167 of 180 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
The REAL Fellowship of the Ring has arrived - thank you PJ!, 19 Nov. 2002
My enjoyment of the theatrical release and my enthusiasm for a live-action epic that does at least do some justice to a book that I have loved since I was a small child could not silence a nagging voice that told me the movie adaptation, no matter how spectacular, was lacking. It did not take overlong for me to put my finger on it - the theatrical release of "Fellowship" contains precious little character development, and what there is has been spread very unevenly (like butter scraped over too much bread...). Well, I could forgive this considering that there are three movies, but the second film has much ground to regain for several of the major characters in this milieu.
I am extremely happy to report that the Special Edition DVD release has all but silenced my doubts. The additional 30 minutes or so make a world of difference to the movie, making the tale more 'human' (Dwarven, Elven, Hobbitish, if you hate to anthropomorphism). Almost all of the excised material was character development, and the result of replacing it makes this DVD release the definitive version of the movie. Peter Jackson may prefer it to be considered as an additional release of the movie, where the theatrical version and this extended cut can co-exist, but I disagree. After watching the extended version I find the theatrical release even more lacking - so much so that I can't bring myself to watch it anymore.
All of the characters receive more attention: Bilbo becomes the slightly eccentric but shrewd forever-changed-by-adventure hobbit I always imagined him to be; Frodo the young nephew who has a deep love and respect for his old Hobbit uncle, and who himself can be seen enduring the change that unsettled Bilbo for life; Sam is the plant-loving yet love-shy gardener (more Rosie Cotton!) who's friendship with Frodo promises to be heartbreaking; Gandalf's love for the world and it's people shines through (especially in a new sequence with Pippin) making his ultimate sacrifice a truly tearful moment; Aragorn benefits greatly and his insecurity made so apparent and yet without apparent reason in the theatrical version now has it's background and we see him as the exiled King torn by the guilt of his forefathers, and yet the very strength he seeks to find to do what he must is bound up in his love for Arwen - love that will literally kill her (his small exchange with Frodo in the newly added Midgewater Marsh sequence is painfully poignant, and Elrond's hinted at disdain for the Ranger makes more sense); Boromir is revealed a the man who secretly and perhaps unknowingly craves strong leadership, and scenes between he and Aragorn adds to the deep sadness of the films extended climactic battle against the Uruk-Hai; both Gimli and Legolas receive more attention and we feel we know them better and their initial exasperation with one another (that look on Legolas' face when Gimli pledges his axe to help them during the Council of Elrond is a gem) turns to grudging respect and (as we know later) to great friendship; last but not least, Pippin and Merry are also given more screen time and are no longer the "idiotic comic relief" they were made to appear in the theatrical cut.
Character development aside, there are other additions to popular sequences like the Cave Troll battle, that needed to be inserted (ever wondered why in the theatrical release Boromir disappears from the action early in the Balin's Tomb fight with the Cave Troll, never to appear again until the end? Well, this sequence now restored answers that question and, boy!, must that have hurt!). There are also significant additions to the latter half of the movie. The gift giving sequence as the Fellowship depart Lorien is a mystery to me. How could that possibly have been left out? So much depends on those gifts, and not least the lembas (I love Legolas' "bread advertisement" speech) and Sam's rope, which was set up when he was checking his pack in Rivedel and muttered something about forgetting something...
The DVD transfer itself is quite beautiful and I have never see better. The picture is sharp, well delineated, the colours rich and natural and I saw not one imperfection. The sound is also worthy of praise, with the newly scored Howard Shore pieces melding perfectly with the old (some of which have been subtly altered, and to their bettering in my opinion).
The 'extras' cover 2 DVDs and are similarly of exceptional quality. Essentially and without going into too much detail, you can follow the history of Tolkien's book from the authors birth right through to post production and marketing of the movies - and everything in between! It really does make some recent DVD releases embarrassing by comparison and certain companies (you know who you are!) should hang their collective heads in shame and go stand in the corner.
In summary, no adaptation of this move was ever going to be perfect, and all will stand as pale and incomplete shadows cast by Tolkien's bestriding masterpiece. But this DVD release remains a wonderful rendition of an essentially unfilmable-as-written work of pure genius. Everything is top-notch, from the movie transfer and sound to the extras that are not mere padding but enhance one's enjoyment of the movie to the point of being essential viewing in themselves. This is how DVD should be done. Pay attention.
Finally, I cannot recommend this extraordinary piece of film-making history highly enough. For anyone with a passing interest, it a truely great movie. For those who are Tolkien fanatics, as long as you are open-minded and can accept that the book is unfilmable as written, then you will be delighted to see that a truely great book has been adapted into a truely great film.