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The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (Blu-ray)

In case you've been in a coma for the past 10 years, Peter Jackson adapted the popular J.R.R. Tolkien novel with amazing results. Arguably, it's one of the greatest movie accomplishments of all time with 15 Academy Awards, over $1 billion in US box-office receipts, and nearly $3 billion worldwide.

Many fans are angry that Warner decided to release the theatrical versions instead of the extended director cuts, but Peter Jackson has stated publicly that these are the definitive versions of the films, not the extended cuts.

Even three years ago, there were many fans in the online community complaining about the look of these films, saying they heard Warner had applied DNR (digital noise reduction) to the nth degree and the studio was doing a disservice to one of the most popular trilogies of all time. I find it funny that none of these people actually saw what the studio was going to release when making their criticisms. Sadly, screenshots of the films started appearing online a few weeks ago showing various degrees of DNR, especially on Fellowship. The conclusion was that Warner screwed up—or did they?

A screenshot can be manipulated in Photoshop, so who's to say these images haven't been altered to suit a particular opinion? Furthermore, a screenshot is taking one frame of what's supposed to be a moving picture. As many readers know, film is shot at 24 frames per second (fps), so in a three-hour film, there are 259,200 frames to choose from. Surely someone with enough time on their hands can find a frame or two they can use as an example. But this is a motion picture, after all, so we should judge the video based upon how it looks in action, not a static image.

Video Highlights

The Fellowship of the Ring

  • VC-1/1080p encode on a BD-50 disc
  • Softest of the three films
  • Inconsistent facial textures
  • Strong black level
  • Excellent shadow detail
  • Adequate fine-object detail
The Two Towers
  • VC-1/1080p encode on a BD-50 disc
  • Improved detail over Fellowship
  • More consistent facial detail
  • Strong black level
  • Excellent shadow detail
The Return of the King
  • VC-1/1080p encode on a BD-50 disc
  • Best looking film of the three
  • Amazing detail in both close-ups and wide camera shots
  • Strong black level
  • Excellent shadow detail

Shockingly, the online screenshot scientists are wrong in their criticism of these films, in particular Fellowship. Does it look as good as the last two films? No. But it's older and has always looked a tad softer. I believe the cited DNR is a product of the Digital Intermediate (DI) stage and not a byproduct of the BD production. We don't have access to the original elements, but I find it hard to believe that Warner didn't put 100-percent effort into making this release look as good as it possibly could. Fans want perfect presentations, but that isn't always possible depending on the original elements. This is by far the best I've seen these films look.

Audio Highlights

The Fellowship of the Ring

  • DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack
  • Excellent dynamics
  • Clear and concise dialog
  • Strong LFE when appropriate
The Two Towers
  • DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack
  • Excellent dynamics
  • Clear and concise dialog
  • Excellent discrete effects, especially in the battle of Helm's Deep
The Return of the King
  • DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack
  • Amazing dynamics
  • Intelligible dialog
  • Plethora of discrete effects
  • 360-degree soundfield

There should be no complaints with the sound on any of these films. Each has its own demo moment or two, but The Return of the King is the best of the three.

Bonus Materials

The Fellowship of the Ring

  • Teaser and theatrical trailers (HD)
  • "The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn's Quest" video-game trailer (SD)
  • "The Lord of the Rings: War in the North" video-game trailer (HD)
  • Three behind-the-scenes documentaries
  • 15 Lord of the Rings.net featurettes
  • 6 TV commercials
  • Enya music video
  • Digital copy

The Two Towers

  • Teaser and theatrical trailers (HD)
  • "The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn's Quest" video-game trailer (SD)
  • "The Lord of the Rings: War in the North" video-game trailer (HD)
  • Two behind-the-scenes documentaries
  • "The Long and the Short of It" short film
  • The making of "The Long and the Short of it"
  • 8 Lord of the Rings.net featurettes
  • 16 TV commercials
  • Emiliana Torrini music video
  • Digital copy

The Return of the King

  • Teaser and theatrical trailers (HD)
  • "The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn's Quest" video-game trailer (SD)
  • "The Lord of the Rings: War in the North" video-game trailer (HD)
  • 3 documentaries
  • 6 Lord of the Rings.net featurettes
  • Digital copy

We'll eventually get the extended versions of these films on Blu-ray when The Hobbit finds its way to theaters, but in the meantime, we can enjoy Peter Jackson's masterpiece in full 1080p with lossless sound. Highly recommended.

Click here to email any comments or questions!

Release Date: April 6, 2010
Studio: Warner

The Fellowship of the Ring
Movie: 9/10
Picture: 8/10
Sound: 9/10

The Two Towers
Movie: 9/10
Picture: 9/10
Sound: 9/10

The Return of the King
Movie: 10/10
Picture: 9/10
Sound: 10/10

Review System

Source
Oppo BDP-83 Blu-ray player

Display
JVC DLA-RS1 projector
Stewart FireHawk screen (76.5" wide, 16:9)

Electronics
Onkyo Pro PR-SC885 pre/pro
Anthem PVA-7 power amplifier
Panamax M5400PM power conditioner

Speakers
M&K S-150s (L, C, R)
M&K SS-150s (LS, RS, SBL, SBR)
SVS PC-Ultra subwoofer

Cables
Monoprice HDMI cables (source to pre/pro)
Best Deal analog-audio cables
PureLink HDC Fiber Optic HDMI Cable System (15 meters) from pre/pro to projector

Acoustical treatments from GIK Acoustics

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