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on 10 December 2012
I've been waiting for a non-bloated version of the Extended Blu-ray versions to be released and finally, here they are. This and the other two films are spread over two discs, but given the quality and the size of the films it's not hard to see why, although the swap-over on The Two Towers seems a little abrupt.

The extended versions are easily recommended over the theatrical versions. Across the three films you're getting at least two hours of additional scenes which cover more of the story and fill in the gaps. Some of them are not plot critical, hence their original omission, but it's nice to have them all the same.

Can't fault the quality of the picture and sound, both were superb on my modest set up.
If you're not particularly interested in all the extras, interviews and documentaries, this is the ideal version to get.
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on 2 July 2003
There’s only one way to start this review – if you’re a Lord of the Rings fan then buy the extended edition of Fellowship of the Ring. What you get is an extended version of the film, which is 30 minutes longer than the theatrical version, with 4 additional audio commentaries by cast and crew members. Then there’s the small matter of 2 discs full of extras including lots of different documentaries.
Is the extended version of the film an improvement? Yes! The extra footage varies from a split second shot to extra lines in a scene and even to complete scenes. The extra footage does add a lot to the film, which is a relief because I was a bit afraid that pointless scenes would be added in. This thankfully is not the case.
Of the added shots and scenes, it is apparent why they had been edited out of the theatrical version of the film. They are maybe slow the story down too much or simply don’t fit in too well. But there are some scenes that should definitely have been included in the original version. Two scenes immediately spring to mind.
The first is the extended council of Elrond scene. Boromir voices his opinion more, which cause more tension within the council. Then there’s the best moment to be added in, Gandalf speaking in the Black Tongue. It simply comes out of nowhere basically; suddenly he’s speaking in this language, which sounds so dark and almost scary.
The second scene is the gift giving at Lothlorien. It’s a well-known fact that Peter Jackson really wanted this scene included in the theatrical version of the film and now we get to see it. It follows very closely to the book, but changes are included. The scene is beautifully shot and perfectly shows the atmosphere of Lothlorien.
Other new scenes include Aragorn visiting his mother’s grave, the departure of the fellowship from Rivendell, Frodo and Sam seeing Wood Elves heading for the Grey Havens, the Midgewater Marshes and a scene from the Green Dragon Inn. Extended scenes include extended Hobbiton scenes (including Concerning Hobbits from the book), extended scenes in Rivendell and Moria, and an extended prologue.
I don’t think that this version is let down by any of the added footage. However there are quite a few quirky little comments added into this version. For example, at the door to the Mines of Moria. When Gandalf tries to open the doors and they don’t open Pippin comes out with the obvious statement of “nothing’s happening”. To some this may seem a bit childish and distract from the seriousness of the quest, but on the whole I feel that it doesn’t matter and actually adds a new dimension to the film.
As for the extras, this is the DVD set to end all others. With 2 discs full of extras this set is the benchmark for all other DVDs from now on. What you’ve got is a good six hours of documentaries about every aspect of Lord of the Rings, from JRR Tolkien to shooting the Trilogy. Also, there are literally hundreds of still frames to go with the documentaries. Not forgetting such things as such things as videos of storyboards and special effects.
It will honestly take to hours to digest everything on the DVDs, there’s almost too much information. For Tolkien fans, the information about Middle Earth and Tolkien will be nothing new, but is still worth watching. However, the documentaries about the filming give a great insight into film production (watch out for the Bag End set test with Peter Jackson as Bilbo).
So how would I rate this DVD set? It has to be 10 out of 10. IT has everything you could ever want on a LOTR DVD. Next question is can the Two Towers DVD beat it?
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on 19 November 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.
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on 19 November 2002
Don't get me wrong, I loved the Fellowship of the Ring when I saw it at the cinema but I could recognise that there were some flaws there too. However, with this extended version all these flaws have been rectified and the movie is a lot stronger for it.
First the major one - Lothlorien. In the cinema, like a lot of people, I came out mumbling about the wasted opportunity of presenting Lothlorien in a film. I felt that it was rushed, squeezed in as though Jackson didn't really like that part of the book and wanted to get past it as quickly as possible. Not so here - the sequence is extended greatly and to the benefit of the whole film which now feels more balanced because of it. You aren't left wondering why they bothered getting an actress of the quality of Cate Blanchett for a role which in the theatrical release was a relatively minor one - as he performance in the extended scenes truly justifies her presence. Fans of the book will be particularly delighted with the inclusion of the gift-giving and the excellent comedy moment provided by the way-bread.
The extended Shire sequences are also a joy and are well worth the inclusion (if only for the fact that not only do you get to see more of the wondrous set that Weta created but you also we get a scene inside the Green Dragon complete with Gaffer!). But where this version of the movie comes into its own is in the extra space it gives the characters in the Fellowship time to develop. Gimli particularly benefits from this (his character becoming far more rounded and three-dimensional) as do Pippin and Merry. This, combined with the extra time developing and setting up plot points (an addtional scene with Aaragon and Boromir makes the former's death have much more impact, for example) means that the film is just more balanced and is a far more satisfying experience. Although Peter Jackson has claimed this isn't a director's cut and that it's just a "different" rather than "better" version, the booklet provided with this set is slightly telling when it mentions that "With no constraints on the film's running time, Peter Jackson
The quality of the transfer and the sound are second to none (although I haven't had a chance to check out the DTS track) and the only problem with the range of extra features is that they are so extensive and in-depth that you might run the risk of removing some of the mystique of this film. The packaging is superb and the
The only major flaw with this release is the fact that you have to swap disks half-way through the film. This could have been made far less jarring if they had faded out at the end of the first disk rather than just blacking out - but they at least choose a natural place in the film to have the break (just after the Fellowship is formed at Elrond's council).
Quite frankly, if that's the only flaw on this truly amazing package then it's a sacrifice that is more than worth the benefits you get over the theatrical release DVD.
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on 3 December 2002
Oh boy! This Extended Version of Peter Jackson's The Fellowship of the Ring is just astounding. Absolutely magnificent!
I have had the 4 disc DVD now for 3 weeks and I still can't stop watching it! Obsessed? Yeah, probably. But that's my concern, not yours!
What on earth can I say that hasn't already been said before? Well, let me try:
First of all, I am a huge Lord of the Rings fan, so needless to say, I love the film. But very rarely will a film actually turn out to be more entertaining than the book from which it was adapted. The Fellowship of the Ring book, by J.R.R. Tolkien, is an undoubted masterpiece, but I found it to be long-winded and felt it contained a few redundant chapters. Therefore, I enjoy watching the film more than reading the book.
And I feel that is the greatest compliment I could pay Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Phillipa Boyens, who as a threesome, so heroically put together this cinematic masterpiece.
If you are lucky enough to have this extended edition DVD in your collection, then I promise you that you will never have to go back to your theatrical version ever again. THIS, the Extended version, is the ultimate fantasy film.
The film is spread over 2 discs: Disc 1 lasts for 1hr 41mins & Disc 2 lasts for approximately 1hr 57mins. I can assure you that the need to switch discs halfway through the film is not as awkward as it may imagine (Disc 1 ends immediately after the Fellowship is formed at the Council of Elrond).
Also on the first 2 discs are 4 audio commentaries: one from the Director and writers; one from the production team; one from the design team, and one from the cast, which is my personal favourite and probably the most entertaining of them all - the four hobbit actors do their commentaries with each other and provide a lot of laughs which will make younger, female fans smile! If it is detailed information you are after, then the best commentary I can recommend is that of the Design Team: it is most insightful.
Discs 3 and 4 are the appendices discs which are filled to the brim with never-before-seen, in depth documentaries about everything you ever wished to know about the Fellowship of the Ring production: sound, music, cameras, special effects, digital grading, miniatures, stunts - and much more besides! It has absolutely everything!
There are also documentaries about Professor J.R.R. Tolkien himself, extensive interviews with both cast and crew, as well as a fun feature "A day in the life of a Hobbit". Add to this, interactive features like stills galleries, maps, and editorial demonstrations, you quite simply have a compendium of such magnitude that it will most probably take you weeks to watch it all!
I really cannot pick fault with this DVD. If there is a better DVD out there then I have not yet seen it nor heard of it.
An absolute masterpiece. A must for every DVD fans' collection.
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Sixty years ago, the Hobbit Bilbo Baggins came into possession of a magic ring. When he decides to leave his home in the Shire and retire, he finds it curiously difficult to leave the ring behind. Disturbed, the wizard Gandalf investigates and discovers that Bilbo's trinket is actually the One Ring of legend, which the Dark Lord Sauron needs to complete his return to power. Bilbo's cousin Frodo has to take the Ring on a long and arduous journey across Middle-earth to the volcano known as Mount Doom, deep within Sauron's land of Mordor, the only place where it can be destroyed.

Back in 1999, when Peter Jackson began filming The Lord of the Rings, there was an expectation of failure. A thousand-page-long book adapted into three three-hour movies by a director whose biggest previous movie had been a minor ghost comedy starring Michael J. Fox? And on a budget of only $90 million apiece at a time when $200 million+ budgets for such epic films were becoming more commonplace? It seemed like a recipe for disaster.

Against the odds, Jackson pulled it off. The trilogy as a whole is a remarkable work, translating Tolkien's vision onto the screen with - for the most part - respect and integrity. There are missteps, mistakes and some ill-conceived changes, but these are mostly restricted to the second and third films in the sequence. The Fellowship of the Ring, on the other hand, is moved from page to screen with enviable skill.

The main key to the film's success is the casting. Elijah Wood may be a lot younger than Frodo in the novel, but he sells Frodo's mix of book-learned wisdom with a lack of practical experience with wide-eyed enthusiasm. Representing the old guard, veteran actors Ian McKellen, Ian Holm and Christopher Lee bring their roles of Gandalf, Bilbo and Saruman to life with presence and gravitas. The actors are pretty much all excellent, even Cate Blanchett as she struggles with a curiously-written interpretation of Galadriel. Marton Csokas is probably the film's weakest acting link as Celeborn, but given he has about twenty seconds of screentime, this is not a major issue. I must also admit to not being altogether convinced by Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn the King, but as Strider the Ranger in this first film he is superb.

In terms of scripting and changes from the books, some key sequences are missing. Tom Bombadil is gone (which is a wise move), as are the barrow-wights (which is more regrettable) and other elements are compressed (the journey from the Shire to Bree, which covers dozens of pages in the book, happens instantly on-screen) or eliminated altogether (Fatty Bolger, the 'Fifth Hobbit', is exorcised from events). Other events that happened in the book off-page or only in flashback occur here in their correct chronological order, such as Saruman's confrontation with Gandalf at Isengard.

For the most past these changes are well-judged, even if some fan-favourite moments are left out. For a three-hour movie the pacing is generally excellent, with a good mix of exposition, character-building moments and action setpieces. The movie's effects are impressive, with CGI being held back and used only when absolutely necessary, with miniatures often employed to give physical locations a sense of presence and weight. Whilst clearly resulting from budgetary restrictions, this prevents the film getting buried under fake-looking CGI and means it still has more convincing effects than the recent first Hobbit movie, which feels a little silly.

It's difficult to pick a stand-out moment from the film. The Black Riders pursuing the Hobbits is an evocative moment, as is the confrontation on Weathertop and the flooding at the Fords of Bruinen. The outstanding sequence is probably the descent through Moria, which features both excellent character moments (such as Gandalf's conversation with Frodo when they discover that Gollum is pursuing them), humour (Pippin's encounter with a skeleton on a well), action (the battle with the cave troll in the chamber of Mazarbul) and tragic horror (Gandalf's last stand on the bridge of Khazad-dum). The whole sequence is a joy to watch.

The film missteps a little near the end: the trip to Lorien, where the Fellowship regroups after Moria, made sense in the book but in the film it dangerously comes close to killing the pace of the movie altogether. This is not helped by the somewhat bizarre characterisation of Galadriel. Jackson is to be commended for trying to make the longueur work, but ultimately it feels like it's delaying the film's climax too much at the moment it should be ramping up towards it. Fortunately, in the cinematic edition it's a fairly brief sequence. Events culminate in the epic battle on Amon Hen, with Sean Bean delivering a stand-out performance during Boromir's last stand and Sean Astin's Sam getting his first notable moments in the film's cliffhanger ending.

The movie's success is furthered by some truly remarkable production design and the quite astonishing soundtrack by Howard Shore, which must rank as one of the finest movie soundtracks of all time.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (*****) remains, twelve years on, the finest fantasy movie ever made. The writing, acting and effects work all combine and work in tandem with one another to produce something very special, something that Peter Jackson has struggled to replicate ever since.

Note on the Extended Edition: In 2002, the film was reissued as an Extended Edition with approximately 30 minutes of additional footage integrated into the movie. These extra sequences include (amongst many others) an expanded opening sequence about Hobbits, additional scenes at Bilbo's party (reintroducing the Sackville-Bagginses from the book), additional combat scenes on Amon Hen and a major extension of the Lorien sequence. The Extended Edition is remarkably well-integrated with the structure of the existing film and gives new information that is useful for the sequels (such as the gift-giving sequence at Lorien). However, it does also expand on the film's weakest elements, with more screentime for Celeborn and Lorien overall. Whilst this does adversely affect pacing, it is more than made up for by the strength of new scenes earlier on. As a result, the Extended Edition (*****) retains the score of the cinematic cut.
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on 17 August 2003
THE FILM: watching films of books I tend to mutter (and occasionally shout!) at the screen "That's not what it's like!" Although not an obsessive Tolkien fan, I do love the books and my initial reaction to the film was: "Why?" I felt sure that none of the characters/ locations/ action scenes would match my own mental images, but from the start of the prologue it was obvious that Jackson was the perfect director for the movie and had approached it with respect, vision and imagination. Hobbit-newcomers will be blown away while the initiated will concede that this is one film which comes close to matching its source (although the "Why?" question remains; the books are so descriptive and detailed that there is no real need for a film-why do we need to reduce the written word to the simpler visual image?) Still, locations such as Isengard, Moria and the Shire are wonderfully realised, and the casting is first rate. Ian McKellen and Christopher Lee in particular are marvellous, and Wood pulls off the tricky role of Frodo well, saving him from being a wimp. Mortensen, Bloom, the other hobbits and Rhys-Davies inhabit their roles with great conviction and accents (it's only when you hear them on the commentary that you realise what a good job the Americans did with their British accents) while Sean Bean is a perfect Boromir.
Although I dislike the design of Rivendell and Lorien (I don't think thousand-year elves would go in for such tacky garden statuary), and don't like Blanchett as Galadriel (I would have cast Michelle Pfeiffer), these are minor quibbles based on personal taste. The Ringwraiths, the fantastic fight by Balin's tomb, the Bridge of Khazad-dum and the absolutely flawless Boromir death-scene are guaranteed to win over the staunchest devotees of the book. In some respects, the film is even superior-by cutting out the 17 years that pass between Bilbo's birthday and Frodo leaving the Shire, Jackson has hugely increased the menace and danger of the Ring, and his Wraiths are supremely terrifying, matching Tolkien's Witch-King of the third book rather than the "snuffling" riders that he initially described in the first book. And the Uruk-hai are wonderfully hideous, with Saruman's creation of them brilliantly shown-you're in no danger of confusing them with the orcs, as you might be on a first read of the book. The created character of Lurtz is also a great stroke, and I defy anyone not to feel tearful as Boromir fights on to defend Merry and Pippin with Lurtz's great black arrows piercing him. Overall, a 5-star blockbuster that's also a 5-star film (not many good blockbusters are also good films)-it really should have been rewarded come Oscar night.
THE DVD: The extended version is essential, and you wonder why they released a version lacking such moments as Galadriel's gift-giving, which is important in the next 2 films. Most of the restored scenes built up characters, and thus give increased depth and emotion. Sadly, no Tom Bombadil-I know it isn't essential, but I wish they could have found time to include it.
4 commentaries are included-most people will probably listen to the cast first, which is lots of fun. The four hobbits watched the film together, and have clearly formed a real life fellowship; they have lots of stories about funny moments on set, and you find yourself smiling too. Bloom is a little too starry-eyed (everything is 'incredible') but McKellen, Lee and Bean contribute insightful and interesting comments throughout. The director and writers' commentary is probably more for fans of the book: it's fascinating to hear them explain why they changed or left something out-all three really respect Tolkien's work, while juggling the demands of cinema, the studio and the budget. The other 2 commentaries are less essential but still interesting if you have time for them.
The documentaries are wonderful, and, thankfully, don't go into too much production detail, although I did find myself losing interest in a few. From Book to Script and JRR Tolkien are the best on Disc 3, although the Costume Design, Designing Middle-Earth and Weta Workshop are also interesting. For those who care, there are loads of design galleries, although I found these really dull, and the commentary on some of the images that I listened to does repeat what's in the video clips. On Disc 4, A Day in the Life of a Hobbit is great and lots of fun; Big-atures really has to be seen to show the wonderful work done to create Isengard, Rivendell and the Argonaths, and Digital Grading shows how the distinctive look of Middle-Earth was achieved. After watching the commentaries and documentaries you feel as if you were there during filming, and were one of the group. However, my personal feeling is that there should have been a little more human info. I would have loved a documentary on casting-why was Stuart Townsend replaced by Viggo Mortenson? Why did they pick Orlando Bloom who had never worked on a film and has dark hair and olive skin in real life? How did they approach Elvish, which has never been spoken (except by the Hobbit-addicts at home in their bedrooms!) A greater focus on the cast and the human elements of filming as opposed to the technical elements would have interested me more. Still, this can't really be faulted and it's clear that a huge amount of work went into making the DVD right from the start; unlike some it wasn't cobbled together after the event but was compiled throughout filming. And of course the people behind the scenes are the ones who brought the film to life and really deserve this chance to be appreciated. By the way, if you select chapter 48 and then go down to the bottom right hand corner of the page that plays the fan club credits, there's a hidden trailer for the Two Towers.
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VINE VOICEon 11 December 2002
The first thing I noticed when I opened the package, was the scene descriptions - or chapter index. This shows that nearly every scene has been modified or extended. Some scenes are completely new. The effect that this has had on Peter Jackson's masterpiece is electrifying! Suddenly, all the relationships start to appear. The movie stops being a chain of events leading to the inevitable breaking of the Fellowship, to an intricate web of personal affinities and conflicts all superbly melded into the mainstream story. This version brings the book to life in ways I, as a long-standing Middle-Earth fan, didn't think was possible.
The two supplementary disks provide some of the answers to some of the questions left unanswered, (why was the old forest episode missed out? Why did Arwen play such an important part?). One thing is clear - the cast and crew lived and breathed the book for the 15 months of the production and a lot of care was taken to translate the spirit of Tolkein's creation as opposed to attempting to do it scene-by scene. The result is a movie which appeals not only to those who have not read the book (though I strongly urge them to do so), but more importantly, successfully brings to life a piece of 20th century literature which many people have read and loved.
I sincerely hope that the theatrical version of "The Two Towers" and "The Return of the King" will undergo the same treatment so that I can watch the whole story without feeling that vital elements have been cut in the interest of cinema throughput.
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on 3 April 2013
The LotR trilogy is a fine piece of work, full of heart, surprise and wonder. This has been made even more plain since the release of The Hobbit, which is a muddy, cynical, over-long mess, lacking any of the magic on display here (in my opinion). We all know that all three LotR movies are magnificent, with scale and scope (both intimate and epic) and pitch-perfect casting, all tacked on to a marvellous story incredibly well-told. Here's where it all began. No one thought Peter Jackson could pull it off, but he did - in unparalleled style. Fellowship is a near-perfect introduction to Middle Earth, and the characters and themes we will come to enjoy over the course of the trilogy. Personally, I think Jackson is at his weakest when tackling comedy, and some of his more heavy-handed, cringingly unfunny moments can be found at the start of Fellowship of the Ring. Hobbits (like the dwarves in Jackson's latest return to Middle Earth) are a little cheesy as a concept. Simple country-folk, prone to pratfalls and slapstick - it all feels a bit cloyingly cosy. And no one can decide if they're from the West Country, or Wales, or Scotland, so they all seem to opt for a bit of everything. Putting that aside, as soon as we leave the Shire, FotR improves dramatically, whipping along and throwing in new characters and plotlines apace. It's a remarkable achievement.

As for the blu-ray, some of the effects and green-screen work look a bit dated, and this is made that little bit more obvious thanks to the clarity. That said, the transfer is only 'good'. Picture quality is not as crisp as some more exemplary blu-ray releases and for me, this wouldn't be a movie I'd fall back on as an example of just how good this medium can look. But it's not particularly about that - this is (currently) the best way to see and hear this beloved trilogy, and I for one have been sold (all over again).

So why only four stars? Because the only extras you'll get are the commentaries that run alongside the movie. I bought the three extended editions separately, because they worked out a few pounds cheaper than the extended blu-ray boxset (with all of its additional DVD content, crammed with documentaries and behind-the-scenes stuff and outtakes, etc, etc). You won't be getting any of the exhaustive extras here. I suppose I should've checked beforehand. I bought these as a replacement for the extended DVDs I have, but I guess I'll have to hold on to them if I want all of the additional stuff that I would've got with the blu-ray boxset. It might've been worth the few extra quid to have bought that rather than the individual films.
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In 2001, one of the most anticipated movies ever came into theatres: "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring," adapted from J.R.R. Tolkien's classic fantasy novel.

Since it was created by a talented but weird director (who specialized in cult horror) and based on a book that had never been successfully adapted even in part, no one was entirely sure whether it would bomb or succeed. Fortunately, "Fellowship" turned out to be smashing cinematic success -- both financially and artistically.

When hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm) leaves the Shire, the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) convinces him to leave his treasured magical Ring to his young cousin Frodo (Elijah Wood). Gandalf soon confirms that the Ring is the evil One Ring of the Dark Lord Sauron, and tells the frightened Frodo to leave the Shire as soon as possible -- especially since nine dark riders are searching for someone by the name of Baggins.

Frodo, his faithful gardener Sam (Sean Astin) and his two mischievous cousins (Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd) quickly travel to meet with a strange ranger, and stumble into more dangers as they make for the Elven haven of Rivendell. But Frodo's journey is not over yet -- when he and a band of hobbits, Men, Elves, Dwarves and a wizard all volunteer to take the Ring to the only place where it can be destroyed.

For a long time, a convincing "Lord of the Rings" movie could not be made -- not just because of special effects and money, but because it is so difficult to translate Tolkien's work into something watchable. Goofy scripting, bad special effects, mutilated characters -- there was just so much that could go wrong.

So it's even more of a credit to Jackson and Co. that they outdid themselves. They translated Tolkien's erudite prose into solid, poetic dialogue, with lots of humor and horror, romance and taut action. And it all takes place in the New Zealand landscapes, with lots of misty forests, towering mountains and charming rural villages. And Jackson takes full advantage of these, with his trademarked swooping shots, and wild camerawork for fight scenes.

But the setting alone doesn't make a good movie, which is where Jackson's WETA Workshops came in. Sets range from the sturdy English hobbit towns to the airy elven tree-houses; and the special effects are almost shockingly realistic, including a rampaging cave troll, and a glimpse of the gruesome Gollum. He's the first fully convincing CGI character, and you can forget he is made digitally.

Elijah Wood is outstanding as Frodo Baggins. He runs the emotional gamut: fear, pain, horror, happiness, resignation, love and loneliness. Sean Astin is equally good as the steadfast Sam, who is amazed by the world outside the Shire. And some comic relief comes with Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd, as Frodo's loyal, chipper cousins.

But as lovable as the hobbits are, they do not dominate all of the screen: Ian McKellen is perfect as the grandfatherly wizard Gandalf. There are also some meaty roles for mysterious Viggo Mortensen, elfin newcomer Orlando Bloom, ominous movie veteran Christopher Lee, as well as Hugo Weaving, Liv Tyler, John Rhys-Davies, and especially Sean Bean as the tormented Boromir.

While the theatrical version has nostalgia value, the extended is undoubtedly the best. The scenes cause the movie to cleave more closely to the original novel, such as Galadriel giving priceless gifts to everyone in the Fellowship. And even when they deviate -- Frodo and Sam watching Elves walking to the Grey Havens -- they add to the flow of the movie.

And there's two discs of extras, which are loaded wall-to-wall. There's intricate step-by-step demonstrations of how they did the special effects and CGI, the costuming and forced perspective, the construction of the elaborate sets (including a whole hobbit town!) and the actual acting.

"The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" is a true modern classic, with exceptional acting and amazing direction from Jackson and his friends. Absolutely stunning in every way.
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