LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING (PLATINUM SERIES EXTENDED EDITION)
Reviewed November 11th, 2002 by Dan Jones
“The language is that of Mordor, which I shall not utter here. In the Common Tongue it says, 'One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them. One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.'“
I'm going to start this review the same way I started my last LOTR review:
To start it out I should say that I have never read J.R.R. Tolkien so I went into Lord of the Ring not knowing much of the story (besides the obvious) or really any of the characters that I had not seen on Letterman or Conan (I don’t watch Leno, sorry).
I would go into a detailed plot summary but I have to assume anyone who is sitting here reading this review has already seen the film. Lord of the Rings has been often acclaimed as perhaps the greatest story ever told, so it is safe to say that there is a very solid plot in the movie, take my word for it; plus the film made roughly 80 billion dollars (give or take) in theaters so that must count for something.
After seeing the film at one of our best theaters, I must say I was quite impressed with it on many levels. The cinematography is beautiful; the settings look perfectly realistic and the special effects are very nice without overpowering the on-screen action, plus it is a great story that really makes the three hour runtime go by quite swiftly. Yet, I walked away feeling not totally fulfilled on a couple levels. First off, with the exception of Ian McKellen as Gandalf the Great, I thought the acting was a bit contrived almost...to me it sounded like they were reading right from the books with little to no changes being made to make the actors/actresses more how do you say...realistic speaking wise. If I had to compare the acting of this film with another film I would have to go with Star Wars; somewhat forced lines with a little bit of that human touch missing.
My other problem with the film is probably an unfair one. I know that this is a trilogy and that this was the first piece in the puzzle... yet there really was no solid ending to the film. Many trilogy pieces have set endings that while they still work in the overall piece, they also work alone... I do not think The Fellowship of the Ring has this completely; it’s an ending that requires the viewing of the next film rather then allowing a break off point (not that anyone would not watch the next two installments).
Nevertheless, besides my negativity in those two areas the film is a great achievement. Filming all three movies at once must have been quite a trial for director Peter Jackson and his cast and crew. This was, without a doubt, one of the most hyped movies of all time, and what we have as a final product is a fine, fine film. A film that I personally considered to be in the top three of 2001.
Back in August, we got the first of two releases of The Fellowship to the DVD format. While not at all bare bones, the first release pales in comparison to this four disc release giving us an insane amount of extras (all new, none repeated from the first release) and thirty-odd minutes of extra footage. This extra footage is relatively seamless, allowing for more fleshed out characters and minimal additions to the battle scenes. These new scenes make for a *very* long film, one that is spread over two discs which makes for an easier viewing then a straight through shot at it. With a new runtime of 208 minutes this one is not for everyone and should probably only be left to those Tolkien fans that would appreciate it, or those that really loved the film, people who haven't seen the original should not apply; at least for their first viewing.
Video wise, it seems Newline has pushed the limits of the DVD format to their limits. Presented in 2.35:1 anamoprhic widescreen, this is a beautiful, reference quality image that never quits. With Newline wisely opting to split the film over two discs, video bitrate stays high throughout, leaving object detail rivaling the best of what's out there. Surprisingly enough, the new footage is completely undecipherable from that of the theatrical release, which is very rarely the case with extended cuts. There are absolutely no digital compression artifacts noticeable, no edge enhancement and surprisingly little grain. What we're left with is an exceptionally three-dimensional image that still retains a nice, film-like finish. Kudos to Newline on what might end up being the transfer of the year.
Audio wise, this might be your new demo disc. We're given tracks in Dolby Surround EX and DTS ES Discrete 6.1. Both tracks are incredibly dynamic and enveloping, while aggressive when needed. The dynamic range on these tracks is incredible while the LFE is anywhere from subtle to punishing (see Cave Troll). The score is mixed perfectly; dialogue is crisp and clear and imaging is extremely precise from side to side, front to back. As for which track is best here, after some comparing I'll give it to the DTS track, if for nothing more then slightly improved imaging and improved clarity. Both tracks are sure to impress. As I said, we have a new demo disc.
As for extras...so many extras.
Starting it off we have 832 minutes (fun, fun) of audio commentaries (or four in total). These consist of “The Directors and Writers,” “The Design Team,” “The Production/Post Production Team,” and “The Cast.” If you had to watch one track, make it “The Directors and Writers” with Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens. Its obvious the passion Jackson put into this mammoth project and it makes for an interesting listen. He covers just about everything you'd want covered without being boring and monotonous; he really seems to love the film. The other tracks, while having their moments, are only for those that can actually watch the film that many times with commentary...
Next, we have the huge documentary on the film, made just for this release, coming it at three and a half hours in length. While this might sound like an extreme bore, I'm happy to say that this is just not the case. What we get is a ton of interview material, a lot of on site and behind the scenes footage, as well as discussion on bringing the books to the big screen. We get information on set design, costuming, scoring the film, visual effects, and much, much more. Comparing this documentary to any of the pieces on the original disc would be a waste of time; this documentary blows them away, as well as just about any other film documentary I've ever seen. I've seen many a promo-piece on the Fellowship, so I went into this documentary expecting a lot of retelling of things I've already heard, but what I found, was quite fresh in content. This *is* the new defacto DVD documentary and not at all promotional in nature.
As for other extras, we have a few storyboard comparison featurettes, comparing the early version of the film to that which we get to see; specifically we have “Early Storyboard Sequences.” “Pre-Viz Animatics,” and “Comparisons.”
Next, we have the “Middle-Earth Atlas,” which is a clickable map that allows you to follow Gandalf and Frodo's journey to the Shire. This includes showing clips from the film. Another interesting inclusion is “New Zealand as Middle Earth” which shows the locations used for the film.
Rounding out the extras we have an incredible amount of stills (there must be 2000 or so) with shots from pre and post production, sets, creatures, miniatures, and just about everything else you can possibly think of, then some more. Easily, the most expansive stills gallery found on any DVD. Newline definitely went all out.
Overall, This special extended version of Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is one of the best, if not the best, DVD collections ever made. With exceptional audio and video, four commentaries, a three and a half hour documentary and a stills gallery that will leave you clicking for days, Newline has raised the bar for expanded releases. While the film contained here might be a bit too long for some non-fans, those that love the Fellowship will absolutely need this release. Highly recommended.
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