For those who love Peter Jackson's original movie and aren't interested in the extra 30 minutes of film footage on the four-disc set, this two-disc release will likely prove irresistible, especially as it comes endowed with ring-like powers to prise open your wallet.
Picture Whether in the warm and radiant Hobbitton, or in the dark Orc-infested caverns, a rich and highly detailed transfer to DVD showcases the remarkable art direction that places this film beyond mere blockbuster status.
Sound A curse of the modern multiplex is the over-cranking of sound systems, which spoils detailed effects with the type of distorted bass that leaves the cinema-goer exhausted. Thankfully this is not the rule for all, and this 5.1 EX sound mix really wraps you in Middle-earth with atmospheric effects that are driven home during dramatic scenes with precision bass assaults that stun and excite.
Houghton Mifflin welcomes you to Middle-earth With a title like this, coupled with the stiff cheese opening from an employee of Houghton Mifflin Publishing Company, your heart does initially sink. Fear not, for once past the opening minute, and with only the odd Houghton Mifflin lackey interjection, this featurette offers the last interview with publisher Rayner Unwin. He died shortly after this was made, but his telling of how he was paid a shilling by JRR Tolkien to write a report on "The Lord of the Rings" is fascinating.
Director Peter Jackson recalls reading the books at 18 and wondering when someone would get round to making a film based on them. Years later and he's the man bringing them to life, as we get a look behind-the-scenes on the production design and a brief glimpse into the fight choreography for the first film.
Quest for the Ring This 30-minute Fox TV special was produced to introduce people to the "Lord of the Rings" world before the film was released. As such there's a heavy emphasis on character and story dissection in most of the cast and crew interviews. This is still worth a viewing for the behind-the-scenes footage of the set construction and some of the stunts.
A Passage to Middle-earth Another 30-minute TV special on the movie, but this one was produced for the Sci-fi Channel and is a lot more interesting than the Fox effort. Peter Jackson discusses Tolkien's vision of Middle-earth, and how he found it in New Zealand, which he describes as "a slightly surreal version of Europe". While the countryside proved the perfect setting, the art direction of the movie had to bear the close inspection of those who have imagined Middle-earth from reading the books. This is where the strength of the documentary lies, as there's a wealth of footage on Richard Taylor's impressive production design.
Once you see the sheer craftsmanship that has gone into creating Middle-earth, it actually improves your viewing experience of the movie. Yes there is Hollywood trickery, but what is striking about the behind-the-scenes footage is that the sets look just as stunning on video as they do in the film.
There's also more stunt and battle footage to be had here, with Viggo Mortensen proving a master swordsman, acclaimed by his trainers as the best pupil they've ever had. The sword makers are equally impressed, and given that they hand ground the blades just as they would have been produced in the past, they appreciate Viggo's efforts to learn the skills needed to correctly use their weapons.
Internet Documentary Shorts The 15 featurettes that have been available on www.lordoftherings.net are transferred on to the DVD for those of you not so keen on squinting at internet video clips. There is a repetition of footage that you'll have seen in the DVD documentaries so fans won't glean much more information from them.
Preview of the Extended Version DVD It's only three minutes long, but this is exciting stuff as Peter Jackson tempts us with the extended DVD release. There are brief clips of new footage from the film, the new extra features that come with the release, and the work that went into producing it all.
Additional Extra Features Also on disc two are three trailers, six TV spots, a teaser for the game, and an Enya music video.
Ratio: 2.35:1 (anamorphic)
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1
Technical Features: Scene selection, animated menus, and English subtitles.