J.R.R. Tolkien Master Of The Rings
Studio: Warner Brothers
Film Length: 80 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Full Frame
New perspectives on a modern masterpiece
I didn't quite know what to expect upon opening
this fairly elaborate new Tolkien set from Warner
Home Video. At first I had mistaken it for the
National Geographic release that took you to the
different locales the movie was filmed. Though this
documentary couldn't be further from the National
Geographic release, I was pleasantly surprised and
entertained by what was here instead.
Master Of The Rings is being labeled as
"the definitive guide to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien."
It arrives in a deluxe DVD and CD set that opens
to a 3-pane gatefold with plastic hubs that house
both the documentary DVD and the music DVD that
In the corner pocket sits a 15-page booklet that
contains beautiful Tolkein color illustrations by
the Brothers Hildebrandt. Many of the most remembered
moments from the Tolkien trilogy are illustrated
here including the Fellowship of the Ring, The Orcs,
Gandalf and Balrog and Eowyn and the Nazgul. Turning
the pages of this booklet can't help but bring back
fond memories of the first time you read the Tolkien
books, painting your own visions of the action scenes
within your mind.
So, what exactly is Master Of The Rings
all about and is this appealing to fans of Lord
Of The Rings? In answering the second question
first, without a doubt, if you are a fan of the books
and film, you owe it to yourself to check out this DVD.
This was an entirely educational and inspirational
journey for me.
Master Of The Rings takes us deep into the
world of Tolkien. Written and presented by Robert
Di Napoli, this is not only the story of Tolkien
as told by the man himself (through film clips),
but an in-depth look at the characters and myths
that make up Lord Of The Rings and where
in Tolkien's imagination these characters and
stories derived from.
On hand to tell these stories are individuals
who know Tolkien and his works better than anyone
else. These include his son and daughter, John
and Priscilla Tolkien as well as artists and
Tolkien society philosophers. There are also those
not closely related to Tolkien, such as musicians
and other artists, who just tell stories of how
they were inspired by his works.
The documentary begins with some rare filmed
footage of J.R.R. Tolkien in his last years
talking about his life work. With the aid of
a 3D computerized map, we take a tour of Middle
Earth from the quiet peaceful lands of the Shire
through Rivendale, Rohan and Gondor and ending
with Mordor and the fortress of Sauron. As we
stop in each sector of Middle Earth, we learn
about its surroundings and inhabitants thanks
to the many illustrations by the Brothers
Not only do we get an overview of Tolkien's life,
but we come to understand where his fantasies
derived from by the events that occurred in his
life. Tolkien had a rather happy but unfortunate
childhood as both his parents had an untimely death.
Tolkien went on to study at the University of Oxford
where his pastimes led him to inventing new languages
and histories that supported those languages. He
always felt that the English were deprived of
their own myths and wanted to create a genuine
Anglo-Saxen myth for the English people.
While in the trenches during World War I, Tolkien
began writing stories that would make up many of
his later publications. It was also here, while
looking at the horrors and absurdities of war, that
Tolkien gained a humanitarian sense of war that was
later reflected in his writings.
Tolkien's first thoughts of a Hobbit actually came
to him while grading a stack of term papers at the
University. His curiosities over what a Hobbit
really was turned into stories he would tell his
children each Christmas. These stories would one
day form his first publication in 1937 aptly titled
The Hobbit. It was the book he had never
intended to write.
This next part was my favorite. We are told
the entire story of the Lord Of The Rings
trilogy through narration, hazy live action
sequences, and beautiful illustrations from the
Brothers Hildebrandt. This was especially
entertaining as it had been decades since I last
read the trilogy, and I was able to pick up the
events that occurred after those depicted in
The Lord Of The Rings movie, including the
film's final moments on Mount Doom. The book's
final passages are read by J.R.R. Tolkien himself.
The rest of the documentary covers the aftermath
of his publications, including many criticisms from
the literary community that felt his works should
not be compared to that of authors such as Dickens
or works such as Moby Dick and War And Peace.
There are also in-depth looks at the characters
that Tolkien created and where these many creatures
derived from. Take for example the Orcs, whom
Tolkien saw as everything bad about modern war.
And what about the Hobbits? Why do these little
people prevail above all others? Perhaps that
inspiration came when Tolkien sat in the trenches
and saw the little person that charged to the front
of the battle lines.
The documentary wraps up by taking a look at how
Lord Of The Rings has inspired artists
everywhere, most notably, music groups like YES,
URIAH HEEP and MOSTLY AUTUMN. Even THE BEATLES
wanted to do a film version of LOTR with
Paul as Frodo, John as Gollum, George as Gandalph
and Ringo as Sam.
How is the transfer?
This is not a documentary that I wish to rate
on audio and video presentation as I don't feel
it necessary. This isn't meant to be a visual or
I will tell you that the documentary is presented
in full-frame and looks quite good. Although the
DVD states a 5.1 Dolby Digital Mix, my receiver
indicated a 2-channel mix and there was nothing on
the Main Menu or my DVD player to change this.
I will also tell you I was quite disappointed by
the lack of subtitles on this presentation.
An interesting assortment of added visual and audio
material is included in this package.
An Image Gallery featuring illustrations
by 50 of the world's leading Tolkien illustrators
is presented. Using your remote you can surf
through these beautiful drawings.
Interactive Interviews presents a list
of 9 questions such as Is the world created
by Tolkien a convincing one? or Will his
work endure the future?. Click on each
question and receive a filmed answer by a Tolkien
Finally, Inspirations: Musicians features
short interviews with Roger Ocean, Mostly Autumn,
Rick Wakeman and Ken Hensley -- all artists who
were inspired by Tolkien's works.
And what about this included music CD?
It's the perfect compliment to this set as it
features a musical journey through the landscapes
of Middle Earth, featuring the music of Rick
Wakeman. It's sounds pretty good, though reminds
me mostly of new age music with a few nice piano
While it's hard to describe Master Of The Rings
as highly entertaining, it does do an excellent
job of bringing its viewer deep into the world of
Tolkien and his work. Anyone who is a fan of his
books and the recent film owes it to themselves to
buy this DVD. It will certainly give you insight
into Tolkien and his trilogy like nothing else has
Release Date: Now