After careful consideration, my overall opinion of this three-movie nine-disc set is that it represents a rush to make "The Lord Of The Rings" available on Blu-ray, but it does not offer a significant or compelling technical justification to upgrade for anyone who already owns these films, and it certainly isn't the last time we'll see this material presented for sale on this format.
Both "The Two Towers" and "Return Of The King" look pretty great in high-definition, but I'm mystified by how "Fellowship Of The Ring" has been given such a slapdash overall transfer. I would argue that "Fellowship" is the lushest and most beautiful of the films, and yet it's the one that shows the most obvious signs of compression and digital manipulation. It's frustrating, because there are certain titles that I want to use as the demo discs when showing off Blu-ray to friends who haven't made the jump to the format yet, and "Lord Of The Rings" should be a slam dunk.
Overall, I don't think the films look like they're a decade old already in the way that many FX films quickly start to show their age. Because WETA worked so hard to combine practical and digital FX, and because there are so many techniques in play at any given moment in the film, the films still look fairly cutting-edge. Beyond that, they will age well because the emphasis is always on story and character, and that's really the thing that Peter Jackson got right in bringing these epics to the screen. He found the right cast, and he gave them plenty of room to inhabit this fantastic world he brought to life.
I've written a lot of words on "The Lord Of The Rings" over the years, and I have little to add about the movies as movies. My main reaction to these new Blu-ray releases is as a tech geek, looking at them with an archivist's eye. First, we all know that there's a double-dip coming down the road when the Extended Editions of the films come on on Blu-ray, and even if there weren't, I would still look at the "Fellowship" transfer or the way all the extras are on conventional DVD, and I would think this is a curiously half-hearted release of this trilogy. It feels like very single corner that could be cut was cut, and for the fans who have supported this trilogy so passionately, voting with their wallets again and again, they deserve better.
Here's the thing... and I'm sure New Line Home Video knows this... everyone who buys "The Lord Of The Rings" on home video pretty much buys every version. And so far, that hasn't been a burn. The theatrical release DVDs featured different extra features than the Extended Editions, and each new release seemed to add more to the wealth of material available instead of just duplicating. It always felt like it was worth it.
This time... I can't say I feel that way. And that bothers me.
I am glad to have revisited Middle Earth for the first time in a while, and I am glad that there are some undeniably amazing moments on these Blu-rays, places where the sound and picture quality really shine and show off just how good these films can look. But there are just as many places where it feels like these discs were simply slapped together and hustled onto shelves, and for the first time, it feels cynical. It feels like a money grab instead of a new chapter in the life of these films, and for that reason, I have a hard time saying that fans should run out and drop the money on these discs.
For the first time ever for "The Lord Of The Rings," my honest advice is wait.
They'll get it right next time.
OTHER TITLES AVAILABLE TODAY ON BLU-RAY AND DVD:
BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS - Blu-ray/DVD, THE NATURAL (Director's Cut) Blu-ray, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET - Blu-ray, THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR (remake) - BLURAY, THE LORD OF THE RINGS (1978 Animated Movie) - Blu-ray/DVD, THE RELIC - Blu-ray COCOON - Blu-ray, FLIGHT OF THE INTRUDER - Blu-ray, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: SEASON TWO - BLURAY, JADE - Blu-ray, THE PROTECTOR - Blu-ray, POSEIDON - BLURAY, DOLAN'S CADILLAC - Blu-ray/DVD, MADONNA: STICKY & SWEET TOUR - Blu-Ray, DREAMSCAPE - BLURAY, SHAW BROTHERS BLURAYS ("The Brothers Five", "The Delightful Forest", "The Heroic Ones"), TAXIDERMIA - DVD, BEESWAX - DVD, YOUSSOU N'DOUR: I BRING WHAT I LOVE, and TONY - DVD.
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