The Lord Of The Rings Extended Edition Blu-ray Boxset review
Studio: New Line
Running Time: 726mins (seriously)
Blu-ray Regions Supported: B
Package incudes: Six Blu-ray discs, and 9 DVDs
Directed by: Peter Jackson
Starring: Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Bean, Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett, Orlando Bloom, Ian McKellen, Christopher Lee, Ian Holm, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Liv Tyler, Hugo Weaving
Price: £42.00 from amazon
Considering that most adaptations of even short novellas seldom if ever manage to be as good as the books they’re based on, the fact that director Peter Jackson has managed to produce a film trilogy that genuinely at least does justice to J.R.R. Tolkein’s huge masterpiece is borderline miraculous.
To appreciate the full scale of Jackson’s achievement, you only have to look at how rapturously the films have been received by the vast majority of the book’s enormous and obsessive fanbase. For such fans not to feel betrayed by the distilling of the novel into a ‘mere’ trilogy of films is about as big a tribute as there can be to the passion Jackson and his crew – especially co-writers Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens – brought to their source material.
Even in their original theatrical cuts the three LOTR films make for an awe-inspiring day of viewing. But the extended versions contained in this boxset unquestionably deliver the definitive experience. And in our humble opinion it’s an experience that every human being on the planet should be required to indulge in at least once before they die.
All three films are presented in their original 2.40:1 aspect ratios, in 1080p/24.
While the overall picture quality of the original LOTR Blu-ray boxset, containing the theatrical releases, was good overall, the first film did look noticeably less pleasing than the other two. Or perhaps a better way of putting it would be that it didn’t seem to share the same aesthetic ‘look’ as the other two.
The film-makers have apparently tried to address this issue for the extended trilogy boxset, mostly by working on the colour mastering for the first film to make it look more in line with the other two films. And actually, for the most part this risky decision seems to have paid off, as the Fellowship of the Ring’s picture quality looks appreciably better than it has before. Especially as the latest remastering process seems to have led to a reduction in dotting and other noise types.
With the other two films looking at least as contrast- and colour-rich, noiseless, decently sharp and completely natural (in that there’s little to no evidence of digital tampering where motion or edges are concerned) as their theatrical cuts did before, for the vast majority of its vast running time the LOTR trilogy is an HD feast for your eyes that’s got to be one of the best arguments ever for sorting yourself out with a decent projection system.
The image isn’t completely perfect. The recolouring of the first film does lead to one or two peculiarities, such as some bluish snow over the mountain peaks at the start of disc 2, and a few scenes where Sam’s hair looks distractingly orange. There are also sometimes signs of minor compression noise across all three discs, such as in the walls of Bilbo’s house. And ideally the picture might have been just a touch sharper.
Overall, though, given how long the films are, the times where you’re anything less than totally engrossed in and impressed by the quality of what you’re watching are remarkably few and far between.
While the picture quality of the LOTR extended trilogy might ‘only’ be very good, its audio is nothing short of spectacular.
Each film carries a 6.1-channel DTS-HD Master Audio track, and in all three cases the mix is true reference-grade stuff. For starters, the dynamics involved are mind (and potentially speaker!) blowing, plumbing crazy bass depths and hitting terrifyingly high trebles – sometimes simultaneously! – with startlingly pure ease and consistently powerful results. Effects whizz around all of your 6.1 speaker set up with awesome clarity and accuracy, dialogue is never less than perfectly judged in terms of its clarity and volume relative to the rest of the soundstage, and the use of the mix and score to add power and intensity to scene after scene after scene deserves to become a ‘copy book’ for film sound design.
Particularly stunning highlights include the moment where the gates to Minas Morgul/the Dead City open to spew forth hordes of hideous enemies under the watchful eye of a Nazgul; the moment where Gandalf rides out to save fleeing soldiers from relentless Nazgul attacks; and pretty much any scene where Frodo puts the ring on.
It’s not just the loud bits that make LOTR such a spectacular work out for your speaker system, though. Its quiet bits are also exquisitely envisioned and lovingly mixed, making the trilogy arguably the most consistently immersive and spectacular soundtrack we’ve heard from a Blu-ray to date.
Really our only gripe is that just occasionally we noticed momentary lip-synch errors across all three films. Mind you, so good is the mix generally that we’re tempted to think these errors had more to do with glitching by our amp than errors on the disc. If you spotted any of these moments too, feel free to say so in the comments section so that we can let our amp off the hook!