Marty Allen of geek rock juggernaut Uncle Monsterface described Peter Jackson’s cinematic retelling of Tolkien’s classic trilogy as “a nearly perfect adaptation.” Even now, nearly a decade after the first film hit theaters, those words still ring true.
But I will level with you, internet; though I braved the crowds to see the original theatrical run and ponied up the dough for the initial DVD releases, I was never really drawn in by any of the other myriad of home video iterations. This, it turns out, wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. On June 28th Warner Bros Entertainment released what could be aptly termed the definitive edition of The Lord of the Rings films, and I found myself impressed by the sheer size of the offering.
The Lord of the Rings Motion Picture Trilogy: Extended Edition Blu-ray collection actually collects all the best from the previous editions into one handsome package. First and foremost the films themselves are newly re-mastered and available in 1080p with DTS HD-MA 5.1 audio, and, since this is the extended edition, you get all the supplementary footage included on the previous Platinum Series DVD collection. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s an additional two hours of overall playtime for the trilogy itself.
The extra scenes, which are certainly nothing new to diehard fans, help to bridge the individual films together into a more cohesive and uninterrupted epic. Unfortunately the fact that each feature occupies the space on two individual Blu-ray discs means that, while the picture and sound are full, rich and engaging, you are going to have to disengage from the couch to switch discs mid-movie.
In addition to the six individual Blu-rays, the set also comes with nine — yes, nine — DVDs of supplemental material. Split up evenly by title, this means that The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King each consist of a pair of Blu-rays (the films themselves) and three additional DVDs of related bonus features. Again for those of you with score cards, this means that the 11 hours of the extended cuts are joined by an additional 26 hours of making-of documentaries and other behind-the-scenes extras. If you’re looking for the “Book to Vision” and “Vision to Reality” featurettes, an interactive atlas of Middle Earth, an exhaustive look at the visual effects used to render Gollum or commentary from the cast and crew, you will not be disappointed.
The downside, of course, is that all these supplements are nothing new. The bulk of this additional material was included in the aforementioned Platinum Series Special Extended Edition release, with the noticeable exception being the trio of Costa Botes docs from the Original Theatrical and Extended Limited Edition. Moreover, unlike the films themselves, these extras are all in standard-definition. Sure, they add a lot to the overall package, but they also seem rather bland when contrasted with the impeccable quality of the Blu-rays. Honestly, the only new material included in this collection seems to be a trailer for the War in the North video game, and that’s certainly nothing to write home about.
Still, The Lord of the Rings Motion Picture Trilogy: Extended Edition succeeds by an odd blend of finesse and pure volume. With 15 discs handsomely packaged in black and gold and bound within an absolutely eye-catching collector’s case, there’s something to be said for WB’s attention to form. Likewise its function is aided by the inclusion BD-Live capabilities and the all-important digital copies, each of which adds well over 3GB to the weight of your iTunes library.
This is all to say two things. Chiefly, Andy Serkis and Christopher Lee chew even more scenery in high-def. (Sure, I could’ve said that the Quest of the Ring has never looked or sounded better, but where’s the fanboy-centered hyperbole in that?) Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, this collection is not for everyone.
If you own either of the previous DVD releases of The Lord of the Rings extended editions then you probably have little reason to upgrade unless you’re simply looking to secure a better-looking version of these modern classics. If, however, you’ve been holding off on buying the extended release, The Lord of the Rings Motion Picture Trilogy: Extended Edition on Blu-ray is definitely the way to go.
WIRED: superior picture and sound, 15 DVDs worth of extras, bundled digital copies of each movie.
TIRED: no theatrical version, bonus materials are nothing new and lack the polish of the extended features, you could likely read the books themselves in the time it takes you to watch this entire collection.
Review materials provided by: Warner Bros Entertainment