HTF REVIEW: "J.R.R Tolkien Master Of The Rings" (with screenshots)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ronald Epstein, Jul 30, 2002.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    J.R.R. Tolkien Master Of The Rings

    Studio: Warner Brothers
    Year: 2002
    Rated: NR
    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
    accompanies it.
    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,
    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
    sonic experience.
    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.
    Special Features
    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
    Final Thoughts
    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
  2. Ricardo C

    Ricardo C Producer

    Feb 14, 2002
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    Ron, thanks for the review [​IMG] One correction, though: The Hobbit was published in 1937. 1954 saw the release of The Lord of the Rings.
  3. Sean Bryan

    Sean Bryan Sean Bryan

    Jun 30, 1997
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    Yes, Ron. Nice review. I didn't even know about this DVD. It sounds nice. I'm definitely interested, being a fan of the books and the film(s).

    One more correction, however.

  4. Kami

    Kami Screenwriter

    Jan 2, 2001
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    I picked this up many months ago (Just Master of the Rings, not this special set) and while it was informative, I couldn't get over the silly reenactments. They used midgets/dwarfs/whatever the poltically correct term is these days wearing top hats to portray hobbits. It was simply cringe inducing, but if you look past the horrible reenactments it's a good little package for any Tolkien aficionado.
  5. Rob Gillespie

    Rob Gillespie Producer

    Aug 17, 1998
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    Ron - to what extent does the disc talk about Tolkien's childhood? He spent formative years in Birmingham, England (my town) and there are a few places in the area said to have influenced his stories. We have a old water mill at Sarehole which is very close to another haunt of his - Moseley Bog. These are only a mile or two from where I live. And then there are the two towers closer to the city centre (and Birmingham used to be a heavy-industry city, so you can see where the transformation of Isengard comes from) and there is even a pub called The Ivy Bush. Some of these places are now recognised Tolkien 'spots'.
    There's some more info here:
  6. oscar_merkx

    oscar_merkx Lead Actor

    Apr 15, 2002
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    Thanks for the review Ron as I had seen this in the shops here in Glasgow and was not sure to pick this one up. Next time I see this, I will buy this.
  7. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein
    I made the slight corrections. Forgive me,
    I literally had pages of scribbled notes that
    I took while watching this.
    Not sure why you are complaining about the live
    action sequences. These were only meant to be
    re-enactments. There was no intended production
    value in mind. That is why they were shot hazy.
    These were only done to help the narrative along.
    The documentary glosses over his childhood but
    it does briefly point out areas where he had lived
    and was influenced by its surroundings. It would
    have been nice if they did more of a "locations
    that influenced Tolkien writings" segment.
  8. Mikah Woodward

    Mikah Woodward Stunt Coordinator

    Feb 24, 2002
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    Are you sure you have the right box shot? lists the one you have a shot of as released on December 4, 2001 and Produced by Eagle Vision. It also has no mention of a soundtrack CD. (in case it was a mistake and you do change it, the pic is shown here so I don't look too crazy [​IMG] )
    The one Amazon says was done by Warner, has the soundtrack CD, and was released on July 16, 2002 looks like this:
    of course, I could always be completely confused. That's normal for me, really...
  9. Mike Broadman

    Mike Broadman Producer

    Aug 24, 2001
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    One more correction, Ron: the band's name is Uriah Heep, not Deep.

    The disc looks cool. Will keep and eye out for it.
  10. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein
    Had a lot of problems finding artwork for
    this disc. Wow! The two disc covers look very

    If someone could email a link to the artwork I
    will be happy to update it.

    I have also corrected the name of the band.

    Any other corrections please email me privately.

    Thanks again
  11. Brian E

    Brian E Screenwriter

    Aug 12, 2000
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    Thanks for the review Ron. I've been trying to find info on this thing for a while. Didn't want to get burned, but it sounds decent enough for a Tolkien fanatic.
  12. Daniel J

    Daniel J Stunt Coordinator

    May 8, 2001
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    If anyone wants more info on Tolkien and the origins of LOTR, borrow Humphrey Carpenter's superb Tolkien biography from your library, and check out his "the Inklings" as well; it's a book about the 'writer's club' that C.S. Lewis and Tolkien were a part of at Oxford. It is also a definitive source for biographical info about Lewis.

    I've considered this disc, but the Hildebrandt artwork makes it a rental, rather than a purchase.
    If only they had used Alan Lee paintings instead...
  13. Michael Dueppen

    Michael Dueppen Stunt Coordinator

    Sep 19, 2000
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    Wow. I didn't know this existed. Thanks for the review, Ron.
    I'll probably have to pick this up.
  14. Mark Zimmer

    Mark Zimmer Producer

    Jun 30, 1997
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    To confuse matters further, the Eagle Vision disc seems to be more or less identical to the Warner release. Even the menu screens and interactive interviews are identical. There was no "music CD" or booklet included in that release, however.
    I reviewed the Eagle Vision version over at some time ago and thought it was quite well done as these things go, but felt the retelling of LOTR was padding. Apparently that sentiment isn't shared by those who've not read the books recently, so I feel a bit better about that as well. It's definitely worth picking up for a Tolkien fan.
  15. George See

    George See Second Unit

    Jul 14, 2002
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    I picked up the eagle vision version a couple of months ago from best buy for about 9.95 I didn't feel it was the greatest documentary but It was an impulse purchase. If it had cost me more than 9.95 I most likely would have been disapointed. I think die hard fans who have read some of the biographies in print would be disapointed as I was. It just didn't seem very deep to me And I also think the retelling of the storys was mostly filler that A real fan could do without. For a casual fan just looking to learn A little more about Tolkien this would be A great disc.

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