The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001) - Theatrical Versions [Blu-ray]

Genre(s): Action / Adventure / Drama / Fantasy
New Line || PG13 - 558 minutes - $99.98 || April 6, 2010
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2010-04-11


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

.:: V I D E O ::.
Video

.:: A U D I O ::.
Audio

B L U - R A Y
.:: EXCLUSIVES ::.

Blu-ray Exclusives

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: Peter Jackson
Writer(s): J.R.R. Tolkien (novel); Fran Walsh & Philippa Boyens & Peter Jackson (screenplay)
Cast: Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom, John Rhys-Davies, Andy Serkis, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Liv Tyler, Miranda Otto, Christopher Lee, Cate Blanchett, Bernard Hill, Sean Bean, Karl Urban, Marton Csokas, Hugo Weaving


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:
  • 42 Featurettes
  • Theatrical Trailers
  • TV Spots
  • Short Film
  • Digital Copies


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 9
  • Widescreen (2.40)
  • English (DTS-HD MA 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1 EX)
  • Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

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.::THE FILM::.

I was wondering how to go about this review and decided that since everybody who even cares about this set has probably already seen each movie a few times over the years, I’ll just quickly cover the movies with some quick thoughts before moving on to the meat of the set: the audio and video transfers.

THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING ****¼ / *****

In all honesty, Fellowship never was one of my favorites of the Lord of the Rings trilogy not because it’s not a technical achievement but mainly because it never hooked me in like the other two. No doubt the story is good and the casting well done, especially with Ian McKellen as Gandalf and for that reason I still hold the movie in much higher regard than others, generally speaking.

What did impress me about Fellowship of the Ring is that it has a lot to do in what was a relatively short amount of time, albeit an extensive 178-minutes, co-writer/director Peter Jackson and co-writers Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens had to basically introduce a big story that would carry the audience through three motion pictures and also introduce characters that the we needed to care about early on, otherwise why follow them on their journey? And Jackson & Co. certainly were successful, but it would pale in comparison with what they would do next with The Two Towers...

THE TWO TOWERS ***** / *****

What makes The Two Towers so extraordinary is that while the original had some great moments setting up Middle Earth and all its splendor, this one takes it up a notch with the furthering of the trilogy’s overall story while providing some amazing action scenes leading up to Battle of Helm’s Deep.

Once again, we get a film rich in character, substance and visuals that all work cohesively thanks to Peter Jackson’s masterful direction. Jackson takes the second chapter blueprint that made Empire Strikes Back so timeless and successful in giving the audience a darker movie with even larger stakes as he prepares for the final battle in Return of the King.

THE RETURN OF THE KING ****¾ / *****

In the final and monumental conclusion to one of the, if not THE, best trilogies ever made, The Return of the King brings all the elements together that was formed in Fellowship. We again get fantastic action scenes mixed in with an enthralling and expansive story that never waivers.

If you want to read more about Return of the King, check out my original review which I wrote back upon its initial theatrical release. My thoughts and opinions basically remain the same, including the multiple endings. I understand that with such a massive project it is every character needed his or her own conclusion, and to that extent it was fine, and given what Jackson accomplished, who am I to quibble especially when the endings were well done and only a fraction of the overall running time for the trilogy as a whole.



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

I will quickly touch upon the features only to say that the Blu-ray discs only contain the Original Theatrical Trailers and Teasers all in HD. Each film is accompanied with the original DVD of special features that came with the initial theatrical DVD releases years ago, so you’re not getting anything new. I think we would’ve been better off leaving these out and dropping the price $12 ($3 per disc). Here’s a rundown on those features, I won’t be rating each movie since they’re all about the same...

THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING

Welcome to Middle-earth: Houghton Mifflin In-Store Special (16:44) – This is partly a marketing featurette pushing the Lord of the Rings movie guide but the other part features an interview with a friend and publisher of Tolkien.

Quest for the Ring: FOX TV Special (21:26) – This is, as you can tell, a featurette made to air on Fox and doesn’t offer much insight other than to get you to buy a ticket. Oh, but we do get a sneak preview at the film’s most exciting scenes!

A Passage to Middle-earth: Sci-Fi Channel Special (41:37) – If the Fox special wasn’t enough, we get one from the Sci-Fi Channel (now known as SyFy). This one instead was made for an hour-long preview (vs. 30-minutes for Fox’s) but generally does offer much more insight.

lordoftherings.net Featurettes (38:57) are a collection of 15 short vignettes split into various subjects like the “Music of Middle-earth” and “”Believing the World of Bree”. Not sure why this didn’t include a Play All option... In any case, these barely scratch the surface on how the film was made.

The rest includes some TV Spots (TRT 3:06), Enya’s “May It Be” Music Video (3:38), a Special Extended DVD Edition Preview (3:05) and a Behind the Scenes Preview of “The Two Towers” (10:42).

THE TWO TOWERS

On the Set of “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” – Starz Encore Special (14:00) and Return to Middle-earth: WB Special (42:54) are two made-for-TV specials that give some behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with members of the cast and crew. The WB Special is a little better, though it’s all superficial.

“The Long and Short of It” (7:04) is a nice short film directed by actor Sean Astin; plus there’s also a making-of (8:07) for the short film.

lordoftherings.net Featurettes (33:43) are some more glimpses or teases (at the time) for fans to get extra excited to see The Two Towers in theaters. Featurettes this time include “Forces of Darkness”, “Arms and Armor” and “Bringing Gollum to Life”. In total there are 8 of them.

And as before, we get some more TV Spots (8:23), Emiliana Torrini’s “Gollum’s Song” Music Video (4:01), a Special Extended DVD Edition Preview (5:15) and a Behind the Scenes Preview of “The Return of the King” (12:33).

THE RETURN OF THE KING

The Quest Fulfilled: A Director’s Vision (23:00) – From the voice over, this sounds like it originally aired on TV. It features cast/crew interviews talking about their years working on the production intermixed with footage from the film.

A Filmmaker’s Journey: Making “The Return of the King” (28:30) is more of the same. Again, we get members of the cast and crew explaining the journey (obviously) to this final chapter of the trilogy. In fairness, as far as EPK featurettes go, it’s really not too bad, but why bother with it when you’ve got far more extensive documentaries available on the Extended DVDs?

National Geographic Special – “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” (45:56) accumulates much of the same interviews (or interview sessions) as the previous two featurettes. This one is very much here to get viewers excited over the third film.

lordoftherings.net Featurettes (21:54) are the final 6 vignettes giving insights into such things as “Aragon’s Destiny” and “Samwise the Brave”.

And rounding out the disc are some TV Spots (6:46) and the Special Extended DVD Edition Preview (6:56).

This set also includes a separate standard Blu-ray case containing the 3 Digital Copies with one slip containing the 3 codes needed to redeem.



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

Here’s where the review really starts and much has been made over the transfers and I’d have to say, the talk is real especially in regards to Fellowship...

*** THE VIDEO ***

THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING – **¼ / *****

I think I may actually be gracious giving this a 2.25, but it is one of the most disappointing transfers I’ve ever seen; though perhaps not the worst. The movie is presented in its original 2.35 aspect ratio and now in 1080p high-definition, this looks more like an upconverted DVD video than something that’s been remastered into HD. First off, the detail levels often times weren’t there instead the faces would have a waxy texture and the fine details like Gandalf’s beard was barely there. If there was a plus side, I will say it is moderately better than the DVD version, but worth an upgrade when an extended edition is on the horizon at some point? No thanks.

THE TWO TOWERS – ***½ / *****

While still not an amazing looking picture by any stretch, it is nominally better than what I saw on the Fellowship disc. This time there are a few scenes that seemed waxy in facial textures as well as some fuzziness, the video features a little more detail in the character’s faces while background elements were also decent. As with Fellowship, I wonder if this is as good as it will get, but I guess time will tell especially if/when we compare it to the eventual extended edition releases.

THE RETURN OF THE KING – ***¾ / *****

This video transfer is easily the best of the trilogy, but given what I saw before, that may not be saying much. I’m not going to oversell it and say it’s an amazing looking picture, but the video this time the detail levels are quite good as are the black levels as well. No more of those soft looking scenes, though it’s not to say it’s not without some flaws. The biggest is, it’s still not a movie that pops off the screen, and I assume that’s due to how it was shot rather than a poor transfer job by Warner Brothers.

*** THE AUDIO ***

If there was one saving grace on this set is the audio at least is strong, though the DVD versions, with Dolby Digital EX tracks. Each film is pretty much the same in this area.

THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING – ****½ / *****

On this entry, the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is more than effective and in fact is impressive. The dialogue levels are crisp and clear making use of the center channels while ambient noises and reverberations can be heard from the front and rear channels. My subwoofer also gets a nice and even keeled usage throughout.

THE TWO TOWERS – ****½ / *****

Once again, the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is great. You get an even dispersion of audio coming from all channels and a little extra kick from the subwoofer without going overboard, blowing out every window. The vast amount of the film is used for the set-up for the battle at Helm’s Deep so you get a good amount of swordplay, arrows and monster screams going into fight coming evenly out of each channel with the dialogue coming from the center speaker, off-screen vocals or fights from the rears and other characters on the front speakers.

THE RETURN OF THE KING – ****¾ / *****

The DTS-HD Master Audio track is, again, fantastic to behold. You get a wide range of effects from simple dialogue or walk-and-talk scenes to the final battle in which you hear swords, orcs and other creatures yelling. Like with the previous two entries, this too effectively utilizes each channel giving an even mixture rather than one having more dominance over the other.



.::OVERALL::.

Although I am giving this a respectable 4/5 (78%), it is mainly because the movies themselves are incredible. Unfortunately the package between the recycled special features and very disappointing video transfers (for Fellowship primarily), makes this a moderate recommendation only if you absolutely want it rather than waiting a couple years for the studio to release the extended versions in conjunction with The Hobbit.