about what you’re about to witness, such as how a magical border will appear during extended or deleted scenes so you know they weren’t a part of the original release. These scenes are all available in previously released special features, but here they’re integrated into the film.

It’s not so much an extended edition of the movie, however, as there’s so much going on that you’re not really just watching the movie if you choose to view it through Magical Movie Mode. There are various definitions that pop up, little tidbits of info about characters or creatures in the film, spells appear on screen when spoken so that fans can learn to pronounce them correctly, and certain dialogue is animated into the movie as well. Columbus will also pop up in the bottom corner every so often to explain how a scene was done, or why something was done the way it was.

Also, at the start of the Movie Mode experience viewers are told to choose a House to represent and to give themselves points throughout the movie for each trivia question they get right, or if they happen to see the Golden Snitch in a scene it doesn’t belong in. While it’s neat in theory, I don’t see it as something someone will revisit time and time again, as it’s more of a one and done scenario. Once you know all the trivia questions and learned the behind-the-scenes tidbits of information Columbus has to offer, there’s just no reason to revisit Movie Mode again. So with that being said, I don’t see many people wanting to shell out the full price of a DVD or Blu-ray disc for something that may be fun for a watch party or family movie night, but then doesn’t really serve any purpose once that initial viewing is done.

One could argue the same could be said for any special features, and that’s true; however, usually you’re paying for the film and the bonus features are just that, a bonus! So while you may watch them just once, you still have the actual film to fall back on as the reason you’ve spent your money. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is 20 years old and extremely popular, so again, most fans already own the film in multiple formats and will have no need for this Magical Movie Mode unless they’re completionists, and new fans will probably want to pick up a version that has both the best version of the film visually, as well as the more abundant special features disc that offers more than this gimmicky release.

DVD Video and Audio Review:

The DVD picture is the same as previous DVD releases, and while it looks okay for the most part there are times when the picture looks a bit soft and it’s just not the ideal viewing experience with Blu-ray (which, to be fair, is also soft at times) and the 4K experience, which easily leads the pack. But if those options aren’t available, the DVD transfer does do the trick and is still an enjoyable experience. The darker scenes aren’t muddied, and the CGI works well also, so if you’re only able to watch the film on DVD then don’t stress too much.

The audio side of things sound nice, with the score and sound effects popping nicely but never really overpowering the dialogue. On the Magical Movie Mode disc the pop up sounds, and the commentary can’t be disabled, as they’re mixed right into the track, so if you just want to watch the movie that disc should be avoided entirely.

Special Features:

There are unfortunately – and somewhat bizarrely – no special features in this release. With the special features in other releases of the film often being recycled from the 2002 release, it seems somewhat odd to not just include them here in a third disc. When you’re asking fans to shell out another $15 for the film, the likely one-viewing Movie Mode experience just doesn’t cut it enough to warrant an entire release. At least if the older special features were included this could be an option for someone who may not own the film yet, but as it stands it just makes more sense to pick up an older one with better special features included.

Warner Bros. Pictures Presents Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Magical Movie Mode Edition). Directed by: Chris Columbus. Written by: Steve Kloves. Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Richard Harris, Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane, Alan Rickman. Running time: 152 Minutes. Rating: PG. Released on DVD: Aug. 17, 2021.

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