The Fellowship of the Ring: Extended Edition

I know what hunts you.

A review by Mike Shea   Movie Rating: ( * * * * * )    DVD Rating: ( * * * * * )

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Half way through my original screening of Lord of the Rings (one of the few movies I saw in the theater) I was heading out to the bathroom (violating one of the Liquidtheater Certification rules) and saw another fellow fantasy nerd running the other way saying "don't want to miss it!" as he passed me up. It is a rare thing for adults like us to get that excited over anything anymore. Most of our joys come packaged with a depressing dose of real life to make up for it. Movies like Lord of the Rings are one of the purest pleasures adults can enjoy without getting a healthy dose of complexity or guilt along with it. I felt that way seeing Lord of the Rings the first time, and I felt that way again seeing the trailer for the Two Towers.

I've already written a full review of Fellowship with the original theatrical cut DVD release earlier this year. Much like the bullies of old used to hold us nerds up-side-down and shake us for our lunch money, Miramax does it on a global scale by forcing us to buy two different copies. Surly we can't resist the ownership of both versions. This cut, while adding a significant pricetag, includes a new four hour cut of the movie, two additional discs of material, and a DTS soundtrack.

There are three main differences with this version than the original. There is about 45 minutes of additional footage added in, a new DTS ES 6.1 and Dolby Digital EX 6.1 soundtrack, and about 18 hours of bonus material including what equates to a six hour documentary.

Many times when a movie adds extra footage they have a tendency to stick out. This is not the case with this cut of Fellowship. Each scene, some small some large, add to the overall film. Some go a long way to define one's character like Strider's hopeless love sonnet, others fill in some missing details such as the gifts given to the fellowship by Galadriel. The new footage is often more important to the overall film than some of the original footage. I speak in particular to Aragorn's song early on in the movie when compared to the gratuitous action scene on the The Bridge of Khazad-dum. In time they will be no different than any other scene in the movie and each of them adds great value to the overall picture.

The DTS ES soundtrack is very well done, offering a powerful presence without overdoing itself. Along with the excellent 2.35 to 1 16x9 transfer, it is a reference quality home theater demo DVD. My only possible complaint is the need to switch DVDs halfway through, but this is a small price to pay for such an excellent film.

There is enough bonus material on the DVD to write a thesis. Peter Jackson personally went over the extras on the DVD with usability in mind, allowing a viewer to view all features at once. This lets you sit back and watch six hours worth of extremely detailed and interesting documentary information. Using my home theater PC I was able to view the entire background feature and one of four commentary tracks. Extreme detail is paid to background of the script, the special effects, the use of storyboards, the actors, and the excellent work of the Weta shop. It is so detailed that it may even hurt your ability to watch the film without looking at all the detail. It is quite obvious that the makers of this movie love the original story.

Like every nerd last year, there was no doubt in my mind that Fellowship of the Ring was the real winner for our nerdly dollar over that of the emotionally weak Star Wars Episode 2. This cut of Lord of the Rings was designed with our nerdness in mind. It has everything we could want from a collectors edition. Until a high definition version of the film is released, this will be our reference movie of choice. This is one of the best DVDs ever made in return.

There are many hidden features to this edition. I hate the idea of "hidden easter eggs", I'm not trying to solve a puzzle, I want to learn more about a movie. Here are some of the pieces you can "discover"...

Disc One: To access the MTV Movie Awards spoof of The Council of Elrond scene with Jack Black and Sarah Michelle Gellar (3 min, 4x3, DD 2.0), go to the last page of the scene selections menu area and select 'The Council of Elrond'. Then navigate "down" to reveal a hidden Ring symbol. Press "Enter".

Disc Two: To access The Two Towers sneak peek trailer that was shown briefly in theaters at the end of The Fellowship of the Ring (4 min, 16x9, DD 5.1), go to the last page of the scene selections menu area and select the number "48" on the far right-hand side of the screen. Then navigate "down" to reveal a hidden Two Towers symbol. Press "Enter".