QUICK THOUGHTS: Over at Amazon this trilogy set is the best-selling new title of the week (not as if it has a lot of competition). Yet I can’t help but wonder how many people out there are pining for the extended editions of the much loved film trilogy compared to how many will simply be satisfied with this initial release of the theatrical editions.
If anything, the fact Blu-ray can hold a much longer film than its DVD counterpart on one disc and in high definition means the extended editions, once they are released, will likely be featured on one disc rather than their current two-disc DVD editions, which will likely be the immediate benefit after the improved picture and audio. On top of that, one would suspect Warner Home Video would also likely release the massive amount of special features in high-definition rather than the limited selection available here in standard definition on three separate DVD discs.
However, the big question is how do the films look? In watching Fellowship of the Ring there is an immediate recognition of the softness of Frodo’s skin (as well as some of the other hobbits) in particular. This is often the case of digital scrubbing, but to my eyes the rest of the film isn’t affected to such an extent and as you watch the movies moving to The Two Towers and then Return of the King there is no evidence of this. As a matter of fact, the image quality rises several notches with Two Towers and a little more with Return of the King.
After a peek at my DVD copy of Fellowship of the Ring I still notice a softness in Elijah Wood’s face, but it doesn’t look as dramatic as it does here. There are two options here, the first being there was simply too much makeup applied to Wood during the shooting of the first film and the HD image makes it that much more noticeable, or the print Warner was working with was lacking and tweaking was assumed to be necessary. Frodo, in particular, looks especially odd in the first film, but no such problem in the others. Why would Warner scrub the first film, but leave the others intact? It doesn’t make sense to me, which is why I’m willing to leave open my “option one” above, though the reviewer at Blu-ray.com is much harsher on the transfer of the first film than I am, though we both agree on the two sequels.
Another quibble Blu-ray.com’s Kenneth Brown has with the first transfer is a claim of noticeable edge enhancement. I couldn’t help but wonder if there was edge enhancement or it was simply a case of the massive amount of green screen work on this film being dramatically more noticeable in high definition. I honestly believe it is the latter in this case as much of the green screen work is quite glaring throughout the trilogy, even more than it was the first time around. However, on Blu-ray, even the first film is a noticeable improvement over the DVD releases, despite the distractions mentioned, and once you get to Two Towers and Return of the King there’s nothing to complain about.
SUPPLEMENTS: As I mentioned already, the special features are pretty much a bust as this thing comes with the films on their own individual Blu-ray discs with mere HD trailers as the lone HD supplements. They each have a second DVD disc with a handful of features each in which nothing new is brought to the table. In my estimation no one is going to be buying this set for the special features so it hardly matters as this set is most likely serving as a place holder until the anticipated more extravagant set is released in the unknown future.
Also included is a second package containing digital copies of each film, a pointless inclusion in my world, but perhaps you can find some use of them.
CONCLUSION: Honestly, I wouldn’t recommend this set to anyone. Even if you prefer the theatrical editions over the extended cuts I think it is best to wait, especially since Warner is likely to hear the complaints about the look of Fellowship of the Ring and improve on it for the next release, which will most likely have the extended cuts of the film and hopefully all (or at least most) of the features available in high definition.
As is, this set is merely a place holder on your shelf for that next set so why spend the money when you most likely already own the theatrical or even extended cuts when you are probably a person that will be just as tempted to buy the extended versions on Blu-ray once they are released? Save your cash, you’ll be happy you did.