The Lord Of The Rings Extended Edition Blu-ray Boxset review
When it comes to the other features held on the DVDs that accompany each film, the quality of the presentation is consistently a little disappointing, with quite grubby standard definition picture quality the most common order of the day. Content wise, though, there’s so much stuff to get your teeth into that the presentation standards (which were pretty much inevitable anyway given when the films was made) hardly matter at all.
Where The Fellowship of the Ring is concerned, the Tolkien documentary is particularly unmissable, offering a great look at the author’s life in combination with some brilliant perceptions on the book’s themes and meanings from various crew members and literary academics. It crams an exceptional amount into its compact running time, too.
With the Two Towers, the documentary focussing on the visual creation of Gollum is arguably the highlight, though some of the special effects and stunt stuff on ‘disc 9′ is also excellent. But again, it’s all too good to miss, really.
The Return of the King’s extras highlight is the feature where the cast members bid farewell to the film that took up so many years of their life. This is funny but also extremely touching – especially if you’ve previously invested many hours of your own life into the films and the attendant extra features.
This feature also causes you to reflect on the amount of access the documentaries and featurettes had to all the cast and crew, a fact which speaks volumes about just how passionate about the project seemingly everybody involved in it truly was. Never before have so many actors seemed so keen to talk about a film.
The trilogy of behind the scenes, ‘raw’ documentaries from Costa Botes warrant a special mention too. These have no narrative to join them; they’re completely compiled from ‘live’ footage edited together. Snippets of this footage are used in other extra features on the multiple discs, but most of it is fresh.
Initially the documentaries feel a little dull. But we urge you to stick with them, because over time they develop into something akin to a soap opera based on a film set, entertainingly introducing plenty of new people we haven’t really got to know from the other features, and not being afraid to show conflicts and minutiae to create a startlingly vivid sense of the day-to-day ‘grind’ and difficulties involved with a project of The Lord of The Rings’ magnitude.
These documentaries may be unconventional and raw, but they’re the better for it. And they also gradually create a great sense of the true enormity of the LOTR project. The only disappointment about is that it’s standard def, and oddly presented in a 4:3 ratio, with black bars. Surely they could have been presented anamorphically, at least?
While we’re on the subject of technical issues, we also found a few glitches during our exploration of the extra features. The highlighting device to help you make your menu selections occasionally went missing, and we experienced a couple of crashes too – though this is no big deal really given how many hours of feature surfing we engaged in.
On a more philosophical note, we guess it might be possible to argue that the way the extra features go into so much detail on the film-making process detracts from the magic of the films, by making you think about how scenes were achieved next time you watch the films rather than you just enjoying them as films like you had before.
Personally, though, such arguments strike us as a load of old bollocks, frankly. We just wish all films cared about extra content as much as the LOTR Extended Edition boxset does.
Oh, and before we forget, the extra features underline something we already suspected: that Chrisopher Lee is a god. Who should be worshipped.
The packaging for the box set is arguably the best we’ve seen, with a single, tastefully embossed, suitably large and very sturdy box housing a trio of separate, more conventional (except for being twice as fat!) plastic Blu-ray cases, each one of which contains one of the films together with the extra feature discs that pertain to that film.
The presentation of the film disc menus is adequate rather than brilliant. It’s a pity that the main menu screen for each disc is a static, silent affair, featuring just a fairly standard still from the film and basic text menus along the bottom.
To be fair, though, aside from the occasional navigation glitch noted earlier, the menus for the special feature discs manage to handle all their content decently well considering they’re restricted to DVD rather than Blu-ray technology.
Major kudos is due, too, to the provision of an Index mode for finding particular features you’re after rather than you always having to trawl through the structure the disc authorers have gone for.
All in all, while on-disc presentation could be better, what you get is at least functional and easy to navigate, and that’s a solid enough achievement in itself given the amount of content we’re talking about.
The last word
Three brilliant films, consistently spectacular visuals and sonics, lovely strokable packaging, a collection of extra features so exhaustive and consistently entertaining it’s hard to imagine we’ll ever see their like again… Basically, the Lord of The Rings Extended Edition boxset is what Blu-ray was invented for.
The Films: 19/20
Picture quality: 17/20
Sound quality: 20/20
Extra features: 20/20
It’s tempting to say every minute of every disc is a showstopper in its own way. But if we had to pick a few particular highlights, we guess we’d go for the cave troll/orc attack in the Mines of Morir, the moment where the doors of the Dead City open to reveal an army of marching orcs and a Nazgul, and pretty much the whole of the battle for Minas Tirith.
Although Peter Jackson is credited as the director of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, in fact there were routinely multiple directing teams in action throughout the production. Fran Walsh directed quite a number of scenes, according to the extra features on the disc, and even Andy Serkis had to direct himself in the Smeagol/Deagol sequence when Fran was too ill to do it herself one day.
The films were originally intended to be only two parts under original backer Miramax. But at the last minute Miramax decided it only wanted to make one film, leading Jackson and his team to have to approach New Line in a bid to get the films made in the form they wanted. What’s more, it was actually a New Line executive who suggested making a trilogy rather than Jackson.