Lord of the Rings Trilogy – Extended Versions (Bluray)

With all the film and DVD reviews I’ve written over the past few years, some of you might have gotten the impression that I love movies. And you would be correct. However, in all my 40 years of life I have only felt truly passionate about three. They would be “The Fellowship of the Ring”, “The Two Towers” and “The Return of the King.”

I’m not passionate about them in a ‘fan geek’ sort of way. I do not dress up as a Hobbit, I don’t go to conventions, you will find little in the way of ‘Lord of the Rings’ paraphernalia around my house, and I haven’t decorated my living room to look like the main hall of Rohan. The passion I feel for these films lies deep inside. It is for the emotions the films evoke, the earnest and heartfelt performances of the actors, and the wondrous visual tapestry of J.R.R. Tolkien’s world that Peter Jackson and his talented crew have meticulously brought to life.

Having read the books when I was thirteen, I had my doubts as to whether a film series could ever be made that would even come close to doing justice to what my imagination had already created. When I heard Peter Jackson was set to direct the movies that would make up the trilogy, I initially scoffed.

I was very familiar with his earlier films, “Bad Taste”, “Meet the Feebles”, and “Dead Alive.” All three films are ludicrous in their approach, but they are favorites of mine for being hysterically funny. Then I remember seeing “Heavenly Creatures” and being shocked that Jackson had directed such a disturbingly poignant film. The attention that was paid to that particular film gave Jackson the opportunity to direct an American film, “The Frighteners.” Once again, he created a film that I appreciated for its outlandishly skewed view of what might have been a run of the mill ghost story.

As different as each of these films were, the main threads that held them together were the highly imaginative stories and the incredible camera work. Though I really liked all of these films, and considered Jackson to be somewhat of an independent film genius, I had a hard time imagining he would be able to transfer his talent to a project with the size and scope that “The Lord of the Rings” would have to be in order to be successful.

As the time drew closer for the first film to be released I started getting a little more excited about the project. Pictures and stories started flooding the Internet and it began to look like Jackson was going to create a film trilogy of epic proportions. The first thing he got right was filming all three parts simultaneously. In this way, each film was able to be released a year apart so the audience’s anticipation wouldn’t wear thin. Having to wait twelve months was far better than waiting years.

The second thing Jackson got right was in the casting. Throughout all three films there isn’t a weak actor in the bunch. Most were familiar to theatre audiences. But through the magic of makeup, computer enhancements and most important, sheer talent, each and every familiar face disappeared into the character they were to become.

By the time “The Fellowship of the Ring” was released in theatres, my anticipation was such as I had never felt for any other film. Before the first frame flickered in front of my eyes, somehow I knew I was in for a theatrical experience unlike any I had ever had, and that Jackson had indeed succeeded.

I walked out of the theatre that first time exhausted, fulfilled… and ready. Ready to see the next two films, ready to buy the DVD… heck, I was ready to buy the Complete Super Special Ultimate 20-disc Extended Cut version of all three films. Of course all I could do was wait. But, at least I could see “The Fellowship…” a few more times in the theatre.

As terrific as “The Fellowship…” was, I was even more blown away by the extended version that was released on DVD just prior to the opening of “The Two Towers.” Once again quality and good sense prevailed. I’ve seen many ‘extended versions’ of films where the additional scenes are mostly superfluous and really do nothing more than give the studio marketing department something use to sell the product. In the extended version of “The Fellowship…”, every scene that was added enriched the experience of watching the film. They gave the story and the relationships between the characters deeper meaning. Though it would not seem possible, the additional scenes actually made it a better film.

By the time I watched the DVD a couple of times, I was prepared to see “The Two Towers.” Again, it was a visual and emotional feast that built upon the foundation the first film set up. New characters were introduced, and it became clear that this series would be more than just a simple story about a couple of Hobbits on a mission. Each character’s story was as important as the other’s. It also pushed the limits of WETA (the New Zealand special effects department) to a level far beyond anything that had ever been accomplished in Hollywood.

The introduction of Gollum as a fully realized CG character was amazing. There was never a doubt that this little troll like character was anything less than real. Unfortunately, most people had no idea that the creature’s incredible performance was not the work of the effects department alone. Actor Andy Serkis had just as much to do with breathing life into the character, if not more. I originally thought it was only Serkis’ voice and body movements that were used to create the character. It wasn’t until the release of the DVD that I learned all of his facial expressions were tracked as well. What you see IS Serkis’ performance, and all the talk of him deserving an Academy Award nomination was dead-on.

When I saw “The Two Towers” in theatres I was in awe. Yet as great as it was, I felt that there was something missing. I went back to see it a couple more times, and like the first film, walked out exhausted, but a little less fulfilled. I needed to see more. I knew there were scenes cut that should have been there. It wasn’t until I saw the extended cut a few weeks ago on DVD that I knew I was correct. Forty minutes of additional material was added back in, and again nothing was redundant or unnecessary. The first viewing on DVD was like watching a whole new movie. The pacing seemed better, and it felt more like a stand alone film than just a bridge between the first and last part.

The most important addition, and this is not a spoiler, is the inclusion of some scenes that fleshed out the relationship between Boromir and his brother Faramir. This relationship is very important for reasons I will get into later.

Since the first two films were so incredibly good, I wondered if Peter Jackson could actually make a final chapter that surpassed the first two in every way. Would this be a letdown after all we had seen? Not a chance…..

“The Return of the King”, on its own merit was a cinematic masterpiece unlike any other movie committed to celluloid. It was breathtaking to look at with its vast landscapes and armies, yet it could be quietly personal when it came to the characters. As the final film, it perfectly closed every chapter opened by the first two.

I know this has turned into more of a personal look at all three films, and less of a review of the new DVD releases of the Trilogy, but I felt any kind of true review would give away too many spoilers and that I will not do. I will mention again, however, those added scenes in “The Two Towers” DVD. Be sure to watch this extended cut before you see “The Return of the King.” It’s not a must, but it will give you more insight into the relationship between Boromir, Faramir and their father.

Some people have suggested that “The Lord of the Rings” Trilogy is nothing more than an overlong and over hyped special effects extravaganza. This could not be further from the truth. Granted, there are other showy special effects trilogies out there that are all flash and no substance. For example, both “The Matrix” and new “Star Wars” trilogies are pretty to look at, but they are flat, emotionless and lack any kind of passion. I still looked forward to seeing them, but not in the same way.

“The Lord of the Rings” Trilogy deserves to be lauded as one of the most masterful film epics ever created. It goes far beyond being just some ‘fantasy film.’ The special effects are unbelievable to be sure, but Peter Jackson, along with every single person involved in the making of the series, put their hearts and souls into the production and it shows. I predict it will be decades before any other film else even comes close to this achievement.

As it is, after seeing “The Return of the King” I couldn’t believe it was the end. That it was over. Finished. Complete. The film series that I wanted to see more than any other. It fulfilled me more than any other movie experience ever has… and there would be no more.

A friend we met at the theatre the night first saw it made an observation that turned the event, exciting as it was, a little sadder. She said, “You know, we’ve spent that last three years in anticipation of seeing each of these movies, what do we have to look forward to next year?”

I thought for a long time and the only answer I could come up with was, “The Complete Super Special Ultimate 20-disc Extended Cut DVD set….?”

WHAT I AM SAYING NOW:

Well, joke as I might…. That dream of a 20-disc set wasn’t too far from the truth. New Line, in their infinite wisdom has made the awesome decision to release a 15-disc Bluray Edition of all three Extended Editions on Bluray. (It’s not 20, but I’m ok with 15…)

This set is extraordinary, I received it a couple of weeks ago and it has taken me this long to get through it. Every possible featurette ever created for this series has been included, even the lengthy Costa Botes documentaries are here. Additionally, and this is a rare occurrence, during the various audio commentaries you’ll find on screen identification of who is speaking. Love this!

But what makes this set an absolute ‘must have’ is the simply breathtaking transfer it offers for Hi Def TV owners. I thought the old DVDs I had looked good. In comparison, this set makes those look like old VHS copies… that have been dubbed too many times… and left in the sun… victims of Macrovision. I’m telling you these transfers are insanely crisp and clear and offer a level of depth unlike any Bluray I have watched to date.

Rather than go into detail about every little… well… detail. Suffice to say that if you look at the list of extra features that I’ve included below, you’ll get your money’s worth picking up this set.

A few years ago, when I thought this was the last I’d see of anything new of Tolkien’s work from Peter Jackson I made that joke about a 20-disc set. Well, it could still happen. Since Jackson’s hard at work on the 2-part Hobbit series… I predict we WILL see a 20 disc set of all five films sometime in the not so distant future. And yes… I will have it…. my very own…’preciousss….’

 

The Fellowship of the Ring
Directed by: Peter Jackson
Starring: Elijah Wood, Sir Ian McKellen, Sean Astin, Billy Boyd, Orlando Bloom, Hugo Weaving, Bernard Hill, Sir Ian Holm, Dominic Monaghan, Viggo Mortensen, John Rhys-Davies, John Noble, Liv Tyler, Cate Blanchett, David Wenham

The Two Towers
Directed by: Peter Jackson
Starring: Elijah Wood, Sir Ian McKellen, Sean Astin, Billy Boyd, Orlando Bloom, Hugo Weaving, Bernard Hill, Sir Ian Holm, Dominic Monaghan, Viggo Mortensen, John Rhys-Davies, John Noble, Liv Tyler, Cate Blanchett, David Wenham

The Return of the King
Directed by: Peter Jackson
Starring: Elijah Wood, Sir Ian McKellen, Sean Astin, Billy Boyd, Orlando Bloom, Hugo Weaving, Bernard Hill, Sir Ian Holm, Dominic Monaghan, Viggo Mortensen, John Rhys-Davies, John Noble, Liv Tyler, Cate Blanchett, David Wenham

Extras:
Disc 1 & 2 – Audio commentary (with the director Peter Jackson and writers Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens), audio commentary (with design team members Grant Major, Ngila Dickson, Richard Taylor, Alan Lee, John Howe, Dan Hennah, Chris Hennah and Tania Rodger), audio commentary (with production and post-production team members Barrie Osborne, Mark Ordesky, Andrew Lesnie, John Gilbert, Rick Porras, Howard Shore, Jim Rygiel, Ethan Van der Ryn, Mike Hopkins, Randy Cook, Christian Rivers, Brian Van't Hull and Alex Funke), audio commentary (with cast members Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Sean Astin, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee and Sean Bean), Easter egg (on Disc One – MTV Movie Awards – Council of Elrond spoof – SD), The Lord of the Rings: War in the North – The Untold Story videogame trailer (HD)

Disc 3 – Peter Jackson introduction, J.R.R. Tolkien: Creator of Middle Earth, From Book to Script, Storyboards and Pre-Viz: Making Words into Images, 3 early storyboards (Prologue, Orc Pursuit into Lothlorian and Sarn Gebir Rapids Chase), 2 pre-viz animatics (Gandalf Rides to Orthanc and The Stairs of Khazad-Düm, multi-angle storyboard-to-film comparison (Nazgûl Attack at Bree), multi-angle pre-viz-to-film comparison (Bridge of Khazad-Düm), Bag End Set Test, Designing Middle-Earth documentary, Weta Workshop documentary, Costume Design featurette, 19 production design galleries (on the peoples and realms of Middle-Earth), interactive Middle-Earth Atlas, interactive New Zealand as Middle-Earth map with location video.

Disc 4 – Elijah Wood introduction, The Fellowship of the Cast documentary, A Day in the Life of a Hobbit featurette, Cameras in Middle-Earth, production photo gallery, Scale featurette, Big-atures featurette, 6 big-atures galleries, WETA Digital featurette, Editorial: Assembling an Epic featurette, multi-angle editorial demonstration (Council of Elrond), Digital Grading featurette, The Soundscapes of Middle-Earth featurette, Music for Middle-Earth featurette, The Road Goes Ever On…

Disc 5 – The Fellowship of the Ring: Behind-the-Scenes documentary

Disc 6 & 7 – Audio commentary (with director Peter Jackson and writers Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens), audio commentary (with design team members Richard Taylor, Tania Rodger, Grant Major, Alan Lee, John Howe, Dan Hennah and Chris Hennah), audio commentary (with production and post-production team members Barrie Osborne, Mark Ordesky, Andrew Lesnie, Mike Horton, Jabez Olssen, Rick Porras, Howard Shore, Jim Rygiel, Joe Letteri, Ethan Van der Ryn, Mike Hopkins, Randy Cook, Christian Rivers, Brian Van't Hull and Alex Funke), audio commentary (with cast members 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), Easter egg (on Disc Six – MTV Movie Awards – Andy Serkis and Gollum accepting the award for Best Virtual Performance – SD), The Lord of the Rings: War in the North – The Untold Story videogame trailer (HD)

Disc 8 – Peter Jackson introduction, J.R.R. Tolkien: Origins of Middle-Earth documentary, From Book to Script: Finding the Story featurette, Designing Middle-Earth documentary, Weta Workshop documentary, 35 production design galleries (on the peoples and realms of Middle-Earth – with select audio commentary), The Taming of Sméagol documentary, Andy Serkis Animation Reference video, Gollum Stand-in featurette, Gollum character design gallery (with select audio commentary), interactive Middle-Earth Atlas, interactive New Zealand as Middle-Earth map with location video

Disc 9 – Elijah Wood introduction, Warriors of Middle-Earth featurette, Cameras in Middle-Earth documentary, production photo gallery (with select audio commentary), Big-atures featurette, 7 big-atures galleries (with select audio commentary), pre-viz animatic (The Flooding of Isengard), WETA Digital featurette, 2 abandoned concepts galleries (with select audio commentary), Editorial: Refining the Story featurette, Music for Middle-Earth featurette, The Soundscapes of Middle-Earth featurette, interactive sound demonstration for Helm's Deep sequence, The Battle for Helm's Deep is Over… featurette

Disc 10 – The Two Towers: Behind-the-Scenes

Disc 11 & 12 – Audio commentary (with director Peter Jackson and writers Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens), audio commentary (with design team members Grant Major, Ngila Dickson, Richard Taylor, Alan Lee, John Howe, Dan Hennah, Chris Hennah and Tania Rodger), audio commentary (with production and post-production team members Barrie Osborne, Mark Ordesky, Jamie Selkirk, Annie Collins, Rick Porras, Howard Shore, Jim Rygiel, Ethan Van der Ryn, Mike Hopkins, Randy Cook, Christian Rivers, Brian Van't Hull, Alex Funke and Joe Letteri), audio commentary (with cast members Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, John Rhys-Davies, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Christopher Lee, Bernard Hill, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Hugo Weaving, Miranda Otto, David Wenham, Karl Urban, John Noble, Andy Serkis, Lawrence Makoare, Smeagol and Gollum), Easter egg (on Disc Eleven – "gag" Elijah Wood interview clip – SD), Easter egg (on Disc Twelve – MTV Movie Awards – Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn pitch Peter Jackson – SD), The Lord of the Rings: War in the North – The Untold Story videogame trailer (HD)

Disc 13 – Peter Jackson introduction, J.R.R. Tolkien: The Legacy of Middle-Earth documentary, From Book to Script: Forging the Final Chapter documentary, Aragorn Battles Sauron abandoned concept animatic, Designing Middle-Earth documentary, Weta Workshop documentary, Big-atures featurette, Costume Design featurette, 53 production design galleries (on the miniatures and the peoples and realms of Middle-Earth – with select audio commentary), Home of the Horse Lords documentary, interactive Middle-Earth Atlas, interactive New Zealand as Middle-Earth map with location video

Disc 14 – Cast introduction, Cameras in Middle-Earth documentary, production photo gallery, WETA Digital documentary, Mûmakil Battle multi-angle visual effects demonstration with optional commentary, Editorial: Completing the Trilogy featurette, Music for Middle-Earth featurette, The Soundscapes of Middle-Earth featurette, The End of All Things featurette, The Passing of an Age featurette, Cameron Duncan: The Inspiration for "Into the West" featurette (includes 2 Cameron Duncan short films: DFK6498 and Strike Zone which can be viewed separately)

Disc 15 – The Return of the King: Behind-the-Scenes documentary


Studio: New Line
Release Date: 6/28/2011
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