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Lord of the Rings Extended Edition Trilogy - Blu-ray Review

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Lord of the Rings Blu-ray Extended Edition Trilogy

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5 Stars

The public outcry for the extended editions to arrive on blu-ray sooner than later has been answered with a deafening and rather thorough box set.  Essentially, Peter Jackson’s assemblage of quality transfers and supplemental material shames all other collections and sets the standard for home entertainment incredibly high.  The set shimmers in gold and black beauty and features 15 discs which features The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King (each extended cut spreads over 2 discs) and over 36 hours of supplemental material about the making of each film.  Describing this set as “incredible” is simply inadequate.  This is the mother of all blu-ray releases; the mark which all others will be compared against.

And only director Peter Jackson could do it.

Fellowship of the Ring - blu-ray ReviewThe Fellowship of the Ring

4 stars

The series was deemed “unfilmable” by its author, J.R.R. Tolkien.  It was too big an undertaking for Ralph Bakshi's animation team to ever satisfactorily finish.  Yet, nearly 30 years after its author’s death, the first part of The Lord of the Rings trilogy was released to a hungry and curious public.  In spite of its departures from the source material and the jettison of the beloved character Tom Bobadil, The Fellowship of the Ring was a huge success.

The extended cut of The Fellowship of the Ring provides the greatest fun in that it allows for some breathing room in Tolkien’s world before the journey begins.  Scenes that highlight Bilbo and Sam’s personality, Isildur's death, Gandolf’s warning to Frodo, Elves on their way to Grey Havens, Aragorn visiting his mother’s grave, Galadriel’s gifts to the members of the fellowship; all aren’t necessary, but they are important to the narrative Jackson and and co-writers Fran Walsh and Phillipa Boyens are adapting.  Essentially, what we get with the extended cut is a more immersive quality to the film…before everything goes to hell and the ring registers its power and influence over the fellowship sworn to destroy it.

Denser than before, the extended cut of The Fellowship of the Ring is an enriched and engrossing triumph; proof that film can be literary and crowd-pleasing at the same time.

The Two Towers - Blu-ray Review

The Two Towers

5 Stars

By splitting the narrative into two separate stories (one highlighting Frodo’s and the other highlighting Aragorn’s), The Two Towers becomes a well-chiseled soldier ready for battle.  And the numerous fight scenes certainly deliver enough explosive TNT to dynamite through any “one long and boring road journey” complaints the first film was tagged as by its detractors.  It’s a near seamless continuation of the story with its own beginning and its own ending that (a) satisfies its own stories and (b) satisfies its audience.  Say what you will about middle parts in a trilogy suffering the most, The Two Towers is that rare exception.

The extended cut of The Two Towers offers an in-depth look at the use of Galadriel’s gifts (as seen in the extended cut of The Fellowship of the Ring), Théodred's funeral, and much more screen time for (an incarnation of) Man Willow, the glorious Treebeard, Merry, and Pippin [all of which were severely truncated (pun intended) in the theatrical cut], and a more fleshed out narrative for Faramir (upon the discovery of the boat that carried Boromir's body).  Sam’s narrative also gets a boost from an extended scene in Osgiliath.

The extended cut of The Two Towers is the most complete and rewarding of the set because of the depth that is added to the storyline and the way it handles what the theatrical cuts would have you believe were secondary characters.

The Return of the King - blu-ray reviewThe Return of the King

4 stars

While The Return of the King might be Peter Jackson’s favorite of the trilogy, some take issue with the fact of its three separate endings. Those voices will never be silenced. That was always the intention; a definitive statement of sorts in its farewell to Tolkien’s world. Regardless, the extended cut of the oscar-winning film proves to be the most needed in the trilogy as it wraps up the loose ends left untied by its theatrical cut.

Finally, audiences get to witness Saruman’s fate, Frodo and Sam's march with the orcs, and the full version of Gandalf’s battle with the Witch-king.  Faramir and Eowyn in the Houses of Healing is certainly a highlight, along with Merry’s relationship to Theoden and even the changes made to the character of Denethor are reasons why this version of the film is the preferred conclusion to the trilogy.  Epic and unflinching in its decision-making and altering of the story, the finale’s extended cut makes for a much better film than the director’s cut (which is what Jackson refers to as the theatrical versions).

Certainly, the necessity of the extended cut of The Return of the King is palpable in that it is the epic conclusion to these masterworks of vision.

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Fellowship of the Ring - blu-ray Review

The Fellowship of the Ring

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for epic battle sequences and some scary images
Director: Peter Jackson
Writer
: Fran Walsh
Cast:
Elijah Wood; Sean Astin; Sala Baker; Cate Blanchett; Orlando Bloom
Genre: Fantasy | Sci-Fi
Tagline:
One Ring to Rule Them All.
Memorable Movie Quote: "It is a strange fate that we should suffer so much fear and doubt over so small a thing. Such a little thing."
Distributor:
New Line Cinema
Release Date:
December 19, 2001
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: June 28, 2011

Synopsis: In a small village in the Shire a young Hobbit named Frodo has been entrusted with an ancient Ring. Now he must embark on an Epic quest to the Cracks of Doom in order to destroy it.

The Two Towers - Blu-ray Review

The Two Towers

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for epic battle sequences and some scary images
Director: Peter Jackson
Writer
: Fran Walsh
Cast:
Elijah Wood; Sean Astin; Sala Baker; Cate Blanchett; Orlando Bloom
Genre: Fantasy | Sci-Fi
Tagline:
The Journey Continues December 18th.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Stupid, fat hobbit."
Distributor:
New Line Cinema
Release Date:
December 18, 2002
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: June 28, 2011

Synopsis: Frodo and Sam continue on to Mordor in their mission to destroy the One Ring. Whilst their former companions make new allies and launch an assault on Isengard.

The Return of the King - blu-ray review

The Return of the King

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for epic battle sequences and some scary images
Director: Peter Jackson
Writer
: Fran Walsh
Cast:
Elijah Wood; Sean Astin; Sala Baker; Cate Blanchett; Orlando Bloom; Viggo Mortensen; Ian McKellen
Genre: Fantasy | Sci-Fi
Tagline:
There can be no triumph without loss. No victory without suffering. No freedom without sacrifice..
Memorable Movie Quote: "I don't think there will be a return journey, Mr. Frodo."
Distributor:
New Line Cinema
Release Date:
December 17, 2003
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: June 28, 2011

Synopsis: The former Fellowship of the Ring prepare for the final battle for Middle Earth, while Frodo & Sam approach Mount Doom to destroy the One Ring..

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Lord of the Rings Blu-ray Extended Edition Trilogy

Component Grades
Movie

Blu-ray Disc
5 Stars

5 Stars



Blu-ray Experience
5 Stars

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - June 28, 2011
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
Subtitles
: English SDH, Spanish, Portuguese; English for Elvish dialogue
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1; Portuguese: Dolby Digital 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Fifteen-disc set (6 BDs, 9 DVDs); Digital copy (as download); BD-Live
Playback: Region A, B

Damn the torpedoes!  Enough with the debate, folks!  There are differences in color and contrast when compared to the theatrical cuts.  Saturation and shadows are up and some greens are intensified. No worries, though. The 1080p/AVC-encoded transfers are apparently from new 2011 HD Masters and are ripe enough to eat. The green/cyan tint only intensifies Tolkien’s world and, more than likely, the changes have been made (most noticeably in The Fellowship of the Ring) due to the production of The Hobbit (to make a fuller experience in continuity). Flesh tones are consistently life-like (including Gollum’s) and detail is near-fine. Each movie explodes with color and life and the sound, provided through a powerful DTS-HD Master Audio surround track (for all three films), is an amazing wall of sound.  Totally immersive and exploding with dynamic sound, the tracks are as healthy as the films.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • The Fellowship of the Ring features not one, but four commentaries from (1) director/co-writer Peter Jackson and co-writers Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, (2) production designer Grant Major, costume designer Ngila Dickson, Weta Workshop creative supervisor Richard Taylor, conceptual designers Alan Lee and John Howe, supervising art director Dan Hennah, art department manager Chris Hennah and Weta Workshop manager Tania Rodger, (3) producer Barrie M. Osborne, executive producer Mark Ordesky, director of photography Andrew Lesnie, editor John Gilbert, co-producer Rick Porras, composer Howard Shore, visual effects supervisor Jim Rygiel, supervising sound editors Ethan van der Ryn and Mike Hopkins, Weta animation designer & supervisor Randy Cook, Weta VFX art director Christian Rivers, Weta VFX cinematographer Brian Van't Hul and Miniatures Unit DP Alex Funke, and (4) actors Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Sean Astin, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee and Sean Bean.
  • The Two Towers also features four commentaries from (1) director/co-writer Peter Jackson and co-writers Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, (2) production designer Grant Major, Weta Workshop creative supervisor Richard Taylor, conceptual designers Alan Lee and John Howe, supervising art director Dan Hennah, art department manager Chris Hennah and Weta Workshop manager Tania Rodger, (3) producer Barrie M. Osborne, executive producer Mark Ordesky, director of photography Andrew Lesnie, editor Mike Horton, additional editor Jabez Olssen, co-producer Rick Porras, composer Howard Shore, visual effects supervisors Jim Rygiel and Joe Letteri, supervising sound editors Ethan van der Ryn and Mike Hopkins, Weta animation designer & supervisor Randy Cook, Weta VFX art director Christian Rivers, Weta VFX cinematographer Brian Van't Hul and Visual Effects DP Alex Funke, and (4) actors Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, Sean Bean, Bernard Hill, Miranda Otto, David Wenham, Brad Dourif, Karl Urban, John Noble, Craig Parker and Andy Serkis.
  • The Return of the King, not to be outdone, also features four essential commentaries from (1) director/co-writer Peter Jackson and co-writers Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, (2) production designer Grant Major, Weta Workshop creative supervisor Richard Taylor, conceptual designers Alan Lee and John Howe, supervising art director Dan Hennah, art department manager Chris Hennah, Weta Workshop manager Tania Rodger and costume designer Ngila Dickson, (3) producer Barrie M. Osborne, executive producer Mark Ordesky, director of photography Andrew Lesnie, editor Jamie Selkirk, assistant editor Annie Collins, co-producer Rick Porras, composer Howard Shore, visual effects supervisors Jim Rygiel and Joe Letteri, supervising sound editors Ethan van der Ryn and Mike Hopkins, Weta animation designer & supervisor Randy Cook, Weta VFX art director Christian Rivers, Weta VFX cinematographer Brian Van't Hul and Visual Effects DP Alex Funke, and (4) actors Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Ian McKellen, John Rhys-Davies, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, Bernard Hill, Hugo Weaving, Miranda Otto, David Wenham, Karl Urban, John Noble, Liv Tyler, Andy Serkis and Lawrence Makoare.

All informative.  All essential.  The strongest commentaries come from the first and the fourth commentaries.  Jackson is in fine form and the actors are full of warm humor and interesting recollections of the time spent filming the movies.

Special Features:

With each film getting a two disc spread and three discs for its own supplemental material, engrossing doesn’t quite come close to discussing and describing the breadth of information each set contains.  From funny-ass Easter Eggs (still!) and plenty of from Book-to-Screen features and engrossing documentaries about the 15-month shoot, there is simply nothing left to ask questions about concerning the production of each film; The Lord of the Rings extended editions has it all.  The in-depth analysis provided over the source material and its adaptations are interesting and thought-provoking.  The behind-the-scenes featurettes are thorough and essential viewing.  Rounding out each set, though, is Costa Botes’ wonderful documentaries that cover the production of each film.  Masterfully done and compiled with only a faint trace of repetition.

  • The Fellowship of the Ring Special Features (over 5-discs)

  • Hidden Easter Egg (3 min)
  • The Lord of the Rings: War in the North - The Untold Story (2 min)
  • The Appendices Parts 1 & 2 Introduction (1 min)
  • J.R.R. Tolkien: Creator of Middle-earth (22 min)
  • From Book to Script (20 min)
  • Visualizing the Story (39 min)
  • Designing and Building Middle-earth (96 min)
  • New Zealand as Middle-earth (10 min)
  • Filming ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ (88 min)
  • Visual Effects (57 min)
  • Post Production: Putting It All Together (14 min)
  • Digital Grading (12 min)
  • Sound and Music (15 min)
  • The Road Goes Ever On... (7 min)
  • Costa Botes' ‘Fellowship of the Ring’ Documentary (85 min)
  • Middle-earth Atlas
  • The Two Towers Special Features (over 5-discs)

  • Hidden Easter Egg (3 min)
  • The Lord of the Rings: War in the North - The Untold Story (2 min)
  • The Appendices Parts 3 & 4 Introduction (2 min)
  • J.R.R. Tolkien: Origins of Middle-earth (29 min)
  • From Book to Script: Finding the Story (21 min)
  • Designing and Building Middle-earth (89 min)
  • Gollum (45 min)
  • New Zealand as Middle-earth (14 min)
  • Elijah Wood Introduction (1 min)
  • Filming ‘The Two Towers(89 min)
  • Visual Effects (54 min)
  • Editorial: Refining the Story (22 min)
  • Music and Sound (48 min)
  • The Battle for Helm's Deep is Over... (9 min)
  • Costa Botes' Two Towers Documentary (106 min)
  • Middle-earth Atlas

  • The Return of the King Special Features (over 5-discs)

  • Hidden Easter Egg (9 min)
  • The Lord of the Rings: War in the North - The Untold Story (2 min)
  • The Appendices Parts 5 & 6 Introduction (2 min)
  • J.R.R. Tolkien: The Legacy of Middle-earth (30 min)
  • From Book to Script (30 min)
  • Designing and Building Middle-earth (118 min)
  • Home of the Horse Lords (30 min)
  • New Zealand as Middle-earth (16 min)
  • Elijah Wood and Billy Boyd Introduction (1 min)
  • Filming ‘The Return of the King’ (73 min)
  • Visual Effects (43 min)
  • Post-Production: Journey's End (89 min)
  • The Passing of an Age (25 min)
  • Cameron Duncan: The Inspiration for Into the West (32 min)
  • Costa Botes' ‘Return of the King’ Documentary (113 min)
  • Middle-earth Atlas

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