Blu-ray: The Lord of the Rings Extended Edition
Release Date: June 28, 2011
When it comes to adaptations, I can be a very finicky consumer. As a lifelong self professed geek, I know my details, and I love my canon. I love when adaptations of great source material go word for word and it works (Sin City), and I hate when the adaptation bears little resemblance to even the spirit of the original (X-Men 3, I’m looking at you). I can even appreciate adaptations that make select changes to the source for the benefit of the final product (Game of Thrones and Watchmen). It’s rare for an adaptation to end up even better than the source and even rarer when the source is comprised of some of the most influential and beloved novels of a generation. That’s exactly what happened when Peter Jackson brought The Lord of the Rings to theaters from 2001 through 2003.
J.R.R. Tolkien defined a genre with his legendary trilogy in the 1950s, and the world of Middle Earth and its denizens would become the archetypal figures for countless fantasy epics to come. As wonderful as the stories are, the film adaptations made them even better by trimming some of the bridging scenes and altering details, all for the sake of pacing and accessibility. I fully realize that my previous sentence will read as blasphemy to many Tolkien fans, and for that I apologize. I have read The Lord of the Rings and love the stories, but the movies are what made me love the world.
Given that The Lord of the Rings is one of the most popular film trilogies ever produced, chances are that you’ve seen these movies before or at least know enough about them to know what you’re getting into. I won’t waste your time by delving into the particulars of the plot, Frodo’s struggle with the Ring, Gollum’s treachery, or Sauron’s wicked armies. Rather than focus on the movies themselves, all of which deserve spaces in your movie collection, this review is about the newest and arguably best way you can add the trilogy into that collection.
The original theatrical versions of The Lord of the Rings movies got standard DVD releases that were followed by special extended edition DVDs between 2002 and 2004 that added substantial amounts of footage to the films. Most fans consider these extended cuts to be the definitive versions of the movie and the only real and complete viewing experiences. Those versions finally are available on this generation’s best home media format, as a box set containing all three extended editions on Blu-ray released last week.
All three films in the trilogy already were visually arresting and breathtaking, both in their effects and in their vistas, and the Blu-ray format makes all of that even better. There has been some debate and controversy about the color timing in The Fellowship of the Ring being tweaked for this release, but Peter Jackson has asserted that any changes were made under his supervision. While a change like this does change the movie from the way it looked in the original, theatrical release, the very nature of these extended editions makes far greater changes to what was shown in theaters. In the end, all three movies look and sound better than they ever have before on these Blu-ray discs, and that’s what matters to me as a viewer.
If you’ve pored through the extended editions as they released on DVD, then most of the bonus content on the new Blu-rays will be familiar to you. If you’ve never checked this stuff out, you’re in for a mammoth treat. More than 26 hours of bonus material is spread across the three movies, including a special behind the scenes documentary by Costa Bores that was included on the previous limited edition DVD set but not on the standard theatrical or extended edition releases. The set comes in a sturdy and gorgeous shiny gold box with a magnetic flap cover. The inside of the cover sports a map of Middle Earth, and the box itself contains three plastic Blu-ray cases–one for each movie. Each Blu-ray case contains two Blu-ray discs and three DVDs. The films themselves are split across the Blu-rays, while the extensive bonus material is on the DVDs. Each case also includes a special booklet with a fold-out map that illustrates the bonus features for each movie.
The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers each come with four separate audio commentaries, while The Return of the King comes with three. That’s a lot of insight, with each featuring either the writers, the design team, the production team, or the cast. And once you’ve finished watching each movie at least four or five times, you still have all the supplementary material (here branded “Appendices”) to enjoy. The featurettes and bonus material ranges from documentaries about the world of Middle Earth to behind the scenes details about the production of the movies to coverage of the special effects, props, and cast involved in bringing the classic novels to life.
Warner Bros supported the release of the Blu-ray Extended Edition set with a full media event at Best Buy in Los Angeles. Cast members John Noble (Denethor) and Sala Baker (Sauron) were on hand to sign autographs and meet fans while a fireworks display and costume contest accompanied a countdown to midnight, when the first copies of the set would be sold. They provided us with some video footage of the release party, and it looks to have been quite the spectacle.
Any fan of The Lord of the Rings already will want to grab this Blu-ray set, but it really is a must-have for all fans of movies and moviemaking. The films themselves are outstanding examples of the craft and display more than ever before how much of a labor of love the creation of this trilogy was. Accompanied by all the hours and hours of additional material that gives fantastic insight into the filmmaking process, the new Blu-ray set becomes the definitive and essential was to own The Lord of the Rings.