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1,621 of 1,644 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extended Blu ray: Do you need if you already own extended DVD editions? Review for both beginners and Die Hard LOTR fans
This is NOT the review of the movies. I am solely reviewing the facts that what EXTRA you get in this set than the previous editions. I will start with very basic facts for those who are baffled by so many editions being out there.
The basic facts-
LOTR series has basically two types of movies- a) Theatrical and b) Extended, each edition are available in...
Published on November 24, 2011 by Amit

versus
1,276 of 1,399 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Wait for the extended versions instead!
These are the theatrical release films, not the superior extended versions which are preferrable due to their better coverage of the books and better overall flow.
Hopefully the extended version of the third will also be a big improvement, much needed as important parts of the story are absent in the theatrical relase of Return of the King. Unfortunately Peter...
Published on March 19, 2004 by TOPJOB7


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66 of 73 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BEST DVD OF 2004, December 20, 2004
By 
Robin Simmons (Palm Springs area, CA United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
THE LORD OF THE RINGS: RETURN OF THE KING Special Extended Edition is my pick for the best DVD of the year. This is the ultimate conclusion to a tour de force filmmaking achievement of astonishing skill, vision and execution.

New Line's $300 million gamble to bet the ranch on Peter Jackson's deliriously ambitious dream of transferring J. R. R. Tolkien's epic moral fable to the screen succeeded beyond anyone's imagination, including, no doubt, Jackson's. Hugely rewarded with awards (11 Oscars©) and box office, the last chapter of the trilogy is now available (as are the other two) in a four disc set.

"Return of the King" has been seamlessly expanded by more than 50 minutes of never-before-seen scenes and sequences. Saruman (Christopher Lee) returns and is confronted by Gandalf (Sir Ian Mckellan) at the ruins of Isengard. Finally we see Saruman get the fate he so richly deserves. And the awesome, fearful figure known as the Mouth of Sauron is revealed. Faramir and Eowyn's romance heats up. Also, there's a pirate cameo by Peter Jackson getting killed by a misguided arrow from Legolas. The running time is now four hours and 10 minutes. The additional scenes include more than 300 special effects shots and new music composed by Howard Shore.

The four extraordinary commentaries on the first two discs include 40 individuals: director, writers, design team, production and cast. When speaking, individuals are identified by subtitles. Bonus materials on discs three and four are all new. Multiple documentaries, galleries and maps are all richly detailed and highly watchable. The material is extensive and edited with artistry and care. Script, sets, miniatures (and "bigatures"), locations and costumes are covered. There's also a design gallery with well over 2,000 images. I especially appreciated the emotional featurette "Home of the Horse Lords" that dealt with the unique horse training techniques and what happened to some of the horses that had bonded with their rider-actors.

When I was younger, I tried reading Tolkien's masterpiece but couldn't get into it. Now, thanks to Jackson's cinematic gift, I finally understand the power of myth to inform us of fundamental truths.

Is it merely a chilling coincidence that the horror of the 9/11 destruction of the WTC was followed by the partial catharsis wrought by the film version of "The Two Towers"?

How prescient the poet Tolkien was to dare suggest a higher, nobler destiny awaits a humanity that resists the seductive lure of power by any means.
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164 of 190 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Duped again, August 30, 2006
DVD double dipping, it's become a standard of the home video world. Case in point, Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy. When the films first saw the light of day on DVD, they were released on New Line's Platinum Series DVD line, featuring two discs of mostly fluffy extras. Then, the four disc Extended Editions would be subsequently released, featuring extended versions of the films with a horde of commentaries and extras that brought fans to their knees. While I always recommended the theatrical versions to casual fans and the Extended Editions to the Tolkien fanatics, New Line has once again dipped into our wallets by releasing the Theatrical and Extended versions in one set, with some "new" extras thrown in for good measure (because they need to sell it to those of us who bought either or both versions before). Now, I'll say right off the bat, each of the three films are technical marvels of modern film making, with incredible battle scenes, effects, and everything else that's made these films the Star Wars trilogy of a new generation. That in mind, these new editions of the film are only worth owning for those who don't already own any of the previous releases; the rest of which should leave the new editions of the trilogy on the shelf where they belong, and maybe then and only then, will the studios stop with the double dipping frenzy that's been going on forever now.
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56 of 62 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Read This Before You Buy, September 24, 2004
By 
LOTR Fan (Sacramento, CA) - See all my reviews
IF YOU WANT THE FULL THEATRICAL VERSION OR EXTENDED VERSION, DON'T BUY THIS SET. Contrary to what one reviewer stated, this set is NOT the theatrical release. When I first watched the Fellowship DVD from this set, I noticed that some scenes I remembered from the theatrical release were missing. So I borrowed a copy of the original DVD release of the theatrical version, ran it parallel with my DVD copy of the Fellowship of the Ring from this set, and sure enough - about 30 minutes were cut from the theatrical version, probably to make it fit on one DVD in this set. The original DVD release of the theatrical version used two disks for the entire film. Oh, and the credits at the end of the film on the set's DVD copy run for over 20 minutes (maybe as long as 30 - but I fell asleep). Peter Jackson listed each and every charter member of his LOTR fan club, all 8 zillion of them.

Needless to say I felt cheated, as many of the missing scenes were enjoyable, important and added depth to an already much-altered story from the book (one of the missing scenes: Bilbo's humorous but important description of hobbits and the Shire at the beginning of the film).

I didn't bother checking the other two films against a known theatrical copy (my time is valuable to me, after all), but I wouldn't be at all surprised to find the same kinds of alterations in The Two Towers and ROTK as in the Fellowship film.
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49 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An epic for our times, October 5, 2004
J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy was considered unfilmable for a very long time -- the story was too big, too fantastical. But in the late 1990s, New Zealand director Peter Jackson got the green light to shoot the "Lord of the Rings" movie trilogy, a frightening undertaking. But Jackson was up to the challenge. The rest... is film history.

"The Fellowship of the Ring" introduces us to the hobbits. Eccentric old Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm) leaves the peaceful Shire at his 111st birthday, leaving all he has to his young nephew Frodo (Elijah Wood) -- including a golden Ring that makes the wearer invisible. But the grey wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) reveals that it's actually the One Ring, which is the source of power for the demonic Dark Lord Sauron. Horrified, Frodo and his best pals leave the Shire and join a band of elves, men, and dwarves to take the Ring to the only place where it can be destroyed.

"The Two Towers" picks up immediately after "Fellowship" ends. Frodo and Sam (Sean Astin) are lost on the path to Mordor. Worse, they're being stalked by Gollum (Andy Serkis), who owned the Ring for centuries and is enslaved to it. But because he knows safe ways into Mordor, Frodo lets Gollum come along. Elsewhere, Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Legolas (Orlando Bloom), and Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) make a desperate stand against the orc armies with the kingdom of Rohan....

"Return of the King" brings the trilogy to a head. Frodo and Sam's friendship is threatened by Gollum's trickery -- and Frodo is led into a deadly trap. Elsewhere, Gandalf rides with Pippin (Billy Boyd) to Gondor, the kingdom that Aragorn is heir to. Aragorn summons an army of ghosts and attacks the heart of Mordor -- as Frodo and Sam arrive at the volcanic Mount Doom, where the Ring was forged. But can Frodo bring himself to destroy the Ring?

A lot of people were nervous when first hearing that "Lord of the Rings" was being translated onto the big screen. There were just too many things -- goofy scripting, bad special effects, mutilated characters -- that could go wrong. Those fears turned out to be pretty much unfounded. Some characters are different from what they are in the book (Faramir and Arwen, for example, are altered and added to), and a handful are gone altogether. But most of it is just stunning.

Jackson and Co. outdid themselves with nearly every aspect of the films. The scripting is impeccable, a good balance of dark and light, humor and horror. The sets and New Zealand landscapes are breathtaking. The battle scenes are bloody and exciting. All the trappings -- clothes, jewelry, even beer mugs -- are realistic. And the special effects are almost entirely convincing-looking, especially the gruesome Gollum. He's the first fully convincing CGI character, and after awhile you'll forget he is made digitally.

Elijah Wood is outstanding as Frodo Baggins. He runs the emotional gamut: fear, pain, horror, happiness, resignation, rage, love, lust and emptiness. Sean Astin is equally good as the steadfast Sam, Frodo's best friend. Supporting hobbits Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd get to grow up into mature hobbits, and Ian McKellen is excellent as the grandfatherly wizard Gandalf. Viggo Mortensen, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Liv Tyler, John Rhys-Davies, Orlando Bloom and Sean Bean are only part of the amazing supporting cast, all of whom give excellent performances.

The extended versions of the movies are even better than the theatrical versions -- plenty of cut scenes that fill out the characters and plotline are put back in. As a result, the extended versions cleave more closely to the original books. Not to mention TV specials, featurettes, cast commentary on everything in the movies, Sean Astin's sweet little short film "The Long and Short of It," and extensive behind-the-scenes footage that will inform viewers about special effects, sets, direction, and everyday life filming "Lord of the Riings."

The movie adaptation of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy has been accepted by most fans and critics alike. Why? Because the trilogy is among the best movies ever put to film. A stunning achievement.
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151 of 176 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars THANKS....BUT NO THANKS!!!!!, August 29, 2006
By 
Mohd Jafar (Hyderabad, AP India) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Let me accept the fact that LOTR is my most beloved film and I already own the extended editions of the films in one set! I'm really not surprised to see New Line coming up with another edition of the trilogy. With films like these they will squeeze the collectors as much as they can!! Still, inspite of this new set containing both the theatrical versions and the extended cuts of the films and also the much hyped Costa Botes documentaries, my advise to anyone buying LOTR for the first time is- DO NOT BUY THIS SET! Spend a little more and you get all the movies in full 6.1 DTS EX glory, alongwith hours of endless in-depth bonus features which probably you'll spend rest of your life watching!!

Please be aware, these new editions DO NOT contain DTS tracks, no commentary tracks by the director, Weta workshop or the cast. All you get is both versions crammed into one single disc and just one documentary as a bonus on the second disc...AND NOTHING ELSE. It would have been a better idea had New Line released the documentaries separately without forcing the consumer to buy the films again....And even this is not the end, once the HD format gains a little more acceptance, they'll have another excuse to come up with a new version of the trilogy!

Beware, Extended edition set is the ultimate LOTR experience, in terms of films or bonus features. Go get it...Its worth all the money spent!!
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43 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Alternative Way to Obtain the Box, December 15, 2004
By 
Rob C (Los Angeles, CA) - See all my reviews
I've noticed a lot of people are waiting and buying the Trilogy set because they want the box, but there's another way to get the box, the same box that comes with the Trilogy set. For people who bought the first two LOTR:SE and have just picked up the last SE, LOTR:ROTK, you'll find a mini fold out mail in rebate booklet that comes with it. Printed on the front cover of this booklet, you'll find an URL that offers the Trilogy box free, yes free, plus $3 for shipping and handling. For people who couldn't wait for the Trilogy set to come out, and knowing there's absolutely nothing different between buying the three LOTR:SE separately and buying Trilogy set, aside from the box, this information is nothing short of absolute joy.
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221 of 263 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars SIGN UP FOR *THIS* VERSION and tell the studio where to *STICK* the double-dip theatrical release version..., May 11, 2009
By 
JONATHAN MANKUTA (Hollywood, CA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy (The Fellowship of the Ring / The Two Towers / The Return of the King Extended Editions) [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
I am one of those buyers that love Blu-ray as a format, but have ZERO tolerance for double-dipping by the studios who have no respect for the average consumer...

Yes, I'd give a 5-star review for the films, but only for the best version of the films available, the extended cuts.

We all already have the extended cuts of the film on standard dvd, and all agree that it's WELL worth it to buy that version over the shorter theatrical versions...why would we DOWNGRADE from what we already own?

DO NOT BUY THE THEATRICAL RELEASE VERSION...!!!
Send a CLEAR MESSAGE to the studios that we're tired of this, and we the consumers are NOT going to deal with this type of behavior anymore...we will save our hard-earned money and hold out for the product we the consumers WANT...the extended cuts of the film on Blu-ray and nothing less...!!! And make no mistake folks, a little patience will go a long way to save YOU money, as just like the standard dvd releases, they WILL eventually release the extended cuts of the film on Blu-ray, but only AFTER they've milked the SUCKERS out of their money for those who must own "any" version of the film on blu-ray asap...but don't settle and don't be cheated...you work too hard for your money to spend it twice...hold out for the REAL VERSIONS of this film...only then maybe the studios will get our message loud and clear:

"WE ARE THE CONSUMERS, GIVE US WHAT WE WANT AND WE WILL GIVE YOU OUR MONEY, BUT TREAT US LIKE IDIOTS, AND YOU CAN INSERT THE DOUBLE-DIP THEATRICAL RELEASES WHERE THE SUN DOESN'T SHINE...! WE WANT THE EXTENDED CUTS OF LOTR AND WILL HOLD ONTO OUR CASH TIGHTLY UNTIL THEN...WE ARE *DONE* BEING FOOLS...PLEASE REMOVE YOUR FIST FROM OUR RECTUMS."

Now sign up to be notified of the release of the extended versions of these films...send the message clearly:
"WE'RE WAITING..."

thanks,
JONATHAN MANKUTA (TV/Film actor, voiceover artist, producer, comic geek)
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97 of 113 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The One Trilogy for you!!!, October 2, 2004
By 
Kungfuyu (Hacienda Heights, CA, United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Let me start out by saying Peter Jackson, Richard Taylor, Howard Shore, and the cast and crew have done real wizard magic by bringing the Lord of the Rings to the movie theaters. The Motion Picture Trilogy Theatrical Editions are must-have! None can understand the true splendor and extra work put into the Extended Editions of the trilogy without having the Theatrical Editions in their collection.

The 12-disc set contains all three Extended Editions of the Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King. Contents include:

The Fellowship of the Ring Special Extended DVD Edition Content Overview:

DISC 1-2: The Feature

FEATURE (approx. 208 minutes) - Unique version of the epic adventure with over 30 minutes of never-before-seen footage incorporated into the film and new music scored by Academy Award winning composer Howard Shore:

Widescreen (2.35:1) version of the Special Extended Edition

Dolby Digital EX 5.1 Surround Sound

DTS ES 6.1 Surround Sound

Stereo Surround Sound

Four audio commentaries by director and writers, the design team, the production team, and the cast featuring more than 30 participants including Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen and Academy Award winners Richard Taylor, Andrew Lesnie, Howard Shore, Jim Rygiel, Randy Cook, and many more

DISC 3-4: The Appendices

Two discs with hours of original content including multiple documentaries and design/photo galleries with thousands of images to give viewers an in-depth behind-the-scenes look at The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring:

DISC 3 - "From Book to Vision"

Adapting the book into a screenplay & planning the film

Designing and building Middle-earth

Storyboards to pre-visualization

Weta Workshop visit - An up-close look at the weapons, armor, creatures and miniatures from the film

Atlas of Middle-earth: Tracing the journey of the Fellowship

An interactive map of New Zealand highlighting the location scouting process

Galleries of art and slideshows with commentaries by the artists

Guided tour of the wardrobe department

Footage from early meetings, moving storyboards and pre-visualization reels

And much more!

DISC 4 - "From Vision to Reality"

Bringing the characters to life

A day in the life of a hobbit

Principal photography: Stories from the set

Scale: Creating the illusion of size

Galleries of behind-the-scenes photographs and personal cast photos

Editorial and visual effects multi-angle progressions

Sound design demonstration

And much more!

The Two Towers Special Extended DVD Edition Content Overview:

DISCS 1-2: The Feature

Feature (approx. 223 minutes)- Over 40 minutes of new and extended scenes

were added by Peter Jackson, including 200 new digital effects and new score by

Howard Shore:

Anamorphic widescreen 16x9 (2.35:1) version of the film

Dolby Digital EX Surround Sound

DTS ES 6.1

Stereo Surround

Four audio commentaries:

Audio Commentary 1: The Director and Writers

Peter Jackson (Director/Co-Writer/Producer)

Fran Walsh (Writer/Co-Producer)

Philippa Boyens (Co-Write)

Audio Commentary 2: The Design Team

Richard Taylor (WETA Workshop Creative Supervisor)

Tania Rodger (WETA Workshop Manager)

Grant Major (Production Designer)

Ngila Dickson (Costume Designer)

Alan Lee (Conceptual Designer)

John Howe (Conceptual Designer)

Dan Hennah (Supervising Art Director/Set Decorator)

Chris Hennah (Art Department Manager)

Audio Commentary 3: The Production/Post-Production Team

Barrie Osborne (Producer)

Mark Ordesky (Executive Producer)

Andrew Lesnie (Director of Photography)

Mike Horton and Jabez Olssen (Editors)

Rick Porras (Co-Producer)

Howard Shore (Composer)

Jim Rygiel (Visual Effects Supervisor)

Joe Letteri (WETA Digital Effects Supervisor)

Ethan Van der Ryn (Supervising Sound Editor/Co-Designer)

Mike Hopkins (Supervising Sound Editor)

Randy Cook (WETA Animation Designer & Supervisor)

Christian Rivers (WETA VFX Art Director)

Brian Van't Hull (WETA VFX Cinematographer)

Alex Funke (Miniatures Director of Photography)

Audio Commentary 4: The Cast

Elijah Wood (Frodo)

Liv Tyler (Arwen)

Sean Astin (Sam)

John Rhys-Davies (Gimli)

Billy Boyd (Pippin)

Dominic Monaghan (Merry)

Orlando Bloom (Legolas)

Christopher Lee (Saruman)

Sean Bean (Boromir)

Bernard Hill (Theoden)

Miranda Otto (Eowyn)

David Wenham (Faramir)

Brad Dourif (Grima)

Karl Urban (Eomer)

John Noble (Denethor)

DISCS 3-4 : The Appendices

Two discs of all-new bonus content, including multiple documentaries, galleries

and interactive maps. Documentaries that were started with The Lord of the Rings:

The Fellowship of the Ring Special Extended DVD Edition are continued here,

delving deep into the stories and experiences unique to The Two Towers.

DISCS 3 - The Appendices Part III: "The Journey Continues..."

J.R.R. Tolkien - Origins of Middle-earth (Video Documentary)

From Book to Script - Finding the Story (Video Documentary)

Designing and Building Middle-earth

Designing Middle-earth (Viedo Documentary)

Weta Workshop (Video Documentary)

Design Galleries

The Peoples of Middle-earth

The Realms of Middle-earth

Gollum

The Taming of Smeagol (Video Documentary)

Andy Serkis Animation Reference (Video Documentary)

Gollum "Stand-in" (Video Documentary)

Design Gallery

Middle-earth Atlas (Tracing the journeys of the Fellowship) (Interactive map)

New Zealand as Middle-earth (Interactive map)

DISC 4 - The Appendices Part IV: "The battle for Middle-earth begin..."

Filming "The Two Towers"

Warriors of Middle-earth (Video Documentary)

Cameras in Middle-earth (Video Documentary)

Production Photos

Visual Effects

Miniatures

"Big-atures" (Video Documentary)

Galleries

The Flooding of Isengard Animatic

Weta Digital (Video Documentary)

Abandoned Concepts

Editorial: Refining the Story (Video Documentary)

Music and Sound

Music for Middle-earth (Video Documentary)

The Soundscapes of Middle-earth (Video Documentary)

Sound Demonstration: "Helm's Deep"

"The Battle for Helm's Deep is over ..." (Video Documentary)

The Return of the King Special Extended DVD Edition Content Overiew:

DISCS 1-2: The Feature

FEATURE (approx. 250 minutes) - A new version of the final installment in the epic trilogy! The Academy-Award?winning film now has 50 minutes of never-before-seen footage incorporated into the film for this highly-anticipated video release: Widescreen (2.35:1) version of the Special Extended Edition

Dolby Digital EX 5.1 Surround Sound

DTS ES 6.1 Surround Sound

Stereo Surround Sound

English subtitles and closed captions

Spanish subtitles

Four audio commentaries by the director and writers, the design team, the production team and the cast featuring more than 30 participants including Peter Jackson, Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Orlando Bloom and Academy Award?winners Richard Taylor, Howard Shore, and many more.

Cast commentary also features dialogue between split-personality characters Gollum and Smeagol (Andy Serkis)!

DISCS 3-4: The Appendices

Two discs with hours of original content including multiple documentaries and design/photo galleries with thousands of images to give viewers an in-depth behind-the-scenes look at The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King::

THE APPENDICES PART V: "The War of the Ring"

Disc intro by director Peter Jackson

"J.R.R. Tolkien: The Legacy of Middle-earth" documentary

From Book to Script: "From Book to Script: Forging the Final Chapter" documentary

Abandoned Concept: Aragorn Battles Sauron

Designing and Building Middle-earth "Designing Middle-earth" documentary

"Big-atures" documentary

"Weta Workshop" documentary

"Costume Design" documentary

Design Galleries - 2,123 images The Peoples of Middle-earth (galleries with docent audio)

The Realms of Middle-earth (galleries with docent audio)

Miniatures (galleries with docent audio)

"Home of the Horse Lords" documentary

"Middle-earth Atlas: Tracing the Journeys of the Fellowship" interactive map

"New Zealand as Middle-earth" interactive map w/on-location footage

THE APPENDICES PART VI: "The Passing of an Age"

Disc intro by Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan

Filming The Return of the King "Cameras in Middle-earth" documentary

Production Photos (gallery) - 69 images

Visual Effects "Weta Digital" documentary

"The Mumakil Battle" demonstration / multi-angle interactive feature

Post Production: Journey's End "Editorial: Completing the Trilogy" documentary

"Music for Middle-earth" documentary

"The Soundscapes of Middle-earth" documentary

"The End of All Things" documentary

"The Passing of an Age" documentary

Cameron Duncan: The Inspiration for "Into the West" "Cameron Duncan: The Inspiration for 'Into the West'" documentary

"DFK6498" short film

"Strike Zone" short film
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mine. All Mine. My Precious., June 4, 2005
Certainly, if you're any kind of "Lord of the Rings" fan, you'll want these DVDs just for the extra scenes. They do an excellent job of fleshing out the story, filling in important details such as how Frodo gets the Phial of Galadriel or what happens to Saruman the Wizard. For those with serious time constraints, the six DVDs lend themselves handily to leisurely watching the movies one DVD at a time over six weekends. Or, of course, you can throw sanity to the wind and watch all of the nearly twelve hours in one, single, "ringathon" session.

About the only scene in the entire extended epic which I didn't much care for was the Mouth of Sauron; it was just plain creepy, and the way Aragorn dealt with the Mouth was out of character and differed too much from the book. But, the beauty of DVD players is that most come with fast-forward buttons, so no big deal.

However, the complete Extended Edition consists, not of six, but of twelve DVDs. Disks Three and Four for each movie are filled with extras: documentaries, interactive maps, still photos, and interactive videos. One of the latter allows you to go through a scene at Helm's Deep, and progressively add in different sound effects to a silent video until you get the finished result in the film. A similar video depicting the Műmakil battle in front of Minas Tirith allows you to progressively add in the special effects.

I have to say that, as excellent as the movies are, the extras are even more fascinating, if you can imagine such a thing. I've already been through all of the documentaries not once, but twice. Each DVD has, on average, about three hours of video, so I find that it takes me about six to eight weekends to work my way through the entire lot. If you're interested in the art of filmmaking, this material is an absolute must. It takes you through the entire process of adapting the novels to screenplays, storyboarding, animatics, on through production (the actual filming), pickup shots and post production: adding the special effects, sounds and music, and figuring out how to put it all together and what to leave out.

Collectively, these movies won 17 Academy Awards, with "Return of the King" alone tying "Ben Hur" and "Titanic" for 11, the most ever for a film. By the time you get through all the documentaries, you'll fully appreciate what a staggering accomplishment director Peter Jackson pulled off, and why he deserved every award he got. He could not have done it at all were it not for the shared vision of hundreds of fanatically dedicated workers working sometimes around the clock to make sure every detail was exactly right. It was a stroke of genius on Peter's part to recruit Alan Lee and John Howe, both of whom are well-known Tolkien artists. This allowed Peter to give the movies such an uncannily familiar look and feel. You look at the Golden Hall of Edoras and say "of course that's what Meduseld looked like! I knew it all along!"

It would be impossible to cover all of the extras, so I'll just focus on some of my favorites. At the start of Disk Three for each movie is a biographical section on Tolkien and the kind of things that inspired him to pen "The Lord of the Rings". There is a documentary on the various tricks used to take normal-sized actors and shrink them down to hobbit or dwarf size, and make it look utterly convincing. The bane of earlier fantasy films, such as "Willow", was their inability to portray realistic "little people". One technique, called "forced perspective", has been around at least since the 1950s, but Peter came up with an interesting new twist.

In the sections on adapting the books into the screenplays, they do an excellent job of explaining why they felt it necessary to depart from the books in some places, up to and including dropping whole sections, such as the scouring of the Shire. One major issue they had to deal with was how to introduce Arwen, who basically in the books just shows up for her wedding with Aragorn, and we have no idea who she is. They went so far as to try to portray her as a sort of warrior princess at Helms Deep, but then, thankfully, hit upon the idea of using flashbacks instead.

By far the best documentaries, in my opinion, are those which deal with Gollum. I can remember sitting in the theater at the start of "The Return of the King", watching as Gollum hid under the mountains ("we even forgot our own name!"), and thinking to myself: "I wonder if Andy Serkis really liked having his eyelashes plucked out," seeing how it didn't look like he had any. Only then did it occur to me that I was looking at a computer-generated character. It was so utterly convincing that I completely forgot. Now that's movie magic.

In the documentaries, we learn how Andy Serkis was initially brought in just to do the voice of Gollum, and to interact with Sam and Frodo in practice sessions before they would proceed to do the actual shoot talking to thin air. It didn't take Peter very long to figure out that it just looked better with Andy present. In post production they painted him over with the animated character. Also, his facial expressions as he said his lines were absolutely priceless. They actually redesigned Gollum to reflect this more accurately, which is why the few glimpses we get of him in "The Fellowship of the Ring" don't look quite right. Several times the documentaries show a split screen with Andy on one side, speaking his lines, and Gollum on the other; the resemblance is most startling. It's a shame Andy didn't get an award for his performance, but there wasn't any real category that could describe what he was doing. Was it acting? Voice acting? Something totally new?

Another thing which I came to appreciate was that, in undertaking such an enormous project spanning up to eight years, it really has to be fun. Peter Jackson made it fun. He has a wonderful sense of humor. He gave everyone free artistic rein, checking in on them from time to time to make sure everything was in line. They came to feel like family. Forget joining the circus. When I grow up, I want to work for a digital effects company!

Well, now that I've been through the extras, I'm probably due to actually watch the movies again, with an artist's eye to how it was done. Then I'll probably go through the extras once more. I can truthfully say that this is by far the greatest DVD production I've ever seen. I can only hope that Peter eventually gets permission to film "The Hobbit". The Middle Earth saga will not be complete without it, and it's impossible to imagine any other director doing it justice.

A final note: another thing which really strikes me about Peter Jackson is his compassion. Case in point: the inclusion of a special memorial documentary called "Cameron Duncan: The Inspiration for 'Into the West'". This tells the story of a very talented young man whom Peter, and indeed many of those working on "The Lord of the Rings", befriended. Cameron showed great promise as a filmmaker but, sadly, succumbed to cancer. One concern he expressed near the end was his fear of being forgotten. To paraphrase Peter: "He's on the DVD. He will not be forgotten."
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Peter Jackson's Magnum Opus, April 26, 2005
When I was a young lad growing up in a poverty stricken suburb of Melbourne Australia, rather than fall prey to the ravages of poverty, I sought escape and solace in books. The first books I read cover to cover were J.R.R Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy and since that day, and a few thousand books later, I find myself once again lost in Tolkien's magical world of Middle Earth.

I was, at first, somewhat skeptical about the possibility of transferring such an epic work of literature to film but after recently acquiring the LOTR DVD Extended version I must say that if ever a film version of a book can be considered to have done justice to a masterpiece of literature it is Peter Jackson's work on these films. It is truly Jackson's magnum opus.

Not only do the films do justice to Tolkien's books they actually manage to enhance them in a manner that almost appears predetermined or contrived. In just about every other instance where a movie has been based upon a book a travesty of the highest order has occurred. Perhaps with the possible exception of "All Quiet on the Western Front" and even here much detail and essential narration was sacrificed for the obvious time constraints and budgets of film studios. This is certainly not the case in relation to the film version of LOTR.

The many images I imagined or conjured up whilst reading the books as a naive pre-pubescent have been reproduced in an almost uncanny similarity on film. Of course the artistry of Alan Lee in the original books assisted in this process and has had an obvious influence on the film trilogy. No one is infallible of course and there are a few inconsistencies with the movie adaptation vis a vis the books. However, Jackson has more than compensated for these by embellishing such scenes as "The Lighting of the Beacons" which was an almost inconsequential part of the book but is a triumph of cinematic design, editing and musical composition in the film version.

For the younger IT savvy generation who may not have bothered to read the books, I would urge you to do so and then revisit the movies.

The extended DVD version of the LOTR movies are a must as the theatrical version was underdone to say the least. The extended footage serves to round out and deal much more comprehensively with the many characters in the stories and gives the whole trilogy a more balanced feel as well as being more consistent with Tolkien's books.

That such an outstanding adaptation of a literary piece de resistance can be so superbly recreated on film gives me great hope that other literary classics will soon be gracing our DVD players. One can only dare to dream about the film versions of Homer's The Iliad and The Odyssey. Not to mention Livy's The War with Hannibal. Were Peter Jackson to be given carte blanche from the Hollywood film studios and their enormous budgets the ubiquitous and often tedious medium of popular filmmaking would undergo an instant metamorphosis.

As I stated above, one can only dare to dream.
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