The Good: Excellent acting, Good characters, Amazing special effects, Sets the standard for DVD bonuses!
The Bad: ? Length? None, really.
The Basics: Arguably one of the few perfect Trilogies in cinematic history, the Extended Editions of The Lord Of The Rings are the ONLY versions worth owning!
So, you're one of the eight people in the world who has either not seen or not purchased the The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy and you are considering it? This is THE version to buy. Hands down, end of story. There are other cinematic endeavors you could be looking into, trilogies that have been on DVD and you might remember as wonderful, but honestly, they all have weak links. The Star Wars (now sextet) is far from perfect, The GodFather has The GodFather, Part III, Back To The Future was never a perfect trilogy and even the DVD presentation of the Indiana Jones trilogy reminds the viewer that it's not all greatness and flawless execution (especially on the surprisingly lackluster DVD set). And there is the theatrical DVD release of the The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, but you ought not to bother with that.
THIS set is the The Lord Of The Rings trilogy the way director Peter Jackson envisioned it and could never get it cinematically released. The film(s) spans six discs and almost twelve hours: this is the The Lord Of The Rings - Special Extended Editions DVD set. It is the easiest, most efficient way to buy the The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy as it was meant to be seen. The nice thing for fans of the trilogy is this: this is a simple bundle pack, comprising the previously released four-disc boxed sets of the three The Lord of the Rings movies. There are NO bonus features or discs in this set that have not been included in the prior releases!
For those unfamiliar with the The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, this is a fantasy drama series that explores the fantasy world of Middle Earth and a quest of a hobbit to rid his world of the embodiment of all evil. For those who saw the The Lord Of The Rings in theaters, this bundle pack offers the entire trilogy as it ought to have been. Unlike the films you saw in the theaters, these movies are longer, richer and fleshed out with scenes that create a bigger sense of character and setting. And unlike most "special editions," each of the films has been reworked and rescored so there are no gaps, nothing that suggests that this is a film that has been recut, reedited and redeveloped. This is a seamless work that captures the greatness of the theatrical releases of the films and extends them into movies that raise the stakes and present a true epic.
A thousand years ago in Middle Earth, a realm populated by immortal Elves, greedy dwarves, isolated hobbits (who are littlefolk who lead a simple agrarian life), wise wizards, vicious orcs, cruel goblins and chaotic men, there came the source of all evil, a creature named Sauron. Sauron was unable to take Middle Earth through the force of arms alone, so he decided to be crafty about taking over the world by softening up the major races - dwarves, men and elves - by giving them all rings of power. Yes, the world was bought off with shiny baubles and while the effect of the rings given to elves and the dwarves is not explored in the films, the rings given to the nine lords of men enslaves them and transformed them into twisted, evil and physically insubstantial wraiths. Sauron bound the power of those rings to the One Ring, a ring he possessed and carried his essence. Sauron then moved out upon Middle Earth and prepared to destroy it, but he was stopped. However, the One Ring that carried all his rage and malice, was not destroyed and as a result evil persisted in Middle Earth.
After a thousand years of festering and growing, the dark lord Sauron is resurrecting. While he does not have corporeal form, he is on the verge of achieving a physical being that would allow him to return to Middle Earth and dominate the people there. All Sauron needs is his One Ring back and he will be able to return and take over everything. Unfortunately for Sauron and all his evil minions, no one knows where the One Ring is.
One day, while visiting the hobbits in their homeland, the ancient wizard Gandalf discovers the One Ring in the possession of an old friend, Bilbo Baggins. Bilbo, who soon departs the Shire, leaves the ring to his nephew, Frodo, who Gandalf charges with hiding the ring and keeping it safe while he confirms it is, in fact, the One Ring of Sauron. As soon as Gandalf makes that determination, he returns to Frodo and charges him with delivering the ring to the elves.
Once among the elves, Frodo is given the task of destroying the One Ring, which may only be done by returning it to the fires where it was forged in the distant and evil-infested land of Mordor, in Mount Doom. Frodo and his companions set off to bring the ring to Mount Doom, but soon find themselves plagued by the minions of evil and the weak will of some within their little band to resist the temptation of the Ring. As Frodo and his fellow hobbit Sam continue the quest to destroy the One Ring on their own, the others in their band prepare Middle Earth for a war that is coming whether they wish it or not. And while Frodo and Sam are plagued and guided by Gollum, a creature who once possessed the Ring and was twisted by it, the others find themselves involved in battles against all forms of creatures bent on executing Sauron's will. As Frodo and Sam desperately work toward their objective, the others try to buy them time and cover to succeed, with the fate of Middle Earth constantly in the balance.
While The Lord Of The Rings is rather plot and setting heavy, the wonderful thing about the extended editions is that the recuts enhance the character elements and give the viewer a better sense of who the heroes and villains in the series truly are. For those unfamiliar with the trilogy, the principle characters are:
Frodo Baggins - A good, young hobbit who finds his life turned upside down when his resistance to the power of the One Ring makes him the ideal candidate to journey to destroy it. Inclined to reading, relaxing and staying within his isolationist community of the Shire, Frodo is set into a much larger world where he finds the dangers coming far too close for his liking. Forced to carry the One Ring, he soon finds it has a very real hold over him that is working to break his will,
Samwise Gamgee - Frodo's best friend and fellow hobbit. He is a simple guy, a farmer and cook, who is only interested in protecting Frodo and keeping his friend alive throughout their quest, no matter where it takes them,
Gandalf - An ancient wizard who uses magic judiciously, Gandalf becomes the linchpin that inspires Frodo and Aragorn into action. He is the great manipulator of those around him, working to insure the survival of Middle Earth by setting the forces of good into actions that will save the world,
Aragorn - An exceptionally old - though he doesn't show it - ranger man who has noble blood but has denied his potentials and the prophecies surrounding him for most of his life. In Middle Earth's time of need, Aragorn makes a journey, not only from Rivendale to Mordor, but from commoner to king,
Gollum - Once a riverfolk, like Frodo and Sam, this emaciated, long-lived creature is now twisted, evil and suffering from a severe multiple personality disorder. He tracks Frodo and Sam into the wasted lands around Mordor where he plans to kill them and steal the One Ring, but finds the tables turned on him. Distrusted by Sam, Gollum works to insure that the Ring ends up with him,
Saruman - A wizard like Gandalf, he has become twisted by ambition and the desire for power, which causes him to raise an army to fight on behalf of Sauron, in hopes of sharing in the power of the One Ring,
The Black Riders - Insubstantial as they may be, these nine wraiths pursue Frodo, the Ring and his companions as minions of Sauron relentlessly in hopes of recovering the Ring and helping Sauron return to Middle Earth,
and Sauron - Not yet in physical form outside a giant, fiery eye atop a massive tower in Mordor, the embodiment of all evil speaks through the One Ring and his power is growing.
There are more characters, but those are the truly essential ones and the acting in The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy is quite inspired. Indeed, it was this massive work that introduced much of the world to actors like Orlando Bloom, Billy Boyd, Miranda Otto and Sean Astin. One doubts that Orlando Bloom would have gotten Pirates of the Caribbean had he not wowed audiences in the bit role of Legolas in this trilogy. Similarly, Dominic Monaghan launched from this epic to Lost where he has kept himself in the public eye. And, truth be told, the acting is spot on all around.
The best acting, though, comes from Elijah Wood (Frodo) and Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn) (Sir Ian McKellen, who plays Gandalf, is pretty much a gimmie in my book!). Wood is forced to embody a character plagued by a tremendous emotional weight and he transfers that into a very physical performance that becomes the very definition of exhaustion. On the flip side is Mortensen, who is charged with portraying a man growing in confidence and coming into his own. He does that amazingly.
It is also worth noting that the special effects department sets the new gold standard for realism in special effects, combining flawlessly the make-up and props with computer-generated characters and settings. The crowning achievement of this is in the character of Gollum. Portrayed by physical actor Andy Serkis, the special effects department used Serkis and his performance as a template to create the most lifelike and realistic computer generated character in cinema history to date. He is an impressive achievement and worth the price of this boxed set alone!
The Lord Of The Rings Extended Editions set a new standard for DVD with the sheer amount of bonus features. Each of the films has four levels of commentary tracks and two bonus discs that feature almost everything one could imagine about the making of the films. This is the most well-documented cinematic enterprise possibly of all time and the fans of the films are treated to incredible access with the DVD bonus features. As well, each of the films has some very fun easter eggs which illustrate some of the effects of the various films on mainstream culture.
This is the ultimate fantasy film collection and it is a must have for anyone who loves epic drama and has (literally) days to spend embroiling themselves in the world of Middle Earth. A must for any cinephile and DVD collector!
For more information on the specifics of the three films in this particular set, please check out my reviews on the component pieces, the extended editions of:
The Fellowship Of The Ring
The Two Towers
Return Of The King
For other fantasies, please check out my reviews of:
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
Clash Of The Titans
Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire
For other movie reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here and get an organized list of all those reviews!
© 2010, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.