The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Special Extended Edition) Review
A long time ago the realms of Middle-earth were ruled by Sauron, an evil warlord. He constructed this one ring, a ring of absolute power and evil, which he would use to rule over the other ring bearers, the Elves, Dwarves and Humans.
Over the years there were many great battles between the peoples of Middle-earth and Sauron. In one final alliance between the Elves and Men, Sauron was killed by Isildor who took the ring from his severed finger. He was meant to destroy the ring by throwing it back into the fires of Mount Doom where it was created so that evil would be defeated once and for all.
Unfortunately he didn’t destroy it and was corrupted by its power just like everyone else who had tried to posses it in the past. The ring betrayed Isildor and it was lost, only for it to be rediscovered years later first by Gollum (Andy Serkis) and later by the hobbit, Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm).
With the ring back in existence Sauron was not totally defeated and with his powers starting to regenerate, the peoples of middle-earth would not be safe until the ring could be destroyed. With Sauron sending his armies to track down the ring it is clear to Gandalf (Ian Mckellan) that it cannot stay in the Shire. Gandalf entrusts the ring to Frodo (Elijah Wood), and tells him that he will meet him in Bree once he has been to see his master Saruman (Christopher Lee), to find out the true power of the ring.
Frodo sets out on his long journey to Mordor with his three companions, Sam (Sean Astin), Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd). Along the way they meet Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) who leads them to the elfin Kingdom of Rivendell. In Rivendell they meet up again with Gandalf, and they are introduced to Boromir (Sean Bean), Gimli (John Rhys Davies) who is a Dwarf and Legolas (Orlando Bloom) who is an elf. It is here that these various peoples of Middle-earth come together to form a Fellowship who pledge their lives to each other to see that the ring is destroyed.
In addition to the theatrical version of the Fellowship of the Ring, director Peter Jackson has included 6 new scenes and 20 extended scenes, which give you a total of 30 minutes extra footage. It does a great job of fleshing out the characters, including more interaction between Aragorn and Arwen (Liv Tyler), Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) giving gifts to each member of the Fellowship, as well as a scene involving Aragorn and the Hobbits journeying through the Midgewater marshes.
Overall the inclusion of new scenes and extended versions of ones that were in the theatrical cut, just help to add that extra bit of detail to the story making the film seem more epic.
Note that this Special Extended Version of The Fellowship of the Ring is split across the first two discs of this set. The change over point comes at the end of Chapter 27 on disc 1.
The Fellowship of the Ring Special Extended Edition comes in a 2:35:1 anamorphic transfer and the quality of the print is excellent throughout. It really is a beautiful print that is rich and incredibly detailed. It is clear throughout and I could see very little in the way of any encoding problems, a superb job by New Line.
The Fellowship of the Ring Special Extended Edition comes with both Dolby Digital 5.1 EX and DTS-ES 6.1 soundtracks. The Dolby Digital 5.1 EX track is the same as on the theatrical cut, it is an excellent track that is rich and detailed throughout and it will give your subwoofer a decent workout. The DTS-ES 6.1 soundtrack is also excellent, dialogue and Howard Shore’s are wonderfully reproduced and it has a very natural sound. The rear channels do a great job of creating an atmosphere and ambience whilst you are watching the film. One final thing of note is that both tracks are extremely loud, particularly in the action scenes, and whilst there is really little to choose between the two the DTS track is probably the one to go for if your system is equipped with it.
It should be noted that in order to watch the film entirely in DTS, you should select this soundtrack before playing either disc.
The Packaging: The Fellowship of the Ring Extended Edition comes in a sumptuous foldgate packaging that is in the style of a book. There are numerous beautiful conceptual sketches used throughout the package and on the discs themselves. Finally you get a little book detailing the new and extended scenes as well as the extras that are included across the discs.
The Menus: The menus across the four discs have been beautifully crafted with great care and attention. The menus on the four discs open up with a Lord of the Rings themed background that on each occasion centres on a book that says the Fellowship of the Ring Special Edition. On Disc 1, you have a play movie button along with sub menus for Special Features; Select a Scene and Screen and Audio Setup, these are the same on Disc 2 except it’s continue movie rather than play. Within the 3 sub menus there are more brilliant conceptual sketches and all menus are accompanied by music from the films which changes across all four discs. On Discs 3 and 4 there is the option of watching the extras with subtitles if you wish to do so.
Disc 1 & Disc 2 – Special Extended Edition of the Film
Audio Commentaries featuring, Director Peter Jackson, Writer/Producer Fran Walsh and Writer Philippa Boyens. The Design Team featuring, Grant Major, Ngila Dickson, Richard Taylor, Alan Lee, John Howe, Dan Hennah, Chris Hennah and Tania Rodger. The Production/Post Production Team featuring, Barrie M.Osbourne, Mark Ordesky, Andrew Lesnie, John Gilbert, Rick Porras, Howard Shore, Jim Rygiel and many more. The Cast featuring, Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, John Rhys Davies, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee and Sean Bean.
Note that each commentary comes with subtitles to tell you who is talking at a particular time. One other point to mention is that the commentary you have decided to watch over the film needs to be selected again when you get onto Disc 2 of the film in order to carry on listening to it.
Whilst it could be said that four commentaries is perhaps a bit of an overkill the participation of over 30 cast and crew members do a great job of giving you their undivided attention to what is taking place onscreen. Listening to these commentaries will tell you everything you could ever want to know about the Fellowship of the Ring.
All extra features on Discs 3 and 4 come with subtitles in English if you wish to use them. Also both discs have a superb indexing system where you can choose to watch things individually rather than watching it with the Play All option. The indexing system is set out in the style of a book and seamlessly branches from one page to the next making it very easy to use.
Disc 3: The Appendices Part One – From Book To Vision
Introduction by Peter Jackson (1 min) - He talks a little bit about what you can expect to see on disc 3 of the Fellowship of the Ring.
J R R Tolkien – Creator of Middle-earth (22 mins) - This is a profile of the author’s life and how he came up with the ideas for Middle-earth. He basically created this world because England didn’t really have any proper mythology so it set about creating one and from this the Lord of the Rings was born.
From Book to Script (20 mins) - This looks at how they set about translating the book to the screen. They initially created this 90 page draft as the basis of the story. Miramax had initially wanted to see the story as one film but they were told that that was impossible. Peter Jackson went to Mark Ordesky at New Line Cinema with a presentation for a two film series but that was rejected. They then set about restructuring the script into a three film series just like the books. We learn that throughout the 15 month shoot the script was rewritten weekly and sometimes even daily.
Storyboards & Pre-Viz: Making Words into Images (14 mins) - This looks at the planning process and how it had to be so detailed so they wouldn’t come unstuck when filming it. They storyboarded the entire film and later previzulaised sequences in the computer so that they could see what would work and what wouldn’t before they started filming. Included separately from this Featurette are some storyboard sequences for The Prologue, Orc Pursuit into Lothlorien and Sarn Gebir Rapids Chase these last for about eleven minutes.
Pre-Viz Animatic: Gandalf Rides to Orthanc and The Stairs of Khazad – dum (7 mins) - These short computer generated storyboards were used to plan out the more action orientated sequences in the film. These are followed by four minutes worth of Multi-Angle animatic to film comparison features for the Nazgul attack at Bree and The Bridge of Khazad – dum sequences.
Designing Middle-earth (42 mins) - A superb documentary that explores the look of the film. Peter Jackson was really insistent the film be shot in real locations so that you would believe that these places did really exist. He had been really inspired by the Lord of the Rings artwork of Alan Lee and John Howe and it takes you through how he got them onboard the project of designing the film.
Weta Workshop (40 mins) - This is another great documentary that looks at the extremely talented people from Weta workshops. It gives us a detailed look at the creation of the films weapons, miniatures, armour, prosthetics and make up.
Costume Design (10 mins) - This looks at all the costumes that were created for the film. In this Featurette we learn that around 40 identical costumes were made for each main character.
Bag End Set Test (7 mins) - What we have here is Peter Jackson and other people from the production crew acting out some of the early scenes in Hobbiton, in order to see how they will play out in the film.
Middle-earth Atlas – interactive map - This is an interactive feature that allows you to use your remote control to follow the journeys that Frodo and Gandalf take in the Fellowship of the Ring. Frodo’s journey is about him taking the ring out of the Shire and Gandalf’s journey is about discovering the true nature of the ring. On the journeys there are clips from the film showing you what happened to these characters. This feature carries on where it left off in the Two Towers Extended Edition.
New Zealand As Middle-earth - interactive map - Just like the Middle-earth atlas map this takes you on a journey around the North and South Islands of New Zealand to show you the real locations for the sequences in the Fellowship of the Ring, at Hobbiton, Weathertop, Ford of Bruinen, Lothlorien, River Anduin and Amon Hen. This feature shows off the wonderful New Zealand landscapes used in the film.
The Peoples of Middle-earth and The Realms of Middle-earth galleries - There are 28 galleries of images for the peoples of Middle-earth and 14 galleries for the Realms of Middle-earth. The pictures can be viewed as a slideshow or individually, and some of the images come with audio commentaries.
Disc 4: The Appendices Part Two – From Vision To Reality
Introduction by Elijah Wood (1 min) - Just like on disc three, there is an introduction to the disc. This time it is by Elijah Wood and he gives you a brief overview of what you can expect to see on this DVD.
The Fellowship of the Cast (35 mins) - This looks at the casting of the actors for the various roles in the films. From watching this you get a great sense of camaraderie between the actors who, regale us in their interviews with some wonderful and funny stories from the filming of the movies.
A Day in the Life of a Hobbit (12 mins) - This takes you through a typical day for the four actors who played the hobbits. They usually had to get up each day between 4:30 and 5:00 am to have their prosthetic feet and ears put on along with wigs and make up.
Cameras in Middle-earth (50 mins) - This excellent feature covers a wide range of topics. In particular it looks at the many different filming units that were required to complete the shooting on schedule. Peter Jackson states that if they only had one unit for filming it would have taken 6-7 years!!! to complete the films. Other areas that this feature covers include the sequences at:
Scale (16 mins) - This is all about the tricks used to create the illusions of the Hobbits size. As the actors playing Hobbits were a lot taller in real life, they had to use various techniques to make them seem smaller all of which are explained in this feature.
Big-atures (16 mins) - This looks at all the miniatures that were created for the film, but most of them were really quite big hence the title Bigatures. We also get to see various uncompleted shots from the film too.
Weta Digital (25 mins) - This looks at the superb computer animated effects used in the film. In this feature we see the putting together of the team who created the effects, as well as going into great detail about the visual effects work in the film.
Editorial: Assembling an Epic (12 mins) - This looks at the almost impossible task, which Peter Jackson and his editors had to do in cutting, the vast amount of film footage that had been shot. It mentions that the dailies were often four hours long, with Peter Jackson saying that people were often falling asleep as the editing sessions were always so long.
Digital Grading (12 mins) - Digital Grading is about using the computer to change certain shots to give them a quality, which in this case they used it to make the locations that the film was shot seem more like the fantasy world of Middle-earth.
The Soundscapes of Middle-earth (13 mins) and Music for Middle-earth (13 mins) - Both of these features are presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, so that they sound exactly the same as they did in the film.
The Soundscapes of Middle-earth looks at the films sound design. Peter Jackson and his team setup their own sound studio; with their main aim being to keep the design of the sound seem as real as possible. The main focus of the feature is on the monsters in the film, as well as a short piece on ADR (Additional Dialogue Replacement). This is basically where they get the actors to come into the studio and re-record their dialogue, as when they were filming they often recorded other sounds on the track that they don’t want in the finished version, like aeroplanes flying above their heads.
The Music for Middle-earth looks at composer Howard Shore’s wonderful score. It takes you through various aspects of the score from the poems and songs that they tried to incorporate from the books, the various choirs that were used, and Enya’s theme for Aragorn and Arwen, the music for Lothlorien, the Fellowship theme and many others. There is also a short piece on the new music for the Extended Edition.
The Road Goes Ever On… (7 mins) - This includes footage from the various Fellowship of the Ring premieres in London, New York, Los Angeles and Wellington, as well as a brief summing up of the films transition into a global phenomenon.
Editorial Demonstration: The Council of Elrond (2 mins) - This sequence of the film was comprised of 36 takes, which demonstrate the tough challenges that the editorial team faced. Included are six windows of raw footage that play above the finished version. The portion of each take that has been chosen by the editor for the final version will be highlighted as the sequence plays. You can view each window individually by selecting it with your remote, or use the angle button to cycle through all six windows of the raw footage and the final edited scene.
Galleries - This includes 7 galleries worth of images ranging from production photos to the various miniatures used in the film. The pictures can be viewed as a slideshow or individually, but there are no commentaries with any of these images.
Easter Eggs - There is apparently a four minute preview for The Two Towers on the second disc although I haven’t been able to find it so far. There was also another Easter Egg that is not available on this Region 2 version. That was an MTV spoof starring Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy) and comedian Jack Black. However this was removed from the Region 2 version as it deals with Genital piercing (Ouch that’s got to hurt – Ed). It would have made the DVD a 12 certificate overall, so they decided to remove it in order to maximise its income in the UK.
The Fellowship of the Ring Extended Edition is the first part of an extraordinary set of DVD’s, that will be followed by similar versions for the Two Towers, (You can read my review of this elsewhere on the site), and the Return of the King. It is an extremely well put together package. The longer cut of the film is the main reason for buying this set and when coupled with an amazing set of extras, that are more in-depth, stylish and entertaining than most of the DVD’s on the market today, it is a DVD that fans will definitely want to own.