Platinum Series Special Extended Edition

Review by Mark Wiechman

Stars:  Elijah Wood, Ian McKellan, Christopher Lee, Ian Holm, Cate Blanchett, Liv Tyler, Sean Astin
Director:  Peter Jackson
Audio:  Dolby Digital EX 5.1, Dolby Surround, DTS ES
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio:  New Line Cinema
Features:  See Review
Length:  208 Minutes
Release Date:  November 2, 2002

“One ring to rule them all…”

Film ****

I was very anxiously awaiting the release of this film, having read The Hobbit and the LOTR trilogy every year for several years in school.  I only stopped reading them because I realized I was reading them more than the Bible, which according to an interview on the first of the Appendices discs, is the only book more widely read in the twentieth centrury that Tolkien's tales!

I have always been enthralled by these stories which contain so many examples of good intentions gone bad, redemption through the most unlikely of heroes, and a feeling of being totally immersed in another world. Unlike Richard Wagner's sixteen hour opera cycle The Ring of the Nibelung,  in which even heaven itself burns down with all of the gods in it, this tale focuses on the wisdom and strength of the unlikely, plain, innocent creatures.  Tolkien's vision was no doubt shaped by two world wars and a general feeling in the first half of the twentieth century that humanity in general was going terribly wrong, yet there was always hope.  “Men are weak,” as the elves complain. 

When I first heard that there would be a Special Extended DVD Edition of this great movie, I was convinced that it was merely a way to gouge the consumer.  But this is a very different package than the one which was originally released (see that review).  This movie is longer that would have been practical in a normal theatrical release.  This is the more complete version of the film itself, with one of the best soundtracks I have heard in years in glorious DTS ES 6.1,  not just the standard Dolby 5.1, and none of the additions are superfluous at all.  There are three scenes in particular that make this version worthwhile:  1)  the introduction shows much more of Hobbiton, to which I definitely plan to retire, 2) the Elfin witch gives the travelers special weapons and other items which will come back to help them later in the trilogy, and 3) Boromir's betrayal and redemption is explained more completely.  I will not spoil that third one for you, but I felt it was worth watching the whole movie for.

Besides, the incredible special features took months (years?) to assemble and never would have been ready for release before now.  They were as well-produced as the movie itself, and explain why this movie in so many ways will continue to be the definitive theatrical production of these timeless tales.

You also receive a movie voucher, which makes this package even more cost-effective, especially since it should continue to be on sale for a while at most stores.

Video ****

Can I just say it is perfect and leave it at that?  No?  OK, there were a few special effects in which the forced perspective just did not quite work, and some of the landscapes are just too breathtaking to be believed (I have to find a fault somewhere!).  But those are really filmmaking critiques.  The video transfer itself is just wonderful.

Audio  ****

The rear speakers are used regularly, with the soundtrack, dialogue and other sound effects balanced just right.  The DTS 6.1 is particularly welcome.

Features ****

It may take a lifetime to see and hear them all, but it's all good!  Four feature length commentaries by the director and writers, production and design teams, cast members---30 participants in all!  The menus themselves are also excellent.

The first appendix has six documentaries covering J.R.R. Tolkien, the process of adapting the book into a screenplay and planning the film, designing and building Middle-earth, as well as a visit to Weta Workshop with an up-close look at the costumes, weapons, armor, creatures and miniatures created for the film.  The biggest revelation here explains why the film seems so authentic:  every costume and prop was made from scratch just for this production.   There are also galleries of art and accompanying slide shows with commentaries by the artists (nearly 2,000 images), plus storyboards and pre-visualization sequences with film comparisons.   The second disc has 11 original documentaries covering the cast, principal photography, more galleries, and post-production with editing and sound.  Even release of the film itself is discussed. 

You also receive a booklet which helps you navigate around all of these features, though I did not need it really; navigation is easy.

Summary :

This may be my new favorite film ever, and you will thank yourself for buying the special extended edition.   Bravo!