The Lord of the Rings - The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return Of The King (Theatrical and Extended Limited Editions)
Peter Jackson’s historic trilogy - like the J.R.R. Tolkien stories that inspired them - seems destined to reappear every few years in a new format. Following the release of each film, we were treated to a theatrical release on DVD, followed by the requisite extended version, which included documentaries and deleted scenes. Once the trilogy’s run at the cineplexes was complete, New Line Cinema then gave us the "Platinum Series Special Extended Editions" of all three films. Clocking in at over 11 hours plus at least a day’s worth of documentaries and featurettes over 12 discs, this set of DVDs remains the de-facto ultimate collector’s edition.
But for those die-hard fans of "Lord of the Rings," here’s another set for you.
The "Theatrical and Extended Limited Edition" box set is about $10 cheaper than the Platinum Series, and has six discs. The theatrical and extended editions of each film have both been sandwiched onto one two-sided disc (as with the Platinum series, you’ll have to stop each film once to flip the disc) - which means, to those of you in the know, that the film has been substantially more compressed. You won’t want to play this on your Hi-Def screen.
On the other hand, the new set features a five-hour documentary by filmmaker Costa Botes, who was hired by Jackson to capture the production. This is not the glib, glossy featurette from the Platinum Series; it’s raw footage from the trenches, so to speak. You’ll witness fights between crew members, pranks on the set, the frustration of adverse weather - and the best: an all-out hunt for a roll of 3-D film lost by Jackson. There’s some duplication between this doc and those on the Platinum Series, but it’s minimal. And for those who truly enjoyed every brilliant moment of behind-the-scenes footage from the earlier DVDs - like me - it’s a very pleasant surprise to find that there is a lot more to enjoy. There’s no narrative at all, and almost no interviews; Botes merely strings together footage to provide a feeling of "being there" - and for aficionados, there’s nothing better.
So why would New Line bother releasing the film with these documentaries instead of the docs alone? Why, the contractual agreements with the cast; these preclude the studio from releasing documentaries independent of the film. And there is a serious benefit to having the film on one disc: it’s more portable for those avid fans who travel. The initial price point is not a thrill; but predictably, you’ll be able to pick this set up at Best Buy for a better rate.
Be warned, however: New Line has already mentioned that there will be yet another release of the trilogy in either HD-DVD or Blu-ray, once the films can be re-produced for the new features of the medium. Those discs are not scheduled to be shipped until 2008 at the earliest - which means the current DVDs have at least a shelf life of a year. And hey - in the world of Hollywood, that’s most of an age.