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LOTR - In-depth DVD review (without screenshots)


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#1 of 33 Justin Pledger

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Posted July 17 2002 - 02:22 AM

Firstly let me state that this is a review of the Region 2 edition of Lord of the Rings, which I believe will be identical to the Region 1 version. I have not gone in to detail on the film itself because if you don’t know what this is all about by now then you really should get out from under your rock a little more often. Also, explaining the plot from start to finish is a poor way of writing a review and lazy too…

I have no screenshots I’m afraid as the disc itself is under lock and key and armed guard here in London and no preview copies are being sent out – the discs are being screened only! So no piccies to gibber at I’m afraid.

Now, I’m not going to go into too much detail here as I think it kind of spoils the magic of self-discovery but hopefully what I can do is give you a little taster of what to expect and get those juices flowing in preparation for the release itself.

The packaging is rather conservative but the images used are beautifully realised and the discs are very tactile indeed but this is not your all-singing, all-dancing fold out into a thousand compartment gatefold sleeve, just your standard little DVD case.

But it is the transfer that many of you will be most intrigued about and I can tell you that this is a superlative disc. Clear your shelves of all other demo discs because after you’ve seen this you really won’t need any them anymore. The visuals have been transferred with stunning attention to detail. There is no evidence of any kind of edge enhancement whatsoever, colours are bold and vivid without being over saturated and shadow detail and black levels are absolute perfection. Watching how the colour ‘palettes’ alter as the story moves from the peaceful, tranquil and gentle Hobbiton to the dark and menacing caves of Moria and of course the ethereal beauty of Lothlorien seem more fully realised when seen in a more intimate setting and it is this, almost luminescent quality to the picture that has been so faithfully reproduced that helps to engage the viewer on a myriad number of differing levels. The suspension of disbelief and sense of wonder was almost tangible throughout the screening and I came away utterly enthralled by the exquisite detail that was packed into every frame. And this made me think of the comparisons that people have made between Lord of the Rings and Attack of the Clones – comparisons that I think are odious at best. However, when I watched Attack of the Clones I remember vividly feeling completely overwhelmed by the sheer amount of detail Lucas rammed into nearly every frame, it was almost sensory overload – there was just too much of it – everything was so busy, fighting for space and squeezing the life out of the very substance of the film. And then you watch a film like Lord of the Rings and you see finally that you can allow for exquisite, fine detail without suffocating the viewer. This, surely, is how a fantasy world should be created!

As if the mind-boggling picture wasn’t enough to get most HT fanatics gibbering like idiots – just wait until you hear it. I have to admit that I have always been a far greater fan of the sonic benefits of DVD rather than the visual. The sheer energy and dynamism of many of the best soundtracks gets my pulse pounding as like nothing you’d find outside of the bedroom. Some like cars, some like jumping off bridges via an elastic band. Me? I love that feeling you get when the THX logo and music intro come booming into the living room and I just know that this is going to be a hell of a ride for my poor cochlea! And thankfully, Lord of the Rings is a masterful exercise in surround sound.
Recorded in Dolby Digital EX, everything is perfectly weighted and judged. The seamless integration, not just between the dialogue and music but between all the channels is hugely satisfying. There is a sense of air and depth to the music and effects that gives a great impression of space that is missing on many of the latest bombastic blockbusters. And yet, despite this great energy and dynamics the subtle detail is allowed to flow; simple sounds such as the wind, the creak of a leather harness, the slither of a sword as it leaves the scabbard. All are thrown into stark relief thanks to the care and precision with which the transfer has been handled.
Placement of dialogue and effects are, needless to say, perfectly placed within the soundstage and the panning that occurs from both front to back and vice versa is as seamless as the rest. The rears are used effectively and imaginatively to add resonance when needed and surround immersion during the epic action sequences. And for those of you who like your LFE strong, you will not be disappointed. Again, the emphasis here is one of fine judgement; the bass is deep and strong but not so much as to homogenise and slow the pace as can be the case when the LFE is employed rather too over-enthusiastically.
There are too many stand-out sequences to list here, the whole film is a demo disc in and of itself but highlights are, of course, the battle with the cave troll (some serious LFE here) the Lothlorien sequence (some wonderfully subtle effects) and the awesome orc battle which sees the entire gamut of surround sound technology put through its’ paces. This is just a brilliant, brilliant sounding disc and one I cannot wait to get hold of so that I can hear it again and again in all its’ glory. Those of you concerned about the lack of a Dts soundtrack – allay your fears – this is one of the best discs I have ever heard.

Supplemental Material

All of the supplemental material can be found on Disc 2. There are no commentaries as these are being held back for the special edition release in November.

Documentaries:

There are 3 documentaries included on the disc, ‘Welcome to Middle-earth”, “A Quest for the Ring” and “A Passage to Middle-earth”. Each lasts for approximately 30-minutes and is in 2-channel Dolby Stereo.

“Welcome to Middle-earth”
This starts with an intriguing look at the publishing phenomenon of the trilogy with anecdotes and tales of the author himself provided by his British publisher, Unwin. Of most surprise is the fact that Tolkien originally hated the idea of, ‘The Lord of the Rings’ being turned into 3 books and was persuaded to do so by Unwin. This segment briefly covers the trilogy’s predecessor, ‘The Hobbit’ as well, although the insight into the history and writing of the books is fleeting and mandatory at best it does make a nice change from the ubiquitous EPK and glossy, shallow interviews that normally bookend such efforts. But wait! Yep, here come those interviews now! It’s a shame as the invasion of behind the scenes material is unnecessary (especially as it is duplicated later) and it would have been great to have a full 30-minutes dedicated to the writer himself.
The interviews are entertaining though but offer little surprises. What does come across and is a constant theme in these supplements is the mind-numbing attention to detail by effects house WETA. Their meticulousness with all aspects of the production is astounding and really gives you an appreciation for the level of dedication and hard work that has gone into these films. As is said by cast and crew, it is as though Jackson is filming this story as historical fact rather than fantasy fiction and it is this passion that has made this one of the finest films in its’ genre.

“Quest for the Ring”
This is a Fox special and is in a similar vein to the previous documentary, lots of flashy edits and cast and crew interviews. There is some duplication unfortunately of what has gone before and what is to come but we do get to see footage of the cast enjoying themselves on New Zealand whilst away from filming – the best of this must be Orlando Bloom’s bungee jump!!

“A Passage to Middle-earth”
This is the most well structured and linear of the documentaries. Taken from the sci-fi channel it is broken down into segments thus:
‘The Hobbits’ - This includes a look at the artwork, designs and indeed background of the characters. Interviews abound, as do many large prosthetic feet. Little substance but entertaining nevertheless.
‘Details of Middle-earth’ - As one might imagine here we get to see the amazing production design and the creation of the sets. Production Designer, Richard Taylor takes us through the work and effort that had to be expended to create the differing locations such as the mines and Lothlorien.
‘Aragorn’ - Aragorn is the only principle character to get a whole section to himself. An intriguing dissection of the character, the performance of Viggo Mortensen and the weaponry and armour that adorns him. Again, the attention to detail in the creation of his armour and weapons is just mind-boggling and well worth viewing.
‘The Elves’ - Much of this segment covers production artwork with a smattering of clips from the film and fleeting interviews with Cate.
‘Languages’ - Oooh, I really liked this segment. Here we get a fascinating lesson from Jackson and Christopher Lee on the correct pronunciation of character’s names and the places featured in the books. Lee is quite rightly very strict on the notion that one should use the correct pronunciation and that Gandalf is pronounced, ‘Garndarlf’ rather than phonetically. Liv Tyler also waxes lyrical about the Elvish language and how difficult it was to learn. I thought that this part of the documentary was terrific and was certainly, for me, a highlight.
‘The Dwarves’ - Here we get to see a detailed look at the prosthetics that were utilised to smother poor Rhys-Davies et al. It is pretty standard fare but does offer your typical how did they do that insight.
‘Forces of Evil’ - Here come the orcs! Again we see vast numbers of Orcs preparing for battle, being made up and generally lots of ugly creatures being created. This is quite fun but again the real insight is limited to a very basic show and tell of the make up and effects.
‘Ringwraiths’ - Now this is where things really get going! This was terrific, probably more to do with the nature of these thrilling characters than the footage itself but nevertheless I really enjoyed looking at how the dark riders were created. Both cast and crew proffer their take on the heroes’ nemesis and again the care and attention to detail to get them right is astonishing. Jackson explains how he wanted the riders to be the epitome of evi. For their presence to affect every living creature – hence the reason that the worms come writhing out of the ground, the birds fly, spiders scuttle and silence descends as all flee the path of these monstrous devils. It’s a brilliant note on which to end the documentaries.


Featurettes:
Rather than take you through these individually (this would take far too long and time is precious at the mo and I have deadlines crawling all over me) I have listed each one. It must be pointed out that there is quite a lot of crossover between the net featurettes and the documentaries which are detailed above. The featurettes as, as you might expect, rather glossy, shallow affairs that cut a lot of clips from the films with cast and crew interviews. There are few, if any, major revelations.
Finding Hobbiton
Hobbiton Comes Alive
Believing the World of Bree
Ringwraiths: The Fallen Kings
Rivendell: The Elven Refuge
Languages of Middle-earth
Two Wizards
Music of Middle-earth
Elijah Wood
Viggo Mortensen
Orlando Bloom
Cate Blanchett
Liv Tyler
Ian McKellen
Weathertop: The Windy Hill

Trailers:
There are 2 teaser trailers and the theatrical trailer. Each is presented in Dolby Digital EX – hurrah!
Music Video:
Enya’s music video is presented in 2-channel Dolby only – boo!

Preview of The Two Towers:
For some utterly bizarre reason New Line have expressly asked that no details of this preview be released before August 6th (or the launch in Central Park.) Frankly, having seen the preview, I don’t know what all the fuss is about. Don’t expect too much as you’ll have seen most of it on the preview trailer on the website. Oh! But this bit is in Dolby Digital EX – which is rather nice I must say – hurrah again!

Game Preview and Special Edition Preview:
Shameless ad spots designed to alleviate you of as much cash as possible. Although Jackson does tell us about how wondrous the 4-disc set will be with all new scenes and specially scored music and so on – shame he seems to have forgotten about the set you’ve just bought and are holding in your hands right now. Avoid, avoid, avoid, boring, boring, boring…

Addendum:
All the extras (as far as I could tell) were subtitled.

Conclusion:

Following on from Part I of this review: this is undoubtedly a terrific disc. The transfer is nigh on perfect and I would buy this for the sound and vision alone, let alone the film. As for the supplements however, I cannot help but feel that all of the really juicy stuff is being held back for the all-singing, all-dancing 4-disc set due in November. For it is on that set that we shall get the commentaries, interactive elements and real innovations in special edition DVD. Had we not known that this was coming, I am certain that many people would be very satisfied with this set and it is certainly a cut above what many other studios put out under the moniker of, ‘Special Edition’ but I just cannot shake that feeling…

This is a very entertaining set but I found it frustratingly short on real insight and there is little that is groundbreaking in terms of content or presentation – it’s all rather traditional if you know what I mean. But it does offer some excellent behind the scenes footage and a slight delve into the history of both author and books. Ultimately this is an enjoyable journey through the germination and creation of, ‘The Lord of the Rings’. It will give you a fresh and greater understanding and indeed appreciation for, not only the written word upon which it was all based but also the efforts and skills employed by all those responsible for bringing this vast quest to life on our screens. Recommended.

You can find this review on DVDFile's forum as well I believe...

#2 of 33 Alex Spindler

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Posted July 17 2002 - 02:52 AM

http://forums.beyond....postid=1365348 Posted Image Posted Image

#3 of 33 Kyle McKnight

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Posted July 17 2002 - 04:00 AM

Since this is a review of the R2 disc, should it not be in the Regional DVD Area?
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#4 of 33 Kami

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Posted July 17 2002 - 05:00 AM

Sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet Posted Image

So glad to hear that the transfer is well done.


#5 of 33 Lowell_B

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Posted July 17 2002 - 05:10 AM

Super great news. It's dissappointing that too many new releases just aren't up to reference quality. Very glad to hear that LoTR is a great looking/sounding disc. I can just imagine what the 4-disc set will be like. Posted Image

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#6 of 33 Paul_D

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Posted July 17 2002 - 05:22 AM

Quote:
Since this is a review of the R2 disc, should it not be in the Regional DVD Area?

Quote:
Firstly let me state that this is a review of the Region 2 edition of Lord of the Rings, which I believe will be identical to the Region 1 version.

I'm gald you posted it here Justin as I, and I suspect many many other Software readers never check the regional area. Good news on the transfer, although would you expect any less from New Line? Posted Image
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#7 of 33 Troy LaMont

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Posted July 17 2002 - 05:26 AM

Firstly,

Thanks for the review. I am soooo looking forward to this disk.

Secondly,

Just out of curiosity, what type of equipment was used in the review?

Thanks.

Troy
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#8 of 33 Luc

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Posted July 17 2002 - 05:34 AM

Justin, how long is the preview to TTT? Is it 10min like earlier rumored?

#9 of 33 Lou Sytsma

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Posted July 17 2002 - 05:38 AM

Quote:
I just know that this is going to be a hell of a ride for my poor cochlea!
Posted Image

Great review Justin! Finally a review that addresses the technical aspects that we are so desperate to hear about. Thanks for whetting our appetite!

Can't wait to crank up the Chase to the River and the Battle at Amon Hen sequences.Posted Image

Quote:
the best soundtracks gets my pulse pounding as like nothing you’d find outside of the bedroom.
Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image - Great line!
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#10 of 33 Matt Stone

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Posted July 17 2002 - 06:33 AM

Posted Image

Thanks for the superb news!
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#11 of 33 Ray H

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Posted July 17 2002 - 07:10 AM

I'd also like to say thanks for the review!

Quote:
Justin, how long is the preview to TTT? Is it 10min like earlier rumored?


About a week or two ago there were scans from a French magazine with an article on the DVDs. I believe they're down now, but it had breakdowns with times for every feature and the preview for TTT was about 10 minutes and 40 seconds.
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#12 of 33 Luc

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Posted July 17 2002 - 08:02 AM

Ray, that's good to hear that's it's about 10min. If that's the case, I wonder why Justin said this:

Quote:
Frankly, having seen the preview, I don’t know what all the fuss is about. Don’t expect too much as you’ll have seen most of it on the preview trailer on the website.

The preview was 4 min and the teaser is mostly what was shown on the preview so that still leaves 6 min of new materials, right? So how could we have seen most of it already?

#13 of 33 Sean Bryan

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Posted July 17 2002 - 09:03 AM

It seems like alot of people are taking this "10 minute behind the scenes preview" to mean a ten minute trailer.

Careful you don't interpret this the wrong way and have unrealistic expectations. I seriously doubt that the DVD will have a "10 minute TRAILER". Don't get me wrong, I'd love to see a 10 minute trailer that blows away the 4 minute fan-preview trailer in the theaters.

All of the promotional stuff I've read call this a 10 minute "behind the scenes" preview for TTT. Sounds to me like there will be some "behind the scenes" stuff, some brief quotes/interviews with maybe Peter Jackson about the new film, and maybe the 4 minute fan trailer or perhaps just the new teaser trailer that is out now. The whole thing being a 10 minute feature.

What Justin said here would seem to support that assumption. Like I said, I'd LOVE it to be an actual 10 minute trailer, but I doubt that's what we are getting. If you are expecting that, you might be setting yourself up for disappointment.

Justin, without betraying your agreement to not discuss this, could you hint if I might be warm or cold??
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#14 of 33 Luc

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Posted July 17 2002 - 09:14 AM

I think you're right Sean, unfortunately Posted Image.

Since TTT is not even out yet, I'm not even interested in seeing behind the scene and intereviews on this 10min piece. I rather we get bunch of flashes of what we can expect to see this December. I say even 2 minutes of new footage from the movie will make my day.

#15 of 33 Carlo Medina

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Posted July 17 2002 - 09:35 AM

Yeah...thanks...like it wasn't hard enough waiting until August 6th before reading this...

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#16 of 33 Ron-P

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Posted July 17 2002 - 10:15 AM

Thanks for the review Justin. I have yet to see this film and look very forward to the 6th.


Peace Out~Posted Image
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#17 of 33 Luc

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Posted July 17 2002 - 11:13 AM

Quote:
I have yet to see this film

Ron, that's understandable since you're from Toon Town. All they show there are cartoons Posted Image. Oh wait, maybe you just got back from the Mars Mission.

Just kidding, I know you're not a fan of going to the theater. I don't blame you.

#18 of 33 Nick Sievers

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Posted July 17 2002 - 11:25 AM

Nice review Justin, I just hope Amazon ship this title to me early so it arrives on the Street Date. Otherwise its going to be an extra 2 weeks of waiting, I don't want to resort to hiring the R4 version Posted Image
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#19 of 33 Justin B

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Posted July 17 2002 - 12:53 PM

Thanks for the great review, Justin.

Only 19 days to go

#20 of 33 Dennis_HT

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Posted July 17 2002 - 02:45 PM

Great to hear that the TTT supplementary material is in Dolby Digital EX. I remember watching the trailers for the FOTR on the Rush Hour 2 dvd - the trailers really sounded good on my system. Posted Image


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