The Lord of the Rings on DVD
The Fellowship of the Ring
By Jim Bray
One of the most anticipated films in the history of
cinefantastique was this Peter Jackson version of J.R.R. Tolkiens epic
fantasy, the first installment of which was received with critical and
financial success in late 2001.
And why not? Jackson et al did a terrific job with this tale,
remaining as true as possible to the book and, while that may affect some of
the pacing at times, its a remarkable achievement that (along with
Harry Potter) will hopefully encourage others
to make classic movies out of classic books without throwing the book away in
The movie is also far better than Ralph Bakshi's animated version from the
By now everyone is at least reasonably familiar with the storyline
of a Hobbit and his compatriots who embark on a perilous journey to destroy the
Ring of Power before the evil Sauron can use it to enslave all of Middle Earth.
So I wont get into that here, concentrating instead on the DVD and its
And the DVD of The Fellowship of the Ring is a classic example of
why the home theater can be so much better than a movie theater in this age of
widescreen, high resolution televisions.
Thats because I saw the movie upon its original release, one
of those rare times (Lucas films are another example) when I actually pry my
bum into a theater seat. At my snobby insistence, we deliberately chose a
THX-approved theater to see what promised to be an excellent big screen visual
and aural treat.
And I hated it! The picture was dark and fuzzy, so much so that
during the darker sequences it was hard to make out what was happening on the
screen. The audio was worse. It was loud, which is fine. I love it loud, but
theres a difference between volume and quality - and this supposedly
state-of-the-art theaters audio system was not only deafening, but
shrill, so shrill I left the theater with a headache. And the bass was anything
but tight; it was boomy and annoying.
It was so bad that I logged onto the
THX Web site to register my
displeasure with the theater. Strangely enough, the next day I was dragged to
another theater in the same complex to see Harry Potter, in a theater what
wasnt THX approved - and while DVD is still the way to go (if you have a
robust enough home theater), it was far better than LOTR.
Yet the TV commercials and the clips one saw during the Oscars and
other times made LOTR look terrific. Likewise the commercials for the DVD
release when they started running.
So I waited with baited breath and the DVD release of The
Fellowship of the Ring is an eye and ear opening experience to say the least!
And boy, was it worth the wait!
But be warned: another, four disc special edition is on the way,
so you may want to wait before dropping your hard earned money on this initial
version. The producers even preview that disc on this disc, which is kind of
like rubbing it in the faces of those who shell out the money for the first
disc - people who undoubtedly bought it without knowing theres a newer
and supposedly better one coming a couple of months down the road.
I find this a bit much.
So far as the quality of this DVD, however, it's first rate. The
picture, which is presented in anamorphic widescreen (16x9 TV compatible) is
simply wonderful. The colors are bright and rich, the picture itself is razor
sharp for the most part, with few artifacts at all. In short, its
everything that the theatrical experience wasnt - and a wonderful example
of the digital disc medium.
The audio, likewise, is excellent. As in the movie theater,
its very loud - so loud that I found myself running my home
theaters volume lower than I usually do, something that happens so rarely
I can only think of one other DVD that requires the same treatment (a concert
by The Who). The sound is Dolby Digital 5.1 EX, and to call the dynamic range
dynamic would be to understate the facts. Theres excellent use of the
surround channels and the low frequency effects channel (the subwoofer) puts
out spectacularly - without the banging boominess of that THX-approved theater
Ill never visit again.
I watched the disc via a progressive scan DVD player outputting to
a 57 inch widescreen TV with THX approved
amplifier, preamplifier and subwoofer and
Definitive Technology speakers
the rest of the way around - and other than the screen not being as large
as in a cinema the experience was immeasurably better than at the cinema.
In short, this is a superb DVD.
There are plenty of extras, too, an entire second discs
worth - and much of the extra material (though not all of it) has been
presented in anamorphic widescreen as well. It makes one wonder what (besides
the extra half hour of the movie itself) the Extra Special Edition is going to
have when it comes out.
Well let you know
Anyway, Disc Two includes loving looks at the production,
including features and featurettes culled from a variety of sources.
Theyre very good, too, for the most part, and give excellent background
to the creation of this epic.
Theres also a preview of Episode Two (with apologies to
George Lucas!), The Two Towers, which looks to be even more spectacular than
this first installment. And you get a preview of a LOTR video game - as well as
that infernal promotion for the Special Extended DVD Edition of The Lord
of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring that annoyed me so much.
The extras are fascinating and well worth a look.
Kudos to Peter Jackson for pulling it off, and to Alliance
Atlantis and New World Pictures for letting him - and for putting together a
DVD that truly does it justice.
But my advice is for readers to only rent it right now, and
compare it to Novembers upcoming Platinum Series release to see which one
you like best - and then to buy whichever one that is.
The Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship of the Ring, from Alliance Atlantis
178 min. anamorphic widescreen (16x9 TV compatible) Dolby Digital 5.1
Starring Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Liv Tyler,
Sean Bean, Cate Blanchett, Ian Holm, Hugo Weaving, Orlando Bloom, Christopher
Lee, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan
Produced by Peter Jackson, Barrie Osborne, Tim Sanders
by Fran Walsh & Philippa Boyens & Peter Jackson, Directed by Peter
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