Warner Home Video is re-releasing the so-called “extended editions” of Peter
Jackson’s epic film adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien’s beloved
Lord of the Rings fantasy novel.
Actually the term “epic film” doesn’t quite do these
longer versions any justice. It is more like a TV mini-series than a trilogy
of blockbuster movies now, especially on the Blu-ray format. After all,
watching Lord of the Rings in this particular incarnation will now
take you 11 and a half hours!
Fellowship of the Ring (2001) is now 50 minutes
longer at 228 minutes; The Two Towers
(2002) 56 minutes longer; and Return of the
King (2003) now clocks in at a whopping 263 minutes – an hour and two
minutes longer than the 263 minutes version with its innumerable “now it’s
over” endings which already had cinema punters complaining of sore butts!
Watching the extended editions one had in effect gained a
whole extra movie clocking in at 168 minutes, a mere ten minutes shorter
than the first movie in the series!
Thinking of it this way and the film-makers’ almost
obsessive attention and devotion lavished upon Tolkien’s source novels
revealed in the many “making-of” featurettes on these discs it is easy to
understand how it came to be that director Peter Jackson has decided to
split Tolkien’s 384-page long Hobbit book into three movies (Hobbit
is about the length of the first novel in Tolkien’s trilogy).
(In case you didn’t know it,
The Hobbit will now be:
- The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, December 14, 2012
- The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, December 13, 2013
- The Hobbit: There and Back Again, July 18, 2014)
This isn’t corporate avarice: just a man who actually read
all the footnotes and wants to film them as well. It isn’t greed, but
exactness . . . (If you’re cynical I suppose one can accuse Jackson of
being creatively bankrupt: that he simply doesn’t have any ideas for other
projects, or maybe that the studio suits don’t want him to do anything
THE DISCS: These are the same discs that Warner
Home Video released last year as a single 15-disc box set. Now they have
been repackaged into three separate box sets of three discs each. Why they
have done this is unclear: buying the three new loose sets will cost you
more than last year’s single box set. Maybe in these economic trying times
they are aimed at people who can’t afford to buy the single set all at once
and want to split their purchases over three paychecks – who knows?
As stated previously each the movie is split over two Blu-ray
discs. They have been released in English 6.1 DTS-HD MA audio and include
the newest transfers which were remastered from the original 2k digital
The crapload of special features are spread over three DVD
– and not Blu-ray - discs (boo! hiss!) and therefore are not in HD.
Ironically this means that the Blu-ray discs containing the movies
themselves have no region coding and will play in any Blu-ray player, but
the special features discs are set to Region 1. Buyers with region
restricted players should beware. (Weirdly enough Warner Home Video
does not regionally encode their Blu-ray discs, which is admirable, but they
do their DVD releases. Go figure.)
WORTH IT? For more casual fans of the series, the
original versions of these movies will probably suffice. For hardcore fans
these are however probably the only versions worth having. These are the
same fans that will probably complain about the fact that each movie in the
series has been split over two Blu-ray discs. Yes, you’ll have to switch
discs to keep on watching, but those with the bladders of mere mortals will
be, ahem, relieved. To be honest I rewatched these so-called “extended
editions” the same way one would a TV mini-series, namely one disc a night
over the space of a week.
RECOMMENDATION: With the huge success of these
movies it is often easy to overlook what a huge gamble they were back in the
day. It was much larger than any project tackled by Jackson before and it
was a huge risk for the studios to lavish this much cash and time on the
director of The Frighteners and Heavenly Creatures – something
which the countless special features collected on the DVDs bring home again.
Even if you don’t count yourself as a Tolkien or fantasy
fan, the truth is that Jackson’s Lord of the Rings project was hugely
ambitious in its scope and largely successful in its aims.
These discs are must-haves for fans but before purchasing
they should decide whether their finances allow them to pick up these three
separate sets or last year’s (cheaper) box collection.