Yes, we know. The Lord of the Rings Extended Cut was already released on Blu-Ray over a year ago. But, for the first time ever, Warner Bros. is releasing them individually. Previously, they could only be bought in a box set.
With that in mind, and the upcoming release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey right around the corner, we thought it would be a nice idea to jump back into Middle Earth and re-visit the trilogy that re-defined the fantasy genre.
To make it clear, as far as I can tell, these discs are the exact same Blu-Rays that you would have received if you purchased the trilogy last year, when it was released in a box set. Each film comes with five discs and each film features an extended cut as well as an overwhelming amount of special features.
Personally, I never purchased the films when they hit Blu-Ray last year and with only four months to go until the next chapter in this epic story hits theatres, I figured it would be an appropriate time to catch up on all the happenings in Tolkien’s universe.
So, let’s begin, shall we?
There’s not much left to say when it comes to Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. With the last film having been released nearly ten years ago, almost everyone has seen the trilogy and almost everything that can be said about the films, has been said.
So, instead of boring you with a re-hash of every criticism, praise and thought that has been aimed at the films over the last decade or so, I’m just going to give a brief (as brief as you can be with these films) summation of my thoughts after sitting down to re-watch all three films not only in their extended editions, but in all their HD glory.
Even after all these years, and all the advancements in filmmaking and the technology surrounding the field, these films still hold up. They look absolutely marvellous in HD and it’s tough not to get absolutely lost in the beautiful and enchanting world that Jackson has crafted and the sweeping, seamless story that these three films tell.
The first film in the trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring, was a true achievement in filmmaking. It set the standard, and it set it high. To put a story this grand and epic into motion is no easy task, but the first film in Jackson’s trilogy does so, and succeeds on nearly every level.
At this point, there’s no need to lay out author J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous tale yet again, but those familiar with it will know that Jackson does not get lost in the sprawling story at any point during The Fellowship of the Ring.
What Jackson achieves here is simply astounding. It’s a faithful adaptation that brings the perfect amount of freshness to please both newcomers and diehard fans alike. Punctuated with moments of beautiful intimacy amongst the grand scale action scenes, this is truly a masterpiece.
Seeing the locations from the book come to life for the first time on the big screen envokes a sense of wonder, a magical feeing of discovery that you can’t help but to be enraptured in. Of course, this is mostly thanks to the tremendously talented production team and of course, WETA’s dazzling effects.
Opting to go for more character development and fleshing out of the mythos, Fellowship’s smaller dose of hard hitting action scenes is in no way a misstep. Jackson spends more than enough time with each character, allowing us to get to know them and really connect with them, before the war begins. Sure, there’s still a healthy dose of action, excitement and fighting, but the first film in the trilogy is still a bit more restraint from its two sequels.
Simply put, the film does its job. It ignites our interest in Tolkien’s world and leaves us hungry for more.
The Two Towers continues the story and for some, features one of the greatest battle scenes in film history, the battle for Helm’s Deep. Though I personally feel that the middle entry in the trilogy is the weakest, it is still, by all means, a tremendous film and a grand achievement in filmmaking.
Heavier on the thrills and and action sequences than its predecessor, The Two Towers is every bit as entertaining as Fellowship of the Ring. While it’s true that the first film’s strong focus on character development isn’t as prevalent here, The Two Towers excels in a whole handful of new areas.
The sheer grandeur of it all means that repeat viewings are a must, there’s a lot to take in here. The spectacle on display throughout the numerous set pieces is just mind-boggling. Some may find the shift in focus to result in a less engaging film, but make no mistake, The Two Towers is every bit a masterpiece as The Fellowship of the Ring. And, though it may not be the most finely crafted of the trilogy, it may just be the most entertaining.
Finally, we come to The Return of the King, which is not only one of my favorite films, but also the best film of the trilogy, in my opinion. By far, this is the entry with the most heart and the biggest emotional punch. If The Two Towers left you cold and distant, The Return of the King will warm you up and pull you right back in. This is the epic conclusion that the fans deserved and one that rounded off what is undoubtedly, a seminal event in cinema.
With the final film in his trilogy, Jackson provides what is essentially a war movie full of heart. Wildly impressive on the visual scale, and almost overwhelming on the sensory front, The Return of the King is a landmark film. You can’t help but to feel engulfed as Jackson takes us on one more ride through his imaginative fantasy world, one more romp with our beloved characters as they fight for the fate of Middle Earth.
With the extended cuts of each film, LOTR fans really have some truly fantastic material to sink their teeth into. At no point do any of the three films ever feel too long and everything included only further serves to enhance the film.
Admittedly, some of the additional footage will likely not be noticed by a casual viewer but for those who know the films well, you’ll love the extended runtime. And even for those who aren’t the biggest fans of this series, there are certainly additional scenes that will excite. Of the three films, I feel that The Return Of The King benefits most from its added footage. That being said, all three films have their highlights when it comes to extended cuts.
The Fellowship of the Ring benefits from an extended and more detailed opening sequence and the Shire is brought to life in a fuller way. With The Two Towers, Faramir and Boromir receive more attention and Treebeard earns more of a backstory too.
For The Return of the King though, the extended cut really does wonders. Being a conclusion, it’s always important to wrap everything properly and seeing as Jackson had to work within a certain runtime, The Return of The King definitely skipped out on some important moments with its theatrical cut.
Luckily, the extended cut of The Return of the King is everything we could ever want, and more. Sauroman is given a proper goodbye, which was much needed, and an additional scene featuring Denethor definitely fills in a few holes.
Overall, all three films are truly enhanced by their extended cuts and pacing is never an issue.
Anyways, I said I was going to keep this short, and I haven’t. It’s tough to get carried away when talking about this trilogy and truthfully, I could have gone on and on about all the good things on display here, as well as all the differences between the Extended and Theatrical cuts.
In summation, The Lord of the Rings is a masterful trilogy and a defining moment in cinema. It stands as the best of its genre and quite frankly, these three films are some of the best films of all time. No matter what your interest level is in the source material, or just the fantasy genre in general, it’s tough not to be floored by what Jackson has done here. It’s absolutely stunning, and watching all three films, back-to-back, is truly a magical experience.
With the release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey only months away, now is the time to re-visit the original trilogy. And I can think of no better way to do so then to pick up the extended cuts of The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King.
Across the board, all three films feature a stunning audio and visual experience. I’d say all three films are reference level, with only some slight crushing appearing in some of the darker scenes. The cinematography here is stunning, with lavish colours and crisp detail bringing it to life. Textures are fantastic and skintones always look natural. Bold contrast and little sign of digital anomolies round out what is a brilliant and vivid visual transfer.
Admittedly, I’d have to say that The Return of the King is a bit stronger than its two predecessors, but each film included here looks just wonderful in high definition. Whether it be close-up or sweeping shots, this is a true treat for the eyes. It should be noted that special effects don’t always look crystal clear here but really, that’s a very minor complaint and I’d say that this is still something you’d want to show off.
A ferocious and robust audio track accompanies the visuals and it impresses on every level. Thunderous and agressive, the is a beat of an audio track. Like the visuals, all three films are fairly even in this department and I think it’s safe to say that all three films are equal, none of them stand out when compared to the other two. The powerful track never falters and dialogue is always kept prioritized and clear, even when surrounded by ferocious battle sounds. Howard Shore’s spectacular score furthers the immersion as you’re pulled into this fully realized soundscape. This is truly an aural powerhouse.
When it comes to special features, the list is absolutely exhaustive. Commentaries, deleted scenes, featurettes, making-ofs, documentaries etc. Literally everything you would ever want to know about these three films is covered in the gigantic array of special features. It’s simply too difficult to comment on each one individually but trust me when I say that you honestly could not ask for anything more. There’s so much here that you can dig into and I think I can safely say that when it comes to special features, this Blu-Ray is simply at the top of its class. It will take you days to get through everything, but if you do decide to dive head first into this treasure trove of extras, you’ll be happy you did.
And so, we come to the end. If you haven’t yet indulged in the extended cuts of the film yet on Blu-Ray, now is the time to do so. Sure, you can buy only one or two of them, but if you’re going to pick one up, then you mise well grab them all. This is an epic and monumental trilogy, one that deserves to be in your home. As we inch closer to the release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, there’s no better time than now to re-experience The Lord of the Rings trilogy and with these Blu-Rays, there’s no better way to experience them.