New Line Home Cinema presents
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Extended Edition) (2002)
"One ring to rule them all. One ring to find them. One ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them."- Gandalf (Ian McKellan)
Stars: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen
Other Stars: Liv Tyler, Cate Blanchett, John Rhys-Davies, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Sean Bean, Ian Holm, Sean Astin, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan
Director: Peter Jackson
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for (battle sequences and some scary images)
Run Time: 03h:47m:53s
Release Date: 2002-11-12
DVD ReviewFrodo Baggins, Gandalf the Gray, Aragorn, Elrond, Sauron. These names apply to more than just literary characters—they have become aspects of modern folklore. J.R.R. Tolkien's epic The Lord of the Rings stands as the second-most-read novel of the 20th century, behind only The Bible. This complex work has inspired legions of devoted fans who delve into the origins of even the smallest element. Its success resides far beyond the simple allure of the fantasy genre. Instead, its basic themes of good vs. evil, courage, and sacrifice truly resound with readers of all ages. When Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Philippa Boyens adapted this book into a three-part screenplay, they were doing more than just starting another film. A merely adequate adaptation would not satisfy the fans, who possess extremely specific ideas about the story.
The Lord of the Rings—The Fellowship of the Rings represents an especially ambitious attempt by director Jackson, his co-writers, the diverse crew, and an excellent cast to bring Tolkien's vast tale to the screen. Its initial running time of about three hours seemed a bit long to general film audiences, but it was felt much too short for devout fans. They lamented the loss of cheery Tom Bombadil and found the journey to Rivendell too brief. However, Jackson realized that he must keep the story moving, and even the most charming elements had to be removed if they slowed the pace. Luckily, the central spirit of the original work remains, and the entire production team should be highly commended.
Countless articles have been written about the original DVD release, so I will focus mostly on this new, extended version. Viewers dying to see more of Middle-Earth should rejoice at the inclusion of about 30 minutes of additional footage. Unlike the throwaway scenes that often populate supposed "director's cuts," these moments do improve the film considerably. Everything flows together nicely and enhances the characters' personas.
Following a slightly extended prologue, we view an entirely new introduction to the Shire and hear Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm) writing his novel (The Hobbit). This engaging sequence reveals unseen aspects of the Hobbit's life and gives us a better understanding of their world. The touching relationship between Aragorn and Arwen also receives greater weight here through several charming interludes. Many scenes are slightly lengthened for additional backstory or more battles. The bonus footage adds greater depth to an already complex tale and moves closer toward the direction of the novel.
New viewers will not recognize the difference between the extra scenes and the theatrical version. Composer Howard Shore has even composed a score to improve the seamless transition between the moments. An especially noteworthy sequence in the second half is the presentation of the elf Galadriel's (Cate Blanchett) gifts to the Fellowship. Each item will play a key role (assuming it is not deleted) in the upcoming sequels. The encounter with the elves in Lothlorien feels much more essential in the extended form.
I am a major fan of the science-fiction and fantasy genres but had not read The Lord of the Rings until a short time ago. In the past few years, my appreciation of Tolkien's genius has grown considerably. The ideas presented are universal and move far beyond the typical other-worldly thriller. This movie version does have some minor flaws that could be used to denounce Jackson's creation. Even given a few story difficulties, he has performed an amazing adaptation that will stand for years to come. The upcoming theatrical release of The Two Towers carries tremendous expectations, but I believe the sequel will continue the remarkable journey in memorable fashion.
Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A
|Aspect Ratio||2.35:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring appears in a remarkable 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfers that ranks among the premier releases of the year. The entire presentation features lush, bright colors that immediately draw us into the world of Middle Earth. The attractive greens of Hobitton, dark fires of Mordur, and eerie beauty of Lothlorien all look excellent on this picture. While not a big surprise, this transfer plays a large role in the tale's success.
Image Transfer Grade: A
Audio Transfer Review: This disc includes DTS, Dolby Digital, and Dolby Surround transfers that all work nicely within their technical boundaries. The 5.1-channel DTS version maintains a greater level of complexity than the others, which really envelops you into the story. There is only a slight dropoff for the 5.1-channel Dolby Digital track. It offers plenty of power from all the speakers, but it does not utilize the small, extra touches of the DTS format. Finally, the Dolby Surround version will not disappoint viewers without the technical capability. The dialogue and sounds are clear and understandable in a centralized framework.
Audio Transfer Grade: A
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 48 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
4 Feature/Episode commentaries by 1. Director and Writers; 2. The Design Team; 3. Production/Post-Production Team; 4. Cast
Packaging: Cardboard Tri-Fold
- Middle-Earth Atlas
- Photo Gallery
- Editorial Demonstration
- DVD Credits
The incredible four-disc special extended edition of The Fellowship of the Ring ranks as the most extensive DVD release ever created. It covers nearly every imaginable aspect of the film with remarkable precision and grace. Virtually the entire cast and crew enthusiastically appear to provide entertaining discussions about even the smallest detail. Packaged in a charming fold-out case that resembles the cover of a novel, this edition dwarfs the inferior August release. Considering the vast amount of extra features available, I will try to remain organized in describing each segment. Be prepared before reading; this will take a good deal of time.
Discs One and Two: The Extended Special Edition
These discs contain the new version of the film, released specifically for this DVD collection. An astounding four separate audio commentaries are available during the entire feature. They are organized in this manner:
Director and Writers
I was most interested to hear the comments of director/writer Peter Jackson, and he does not disasppoint. He offers plenty of knowledge on countless aspects, including the film techniques, set design, and the actors. Co-writers Philappa Boyens and Fran Walsh also appear with Jackson and give us additional information. It is refreshing to hear comments that are not simply praise and plot summary. Instead, they provide us with a nice overview of the production. We discover plenty of odd tidbits, including the fact that Jackson saved the Bag End set and would love to live there some day. Boyens seems especially knowledgeable about Tolkien, and her insights are often worthwhile.
The Design Team
Eight of the key designers combine to provide material on the creation of the sets, costumes, miniatures and digital effects. Richard Taylor begins the commentary and appears often to provide a larger perspective. He speaks with a slow, deliberate manner that takes a short while to adjust to, but he presents everything very clearly. Excellent insights appear from conceptual artists Alan Lee and John Howe, who both have an incredible level of Tolkien knowledge. It is not always clear who is speaking at a given time, but that is not a major problem—the content is much more important than the identity of the speaker. Some of the material does overlap with the design documentaries, but it is enjoyable to view the final result while receiving background.
Introduced by producer Barry Osborne, this commentary takes us even further into the filming process. First, we learn about Massive, the computer program utilized in the prologue's immense battle scene. It actually makes each individual intelligent and gives them options during the fight. We also discover good material on the music, which definitely moves the story in the proper direction. The seven speakers go into considerable detail about even the smallest items. An example is the elven markings on Sting, which are hardly noticeable upon first glance. Much of this material is technical, but it remains interesting due to the passion of the crew involved.
After nearly 12 hours of exciting viewing, we have reached the final commentary. This group includes eight members of the Fellowship (Viggo Mortensen does not appear), Christopher Lee, and Liv Tyler. Once again, this track reveals the strong camraderie that developed among the actors. The Hobbits appear together and discuss a variety of subjects, often veering away from their own roles. Sean Bean also has a nice demeanor as he discusses his deathly fear of heights and battling nothing in the cold water of The Watcher's Lake. Lee and McKellan both provide intelligent conversations on their motivations, and John Rhys-Davies is always a fun speaker.
Both discs contain a special hidden feature within the "Scene Selections" menu. On Disc One, choose the Chapter 25-27 section, and press the down arrow to reach a special icon. Clicking here will reveal the silly MTV version of the Council of Elrond, starring Jack Black and Sarah Michelle Gellar. For Disc Two, click on Chapter 48, and move the arrow down in a similar fashion. This hidden feature is a special treat, the theatrical trailer for The Two Towers. Initially released during the closing credits of its predecessor, it runs for nearly four minutes and reveals plenty of stunning images.
Disc Three: From Book to Vision
Peter Jackson appears briefly to describe the contents of both supplemental discs. During this segment, he discusses the "Play All" feature, which takes you through two-and-a-half hours of documentaries. However, it does not cover the photo galleries and a few other extra features.
J.R.R. Tolkien—Creator of Middle Earth (22:27)
This informative piece offers extensive background material on the renowned literary figure. Authors of books about Tolkien and other experts discuss his early life and give their opinions on what inspired him. They spend considerable time covering The Lord of the Rings and its possible origins. I found this documentary especially valuable because of my limited knowledge of Tolkien's life. It also features the added touch of hearing actor Clive Revill read from the novel's foreword. Pictures of the author appear during these statements, and it feels like Tolkien is speaking directly to the audience.
From Book to Script (20:02)
The actors and crew begin this feature by speaking warmly about their first experiences in reading the novel. Next, we learn about the movie's initial creation, including the original 90-page treatment and dealings with Miramax (who only wanted one film). Jackson and co-writer Philippa Boyens spend considerable time explaining the adapting process, which seems especially arduous. This is easily one of my favorite documentaries in the set, and I wish it could be much longer. Everyone is very open about the changes and cuts to the book, which helps us to understand their motivations.
Visualizing the Story
The next area splits into five chapters that concern the early visual devices used to create the film. I will discuss each one separately:
"Storyboards and Pre-Viz: Making Words Into Images" (13:30)
Peter Jackson wisely wanted to spend a large amount of time storyboarding the entire movie. Artist Christian Rivers took the director's guidance and generated fairly detailed black-and-white drawings for each planned shot. Next, they used these storyboards to produce an animatic feature, which includes sound and runs similar to an actual film. Certain scenes move even further into the pre-visualization stage and are organized into three-dimensional computer sequences. This documentary provides an overview of each aspect, and the subsequent segments provide examples of the process required.
Animatics scenes are not as crude as you might expect them to be. This area contains three early scenes that do not appear in the completed film. Each segment is interesting for its use in visualizing the story, and it also reveals intriguing items never available before. "The Prologue" (7:38) presents an early version with Frodo as the narrator that offers a more extensive introduction to the races of Middle Earth. "Our Pursuit Into Lorhlorien" (1:33) shows Orcs pursuing the heroes into the forest after their escape from the Mines of Moria. This action scene was removed to shift the focus towards Galadriel. Finally, the "Sam Gebir Rapids Chase" (1:42) is another tense sequence with Orcs chasing them through nasty rapids. It was cut due to the flooding of their boat-landing set in Queenstown.
Crudely animated, three-dimensional sequences are available here for two important moments. First, "Gandalf Rides to Orthanc" (1:08) presents awkward horse movements through the bright landscape towards Saruman's tower. It is interesting to note the similarity in shot structure between this creation and the film version. Next, "The Stairs of Khazad-Dum" showcases one of the most exciting scenes fairly accurately. It is silly to see the people running without moving their legs, but the overall perspective remains interesting.
"Animatic to Film Comparisons"
You may utilize the multi-angle feature here to view either the film only, animatic only, or both next to each other. The "Nazgul Attack at Bree" (1:47) gives us a nice comparison between the storyboards and the tense film version. The "pre-viz" computer shots are available for "The Bridge of Khazad-Dum" (2:35), which showcases the final battle between Gandalf and the Balrog.
"Bag End Set Test" (6:34)
In one of the more entertaining extras, Peter Jackson plays Bilbo Baggins against the large, mustached head of Gandalf. Shot on video at the Bag End set, the director and a few crew members test the early scene. Some highlights include the cheap effect of Jackson appearing out of thin air, some terrible acting by co-producer Rick Porras as Frodo, and Gandalf's very silly head. You rarely see features of this type on DVD releases, and this one is very enjoyable.
Designing and Building Middle Earth
This section contains two wonderful documentaries that each run for more than 40 minutes. There is also a gigantic picture gallery, which contains nearly 2,000 entries. I will discuss each item individually:
"Designing Middle Earth" (41:11)
Easily one of the most comprehensive documentaries on design ever created for a DVD, this lengthy piece tackles every major element. The focus of all the work is authenticity, which means they aim to treat the subject matter as actually occurring in reality. Many of the designers are older, bearded guys who exist far away from any Hollywood conventions. Conceptual designers Alan Lee and John Howe have become known as the primary artists of Tolkien's world. Both men possess tremendous enthusiasm for the film, and their energy pervades this documentary. I really enjoyed having an intimate look at paintings and sets only viewed briefly during the actual movie.
"Weta Workshop" (43:01)
Now we receive an even closer look at the design process at the Weta Workshop, lead by Richard Taylor. He takes us through the gargantuan tasks placed before the makeup, armor, weapons, and miniature creators. Numerous young artists worked diligently to increase the authenticity of even the very minor items. We learn plenty of surprising tidbits, including the fact that 1,800 pairs of feet were constructed for the hobbits and that John Rhys-Davies' makeup took four-and-a-half hours to complete. Knowledgeable experts exist in every department and strive to generate a believable version of Middle Earth.
"Costume Design" (11:32)
Appearing extremely short after its meaty predecessors, this featurette still gives us lots of fun information. Costume designer Ngila Dickson oversees a ridiculous number of costumes and takes us through the major characters' wardrobes. We also view conceptual drawings, discover early ideas, and hear specific descriptions of the outfits worn by the actors.
"Design Galleries" (over 2,000 items)
This is undoubtedly the largest collection of conceptual drawings and photographs ever assembled on a DVD. The galleries are separated into the Peoples of Middle Earth and Realms of Middle Earth. Within these larger portions, there are numerous groupings that allow for easier navigation. To understand the immensity of this section, I will provide a few examples. There are 73 drawings and color photos just devoted to Sauron, who rarely appears in the film. In the Realms area, 51 images exist covering Saruman's tower at Isengard. You may view the images individually or in the slide-slow format. Brief audio commentaries are available with several photos in each chapter from designers like John Howe and Allen Lee.
Middle Earth Atlas
Tolkien's novels included excellent maps that increased the authenticity of his visions. This large map allows us to view the paths taken by Frodo, Gandalf, and the entire Fellowship during this picture. Once you select a specific site, a brief note describes the pivotal events and leads to a short scene. This moment appears in a circle across the map and provides an interesting visual shot.
New Zealand as Middle Earth (9:53)
The final segment of Disc Three features a look at some major locations in beautiful New Zealand. We join Peter Jackson and his crew as they scout the sites that will house the pivotal areas. Hobitton already resembles Tolkien's vision without any set additions. Also, several lakes and waterways are picturesque without any digital modifications. When they appear in the final product, the result is even more astounding.
Disc Four: From Vision to Reality
Elijah Wood provides a very quick opening that basically just describes the "Play All" feature. It will be helpful only if you've skipped Disc Three.
Filming the Fellowship of the Ring
This section is easily one of the most compelling areas on the entire set. It features three entertaining documentaries that give us different material on the actual production.
"The Fellowship of the Cast" (34:37)
Instead of following the trend of having the actors incessantly praise each other, this highly entertaining piece contains often-funny stories about filming. It is surprising to note than most of the actors had never met the other cast members. One intriguing segment concerns the arrival of Viggo Mortensen, who took the role at the last minute to replace another actor. We also hear fun items from the hobbits, John Rhys-Davies, and Ian McKellan, who all seemed to have great fun in New Zealand.
"A Day in the Life of a Hobbit" (13:05)
The life of the actors playing hobbits was far from a glamorous one, as it pulled them out of bed around 5:00 a.m. on many mornings. This featurette presents video footage of the four guys following their daily routine. It takes at least several hours to apply their feet and ears, and they must keep a light mood during these lengthy sessions. This feature also conveys some tricks used to make the actors appear much smaller. This is yet another up-close portrait that gives you the feeling of truly being at the set of a feature film.
"Cameras in Middle-Earth" (49:38)
If you only decide to view a single documentary, this is probably the one to choose. Covering each element of the filming process, this impressive feature moves between each of the major sites and gives background on the scenes created. At Hobitton, we learn that different-scale sets existed for Ian McKellan and Ian Holm to create the illusion of their tremendous size difference. Christopher Lee, a Tolkien fanatic, provides some great material during the Isengard section. Five days were spent just on the Council of Elrond at Rivendell. This documentary is filled with compelling material and stands at one of the high points of the set.
Here is a smaller collection of photographs taken while filming the story. The slideshow feature is also available again for this group, which includes 71 pictures.
A special edition of The Fellowship of the Ring would not be complete without a visual effects demonstration, and several documentaries cover this area nicely.
This featurette provides a more detailed explanation of the methods used to convey the size differences between hobbits, humans, and other beings. The devices include forced perspective, which has the larger character stand in the shot's foreground, and scale compositing—where performances occur in front a blue screen. They describe each element very clearly and make it easy for the average viewer to understand.
The term "big-atures" works for the production because even the miniature sets will often stand more than eight feet tall and very wide. These larger structures provide for much greater detail and more extensive use versus ridiculous computer effects. Miniature Director of Photography describes the generation of the major sites, which include the Great Hall of Khazad-dum, Argonath (wow), and Lothlorien. It's great to see miniatures still occupying an important place in the process. This section contains another gallery, which showcases a large collection of interesting photographs.
"Weta Digital" (24:49)
The Weta Digital company originated during the filming of Jackson's Heavenly Creatures, which utilized special effects for its dream sequences. In yet another fascinating documentary, the experts discuss the abundant use of computer effects in the film. Miniatures are often effective, but the scope is often too large and requires a more complex medium. We also learn about the creation of such fearsome creatures as the Watcher, the Balrog, and the Cave Troll.
Post-Production: Putting It All Together
This section offers a worthwhile featurette on editing and an interactive demonstration.
"Editorial: Assembling an Epic" (12:45)
I have always found the editorial process to be one of the more intriguing extras on DVD releases. This featurette contains an interview with editor John Gilbert, who spent tireless hours trying to make everything perfect. They reportedly had a ratio of 150:1 between film shot and used, which is an astounding figure. The process appears especially arduous for this picture, which had an initial cut of 4.5 hours.
"Editorial Demonstration: Council of Elrond"
Aspiring editors will enjoy the multi-angle options when viewing the essential Council of Elrond scene. Six different shots appear in separate squares and showcase the decisions made during production. The filmed version also exists in a larger box. You are able to watch each take individually or see them all at once for comparison.
Digital Grading (12:07)
Although rarely discussed, digital grading plays a pivotal role in generating a specific atmosphere. Supervising Digital Colourist Peter Doyle (The Matrix) reveals the computer actions utilized to bring consistency to the various images.
Sound and Music
While the inclusion of an isolated music track would have been a wonderful bonus, these two featurettes decently summarize these essential elements.
"The Soundscapes of Middle Earth" (12:35)
It would be very difficult to guess about the odd items used for sound effects. Our brief look into the work done by a small team of sound designers gives us a small idea. For example, the Watcher's noises stem by pressing a bathroom plunger into a creek and taking the groan from a walrus. The heart-wrenching hisses of the Ringwraiths actually originate within the screams of co-writer Fran Walsh. This featurette also covers ADR recordings, which replaced about 98% of the dialogue.
"Music for Middle-Earth (12:27)
Composer Howard Shore won numerous awards for his poignant score, which took two years to complete. Plenty of behind-the-scenes shots give us an intimate perspective on the proceedings. Shore actually created 30 minutes of excellent new music for this special edition DVD.
The Road Goes Ever On (7:22)
I know it is a sad moment, but I have reached the final extra feature of The Fellowship of the Ring. Now everyone may actually step outside and get on with their lives (until the sequel arrives). This short feature moves quickly among the various premieres across the world. Home-video footage from Elijah Wood chronicles the huge response from audiences. Viggo Mortensen provides one of my favorite comments on the entire DVD by comparing the box office take and awards to the ring itself. I agree with him and hope that the film's true power is not lost amidst the extensive hype.
The Pellerin-Kurtti DVD production team and New Line both deserve tremendous credit for this DVD masterpiece. They have again raised the bar for DVD releases, which will continue to grow in scope and complexity in the future.
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring: Collector's Gift Set
If all of the above isn't enough to satiate your interest in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, New Line has created The Collector's Gift Set, which adds a number of items to the regular extended edition. Packaged in a 7" x 7" x 8.5" die-cut, medium weight cardboard box, illustrated by renowned Tolkien artist Alan Lee, the Extended Edition DVD is flanked by a pair of polystone, Argonath bookends designed by the Weta Workshop, the film's visual effects artists. These impressive and highly detailed replicas of the guardian kings weigh in at over a pound a piece.
Pack-in extras also include a 16-page, "hobbit-sized" (5.25" x 7") version of the fan club's official magazine containing interviews with director Peter Jackson, props master Nick Weir, and physical effects artist Richard Taylor of the Weta Workshop. There are numerous merchandising offers, which tie in with a set of four exclusive Decipher trading cards for the Lord of the Rings Trading Card game.
Concealed behind an interior façade is a fifth DVD, National Geographic's Beyond the Movie—The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring: Special Edition. The disc provides more fascinating insight into the story of The Lord of the Rings and its author, J.R.R. Tolkien, and makes an extremely welcome addition to an already feature-packed release.
Beyond the Movie: The Lord of the Rings (52m:40s)
This feature examines the world and story of Middle Earth, and how it relates to the real world. It begins by covering many of the influences that helped Tolkien shape the complex and detailed landscape and cultures of the epic, from his childhood in the pastoral setting outside Birmingham, England, to the encroachment of industrialism and the experience of two world wars that drastically affected him. An overview of the many elements Tolkien drew upon in the creation of his mythical world are examined, from the development of the Elvish language (inspired by the mythology of the Finnish Kalevala) to his interest in medieval history and especially the Anglo-Saxon poem, Beowulf.
The theme of preserving history and one's environment, which are common to all National Geographic productions, is contrasted and compared to The Lord of the Rings. Combining commentary from the cast and crew of the film with that of archaeologists, language specialists, and ecologists, the program also draws parallels to modern events and interests through excursions to Finland and Western Africa, which share similarities to Tolkien's philosophies and the concerns voiced in his work.
This bundled, special edition version of Beyond the Movie also contains two "never before seen" and exclusive documentaries not available on the stand-alone version of this National Geographic release:
The Inklings (6m:54s)
This documentary looks at the group of writers Tolkien associated with at Oxford, known as "The Inklings," which included among its members C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams. The effect of this informal club on Tolkien's development as a writer, and their influence on his productivity are discussed with comments by publisher Raynor Unwin and English professor, Dr. Thomas Shippey, author of J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century.
The Language and Landscape of Middle Earth (6m:05s)
Narrated by Beau Weaver, here Dr. Thomas Shippey examines the world constructed by Tolkien, and relates some of the origins for the locales and linguistics used in The Lord of the Rings, and Tolkien's sense of background detail and history inside his creation. Cartographer Karin Wynn Fonstad, author of The Atlas of Middle Earth, adds her thoughts on Tolkien's thoroughness in building a convincingly realistic world in his writings.
The disc also includes a six-image gallery from the film, plus trailers for other National Geographic titles: Inside the Vatican, Africa, and Pearl Harbor: Legacy of Attack. Promo clips for The National Geographic Channel, nationalgeographic.com and an introduction to National Geographic complete the features.
Extras Grade: A+
Final CommentsAlthough Star Wars fans and a few Pearl Harbor devotees may disagree, this extended special edition of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring represents a new high point for the DVD format. The four-disc collection offers an even better version of the great feature film and an unbelievable amount of extra features. The combination of four top-notch commentaries and numerous insightful documentaries will lead to many hours of entertainment. Fans looking for even more material may also choose The Collector's Gift Set, which offers additional bonus features. Either variation is sure to rank as the most impressive and thorough DVD released this year.
Dan Heaton 2002-11-17