The packaging. Interesting editing choice for the new documentary films.
Poor compression; not much new footage in the "new" documentaries; no real new bonus features.
It is interesting reviewing The Lord of the Rings Limited Edition DVD set because these movies have been out for so long. I debated with myself over how I was going to review these discs simply because there is so little that is new about them. I didn't want to rehash anything that had already been gone over before, and I also felt like these discs were a tad redundant. Lets be honest, Lord of the Rings was a phenomenon that redefined the way movies, the internet and media promotions could be done. These films were a events that for a majority of the fans and the filmgoers actually lived up to their hype.
Sadly, Frodo and Sam's epic journey to Mount Doom to destroy the ring, with magnificent battles and adventures serving as the backdrop, have actually been given the short shrift on these discs here. Normally, this wouldn't bother me but the $90 price tag and the obvious greed on the part of the DVD creators has really made these discs suffer.
First of all, when they say that The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King are in both available in their extended editions and their theatrical versions, they also don't mention that they have been compressed to one disc each. Yes, you read that correctly. So, you are getting much less quality than if you were to buy these movies in their separate forms, in the extended set, which offers up the movie on two discs (and the bonus features on the others).
Secondly, the extras that are offered here are all the extras that have already been offered on the other releases, with the biggest difference being that a new documentary for each of the films is also included. While these documentaries are interesting, they don't offer us anything we haven't already seen (especially if you have viewed the extra footage in the sets before).
Lastly, and this is probably the most insulting, there just doesn't seem like a reason for this set to exist. As you may or may not know, I am not the biggest Lord of the Rings fan. I think the movies are good but I never read the books, so I don't know that I will ever appreciate the movies as much as the hardcore fans. That said, I did buy them on DVD as I was able to put the three, two disc sets together through the Columbia House DVD club for about .99 cents, total. Yes, you have read that correctly.
So, while this new set might look really nice, it isn't anything you don't need to own if you don't already own. Should you want to pick this up, let it be known that I simply saw it as a ploy to get more money out of an already well worn franchise.
They have included a new, feature length documentary for each of the films that was put together by filmmaker Costa Botes. Depending on how important this is to you, I have to give them credit for the leap they are taking that fans are going to be able to follow these docs. Not that it's brain surgery, but the the idea was to give viewers a "fly on the wall" look at each of the film's production. Those people expecting a narrative or a bunch of talking heads are going to be very surprised. Apparently, there has already been some uproar by the fans who want to see these films but don't wish to shell out the money to do so. It seems that with all the legal hassles based on royalties and everything else to the actors, it would be almost "impossible for them to ever do that.
Some of the moments we get to see are the crew looking for a lost role of 3-D film by Jackson himself, the landscape of New Zealand (and the sometimes rough weather), on set pranks and other interesting moments. Please don't misunderstand, it isn't that people shouldn't watch or even own these documentary films. I just don't think that consumers should be forced to pay $90 for the privilege. Something tells me that at some point, New Line will inevitably release the docs on separate DVDs for somewhere in the neighborhood of $30 for the whole set. Even that price is exorbitant, I think, but it sure beats the alternative.
Now, these are the only really new extras being offered here. They also offer extras from the other releases, the biggest difference being the number of discs that one gets. Rather than go through all of those extras, I have decided to make their links available so that you can compare and contrast what is offered in both the older and this newer set.
The following links are:
- The Fellowship of the Ring
- The Two Towers
- The Return of the King
The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King are presented in 2.35:1 widescreen. The theatrical and extended cuts are split up among the two discs with the user having to turn the disc over to see the entire film. Sadly, this has effected the compression in such a way that certain parts of the film seems muddier than I remember them being on screen. This was the only time that I had seen these movies on DVD, and while I didn't find that the compression got in the way of the viewing experience, everything seemed a lot of darker than I remember it in the theater.
Dolby Digital 5.1 EX. English - Dolby Digital 2.0. These movies sounded good. As I am hard of hearing in one ear it makes it sort of difficult to really tell just how good the sound was. I also watched these films on my TV with only one speaker. Unlike the picture, I didn't really notice any problems with the compression of the audio. While I am sure that it was compressed, I can't really be sure what effect that did or didn't have on the discs. However, I was still quite impressed with the amount of work that they had done to the sound design. Even in this set that is lacking in many ways, the really good parts of these films shine through.
This is the best part of The Lord of the Rings Limited Edition set. They have made the packaging very easy to navigate, while keeping it economical as they have put all the discs together. They have even changed up the artwork and the color schemes, with different pictures on the front covers utilized to bring out the theme of that particular film. The back covers list out what each film is about, it offers up a Bonus Features listing, cast information and technical specs. The disks themselves are nicely housed in their own cases and trays, and I was highly impressed with the level of artistic craftsmanship in the packaging and artwork.
At $90 a throw it would be very hard to recommend going out and buying this set simply because of the new packaging and the documentaries. I just don't think that there is enough new material in this set to make it worth your while as a consumer to purchase The Lord of the Rings Limited Edition. Truthfully, this seems more like a ploy to get some more money out of this franchise. Considering how rabid the fanbase is and how Peter Jackson is essentially seen as a God for what he pulled off here, I find it very hard to fathom that his minions are going to have a problem with this release.
The big question is will they purchase it?
Probably not, seeing as how the average Lord of the Rings probably already owns these movies in their previous (and better) incarnations. What would be the point to repurchase everything that they already have just to get their hands on an elusive special feature that isn't really all it's cracked up to be?
At the end of the day, it seems that if you don't already own these films this might be a good place to start, as it gives you the theatrical and extended editions in one shot. However, if you want to get a better quality DVD, one that has compressed the extended versions over the course of two discs, than you would be wise to click on the links offered above.
Sadly, The Lord of the Rings Limited Edition lives up to it's name.
The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring was released December 18, 2001.