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Lord of the Rings Extended Editon Blu-ray review

News From Bree
spymaster@theonering.net

Jun 28 2011, 9:37am


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Lord of the Rings Extended Editon Blu-ray review Can't Post

PROLOG

It was widely known when Peter Jackson was shooting the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy a decade ago that there would be more than one version of the films for home theaters. Fan club memberships were sold with a promise of founding members getting their names in credits of the extended editions. Those watching the films in theaters the last two weeks have seen that promise still fulfilled again on screen at the cineplex.

There was even discussion of eventual superior editions in high definition once the debate over HD DVD vs. Blu-ray was settled. The Extended Edition DVDs, with far superior extras, were a big hit on DVD and were released for marathon watching sessions in select cities on "Trilogy Tuesday". (Check out these links for a window back into time. They provide historical context.)

With the release today of the Extended Editions, the best possible version of the films in the highest possible quality will be in the hands of consumers. While there are some who claim the already lengthy films are made too long by the additions in the EEs, there are few readers of this site who can't appreciate the character nuances and deeper explanations of Middle-earth they provide. For my money, the Extended Editions are the preferred editions and that was brought home again in theaters with rare theater screenings the last two weeks around the U.S.. They contain treasures worth mining.

But readers here know all that. Long-time readers may own several versions of the films already. Some have them on VHS tape, were moved to convert to DVD by the films, including the promise of the EEs, may have several editions of them on DVD and here a third format beckons the yet unconverted-to-Blu-ray. Those with Blu-rays already know the vast jump forward in formats but these remastered films absolutely deliver on a level the theatrical Blu-rays did not.



IMAGES AND SOUNDS

The process to deliver these films wasn't adding in extra scenes but involved a complete remastering from the original digital files. On my own HD TV and Blu-ray player with 1080p and seven speakers, the trilogy was astounding. I very carefully compared my DVD EEs, my theatrical Blu-rays and these new Blu-ray EEs, and the new version was a clear-cut winner but with a qualification that we will tackle in a moment. Presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, this is simply lovely visual satisfaction.

I looked for and found better details and improved contrasts. While I am much closer to an "everyman" when it comes to home theater than I am to a technical expert, I do have a strong background in still photography and know my way around images and words and home presentation. This feels like film, not the sometimes complained about cold exactness of digitally shot material. In short, the technical display here, from a non-technical guy, is unequivocally, the best version. But, and this is a big but, it isn't perfect.

Many TORn readers have been deeply concerned about reports regarding the color timing of the films. It can safely be termed a controversy at this point. So far as I can discover, no official statements have been released regarding it but with rumors floating around I checked with independent sources that are definitely in-the-know, and director Peter Jackson and director of photography Andrew Lesnie were directly involved and approved the changes in color to the films. But, after careful examination, I have concluded without relying on any other internet source or image, "Fellowship of the Ring," seems to have some issues not shared with the other two films in the trilogy on Blu-ray EEs.

For those not all that aware of visuals and are just in it for the story-telling, be aware that blacks should be black and whites should be white while each retains detail. The eye does a marvelous job of finding this in real life but replicating it on screen is a challenge as old as film. As previously stated, the already rich visual feel for these films has been improved but FOTR has some obvious greens added in this edition that are especially obvious over strong whites. For example, as the Fellowship climbs steep, snow covered peaks in bright sunshine, the scene actually looks like it has a green filter over it. Not only are the whites off here but the blacks in the snowy scene take on a greenish hue as well. Comparing it to a scene in "Return of the King," where a certain white wizard on a white horse rides up the streets of the white city make it absolutely clear that something is drastically different between the two. It is also obvious when compared to the previous Blu-ray release.

I have a strong, but completely unconfirmed suspicion that something went wrong in the scan or transfer process. I quickly admit however that I am no expert regarding the process and perhaps Jackson and Lesnie wanted just that look, but to me, and other sets of eyes I enlisted for second and third opinions, the green tint was dramatic. Admittedly, I was watching for it but there it is.

Having just given all that space to a color issue, let me emphasize with clarity that what I deem a problem isn't severe enough for me to retract a strong recommendation for the beauty of these films or this transfer. Being transparent about the issue in no way means it spoils the film. In a perfect world I would be willing to pay cost for replacement discs (assuming Jackson even agrees it is a problem) but for most it will not even be an issue and for all but a very few it will be a minor blip in a marvelous viewing experience.

And, in other portions of the same film, I found the colors more pleasing than in any previous version. Legolas' arrow fletchings were extra yellow, the details on Gimli's helm shone a bit more golden and skin tones were pleasing. It remains a visual wonder but not a perfect one. I didn't find similar issues with "The Two Towers" or "Return of the King."

All three films are presented on two discs each and while initially this will surprise some who think the new format should allow one disc to store all the data but this choice allows the most dramatic use of the Blu-ray format and the maximum data storage to provide the top-notch audio and visuals. WB must be praised for the decision not to compress the films along with commentaries and all its glory on one disc.

The sound, while not as easy to measure, seems a little more powerful in the lower end was uniformly outstanding for all three films. Sounds are crisp, bass is booming, ambiance is full and colors are distinct and the award winning sound design and mix from the theatrical films is wonderfully featured. It comes in 6.1 English DTS-HD and in Portugese with subtitles in several languages. The audio commentaries are the same, divided among aspects of the films and each well-worth a listen. Those who have forgotten the quality of the commentaries or who never took the time or had the chance to listen will find a deeper appreciation for the accomplishments on screen. All sound aspects remain excellent on every level. Some additional commentary might go on a future-edition wish list, but more about that later.



LOOK AND DESIGN

Absolutely nothing was wrong the design and packaging of the theatrical edition Blu-rays. It packed a lot of content into an efficient box and made the films easy to watch. But these surpass them in every way. The golden toned design announces that these are a more valuable addition to a buyer's library and incorporates a character-centric look unlike the DVD EE's. But the subtle color coding on the spines is a nod back to the DVDs and goes along well with the interior design. Hearkening back to the credit sketches of Alan Lee and John Howe, the interior discs choose class over flash and the design team must receive credit for every choice. The 15-discs are compactly stored and work cohesively for each film without being confusing. They also smartly protect the contents against damage, compact and not cramped.

The inclusion of a digital copy, while standard, is still a welcome and attractive part of the package, allowing the consumer the ability to have the films portable on the device of choice.



EXTRAS

The home video market has changed mightily since the DVD EE's hit shelves. Film studios are currently reluctant to invest heavily in extras when films are getting less expensive in stores and sinking money into more content for the same money is a bad investment. The extras here are identical to the DVD EEs but with the addition of the behind-the-scenes Costa Botes documentaries for each film. They are a nice addition but like all the extras, they come on DVDs and are not in hi-def and don't have the same quality as the films. In other words, they are duplicate content, in a new box.

The content, to be sure, is still among the very elite produced for any film for home use. There are only a handful of film packages that belong on the same shelf. The story of the making of the films coupled with the organization of the material and the willingness of the those involved to talk extensively about the work are astounding. And, with a soft market as mentioned above, studios aren't as likely to invest in such extras very often so we may not see their like again or at least not very often.

So the bad news is, all this excellent, watchable content is still only in standard def. But would fans really treasure it on Blu-ray and would the expense of a scan and transfer be worth it to Warners? Financially, it probably wouldn't be, although I happen to know a great many "hardcore" fans that absolutely would, it is less certain how wide of an audience would care at all. Artistically, it absolutely would be. Further, a great deal of content fans have never seen still exists. Blooper reels are the tip of the iceberg but that alone would be clamored over by an audience that loved the source books by J.R.R. Tolkien with a deep passion and loves these films with a similar fervency.

So the good news is that with two "Hobbit" films on the horizon, there is a good opportunity for these films to be revisited again in 2014 or 2015. So Warners, please be aware that a core of fans is aware of material shot and still in storage (hopefully!) and that they want a future hi-def release just as Jackson used to speak about. On my personal wish list would be new commentaries with Jackson's team and film historians and actors (as available) and perhaps even some journalists about these films with a decade of perspective. But, far, far more important is all the hinted-at material by Jackson and Ian McKellen and other actors and production in many interviews over the years about material that has never seen the light of day.

Those few of us who have seen bits of a blooper reel know the mis-takes are priceless.

More good news is that the same team responsible for all the extras excellence is thought to be on the scene in New Zealand for the filming so far on "The Hobbit," and hopefully those films will be the exception to the current trend to release films with minimal and obvious extras features.



DETAILS

Extended Editions of three films in 1080p and DTS HD-MA 6.1 audio. Deluxe 15-disc set includes 9 special features DVDs with over 26 hours of behind-the-scenes material Including the rare Costa Botes documentaries.

"The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" (extended edition) With the help of a courageous fellowship of friends and allies, Frodo Baggins embarks on a perilous mission to destroy the legendary One Ring. "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" (extended edition) In the middle chapter of this historic movie trilogy, the Fellowship is broken but its quest to destroy the One Ring continues. "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" (extended edition) The final battle for Middle-earth begins. Frodo and Sam, led by Gollum, continue their dangerous mission toward the fires of Mount Doom in order to destroy the One Ring.

Each film is on two Blu-ray discs with two DVD extras discs each plus the Costa Botes documentaries on a third disc for each film.

Official site: lordoftherings.net/.



FINAL THOUGHTS ABOUT THE FILM

This trio of films have aged well. A decade can diminish a movie's impact but that is not the case here. The films are best when they hold closest to Tolkien's characters and spirit. Looking back now, FOTR is virtually as perfect a film as can be found at home or in theaters and while the tale and storytelling later became complicated, much of it works because of the foundation laid in the first film. I was surprised to realize how excellent Liv Tyler was in limited time on screen but high-level performances are the norm here, in a fantasy film no less. And of course the greatness of Weta is fully on display. Many things combined to create this film trilogy, as ambitious and accomplished as any, ever and this edition of the films is the very best available to date. And, if we weren't absolutely sure a decade ago, there can be no doubt now, these films are absolutely classics.

If you purchase the discs through WB, you get a set of actor portraits as well.

(This post was edited by Silverlode on Jun 29 2011, 7:38am)

Subject User Time
Lord of the Rings Extended Editon Blu-ray review News From Bree Send a private message to News From Bree Jun 28 2011, 9:37am
    Got my copy today. QuackingTroll Send a private message to QuackingTroll Jun 28 2011, 2:45pm
        Blu-ray or not Blu-ray... :) Erin Lysse Send a private message to Erin Lysse Jun 28 2011, 3:24pm
    Thank you. While I have decided to go ahead and purchase the Blu-ray now... Patty Send a private message to Patty Jun 28 2011, 3:20pm
        How's about PJ's 20 questions facebook post? SteveDJ Send a private message to SteveDJ Jun 29 2011, 8:37pm
            Using Facebook... Kendalf Send a private message to Kendalf Jun 29 2011, 10:27pm
                He can't respond MrCere Send a private message to MrCere Jun 29 2011, 11:27pm
    Excellent review! Kendalf Send a private message to Kendalf Jun 28 2011, 3:34pm
        Yes, PJ reviewed the changes, but that was before manufacturing to disk, right? // SteveDJ Send a private message to SteveDJ Jun 29 2011, 8:33pm
    Thank you for the review! roδc Send a private message to roδc Jun 28 2011, 3:40pm
        Lots of places. QuackingTroll Send a private message to QuackingTroll Jun 28 2011, 3:51pm
    To whomever has already seen this...How does the "second breakfast" scene look? Patty Send a private message to Patty Jun 28 2011, 4:24pm
    color timing already confirmed... Oscarilbo Send a private message to Oscarilbo Jun 28 2011, 5:48pm
        So, you're saying that... Patty Send a private message to Patty Jun 28 2011, 5:54pm
        Yep... Kendalf Send a private message to Kendalf Jun 28 2011, 6:20pm
            yes Oscarilbo Send a private message to Oscarilbo Jun 28 2011, 6:35pm
                Bravo... Sharky Send a private message to Sharky Jun 28 2011, 6:43pm
                    Would like to see this addressed one way or another Isildur's Heir Send a private message to Isildur's Heir Jun 28 2011, 6:48pm
                        He's already addressed it apparently, Mauricio Send a private message to Mauricio Jun 28 2011, 6:53pm
                            What he needs to address is "WHY" it was done, because... Patty Send a private message to Patty Jun 28 2011, 7:01pm
                                I am DYING to hear your views Patty MrCere Send a private message to MrCere Jun 28 2011, 8:43pm
                                    I've only had the time and heart to view a little of Fellowship... Patty Send a private message to Patty Jul 1 2011, 5:29pm
                                        Well Darkstone Send a private message to Darkstone Jul 1 2011, 5:58pm
                                            Adjusting ambient light... Patty Send a private message to Patty Jul 1 2011, 6:08pm
                                                Glad to help. Darkstone Send a private message to Darkstone Jul 1 2011, 6:36pm
                                                    Oh, it's HDMI... Patty Send a private message to Patty Jul 1 2011, 6:40pm
                                                        I haven't seen it yet. Darkstone Send a private message to Darkstone Jul 1 2011, 6:48pm
                                                            I'm not sure. It's a Sony S550, so a few years old... Patty Send a private message to Patty Jul 1 2011, 7:53pm
                                                                Dark picture Kendalf Send a private message to Kendalf Jul 2 2011, 7:37am
                                                                    see it on youtube Sarn Ford Send a private message to Sarn Ford Jul 18 2011, 4:44am
                                                                        fixed? Sarn Ford Send a private message to Sarn Ford Jul 30 2011, 5:50pm
                                            I checked the gamma setting on my TV... Patty Send a private message to Patty Jul 1 2011, 6:34pm
                            Sharky's right Kendalf Send a private message to Kendalf Jun 28 2011, 8:40pm
        Not exactly MrCere Send a private message to MrCere Jun 28 2011, 8:34pm
            Larry, have I told you recently... Patty Send a private message to Patty Jun 28 2011, 8:46pm
                Too kind, but thanks {NT} MrCere Send a private message to MrCere Jun 29 2011, 11:19pm
            My "eye-witness opinion"... Kendalf Send a private message to Kendalf Jun 28 2011, 9:29pm
                To throw some fuel to the Warner quality-control fire... Steven Van der Berg Send a private message to Steven Van der Berg Jun 28 2011, 10:46pm
                    Dang. reags Send a private message to reags Jun 29 2011, 4:49am
                        Guys I'm watching them now and honestly FOTR isn't nearly as bad as the pics show it to be redgiraffe Send a private message to redgiraffe Jun 29 2011, 7:45am
                            Well.. reags Send a private message to reags Jun 29 2011, 8:07am
                                I think you made a wise decision redgiraffe Send a private message to redgiraffe Jun 29 2011, 8:44am
                            Just watching mine now shadowdog Send a private message to shadowdog Jun 29 2011, 8:36pm
    I have been waiting for these... fingolfin_nc Send a private message to fingolfin_nc Jun 28 2011, 7:12pm
        No, Knowles!!! Sharky Send a private message to Sharky Jun 28 2011, 7:43pm
    Still holding out for Elijah's audition video... greendragon Send a private message to greendragon Jun 28 2011, 9:31pm
    Meh Malveth The Eternal Send a private message to Malveth The Eternal Jun 29 2011, 11:23am
        I think we all forget shadowdog Send a private message to shadowdog Jun 29 2011, 9:09pm
            There have been MAJOR colour shifts Kendalf Send a private message to Kendalf Jun 29 2011, 10:18pm
                Well If Even You Admit It Is Hard To Detect shadowdog Send a private message to shadowdog Jun 29 2011, 11:02pm
                    Well... Malveth The Eternal Send a private message to Malveth The Eternal Jun 29 2011, 11:27pm
                    Hard to detect...or not? Kendalf Send a private message to Kendalf Jun 30 2011, 8:18am
                        ok shadowdog Send a private message to shadowdog Jun 30 2011, 2:37pm
                            Quite possibly... Kendalf Send a private message to Kendalf Jun 30 2011, 6:05pm
                                Extras & Thumbnails JWPlatt Jun 30 2011, 7:53pm
                                    Thumbnails... Kendalf Send a private message to Kendalf Jun 30 2011, 10:04pm
                                        Thmbnails JWPlatt Jun 30 2011, 10:43pm
                                            Thumbnails, thumbnails! Kendalf Send a private message to Kendalf Jul 1 2011, 8:18am
                            Played both on PS3 Kendalf Send a private message to Kendalf Jun 30 2011, 9:33pm
                                No shadowdog Send a private message to shadowdog Jun 30 2011, 11:59pm
                                    Let's agree to disagree! Kendalf Send a private message to Kendalf Jul 1 2011, 8:49am
                                Oh dear... RoseCotton Send a private message to RoseCotton Jul 1 2011, 7:06am
                DVD Color Comparison ElessarsOath Send a private message to ElessarsOath Jun 29 2011, 11:15pm
                    Comparison to DVD palette Kendalf Send a private message to Kendalf Jun 30 2011, 8:33am
    EE Bonus Features ElessarsOath Send a private message to ElessarsOath Jun 29 2011, 7:02pm
        Not true MrCere Send a private message to MrCere Jun 29 2011, 11:23pm
            You are incorrect. ElessarsOath Send a private message to ElessarsOath Jun 29 2011, 11:33pm
                It wouldn't be the first time MrCere Send a private message to MrCere Jun 30 2011, 12:33am
                    Not only economic sense but... ElessarsOath Send a private message to ElessarsOath Jun 30 2011, 1:30am
                        You are absolutely correct MrCere Send a private message to MrCere Jun 30 2011, 3:45pm
                    Costa Botes documentary Ezu Send a private message to Ezu Jun 30 2011, 2:00am
        HD Content JWPlatt Jun 30 2011, 12:05am
            No misunderstanding. ElessarsOath Send a private message to ElessarsOath Jun 30 2011, 12:21am
                Economic sense ElessarsOath Send a private message to ElessarsOath Jun 30 2011, 12:32am
                    in support of your point.. seelbach Send a private message to seelbach Jun 30 2011, 2:54am
        They could still put all the SD content on one BD SteveDJ Send a private message to SteveDJ Jun 30 2011, 8:58am
            Exactly Kendalf Send a private message to Kendalf Jun 30 2011, 10:22am
                Well look at it from a business perspective... redgiraffe Send a private message to redgiraffe Jun 30 2011, 11:05am
            Bonus features on a single BD wouldn't work ElessarsOath Send a private message to ElessarsOath Jul 1 2011, 3:32am
                No no no - I said 3 disks on one (so, one bonus BD per movie), which easily fits // SteveDJ Send a private message to SteveDJ Jul 1 2011, 3:59am
    If there is anybody else who feels the transfer on FotR isn't up to par... Patty Send a private message to Patty Jul 2 2011, 7:56pm
        Fellowship vs Towers Kendalf Send a private message to Kendalf Jul 3 2011, 8:54am
            Now some are saying that the better thing to do is... Patty Send a private message to Patty Jul 3 2011, 4:59pm
                Using Facebook... Kendalf Send a private message to Kendalf Jul 4 2011, 9:50pm
                    Choose One Definitive Scene JWPlatt Jul 5 2011, 4:09am
                        Hmm, interesting... Kendalf Send a private message to Kendalf Jul 5 2011, 10:03pm
                            Kendalf, I don't see the link either. If it has been taken down... Patty Send a private message to Patty Jul 5 2011, 10:21pm
                                That just sounds weird... Mooseboy018 Send a private message to Mooseboy018 Jul 6 2011, 7:27am
                                    FOTR Vs ROTK flashback scene comparisons... Sharky Send a private message to Sharky Jul 11 2011, 6:48pm
                                        and... Patty Send a private message to Patty Jul 12 2011, 6:31am
                            Side Note JWPlatt Jul 5 2011, 10:59pm
                                Thank you, JW--I admit to just having set back and cringed. Patty Send a private message to Patty Jul 6 2011, 12:53am
        Done. // Brandybuckled Send a private message to Brandybuckled Jul 6 2011, 12:12am
    These orcs Zizix Send a private message to Zizix Aug 1 2011, 10:47pm

 
 
 

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