The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Theatrical and Extended Limited Edition, Limited Edition
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The Award-winning $1 billion dollar franchise is revisited with three new 2-disc limited editions. Each DVD features the theatrical and extended versions of the film and a new documentary. Filmmaker Costa Botes, who was personally selected by Peter Jackson, created three ground-breaking documentaries using rare behind-the-scenes footage.
Documentaries:Never-before-seen behind-the-scenes documentary by Costa Botes, the filmmaker director Peter Jackson personally hired (85 minutes)
Other:Part I - 106 minutes (Extended); 93 minutes (Theatrical) Part II - 122 minutes (Extended); 86 minutes (Theatrical)
Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings films gave "double-dipping"--releasing a DVD then releasing an improved version shortly afterward--a good name by offering both a better film and stupendous extras in the Extended Editions. This "triple-dip" 2006 Limited Edition falls far short of that standard but is still of interest to devoted and casual fans.
What do you get?
Both the theatrical and extended versions of The Fellowship of the Ring are on one double-sided disc. The versions use seamless branching, meaning that the scenes that are common to both versions are stored on the disc only once. If you choose to watch the extended version, the disc "branches" out to the added or extended scenes. What does this mean to the viewer? Not much. The viewing experience is the same because the branching is imperceptible. But because both versions of the film don't have to be stored on the disc in their entirety (which would be six and half hours total), both versions together fit on two sides of one disc. The downside is that whichever version you watch, you have to flip over the disc halfway through; the film breaks at the same spot it did on the Extended Edition, right after the council at Rivendell. Also lost are the meager features included on the theatrical edition, plus the four commentary tracks, two discs of bonus features, and DTS 6.1 ES sound from the four-disc Extended Edition.
The second disc has an 85-minute documentary directed by Costa Botes, who was personally selected by Peter Jackson. Rather than the formal documentary structure of other editions, it consists of off-the-cuff interviews with Peter Jackson, Alan Lee, and others, and random bits of behind-the-scenes action and special-effects work. Those who have worked their way through the many hours of bonus content on the other editions might recognize some of this footage, such as the Hobbit actors mocking whichever of them is not around, then greeting him warmly when he shows up. Other things--Liv Tyler riding a fake horse, a snowfall during shooting, interviewing the rank-and-file cast members, touring Peter Jackson's trailer--seem new. And some bits seem geared to those who've watched the other material--for example, some of the visual tricks explained there are only glimpsed without explanation here. It's entertaining, but because there's no structure (there are chapters, but no menu or chapter listing), it's not as convenient to watch, and go back to, as a documentary broken up into bite-size pieces. Oddly, the documentary is in widescreen, but not anamorphically enhanced for widescreen TVs. Note: New Line Home Entertainment couldn't release this material on its own a là the King Kong Production Diaries due to contractual restrictions.
Bottom line: Do you need this edition?
This Limited Edition combination of theatrical and extended versions plus new documentary seems likely to appeal to two camps. One is the devoted fan, who already owns both editions but has to have everything LOTR. The other is the casual fan who liked the movie in theaters, heard good things about the Extended Edition, and doesn't need a ton of bonus material. This edition is attractively priced for that buyer, and the packaging is quite handsome. In between is the devoted fan who already owns both editions but doesn't feel the need to watch more bonus material. When watching the whole movie, that fan will always choose the Extended Edition, but keeps the theatrical edition for (1) watching with guests, (2) the music video, or (3) the convenience of skimming through favorite scenes without having to change discs. That fan can safely skip this edition, as can home-theater fans who love DTS. --David Horiuchi
- Disc 1 will present the Special Extended DVD Edition of the film split into two parts (on two sides of a DVD-18) at the break point of the initial DVD release. The Theatrical version will also be split into two parts (on two sides of a DVD-18) available through seamless branching.
- Never-before-seen behind-the-scenes documentary by Costa Botes, the filmmaker director Peter Jackson personally hired (109 minutes)
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A lot of effort when into the details of this thing, from the nicely textured box, to the hours of documentaries and special features. The box feels good in the hand, and looks almost like a thick book. It looks good on any shelf. But what makes this addition really special is the extra footage in the film. God knows how many hours were filmed for this series. The theatrical version of the Fellowship of the Ring was just under three hours at 178 minutes. This extended addition adds 30 minutes of added and extended scenes. Even at that, there's still a lot left out from the book, but the overall effect is a more complete telling of this epic tale.
I was deeply impressed with the level of quality in the additional scenes. They were produced to just the same standards as the rest of this award-winning film. The editing, the special effects, and direction were all so smooth that I had a hard time noticing where new scenes blended in with ones from the theatrical release.
The extra features are nice for those who like that sort of thing. The "making of" film was quite fascinating. This film was a monumental undertaking, and it is genuinely interesting to see how it all came together. Numerous other documentaries look into specific aspects of the film making process. Still, this would have been worth it to me for the extra footage alone. Truly an edition that no LOTR fanboy/girl/hobbit should be without.
Since it was created by a talented but weird director (who specialized in cult horror) and based on a book that had never been successfully adapted even in part, no one was entirely sure whether it would bomb or succeed. Fortunately, "Fellowship" turned out to be smashing cinematic success -- both financially and artistically.
When hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm) leaves the Shire, the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) convinces him to leave his treasured magical Ring to his young cousin Frodo (Elijah Wood). Gandalf soon confirms that the Ring is the evil One Ring of the Dark Lord Sauron, and tells the frightened Frodo to leave the Shire as soon as possible -- especially since nine dark riders are searching for someone by the name of Baggins.
Frodo, his faithful gardener Sam (Sean Astin) and his two mischievous cousins (Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd) quickly travel to meet with a strange ranger, and stumble into more dangers as they make for the Elven haven of Rivendell. But Frodo's journey is not over yet -- when he and a band of hobbits, Men, Elves, Dwarves and a wizard all volunteer to take the Ring to the only place where it can be destroyed.
For a long time, a convincing "Lord of the Rings" movie could not be made -- not just because of special effects and money, but because it is so difficult to translate Tolkien's work into something watchable. Goofy scripting, bad special effects, mutilated characters -- there was just so much that could go wrong.
So it's even more of a credit to Jackson and Co. that they outdid themselves. They translated Tolkien's erudite prose into solid, poetic dialogue, with lots of humor and horror, romance and taut action. And it all takes place in the New Zealand landscapes, with lots of misty forests, towering mountains and charming rural villages. And Jackson takes full advantage of these, with his trademarked swooping shots, and wild camerawork for fight scenes.
But the setting alone doesn't make a good movie, which is where Jackson's WETA Workshops came in. Sets range from the sturdy English hobbit towns to the airy elven tree-houses; and the special effects are almost shockingly realistic, including a rampaging cave troll, and a glimpse of the gruesome Gollum. He's the first fully convincing CGI character, and you can forget he is made digitally.
Elijah Wood is outstanding as Frodo Baggins. He runs the emotional gamut: fear, pain, horror, happiness, resignation, love and loneliness. Sean Astin is equally good as the steadfast Sam, who is amazed by the world outside the Shire. And some comic relief comes with Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd, as Frodo's loyal, chipper cousins.
But as lovable as the hobbits are, they do not dominate all of the screen: Ian McKellen is perfect as the grandfatherly wizard Gandalf. There are also some meaty roles for mysterious Viggo Mortensen, elfin newcomer Orlando Bloom, ominous movie veteran Christopher Lee, as well as Hugo Weaving, Liv Tyler, John Rhys-Davies, and especially Sean Bean as the tormented Boromir.
"The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" is a true modern classic, with exceptional acting and amazing direction from Jackson and his friends. Absolutely stunning in every way.