DVD Review: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Special Extended Version)
by Jennifer Alpeche
Published: November 20, 2002
USA / New Zealand
New Line Films
Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins
Ian McKellan as Gandalf the Grey
Viggo Mortenson as Aragorn
Sean Bean as Boromir
Sean Astin as Samwise Gamgee
For more information: IMDb Link
With its 30 additional minutes, the extended version of “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” plays at a brisk 3 hours and 28 minutes. Spread across two discs, this wonderful film is now adorned with special scenes and moments for beloved characters like Bilbo, Aragorn and Galadriel. The missing footage has been thoughtfully edited back into the theatrical version, yielding a more complete, more robust film about a Fellowship of Nine and the Ring they protected, hated, coveted, and feared.
Disc One and Disc Two
Widescreen anamorphic format
Dolby Digital EX 5.1 Surround Sound
DTS ES 6.1 Surround Sound
Disc One: Chapters 1-27; Disc Two: Chapters 28-48
Four Feature-Length Commentaries: Cast; the Director and Writers; the Design Team; and the Production and Post-Production Team
Back in August when the original DVD set came out, I was elated that we could now watch the film over and over again, that certain scenes could be slowed down and enjoyed. It was a nicely-done package and I gave it a B+. Although the film was spectacular, the DVD extras were mainly promotional -- special programs we had already seen, online featurettes we had downloaded long ago. At the time, I was curious about the extended version, but resistant, believing that I had the version I wanted and feeling a bit put off that we were being forced to purchase another.
Yet as November 12th neared, I knew it would be impossible not to see the new version. I knew that Peter Jackson and Co. wouldn’t disappoint, not after what we saw in theaters last December. And so feeling a bit defeated but admittedly excited as well, I went to get my Extended Version and sigh… it was well worth it. The film and story have grown with the added scenes, and the DVD’s Appendices offer many treasured nuggets, as if they were mined in glorious Moria. We have original documentaries, storyboards, photo galleries, and interactive maps. It is an early Christmas gift for fans everywhere and a promise of what awaits us in less than two months.
Packaged like a book, the DVD set is broken up into four discs, lovingly encased in a fold-out holder. The entire collection is then stored within a sturdy case made to resemble a distressed, old, classic leather-bound book featuring gold lettering. It is perfectly suitable for any library, blending into any wall or shelf of books.
This book theme is continued throughout the DVD, from the menu design to its movement. Presented as a table of contents and index, the film and its appendices are like pages from a book, and with a click of our remote, these pages turn with care, soft and easy. The DVD is indeed a reminder that “The Lord of the Rings” is first and foremost a literary work. It seems to be a thank-you, a tribute to J.R.R. Tolkien and all that he made possible through his vision and life’s work.
Disc One and Disc Two contain the extended version of the film. Along with optional audio commentaries with the director, the cast, the design team, and production team. All together, there is about 17 ½ hours of original material to watch and listen to. The care that went into making “The Lord of the Rings” extended DVD is evident in its packaging, its extras, its look. From listening to the cast and crew to absorbing the film to watching the documentaries, it’s clear that everyone gave their all to make these films as right as they could be. And this extended version of "Fellowship" proves that the refining process has never stopped, even as they ready for “The Two Towers.”
The 30 extra minutes should be kept a surprise and I dare not ruin it for anyone, but I will say that I wish this version was released in the theaters. I know I would have gladly stayed for an extra 30 minutes. I believe everyone would have. The film is never long. It moves at a pace where 30 minutes is like 10 and the way Peter Jackson and editor John Gilbert wove the missing footage back into the film, it now feels as if the theatrical version is missing something, whether it be a song, a dance, an introduction, a gift.
Disc Three: the Appendices
Early Storyboard Sequence: the Prologue
2 Abandoned Storyboard Sequences
2 Pre-Viz Animatics (filmed storyboards)
Storyboard to Film Comparison: Nazgul Attack Bree
Pre-Viz to Film Comparison: the Bridge of Khazah-dum
Bag End Set Test (Peter Jackson acting as Bilbo)
Galleries of the Characters
From Book to Vision Sketches
I would normally try to give a recap of each special feature, but with all the extras on this DVD set, I don’t think that’s likely. However, everything on the DVD is pretty great. Navigation is easy and the design is gorgeous. We thought we knew about the making-of “The Fellowship of the Ring,” but these documentaries and special features manage to reveal even more. Funny stories from the set, behind-the-scenes footage, good times, and the little things that go unnoticed -- all are covered here, blending together to create 17 original documentaries (6 on Disc Three, 11 on Disc Four) that highlight every aspect of the filmmaking process, from costume and weaponry to editing and sound, from writing and pitching to scoring and promotion.
Peter Jackson introduces Disc Three, explaining how to navigate the menus, reminding us to not forget the photo galleries featuring conceptual art, sketches, and still photos, along with maps and film-in-progress extras -- the pre-viz and animatic footage. P.J. fittingly speaks on each documentary. As co-writer, producer, and director, this trilogy is his precious and as we learn in ”Designing and Building Middle-earth,” nothing was OK unless it had his stamp of approval. A special seal was made for him -- “P.J. Apprroved” -- a tiny reminder that said it all.
Disc Three begins with "J.R.R. Tolkien: Creator of Middle-earth," a 10-minute documentary on the author and his vision. In fact, the entire DVD centers on the fact that “The Lord of the Rings” is a literary work and that directory, cast and crew had the daunting, exhilarating challenge in bringing that book to the screen. Thus, the Appendices begins with the man Tolkien, and ends with the realization of the film, “The Fellowship of the Ring.”
Other documentaries include:
From Book to Script
Storyboards and Pre-Viz: Making Words into Images
All together, the documentaries on Disc Three are approximately 2 ½ hours. But it doesn’t end there. As said, the disc also has some very cool additional features that include “animatics,” which are filmed storyboards that resemble comic books come to life and which served as a preliminary, crucial stage in visualizing the final films; an interactive map that traces the journey of the Fellowship; and a set test featuring Peter Jackson as Bilbo in Bag End. All this before we get to the beautuful galleries and slideshows of characters and story sketches: the Second Age, the Shire, Bag End, Bree, Isengard, Weathertop, Trollshaw, Rivendell, Rivendell -- Frodo’s Bedroom, Rivendell -- Elrond’s Chamber, Moria, Lothlorien, the Silverlode and the Anduin, Amon Hen.
Disc Four: the Appendices
Editorial Demonstration: the Council of Elrond
Galleries, including production photos, behind-the-scenes photos, and Big-atures
Pop Disc Four in and find more. In fact, too much to start talking about, but suffice it to say, there are 11 informative documentaries that explore the cast; a hobbit’s life; filming the epic; set design and models for Moria, Rivendell, Lothlolorien, Isengard, and more; editing and re-editing of the film; digital grading and special effects; and sound effects, the chorus, and music inspired by and written for “The Lord of the Rings.”
The Fellowship of the Cast
Becoming a Hobbit
Cameras in Middle-earth
Editorial: Assembling an Epic
The Soundscapes of Middle-earth
Music for Middle-earth
The Road Goes Ever On
In these documentaries, we hear from everyone, including hobbit director Peter Jackson; writer Philippa Boyens; producer Barrie Osborne; producer Mark Ordesky; producer Rick Porras; editor John Gilbert; Weta Workshop creative supervisor Richard Taylor; conceptual designers Alan Lee and John Howe; as well as Elijah, Sean, Ian, Viggo, Liv, Billy, Dominc, Sean B., Ian H., John, and Orlando. From the stories they tell and the memories brought back, it’s so clear that these people came together for a single purpose and that without each of them, we'd possibly be discussing a disaster rather than a triumph.
And through all this, let us not forget that this is a new version of an already-beloved film. The journey has continued on -- ever on. Composer Howard Shore scored new music for the added footage and editor John Gilbert returned to the reels upon reels of film to find what they wanted. The scenes were then not just edited back in, but were sent through the entire process with digital grading, sound, everything. With the original being so carefully made, it's natural that anything added would be scrutinized even more so for perfection. The editing had to be seamless. And anything and everything that needed to be done for a film that was already seen and loved, that was nominated for 13 Oscars and won 4 -- was done.
And who was it all for? Peter Jackson? His cast? His creative teams? The fans? Tolkien? In the end, it seems the answer is "for everyone," but especially the mind behind the vision, the history, the books. These films are being made to celebrate a literary work and fans everywhere are being swept away with it. If at first I was cynical about two versions for “The Fellowship of the Ring,” I am no more. Not after watching this DVD set. Not after seeing how much time was invested in this undertaking that didn’t really need to be done. No, now I'm just grateful that it was and without hesitation, I marvel at and appreciate the heart, love, and respect that went into its making -- both the first and second time around.
Overall Rating: A for the film, A+ for the DVD.
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