The Lord of the Rings Trilogy: Extended Editions (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 last year instead of the these extended director cuts, but Peter Jackson has stated publicly that the theatrical releases are the definitive versions of the films, not the extended cuts, but the fans want to see every minute of filmed footage come hell or high water.

The theatrical versions were mired in controversy due to the digital noise reduction (DNR) used on Fellowship of the Ring and while it didn't look as good as the sequels, it was the best it had looked. Not to be outdone, the online forums are burning up due to a color timing change on Fellowship that looks different than the previous home video releases. Much like the previous controversy, it's much ado about nothing. Yes it does look different, but not in a bad way with the exception of a couple of minutes out of a three-plus hour movie.

Video Highlights

The Fellowship of the Ring

  • AVC/1080p encode on a BD-50 disc
  • Improved detail over theatrical Blu-ray release
  • Facial textures not as waxy as theatrical BD release
  • Strong black level
  • Excellent shadow detail
  • Improved color saturation
  • A couple of troublesome scenes with cyan/green tint

The Two Towers
  • AVC/1080p encode on a BD-50 disc
  • Excellent detail
  • Strong black level
  • Revealing shadows
  • Almost dull compared to Fellowship's improved colors


The Return of the King
  • AVC/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

There's a vast improvement in the look of Fellowship< although there are a couple of scenes that look out of place (when the fellowship is ascending the mountain pass). The entire color palette is improved with striking greens and reds and I'm willing to take the good with the bad. The last two films look outstanding and despite the change from VC-1 to AVC, I couldn't find any glaring flaws with the video transfers.

Audio Highlights

  • DTS-HD MA 6.1 soundtracks
  • Enveloping track s
  • Pinpoint discrete effects from every direction
  • Chest-pounding bass
  • Intelligible dialog

The audio tracks on all three movies rock. The DTS-HD MA 6.1 soundtracks will test the prowess of your system with deep bass, pinpoint discrete effects, and encompassing sound design.

Bonus Materials
Disc 1 (Blu-ray):

  • The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Extended Edition Part 1
  • (HD)The Lord of the Rings: War in the North - The Untold Story Trailer
  • Commentary with Peter Jackson & the writing team
  • Commentary with the Design Team
  • Commentary with the Production and Post Production team
  • Commentary with the Cast
  • BD-Live enabled
Disc 2 (Blu-ray):
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Extended Edition Part 2
  • Commentary with Peter Jackson & the writing team
  • Commentary with the Design Team
  • Commentary with the Production and Post Production team
  • Commentary with the Cast
  • BD-Live enabled
Disc 3 (DVD):
  • The Appendices Part 1 From Book to Vision
  • Peter Jackson Introduction
  • JRR Tolkien: Creator of Middle-Earth
  • From Book To Script
  • Visualizing the Story
  • Designing and Building Middle-Earth
  • Middle-Earth Atlas
  • New Zealand as Middle-Earth
Disc 4 (DVD):
  • The Appendices Part Two - From Vision to Reality
  • Elijah Wood Introduction
  • Filming The Fellowship of the Ring
  • Visual Effects
  • Post Production: Putting It All Together
  • Digital Grading
  • Sound and Music
  • The Road Goes Ever On…
Disc 5 (DVD):
  • Behind-the-Scenes Documentary Created by Filmmaker
  • Costa Botes during filming of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring – 85 minutes
Disc 6 (Blu-ray):
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Extended Edition Part 1
  • (HD)The Lord of the Rings: War in the North - The Untold Story Trailer
  • Commentary with Peter Jackson & the writing team
  • Commentary with the Design Team
  • Commentary with the Production and Post Production team
  • Commentary with the Cast
  • BD-Live enabled
Disc 7 (Blu-ray):
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Extended Edition Part 2
  • Commentary with Peter Jackson & the writing team
  • Commentary with the Design Team
  • Commentary with the Production and Post Production team
  • Commentary with the Cast
  • BD-Live enabled
Disc 8 (DVD):
  • The Appendices Part 3: The Journey Continues
  • Peter Jackson Introduction
  • JRR Tolkien: Origin of Middle-Earth
  • From Book to Script: Finding the Story
  • Designing and Building Middle-Earth
  • Gollum
  • Middle-Earth Atlas - Interactive feature
  • New Zealand as Middle-Earth
Disc 9 (DVD):
  • The Appendices Part 4: The Battle for Middle-Earth
  • Elijah Wood Introduction
  • Filming The Two Towers
  • Visual Effects – 54 minutes
  • Editorial: Refining the Story
  • Music and Sound
  • The Battle for Helm's Deep is Over…
Disc 10 (DVD):
  • Behind-the-Scenes Documentary Created by Filmmaker Costa Botes during filming of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Disc 11 (Blu-ray):
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Extended Edition Part 1
  • (HD)The Lord of the Rings: War in the North - The Untold Story Trailer
  • Commentary with Peter Jackson & the writing team
  • Commentary with the Design Team
  • Commentary with the Production and Post Production team
  • Commentary with the Cast
  • BD-Live enabled
Disc 12 (Blu-ray):
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Extended Edition Part 2
  • Commentary with Peter Jackson & the writing team
  • Commentary with the Design Team
  • Commentary with the Production and Post Production team
  • Commentary with the Cast
  • BD-Live enabled
Disc 13 (DVD):
  • The Appendices Part 5: The War of the Ring
  • Peter Jackson Introduction
  • JRR Tolkien: The Legacy of Middle-Earth
  • From Book to Script
  • Designing and Building Middle-Earth
  • Home of the Horse Lords
  • Middle-Earth Atlas
  • New Zealand as Middle-Earth
Disc 14 (DVD):
  • The Appendices Part 6: The Passing of an Age
  • Introduction
  • Filming The Return of the King
  • Visual Effects
  • Post-Production: Journey’s End
  • The Passing of an Age
  • Cameron Duncan: The Inspiration for Into the West
Disc 15 (DVD):
  • Behind-the-Scenes Documentary Created by Filmmaker Costa Botes during filming of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King – 113 minutes
  • Digital Copy: Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, Return of the King

Some may lament that the films were each spread over two discs, but I applaud the decision by Warner to do this. This provides enough head room to have outstanding video encodes and to include each of the commentaries without sacrificing audio/video quality. I go back and forth on which version of the films I like and am happy to have both in my collection. Hopefully we'll see both versions in one set someday utilizing seamless branching and have all of the supplements in HD. Highly recommended.

Release Date: June 28, 2011
Studio: New Line/Warner

The Fellowship of the Ring
Movie: 9/10
Picture: 8.5/10
Sound: 10/10

The Two Towers
Movie: 9/10
Picture: 9.5/10
Sound: 10/10

The Return of the King
Movie: 10/10
Picture: 9.5/10
Sound: 10/10

Review System

Source
Oppo BDP-93 Blu-ray player

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

Electronics
Integra DTC-80.2 pre/pro
Anthem PVA-7 power amplifier
Belkin PVA-PF60 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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COMMENTS
Peter Headland's picture

David,

In future, please stick to reviewing the film and avoid patronising your readers. I found highly subjective and provocative (aka trolling) remarks like "the fans want to see every minute of filmed footage come hell or high water" and "like the previous controversy, it's much ado about nothing" an unwelcome distraction from the informational content of the review.

Many people had perfectly legitimate issues and objections to the original Blu Ray release; using your pulpit here to trivialize those people's views comes across as a cheap shot. If you really think your opinions on what people are saying about this release on forums are vital to a review, a more neutral tone would be appreciated.

David Vaughn's picture

Peter,

I feel my remarks regarding the forums are legitimate in the sense that people were angry that "Fellowship" wasn't as sharp as the other two films, which was true, but that was due to technological changes that happened after the first film was completed. As for the comments regarding the extended versions and the color timing, it's my opinion and I always put that in my reviews. Many of the comments that were online regarding the color timing were made by people who hadn't seen the Blu-ray's yet and now that they've seen them, they've backed off their comments (at least at Blu-ray.com and AVS). Jackson has come out and stated that they look like he wanted them to, which is why I stated it was "much ado about nothing." Judging the look of a film based upon 1/24 of a second of a 3+ hour film is silly (in my humble opinion).

My intent wasn't to patronize the readers in any way, shape, or form. I was commenting on how an uproar started about this release before most people got a chance to look at the films. If you were one who was not happy with the color timing being changed, I would love to hear your opinion after you view "Fellowship" and let me know what you think. Initially, I was worried based upon the screenshots I saw, but after watching the movies in motion I realized it wasn't that bad at all.

uavmatthewweflen's picture

I was slightly worried when I saw all the hubbub on forums regarding a "green tint" issue. But instead of canceling my order, I calmed down and said to myself "you can't judge a film transfer from screenshots alone, and youtube videos are generally baloney."

Boy, was I ever glad my cooler side prevailed. On a properly calibrated TV (i.e. something close to 6500k, and with the brightness/gamma set properly) the EE Blu-Rays solidly trounce both the theatrical BD and EE DVD set in all respects, *including* color. The colors on the EE DVD ran really hot in the Shire and Rivendell scenes. With the new color timing, flesh tones are realistic, skies are blue, grass is green, and all is right with the world. I never once thought to myself that things looked "off" or unnatural when I watched FOTR. The detail levels, especially near black, are superb - easily competitive with the top tier of Blu-Ray transfers today.

I think a lot of the complaining is coming from people running their sets too cool and with black crushing "enhancements" turned on.

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