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THE LORD OF THE RINGS:
THE MOTION PICTURE TRILOGY
(Theatrical Editions)

Comprised of the Theatrical Editions, the Blu-ray release of THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE MOTION PICTURE TRILOGY ($100) may not be the high definition collection that a large number of fans had been hoping for. While it is indeed important that the Theatrical Editions of THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING, THE TWO TOWERS and THE RETURN OF THE KING be represented and made available on Blu-ray, but I have to admit that I prefer the Special Extended Editions that co-writer/director/producer Peter Jackson made available on DVD for consumption by movie geeks like myself. While my preference is indeed for the Special Extended Editions of the trilogy, this collection did give me a reason to revisit the Theatrical Editions of the films- something I have not done since each of the films initially appeared on DVD.

Sitting down to watch THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING, THE TWO TOWERS and THE RETURN OF THE KING again, I can honestly say that these movies have lost none of their power to entertain or mesmerize an audience with their visual wonder. Not only are these three films are truly epic and visionary, THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING, THE TWO TOWERS and THE RETURN OF THE KING may actually be the greatest fantasy movies ever made. That being said, one cannot deny the filmmaking genius of Peter Jackson, who was able to majestically bring to the screen, what was long considered an un-filmable literary work. Also considering the nearly three billion dollars of box office revenue and the seventeen Academy Awards the trilogy garnered, THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING, THE TWO TOWERS and THE RETURN OF THE KING have proved themselves to be both commercial and artistic triumphs of the modern cinema.

THE LORD OF THE RINGS:
THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING

THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING is the first volume in the trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien, which was adapted by Peter Jackson, along with his writing partners Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens. The premise of THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING tells of an all-powerful ring created by the Dark Lord Sauron to rule all of Middle Earth. During an epic battle, and nearest to the moment of his almost certain victory, Sauron is defeated. As for Sauron's all-powerful ring, instead of it being destroyed, the ring twists weak-willed men to itís bidding, and secures its continuance by disappearing for over two thousand years. After allowing itself to be found again, the ring passes into the possession of a Hobbit named Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm), who is thoroughly unaware of the significance of the object that he retains for much of his very long life. When Bilbo decides to leave his home in the Shire for the last time, the ring, along with all of his other possessions, are inherited by the elderly Hobbit's young nephew Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood).

However, Frodo quickly becomes aware of the dark nature of his deadly inheritance. Under the advice of the Wizard Gandalf The Grey (Ian McKellen), Frodo leaves the shire and begins a perilous journey, the likes of which no other Hobbit has ever undertaken. From the quiet safety of the Shire, Frodo must travel to the land of Mordor, so the ring can be cast into the fires of Mount Doom- the place that the ring was forged and the only place where it can be destroyed. Soon, Frodo along with his fellow Hobbits, Sam (Sean Astin), Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd) find themselves pursued by the minions the Dark Lord Sauron, who has risen again, and wants to reclaim his Ring of Power. From amongst the races of Elves, Dwarves and Humans, Frodo acquires additional allies, who form a fellowship and swear to protect him during the quest to destroy Lord Sauron's all powerful ring. The superb cast of THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING also features Viggo Mortensen, Liv Tyler, Sean Bean, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Orlando Bloom, John Rhys-Davies and the legendary Christopher Lee.

THE LORD OF THE RINGS:
THE TWO TOWERS

As a film, THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS is very much different and very much the same as THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING. Where THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING seemed slow and methodical, THE TWO TOWERS almost seems to rush at the viewer at breakneck speed, yet both films are part of the same story and donít exhibit any difference in storytelling style. THE TWO TOWERS opens with Frodo being haunted in his dreams by his final memory of Gandalf The Grey, who stood his ground against the Balrog, and allowed the other members of the fellowship to escape with their lives. Although the fellowship was ultimately broken by the loss of Gandalf and by the evil influence of the Ring of Power, Frodo continues the long journey to Mordor to destroy Lord Sauron's ring, aided only by his stalwart friend and fellow hobbit Sam. Of course, while Frodo and Sam make their way to Mordor, we find that warriors Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) remain in pursuit of the bloodthirsty orcs, who have snatched away hobbits Merry and Pippin. Eventually the captured hobbits are able to escape the orcs on their own, which makes it possible for the three warriors to go to the kingdom of Rohan, where their services are desperately needed to help fend off an overwhelming assault by an army of orcs created by Saruman the White (Christopher Lee)- the powerful wizard who has allied himself with Lord Sauron.

As with THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING, the performances in THE TWO TOWERS are universally excellent. Where Elijah Wood had to bear much of the burden on his shoulders for the first film, much of the weight shifts to Viggo Mortensen as the character of Aragorn steps towards the forefront of the story. Additionally, THE TWO TOWERS provides the supporting characters more opportunities to shine and distinguish themselves. Perhaps the most intriguing character in second film is also the one that received the most press- namely the fully CGI Gollum, whose performance was voiced and motion captured from actor Andy Serkis. Serkis gives a wrenching performance (realized by CGI) as the poor creature that was hopelessly corrupted by the Ring of Power, yet still tries to fight its influence. The cast of THE TWO TOWERS also features Miranda Otto, Bernard Hill, Bruce Hopkins, Brad Dourif, Liv Tyler, Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving.

THE LORD OF THE RINGS:
THE RETURN OF THE KING

There is little that one can say about THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING that hasnít already been said, especially with this majestic fantasy film doing something completely unprecedented for a genre offering- earning eleven Academy Awards, including the top prize for Best Picture. Perhaps the top prize for THE RETURN OF THE KING and Peter Jacksonís win for Best Director should considered a cumulative wins for the entire trilogy, because THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING and THE TWO TOWERS were certainly no less deserving of these awards than the final chapter in the trilogy. My only quibble with the Oscars for THE RETURN OF THE KING is that Sean Astinís performance as Sam didnít get some sort of recognition, especially since in many ways his character becomes the emotional center of this final film, as he supports Frodo with the heavy burden to destroy Lord Sauron's Ring of Power, while constantly being undercut by the treacherous Gollum, who wants to reclaim his precious.

THE RETURN OF THE KING starts off with an introduction to the character of Smeagol (Andy Serkis), a Hobbit who was instantly corrupted by the Ring of Power and transformed into something dark and dangerous. This segues to Hobbits Frodo and Sam, who are continuing their journey to Mount Doom, with the assistance of Gollum, who claims to know the secret ways in and out of Mordor. After the victory at Helms Deep, Gandalf The White and Pippin ride to the city of Minas Tirith to warn the inhabitants that the final battle with Sauron's army will be fought on their doorstep. At the same time, Merry and Eowyn (Miranda Otto) prepare to ride into battle with King Theoden (Bernard Hill), while Legolas and Gimli remain at the side of Aragorn, as he prepares to accept his destiny. The cast of THE RETURN OF THE KING also features David Wenham, Bruce Hopkins, Liv Tyler, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Brad Dourif, Karl Urban, John Noble, Ian Holm and Sean Bean.

*****

New Line Home Entertainment has made the three films that constitute THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE MOTION PICTURE TRILOGY available on Blu-ray Disc in 2.40:1 aspect ratio presentations that have been encoded onto the disc with the VC-1 codec. Overall, the three films look quite impressive, with their 1080p high definition presentations certain to please the vast majority of fans. THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING offers a slightly less compelling picture quality than the latter two installments, which may have more to do the integration of the numerous digital effects during the original production, than any flaw in the mastering of the film for Blu-ray. Across all three films, the image can display startling clarity, dimensionality fine detailing and texturing. However, there are certain shots and or sequences, where the picture appears a bit softer and shows evidence of digital grading for more seamless integration of computer-generated elements. As for the application of DNR, it seems to have been used sparingly, on an individual shots, and never in a way that seriously degrades the overall picture quality. Additionally, there are moments in the trilogy where diffusion lenses are employed, which purposely softens the picture for artistic effect. Color reproduction is uniformly excellent, although the color pallet does shift within the locals of Middle Earth. Depending where the characters are, hues can appear warm and lush, or cold and subdued. Blacks are pure, as are the whites, plus the contrast is very smooth. Shadow detail is also pretty terrific. The elements from which all three films that constitute THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE MOTION PICTURE TRILOGY have been mastered are free from imperfections. A light veneer of grain is present in the picture, which gives the image on all three movies a seemingly organic flavor.

The films that comprise THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE MOTION PICTURE TRILOGY are presented on Blu-ray Disc with 6.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks. The sound designs for all three films are amazing and deliver everything one expects from big budget fantasy genre offerings. There are plenty of discrete sound effects, which have spread throughout the outlying channels, especially during the numerous action set pieces. Sounds emanate from every direction, then effortlessly sweep around the soundstage. Thanks to the lossless encodes, fidelity is truly marvelous. Howard Shoreís musical scores sound wonderfully majestic, while the sound effects are reproduced in a very lifelike manner. The bass channel is deep and shakes the ground whenever required. Voices have a warm, natural quality, plus the filmís dialogue is totally understandable. A Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 track is provided for THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING, while THE TWO TOWERS and THE RETURN OF THE KING have Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 EX tracks. Subtitles are available in English and Spanish.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental materials, the majority of which are contained on thee DVDs, each corresponding to an individual film. These DVD based supplements appear to be direct ports of the second discs offered with the original disc releases of the Theatrical Editions. High definition additional content appears limited to Trailers and Video Game Previews that are contained on each of the individual Blu-ray discs. Each film is also BD-Live enabled (requires a Profile 2.0 player). A Digital Copy is also provided for each film.

THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING DVD comes with Welcome To Middle-Earth (seventeen minutes), Quest For The Ring (twenty one minutes), A Passage To Middle-Earth (forty two minutes) and the original Internet based LordoftheRings.net Featurettes (thirty nine minutes total). Also included on the DVD are three Theatrical Trailers, six TV Spots, an Enya Music Video for the song May It Be, a Preview of the Extended Edition DVD, a Behind-The-Scenes Preview of the then upcoming second film THE TWO TOWERS and a Video Game Preview.

THE TWO TOWERS DVD comes with On the Set: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (fourteen minutes), Return To Middle-Earth (forty-three minute), The Long And Short Of It (five minutes), Making Of The Long And Short Of It (eight minutes) and the original Internet based LordoftheRings.net Featurettes (thirty four minutes total). Also included on the DVD are two Theatrical Trailers, sixteen TV Spots, a Music Video for Emiliana Torrini's Gollum's Song, a Preview of the Extended Edition DVD, a Behind-The-Scenes Preview of the then upcoming third film THE RETURN OF THE KING and a Video Game Preview.

THE RETURN OF THE KING DVD comes with The Quest Fulfilled (twenty three minutes), A Filmmaker's Journey (twenty nine minutes), The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King (forty six minutes) and the original Internet based LordoftheRings.net Featurettes (twenty two minutes total). Also included on the DVD are two Theatrical Trailers, a Trilogy Supertrailer fourteen TV Spots, a Preview of the Extended Edition DVD and a Video Game Preview.

While THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE MOTION PICTURE TRILOGY may not be the ultimate Blu-ray collection, this is still a worthwhile release that offers the Theatrical Editions of THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING, THE TWO TOWERS and THE RETURN OF THE KING. Overall, the Blu-ray presentations are highly impressive and offer a significant upgrade over standard definition counterparts. Recommended to those wanting to acquire the Theatrical Editions in high definition.

 

THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE MOTION PICTURE TRILOGY (THEATRICAL EDITIONS) 


The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy (Theatrical Editions) [Blu-ray]

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DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2010 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.


 

 

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