Release Date(s)2001 (November 12, 2002)
Studio(s)WingNut Films/Saul Zaentz/New Line Cinema (New Line)
Disc One: The Film – Extended Edition, Part I
Part I – 105 mins (approx 228 mins total – includes 20 min fan club credit roll on Disc Two), PG-13, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 47:15, in chapter 12), custom slipcase with fold-out “Digipack” packaging, production sketches, audio commentary (with the director Peter Jackson and writers Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens), audio commentary (with design team members Grant Major, Ngila Dickson, Richard Taylor, Alan Lee, John Howe, Dan Hennah, Chris Hennah and Tania Rodger), audio commentary (with production and post-production team members Barrie Osborne, Mark Ordesky, Andrew Lesnie, John Gilbert, Rick Porras, Howard Shore, Jim Rygiel, Ethan Van der Ryn, Mike Hopkins, Randy Cook, Christian Rivers, Brian Van’t Hull and Alex Funke), audio commentary (with cast members Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Sean Astin, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee and Sean Bean), 12-page booklet, Easter egg, animated film-themed menus with sound and music, scene access (28 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 EX, DTS 6.1 ES & DD 2.0 Surround), subtitles: English, Closed Captioned
Disc Two: The Film – Extended Edition, Part II
Part II – 123 mins (approx 228 mins total – includes 20 min fan club credit roll on Disc Two), PG-13, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 54:35, at the start of chapter 12), audio commentary (with the director Peter Jackson and writers Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens), audio commentary (with design team members Grant Major, Ngila Dickson, Richard Taylor, Alan Lee, John Howe, Dan Hennah, Chris Hennah and Tania Rodger), audio commentary (with production and post-production team members Barrie Osborne, Mark Ordesky, Andrew Lesnie, John Gilbert, Rick Porras, Howard Shore, Jim Rygiel, Ethan Van der Ryn, Mike Hopkins, Randy Cook, Christian Rivers, Brian Van’t Hull and Alex Funke), audio commentary (with cast members Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Sean Astin, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee and Sean Bean), Easter egg, animated film-themed menus with sound and music, scene access (22 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 EX, DTS 6.1 ES & DD 2.0 Surround), subtitles: English, Closed Captioned
Disc Three: The Appendices, Part I – From Book to Vision
Peter Jackson introduction (1 min, 16x9, DD 2.0), J.R.R. Tolkien: Creator of Middle Earth featurette (22 mins, 16x9, DD 2.0), From Book to Script featurette (20 mins, 16x9, DD 2.0), Storyboards and Pre-Viz: Making Words into Images featurette (20 mins, 16x9, DD 2.0), 3 early storyboards (Prologue, Orc Pursuit into Lothlorian and Sarn Gebir Rapids Chase – 11 mins total, 16x9, DD 2.0), 2 pre-viz animatics (Gandalf Rides to Orthanc and The Stairs of Khazad-Düm – 3 mins total, 16x9, DD 2.0), multi-angle storyboard-to-film comparison (Nazgul Attack at Bree – 2 mins, 16x9, DD 2.0), multi-angle pre-viz-to-film comparison (Bridge of Khazad-Düm – 2 mins, 16x9, DD 2.0), Bag End Set Test (6 mins, 16x9, DD 2.0), Designing Middle-Earth documentary (41 mins, 16x9, DD 2.0), Weta Workshop documentary (43 mins, 16x9, DD 2.0), Costume Design featurette (12 mins, 16x9, DD 2.0), 19 production design galleries (on the peoples and realms of Middle-Earth), interactive Middle-Earth Atlas (16x9, DD 2.0), interactive New Zealand as Middle-Earth map with location video (8 mins total, 16x9, DD 2.0), DVD credits, help text, “play all” feature, disc index, DVD-ROM features (including weblinks), animated film-themed menus with sound and music
Disc Four: The Appendices, Part II – From Vision to Reality
Elijah Wood introduction (1 min, 16x9, DD 2.0), The Fellowship of the Cast documentary (35 mins, 16x9, DD 2.0), A Day in the Life of a Hobbit featurette (13 mins, 16x9, DD 2.0), Cameras in Middle-Earth documentary (50 mins, 16x9, DD 2.0), production photo gallery, Scale featurette (15 mins, 16x9, DD 2.0), Big-atures featurette (16 mins, 16x9, DD 2.0), 6 big-atures galleries, WETA Digital featurette (25 mins, 16x9, DD 2.0), Editorial: Assembling an Epic featurette (13 mins, 16x9, DD 2.0), multi-angle editorial demonstration (Council of Elrond – 1 min, 16x9, DD 2.0), Digital Grading featurette (12 mins, 16x9, DD 2.0), The Soundscapes of Middle-Earth featurette (13 mins, 16x9, DD 2.0), Music for Middle-Earth featurette (12 mins, 16x9, DD 2.0), The Road Goes Ever On... featurette (7 mins, 16x9, DD 2.0), DVD credits, help text, “play all” feature, disc index, DVD-ROM features (including weblinks), animated film-themed menus with sound and music
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: A+
Part Two – Supplemental Material
So we’ve looked at the film itself, and the presentation quality and extras on Discs One and Two. Now let’s look at the rest of the set. Disc Three and Four are together known as The Appendices. These are designed to serve very much the same function as The Appendices in the original book. They provide you with background information and a look at the effort behind the production. Disc Three specifically deals with the effort to adapt the story and to formulate a vision for the film that would remain true to Tolkien’s vision for the books. And Disc Four looks at the process of taking that vision and crafting a film from it.
A couple of notes on the discs in general before we start with Disc Three in more detail. Virtually all of the materials on all of the discs, with the exception of a few of the photo gallery images, are presented in full anamorphic widescreen – a very nice touch. In addition, the animated menu pages on all of the discs feature full Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. There is also DVD-ROM material on each disc, including special weblinks. Both Discs Three and Four feature a brief video introduction (by Peter Jackson and Elijah Wood respectively) explaining what you’ll find on the disc and how to access it. Furthermore, each of the discs has additional help text on how to access the material, along with a complete index of the disc’s contents. There is also a “play all” mode that will allow you to view all of the featurettes and documentaries. Note, however, that if you do this, there are several features that you’ll have to view separately (the galleries and virtually all of the animatics, storyboard videos and multi-angle material). In general, all of the featurettes are well produced, with good production quality, and well edited. This material is engaging and keeps you focused throughout. And you’re at all times struck by the fact that virtually everyone involved with the film seemed eager to share their thoughts and experiences. In one way or another, every major cast and crew member is represented on these two discs.
Now... let’s start with Disc Three – The Appendices, Part I – From Book to Vision. The first major piece on this disc is an in-depth look at the historical background of man behind the original books, called J.R.R. Tolkien: Creator of Middle Earth. It’s a good starting point for the supplements, because you’ll learn how these stories came to be, as well as what Tolkien himself intended them to mean (and, as importantly, what he didn’t intend). It also discusses the basic themes of the books that will become important to the film adaptation process. In From Book to Script, Jackson and others associated with the production recall their motivations behind bringing these books to the screen, and reveal how much love they have of the material. Jackson and the writers then talk about the process of “cracking the code” of the books, and their effort to craft a workable script based on them (first with Miramax, who wanted it done as a single film, and then with New Line, who thankfully pushed for a trilogy). The disc then takes you into the process of “visualizing” the story, in a featurette specifically on this subject – Storyboards and Pre-Viz: Making Words into Images. Here, you learn that George Lucas and Rick McCallum (of Star Wars) fame had a strong and helpful influence in this area. This section is then illustrated with a trio of terrific storyboard animatic videos (including the original idea for the prologue), a pair of digitally produced animatic videos for major action scenes (including the stairs of Khazad-Düm), as well as multi-angle comparisons between an animatic and a storyboard to the same scenes in the final film. These illustrate the development process and give you a peek at roads not taken, but also gave the filmmakers a dramatic feel for the scene, even before a single piece of film was exposed. For each multi-angle piece, you can switch back and forth on the fly between one angle, the other and a split-screen comparison of the two. The pre-viz section is rounded out with a test of the Bag End set design.
The next major section of Disc Three is on designing and building Middle-Earth, and it contains the real meat of this disc. There’s a fantastic, 41-minute documentary, Designing Middle-Earth, that addresses the effort to conceptualize the look and feel of each race and character, and to add a sense of history for every item as well. You see the team at Weta drawing and sculpting away. And then long-time Tolkien artists John Howe and Alan Lee are brought on-board to flesh the world out even further than they already had over the years for the books. Next, Richard Taylor takes you on a 43-minute tour of the Weta Workshop, where an army of hundreds of craftsmen and artisans designed and created nearly every visual element of the film, including the props, sets, armor, weapons, creatures, miniatures and special make-up effects. The Costume Design featurette hints at the massive task of creating the wardrobe elements for the films, which often included dozens of versions of each of the hero costumes (the Hobbits for example) in various scales of size. You also see how the actors helped to create their costumes, which in turn aided them in developing their characters. Finally, this section features some 19 separate design galleries packed with sketches, paintings and photographs that illustrate both the peoples and realms of Middle-Earth. You can view these as a slideshow, or you can page through a scrapbook and view them one at a time. There are literally hundreds of images to see.
Disc Three is rounded out with a pair of interactive maps, that help you to understand the geography of the film. The Middle-Earth Atlas allows you to follow, step-by-step, the journey that the Fellowship takes in the film. It tells you what happens at each step and then gives you clips of the major events that take place at that location. New Zealand as Middle-Earth, on the other hand, allows you to see where in the “real world” each film location was shot, and includes viewable location scouting video for each place.
Moving on to Disc Four: The Appendices, Part II – From Vision to Reality, you’re immediately provided with a trio of interesting, day-to-day looks behind the scenes at the production. The Fellowship of the Cast documentary is very entertaining, as each cast member recalls funny moments and memories about their fellow actors. You learn, for example, that Sean Bean hated flying to the locations in helicopters so much that he would often get up early and hike (in costume) over miles of rugged mountain terrain to avoid it. There are many fun little insights into the cast, and you immediately get a sense of how much these guys liked each other. A good thing too, as they spent more than a year together away from home and out on location. A Day in the Life of the Hobbit is just what it sounds like – a look at a typical day of filming, from getting feet glued on early in the morning to getting them taken off late at night (and everything in between). Cameras in Middle-Earth is the longest documentary piece on this DVD set, clocking in at nearly an hour. It’s the major look behind-the-scenes, following the production from location to location (and back through the soundstages and sets). It provides a taste of the massive effort required to capture the story on film. This section also includes a gallery of behind-the-scenes production photos.
The next section on Disc Four relates to the visual effects of the film. There’s a featurette on Scale, in which you see how the filmmakers developed the various tricks that allowed them to make Hobbits look like Hobbits... and everyone else look much taller and bigger. Some are practical tricks, some are perspective tricks and more are digital. All of them are pretty amazing. There’s a sub-section here on the “miniatures” created for the film, which includes a featurette look at their creation, Big-atures (so called because there wasn’t anything “miniature” about them), as well as 6 galleries of close-up photos of each model. There’s also a 25-minute featurette on the amazing CGI effects work of Weta Digital.
The post-production section of the disc begins with a featurette on the editing process, Editorial: Assembling an Epic. There’s also a multi-angle demonstration of the Council of Elrond scene, showing how it was assembled from all of the footage shot on set (7 angles worth in all, combining some 36 takes). And the Digital Grading featurette shows how nearly all of the location and live-action footage was enhanced, using color-timing and adding a variety of lighting effects, to change the weather, make the footage match and create a more ethereal, other-worldly look to the final film.
The final major section of the disc focuses on the sound and music work done in post-production. The Soundscapes of Middle-Earth featurette takes you behind-the-scenes on the creation of various sound effects and the mixing process. And Music for Middle-Earth highlights the work of composer Howard Shore,
Finally, the entire set is capped with a 7-minute featurette, called The Road Goes Ever On..., in which director Peter Jackson looks back at the first film and briefly ahead at the next two. We also see the premiere of the film and get a taste of how the overwhelmingly positive reaction to it affected the cast and crew. It’s a nice way to close out the set.
Something that is very much worth noting here is that Peter Jackson, New Line and the DVD producers at Kurtti-Pellerin have already begun planning the DVD releases of the next two films, The Two Towers and The Return of the King. There will indeed be 2-disc theatrical and 4-disc extended versions of each film. More importantly, an overall DVD design philosophy has been worked out for the entire Lord of the Rings Trilogy, so that each 2-disc set will complement the other 2-disc sets, and each 4-disc set will likewise build on the other 4-disc sets. What that means, is that a few years from now, when all of the films are on DVD, you’ll be able watch them all straight through without seeing lots of overlapping material. You’ll ultimately have a more complete and thorough viewing experience.
You know... it would be really easy for me to use lots of glowing, flowery adjectives to describe this 4-disc set (even more than I probably already have throughout the two parts of this review). So I’m just going to say this: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring – 4-Disc Special Extended Version is the most impressive release I’ve seen yet on the DVD format. Its overall presentation quality, breadth and depth of content and thoughtful attention to virtually every detail is unsurpassed in any other DVD release to date. Don’t get me wrong – there are certainly titles that are better in individual areas (Star Wars: Episode II features better video and audio quality for example). But no other single title can match this set, blow for blow. It’s a DVD that is absolutely worthy of the incredible effort that was mounted to make this film, and it’s equally worthy of the 50-year legacy of Tolkien’s literary epic. It is, hands down, the DVD release of the year and an absolute, must-have cornerstone of any good DVD enthusiast’s library.
Think I’m exaggerating? Then just wait and see for yourself...
- Bill Hunt