Blu-ray and DVD Reviews

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Special Extended Edition)

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Movie Rating:
9 out of 10
Extras Rating:
10 out of 10
Movie Details:
View here

Starring:
Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins
Ian McKellen as Gandalf
Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn aka Strider
Sean Astin as Samwise 'Sam' Gamgee
Liv Tyler as Arwen Undómiel
Cate Blanchett as Galadriel
John Rhys-Davies as Gimli
Billy Boyd as Peregrin 'Pippin' Took
Dominic Monaghan as Meriadoc 'Merry' Brandybuck
Orlando Bloom as Legolas Greenleaf
Hugo Weaving as Elrond
Sean Bean as Boromir
Ian Holm as Bilbo Baggins
Andy Serkis as Sméagol/Gollum
Christopher Lee as Saruman

Special Features:
Discs 1 & 2
- Special Extended Edition of the Film
- Four Feature Length Commentaries by the director and writers, the cast, the production and design teams, with more than 30 participants including Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Richard Taylor, Andrew Lesnie, Howard Shore, Jim Rygiel and Randy Cook, and cast including Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Sean Astin, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee and Sean Bean.

Disc 3
- Six documentaries covering J.R.R. Tolkien, the process of adapting the book into a screenplay and planning the film, designing and building Middle-earth, as well as a visit to the Weta Workshop with an up close look at the costumes, weapons, armor, creatures and miniatures created for the film.
- An interactive map of Middle-earth tracing the journey of the Fellowship.
- Galleries of art and accompanying slide shows with commentaries by the artists (includes an archive of nearly 2,000 images).
- Storyboards and previsualization sequences with film comparisons.

Disc 4
- 11 original documentaries covering the cast, principal photography, a day in the life of a hobbit, visual effects, postproduction, editing, music and sound and the release of the film.
- Galleries of behind-the-scenes photographs.

Other Info:
Widescreen
Running Time: 208 Mins.
Dolby Digital EX 5.1 Surround Sound
DTS ES 6.1 Surround Sound
English Subtitles

Synopsis:
This version of the movie is a special edition featuring 30 minutes of new and extended scenes (including all new music) put back into the theatrical edition by Peter Jackson.

Based on the classic J.R.R. Tolkien novel, "The Fellowship of the Ring" is the first in a trilogy of films. Middle Earth is a world inhabited by humans, elves, dwarves, orcs, goblins, and a host of other mystical creatures. This world was once devastated thousands of years earlier by Sauron, an evil being who created a magical ring that helped him take over Middle Earth. After being defeated, his ring was lost and forgotten.

By chance, the lost "One Ring" ends up in the possession of Bilbo Baggins, a short man-like being called a Hobbit. Unfortunately, the power of the ring has slowly begun to warp Bilbo. At the urging of his old wizard friend Gandalf, he leaves his hometown behind and the ring in the possession of his young nephew Frodo.

The ring, with a magical will of its own, calls out to its recently resurrected master Sauron. He sends Ringwraiths out to retrieve the One Ring. Gandalf warns Frodo of the approaching danger, and Frodo soon finds himself on the run along with his friends Sam, Merry, and Pippin. They take the ring to a council for safekeeping.

The council decides that the ring must be destroyed in the fires of Mt. Doom in Mordor. A group of nine humans, elves, dwarves, and hobbits are formed to go on the quest to destroy the ring. Thus, the Fellowship of the Ring is created. Led by Gandalf, they are pursued by orcs, trolls, and a rogue wizard named Saruman. It is a long and dangerous journey that some of the Fellowship will not survive.

This film is rated PG-13 for epic battle sequences and some scary images.

The Movie:
The Special Extended Edition DVD adds back in 30 minutes of new and extended scenes. They are sprinkled here and there throughout the movie. Some will pass you by and you won't notice. Others are major changes to the storyline. However, all will please the LOTR fans.

The opening scene of the movie contains one of the new scenes. We see a different synopsis of the first battle with Sauron and how the king got the One Ring. It then leads into your first look at Bilbo and Hobbiton. We see Bilbo writing his book and we are given a quick look around Hobbiton. It's rather amusing and gives a much better perspective of the simple life there. You get a greater appreciation for the set they built there as well.

Another scene shows Sam and Frodo watching the elves walking through the woods on their journey to leave the land. This becomes even more important to the story as you'll see in The Two Towers. The Council of Elrond is greatly expanded with much more emphasis on Boromir's desire to use the ring himself.

Several of the scenes that were deleted center around Aragorn. Not only do we learn more about his love for Arwen (and we hear his song about her), but there are more scenes emphasizing the fact that he's the long lost heir of the king and the rightful ruler of Gondor. You also learn that he was raised by the Elves to lead mankind. Again, these points become more important in the later movies.

Other scenes from the book that were cut from the movie re-appear in this extended edition as well. The most notable is Galadriel giving the Fellowship their gifts. Sam is given a rope, Frodo a vial of light, Gimli strands of her hair, and other items. Most of these gifts become very important to the plot in The Two Towers and The Return of the King. It's nice to have them back in the DVD.

There are some additional scenes added to the action in the Mines of Moria. There is much more peril involved with the Cave Troll and with Gimli in particular getting the worse end of the attack. I was rather surprised that these quick scenes were cut out.

These are just a small taste of the more memorable additions. They fit in seamlessly with the original movie and they greatly expand on the plot while satisfying fans that wanted to see less from the book cut out.

The movie looks and sounds stunning on the home theater system. It's nice to sit down and watch it in the perfect movie-viewing environment without a theater screwing up the projection or people talking through the film. I'm particularly glad that I waited to purchase this version of the movie. The wait was worth it.

The Extras:
I bought this movie upon its release back in November. I was determined to watch everything on it before posting a review online. So here I am weeks later ready to review it. It has taken me this long to thoroughly go through everything. If a DVD ever gave you more bang for your buck, this is it. You'll be entertained for weeks with this one.

What this DVD lacks in flash and style it more than made up for in content. While other DVDs try to dazzle you with fancy animated menus, silly games, and features without substance, this one gets straight to the content. I've never seen a DVD so thorough in covering every aspect of the making of a film. (And from what I've been told by the DVD makers, they still had more to put on it that they couldn't fit.) What's particularly cool is that it takes the most mundane aspect of filmmaking and makes it interesting. You won't want to skip a single one of the extra features. When they make an interesting documentary on editing, you know you've got something unique.

In my reviews I normally talk a little bit about every single extra feature on the DVD. To do that here is just too difficult a task. There is so incredibly much on this DVD that this review would go on for pages if I tried to cover everything. About all I can do is give you some general comments on the overall presentation.

After watching all of the extras, you'll come to realize two things. Peter Jackson is a creative genius and by all rights he should be dead after working so hard on this film. He's absolutely everywhere in the creative process. From initially designing the film to scoring it to screening it in New Zealand, the man is everywhere. You really see how he has a wonderful creative eye and you get a sense of how he lets people do what they do best without letting his ego get in the way. It's unusual to see everyone be so universally complimentary of a director. It's also impressive to see how he had an eye towards the making of the DVD in the earliest stages of production. In one documentary while scouting the location for Hobbiton, you can hear him in the background with a video camera saying, "Here's a shot for the DVD!" I think that foresight is the main reason this DVD is so good.

The cast interviews are first rate and they all seem to genuinely love the movie and enjoy each other's company. Again, that's another unusual thing to see in the movie business and it's a refreshing change. The cast has some funny stories. One memorable one is about Orlando Bloom repeatedly tipping over his canoe. Another is about Sean Astin's great concern for the helicopters and his foot injury while filming a scene. They all sounded like they were having a blast making the movie.

The features on the special effects are really cool. You get a glimpse at the creation of all the creatures. I was particularly impressed with the feature describing how they made the full sized actors look Hobbit-sized for the movie. You wouldn't believe how simple some of the tricks are while others are quite complex. It's a highlight of the extras. Another segment on the animatics and the digital sets are also pretty cool. A documentary on the miniature sets proves that CG still hasn't replaced some of the traditional effects techniques.

The art galleries were also particularly well presented. Rather than having dozens of still images on the screen, you could hit a button on some of them and have the artists provide commentary on what you were seeing. It's such an interesting way of showing them and the audio is really interesting.

Other features include a particularly informative documentary on Tolkien, a map of Middle Earth detailing the Fellowship's journey, a day in the life of a Hobbit, and more. It's all very much worth taking the time to check out.

There are four commentaries on the DVD and all of them are fun to listen to. In fact, they're probably the best I've heard on DVD to date. The commentary with almost the entire cast is a lot of fun with them sitting around telling stories about filming. You quickly get the impression that they have really good senses of their characters as they relate bits of information about their dialogue and performances. Peter Jackson's commentary is also one not to miss. He talks about why scenes were deleted from the film, details about the technical challenges of the shots, trivia about the script, and stories from the set. His comments are some of the most all around informative.

Also, look for two Easter Eggs on the DVD. One is a preview for The Two Towers and another is a LOTR spoof that was shown on the 2002 MTV Movie Awards featuring Jack Black and Sarah Michelle Gellar. Peter Jackson himself introduces both Easter Eggs.

I've just barely touched on the extras, but hopefully I've expressed at just how blown away I was at the content. This is the way I'd like to see more movies presented on DVD. I can't wait to see what they do for "The Two Towers".

The Bottom Line:
This is easily the best DVD of 2002. It's a required addition to your collection.

Order this DVD @ Amazon

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