June 20, 2011


It’s finally here. For those who’ve held out hope for the extended editions of Lord of the Rings series on Blu-ray, Warner Brothers has now put out a fifteen-disc set of the franchise, with each film getting a new mastering. Peter Jackson’s triumphant version of the J.R.R. Tolkien books won big at the Oscars (seventeen awards in total, including best picture for Return of the King) and the box office, and did so for a reason: it’s great. Watching them again, the films still feel perfect, and though there may be some bad jokes, and perfectionists may wish that more of the books made it on screen (or were added to the extended cuts), the sheer scale that Jackson gets to by the final chapter is one of the great achievements of cinema. Yes, the guy who directed Bad Taste had the right stuff. One wonders if he’ll ever be as good again.  Our review of  The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy Extended Edition on Blu-ray follows after the jump.

You know the drill. Four Hobbits (Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd) join up with a Dwarf (John Rhys-Davies) an Elf (Orlando Bloom), a wizard (Ian McKellan) and two humans (Sean Bean, Viggo Mortensen) to destroy a ring that controls the fate of the world. Along the way, some are killed, and the gang is split up with Frodo Baggins (Wood) and Samwise (Astin) encountering Gollum (Andy Serkis), who helps lead them on their way while pining for the ring himself.

the-lord-of-the-rings-the-motion-picture-trilogy-extended-edition-blu-ray-imageShort review: The transfers are outstanding, with Fellowship of the Ring (whose theatrical incarnation on Blu-ray was not up to snuff) now looking as good as the rest of the films. And in 1080p, these suckers are gorgeous. All the supplements are the same, and they include everything from the four disc sets previously released, along with the Costa Botes documentaries – the ones issued with the two-disc EE sets. The downside: instead of converting the supplements to 1080p, or having all the supplements on one Blu-ray disc, the films’ extras are presented in DVD versions. Which means they’re the exact same discs as before, and there’s nothing new.

Fellowship of the Ring was the one that started it all, and suggested that Jackson could deliver. The film covers the history of the ring, and how it got to Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm), who received unnaturally long life and health from the ring, but treats it like an addiction. When he leaves the shire on his 111th birthday, he leaves the ring to Frodo (Wood), but Gandalf (McKellen) thinks there’s something odd about it. All the while, Sauron – the original owner of the ring – is growing more powerful and has recruited Saruman (Christopher Lee) to help build him an army. Gandalf has Samwise (Astin) join Frodo, and the two hook in Merry (Monaghan) and Pippen (Boyd). They meet Aragorn (Mortensen) who helps them get to Elrond (Hugo Weaving) so they can decide what to do with the ring. There the fellowship is formed, and the journey begins, which leads them to the mines of Moira, and eventually the dissolution of the fellowship.

God damn, what an entertaining movie. One that takes chances with the amount of fantasy, but this is fantasy done right. The extended editions are that much longer, and you get to really sink into the characters, with more breathing room at the beginning especially. The original cut ran 178 min., while the Extended Edition runs 208 min. — or 228 min. if you include the additional credit sequence (which consists of the names of the Lord of the Rings fan-club members who ponied up the dough to get their names in the credits). The editions are mostly minor, but since the world is so much fun to spend time in, it’s worth it. The opening gets the most additional material, but little things – like the magical powers of all the gifts the Elves give the Fellowship – add up to a stronger film in total.

the-lord-of-the-rings-the-fellowship-of-the-ring-movie-posterThe film is presented over two discs, with the film in an immaculate looking widescreen (2.35:1) transfer, and in DTS-HD 6.1 ES surround sound. Is this a demo disc? Yes. I found myself noticing sweat and the texture of paper – all the little things that pop with a great transfer. The film comes with four commentaries, the first with Peter Jackson, writer/producer Fran Walsh, and writer Philippa Boyens, the second with Production designer Grant Major, Costume Designer Ngila Dickson, Weta Workshop creature supervisor Richard Taylor, conceptual Designers Alan Lee and John How, supervising art director/set director Dan Hennah, art department manager Chris Hennah, and Weta workshop manager Tania Rodger.

The third track features producer Barrie Osbourne, executive producer Mark Ordesky, cinematographer Andrew Lesnie, editor John Gilber, co-producer Rick Porras, composer Howard Shore, visual effects supervisor Jim Rygiel, supervising sound editor/co-designer Ethan Van der Ryn, supervising sound editor Mike Hopkins, Weta Animation Designer and supervisor Randy Cook, Weta VFX art director Christian Rivers, Weta VFX cinematographer Brian Van’t Hul, and miniatures unit director of photography Alex Funke. The fourth track, the cast commentary, features Elijah Wood, Ian McKellan, Liv Tyler, Sean Astin, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd, Dominic Managhan, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, and Sean Bean. Both Blu-ray discs of Fellowship have easily found Easter Eggs.

Disc three offers “The Appendices Part One — From Book to Vision” and covers the journey of FOTR from page to screen. It starts with a welcome from Peter Jackson (1 min.). It’s followed by “J.R.R. Tolkien: Creator of Middle-Earth” (22 min.), which covers the source material, and Tolkien’s influences. “From Book to Script” (20 min.) mostly has the cast talking about their love of the source material, and the changes that were made – like the snipping out of Tom Bombadill. In the “Visualizing the Story” section there’s “Storyboards and Pre-Viz: Making Words into Images” (14 min.), which talks about the planning that went into making the film, along with “Early Storyboards,” which offers a look at “The Prologue” (8 min.) “Orc Pursuit into Lothlorien” (2 min.) and “Sarn Gebir Rapids Chase” (2 min.) – all of which are scenes that were either not shot or included in either cut. “Pre-viz Animatics” offers looks at “Gandalf Rides to Orthanc” (1 min.) and “The Stairs of Khazad-Dum” (2 min.). “Animatic-to-film Comparisons” has two scenes, “Nazgul Attack at Bree” (2 min.) and “The Bridge of Khazad-Dum” (3 min.), and the section concludes with “Bag End Set Test” (7 min.), where Jackson hashed out how some of the sizing would work.

the-lord-of-the-rings-image-liv-tyler“Designing and Building Middle-earth” offers “Designing Middle-earth” (41 min.) gives props to the creative team behind the look of the film, while “Weta Workshop” (43 min.) gives the make-up and effects guys their due, and “Costume Design” (12 min.) highlights the self-evident. There are also two still galleries for design, broken into numerous subsections covering the people and the realms, with some of the stills coming with commentary.

The Middle-Earth Atlas is an interactive map where you can follow the journey of Frodo or Gandalf, with clips from the film. And, finally, “New Zealand as Middle-earth” (10 min.) covers seven of the film’s locations.

Disc four is called “The Appendices Part Two — From Vision to Reality.” It starts with an intro from Elijah Wood (1 min.). Then comes “Filming The Fellowship of the Ring” – which is broken into three featurettes. “The Fellowship of the Cast” (35 min.) has the cast singing each other’s praises, “A Day in the Life of a Hobbit” (13 min.) covers how long it takes to put on the make-up and “Cameras in Middle Earth” (50 min.) talks to the film’s multiple units, which were constantly shooting. This section also offers a “Production Photos” still gallery.

“Visual Effects” offers features on “Scale” (16 min.), while the “Miniatures” section features “Big-atures” (16 min.) – the slightly larger than expected miniature version of locations – and a still gallery for six of the locations. And in “Weta Digital” (25 min.), the effects guys get to talk about their work.

the-lord-of-the-rings-image-ian-mckellen“Post-Production: Putting It All Together” offers “Editorial: Assembling an Epic” (13 min.) and “Editorial Demonstration: The Council of Elrond”(2 min.)  which shows the 36 takes, and raw footage that goes into that sequence. “Digital Grading” (12 min.) covers the post-production tinkering with the look of the film. “Sound and Music” has “The Soundscapes of Middle-earth” (13 min.) to talk about the sound design while “Music for Middle-earth” (12 min.) gives Howard Shore’s work a spotlight. Finally, “The Road Goes Ever On…” (7 min.) covers the film’s premiere.

Disc Five offers Costa Botes’ documentary on the making of Fellowship (85 min.) and it’s a way more playful look at the making of the film. The hobbits get to goof on each other, but work gets done.

What may be most amazing about this series — aside from its command of CGI effects; aside from its compelling characters and story; aside from the fabulous star-making performances of Viggo Mortensen and Orlando Bloom; aside from the great casting; aside from the beautiful New Zealand vistas shot by Andrew Lesnie; aside from the sheer spectacle of it all — is how Peter Jackson has made these films his own. Even more than Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson is the ultimate director-as-12-year-old-boy. And the Jackson sensibility is notable throughout, with his silly humor and blood and guts swordsmanship, but this is kept in balance by the weight of the quest to destroy the one ring. These are visionary works by a master director, a painstaking decade-long cinematic journey that may never be equaled.

the-lord-of-the-rings-the-two-towers-movie-posterAs for The Two Towers, here Sam and Frodo meet Gollum, and Merry and Pippen are stuck with Treebeard (Rhys-Davies) and Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli and Gandalf (now the White) help Theoden (Bernard Hill) reclaim his soul from Grima Wormtongue (Brad Dourif) and protect his people from an assault on his retreat fortress – Helm’s Deep. Frodo also meets Boromir’s brother Faramir (David Wenham), while Theoden’s niece Eowyn (Miranda Otto) both wants to fight and tries to romance Aragorn.

As for the extended cut, without providing a frame-by-frame analysis of the addendums, the additional footage consists mostly of things trimmed to get the film near a three-hour running time. The original cut ran 179 min., while the Extended Edition runs 222 min. — or 236 min. if you include the additional credit sequence. The only major sequence added is the thing the fans of the book clamored for most: a flashback in which Faramir (Wenham) and Boromir (Sean Bean) confront their father Denethor (John Noble) — who treats Faramir as the lesser son — over who gets to go to Rivendell for the meeting held in Fellowship. The scene explains why Faramir would want to give the Ring to his father to prove himself, a plot-point created by Jackson to increase the drama to which fans of the book lamented, feeling it was done at the expense of Faramir’s character. The characters who get the most additional screen-time in this cut would probably be Merry (Dominic Monaghan), Pippin (Billy Boyd), and Treebeard (voiced by John Rhys-Davies). But most of the additions are little bits that give more detail, but for all the add-ons, the pacing is kept up — one never feels the additional 43 minutes. In comparison between the two Extended Editions, the additions to Fellowship seem stronger, because the longer, Hobbit-centric opening and the explanation of the Elven gifts were so obviously missing. But while the main addition (the Boromir/Godfather II sequence) is nice to see, it isn’t as necessary.

The Two Towers: Extended Edition is presented in a spotless widescreen (2.35:1) transfer and in DTS-HD 6.1 ES. I’ll say it again – Demo discs. The film has four audio commentaries. The first features Peter Jackson and screenwriters Frances Walsh and Phillipa Boyens. The second one is with the design team, costume designer and Weta workshop supervisor Richard Taylor, Weta workshop supervisor Tania Rodger, production designer Grant Major, art directors and set designers Alan Lee and Dan Hennah, art department coordinator Chris Hennah, and conceptual designer John Howe. This is followed by a commentary by producer Barrie Osborne, executive producer Mark Ordesky, cinematographer Andrew Lesnie, editors Michael Horton, and Jabez Olssen, co-producer Rick Porras, composer Howard Shore, visual effects supervisors Jim Rygiel and Joe Letteri, sound editors Ethan Van der Ryn and Mike Hopkins, creature effects supervisor Randy Cook, art director Christian Rivers, visual effects cinematographer Brian Van’t Hull and visual effects director of photography for the miniature unit Alex Funke.

And finally, the track that will probably get the most play, the audio commentary with the cast, including Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Liv Tyler, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, Sean Bean, Bernard Hill, Miranda Otto, David Wenham, Brad Dourif, Karl Urban, John Noble, Craig Parker and Andy Serkis. There are also easily found Easter eggs on both discs.

the-lord-of-the-rings-orlando-bloom-imageDisc Three is called “The Appendices, Part III — The Journey Continues” and it comes with an introduction by Peter Jackson (2 min.) The first featurette is “J.R.R. Tolkien: Origins of Middle-Earth” (29 min.). Though not attempting to be a biography, it does speak of Tolkien’s friendship with C.S. Lewis, while it also suggests how his time in World War I as a soldier influenced the book (especially the dead marshes sequence). It’s also interesting to note that the commentators are at times a bit critical of his writing style, and are surprised that the thing was published at all.

“From Book to Script: Finding the Story” (21 min.) explains how the writers felt the middle chapter was the most problematic. Tolkien’s structure told basically multiple stories linearly through, while Jackson felt to create a timeline they had to be intercut, which forced some reshufflings of events, specifically “She” being pushed into Return of the King. This is also where the writers explain why they changed Faramir’s character (as they also note on the commentary). “In Designing Middle Earth” (46 min.) we get a look at how the locations were found (sometimes by just flying a helicopter around New Zealand), and how much detail and work went into the smallest details of the costuming, even when outfits were being mass-produced. In this section is also a large stills gallery (with some of the stills featuring audio commentaries) for both the peoples and realms of Middle Earth. To get a closer look at the costume and make-up work done, watch the section called “Weta Workshop” (44 min.), which shows how much work went into the whole process.

Lord of the Rings GollumBut the standout section on this disc is “The Taming of Smeagol” (40 min.), since the Gollum/Smeagol character is the best addition to the series. The documentary shows how much of the character was modeled on Serkis, who shot his scenes with the actors, and then was later replaced with his digital incarnation. Watching Serkis’s commitment as he flops around in a freezing-cold river explains why Gollum has become an indelible cinematic figure. But to see how much of Gollum is in Andy Serkis’s performance, the Andy Serkis Animation Reference (2 min.) shows the live action Serkis delivering Gollum’s monologue to himself, which is also available in split-screen so one can compare to the final product. The final chapter in this section, Gollum Stand-in (3 min.), exists to embarrass co-producer Rick Porras as he was stuck in the Gollum suit one day. There’s also a design gallery here so you can see the different attempts at getting Gollum’s look. The last supplement on Disc Three is New Zealand as Middle-Earth (14 min.), which offers a location-by-location series of scouting trips of the places filmed in New Zealand as substitutes for middle Earth. Those looking for “Hobbitized” vacation ideas may benefit the most from this.

the-lord-of-the-rings-imageDisc Four is “The Appendices, Part IV — The Battle for Middle-Earth Begins” and beings with an introduction from Elijah Wood (1 min.), who expresses a fan’s enthusiasm for the extras-packed set. Next up is the section Filming Middle Earth, which has two sections: Warriors of the Third Age (21 min.), and Cameras in Middle-Earth (68 min.). The first talks to and about the stunt people involved and the work they went through, and Viggo Mortensen’s penchant for head butting. The second is the more standard “making-of,” where they cover the difficulties involved in making the picture (especially the money sequences), though producer Barrie Osborne does mention that since all three were shot at the same time, it’s sometimes hard to differentiate between what was for what. This section also has a production-photos gallery.

For the area entitled “Visual Effects”, there’s a section for the miniature work, with the featurette titled “Big-atures” (22 min.), as they were often built on sets to much larger scale than most miniatures (hence the name). Also in this section is “The Flooding of Isengard Animatic” (2 min.), which offers the animatic and a split-screen comparison. In “WETA Digital” (28 min.) the digital work is given its due, from the work done on Treebeard to the extensive programming done to create digital characters that have their own A.I. when they fight. Also in this section is a still gallery for Abandoned Concepts, featuring the talked about Slime Balrog. In “Editorial: Refining the Story” (22 min.) the editorial process is highlighted as Jackson had different editors work on each movie. Here they were Michael Horton and Jabez Olssen, and Jackson talks about the process where in which he gets to see a rough cut put together first, with often crude animation filling in for the uncompleted sequences. From there the fine-tuning begins.

the-lord-of-the-rings-image-1Next is a section called “Music and Sound.” “Music for Middle-Earth” (25 min.) concentrates on Howard Shore and includes footage from the scoring stage, while “The Soundscapes of Middle-Earth” (21 min.) goes behind the sound-effects work, showing how much of the audio for the film was added on later, something that becomes even more noticeable after thumbing through “Sound Demonstration for Helm’s Deep” (1 min.), which allows one to sample the seven layers that went into creating the soundtrack for the battle, along with an eighth final version option. If that weren’t enough, the disc wraps up with the epilogue “The Battle for Helm’s Deep is Over…” (9 min.) where everyone talks about the relief of having finished, the premieres, and (briefly) what’s to come.

Disc Five offers Costa Botes’ documentary on the making of the film (106 min.), which – again is very playful and more of a fly on the wall approach. These are very endearing, and let the cast goof off like the hams they could be.

the-lord-of-the-rings-the-return-of-the-king-movie-posterReturn of the King is the big wrap-up, and damn if it doesn’t deliver (even if it takes its time to wrap up – but if you’re like me and watched all three films over 24 hours, it’s just part of the journey). Here Frodo and Sam finally get to Mount Doom, while Aragorn and company go to Denethor (John Noble) in Gondor, where they are not welcomed with enthusiasm. Aragorn and Gandalf try to rally troops, and Aragorn finally claims his role as the king of Gondor – which lets him use the army of the dead to fight Sauron. But everything rests on Frodo getting that ring destroyed as both he and Sam come to think it will be the end of them.

By the time Legolas is surfing a dead elephant after taking it out, it’s impressive to think about the sheer scale of this movie. Though none of the films are small, there are literally thousands of people in the final battle (many, to be fair, done with CGI), but when there are swooping dragons, and all the orcs and Uruk-hai and humans and the great palace of Gondor, it’s truly epic. There is a sense of scale here that is unparalleled – you’d have to go back fifty years to see someone attempt something of this scale, but the freedom of digital technology means that it’s not just panning across thousands of people, but swooping from up high, and going everywhere. There’s nothing like it.

The extended edition of Return of the King added 50 minutes of new footage to the Best Picture winner and — much like the theatrical— is the longest of the bunch at four hours and 10 minutes (with an additional 20 minutes of fan credits). In the theatrical cut it’s Samwise Gamgee’s (Sean Astin) film, here it becomes his. The majority of the new additions aren’t to his, Frodo (Elijah Wood), and Gollum/Smeagol’s (Andy Serkis) journey, but to the others. It’s safe to say that Jackson felt theirs was the most important narrative, and cut little from it.

What may be most surprising to those who were looking for some of the “important” scenes trimmed but rumored to be filmed is how the majority are brief. The long spoke of “Mouth of Sauron” scene, in which a nefarious ambassador (Bruce Spence) meets Aragorn’s army at the Black Gates, takes about a minute. The “House of Healing” sequence is only marginally longer and is conveyed non-verbally, while future lovers Eowyn’s (Miranda Otto) and Faramir’s (David Wenham) extended courtship amounts to more shots of the couple making googly eyes at each other. Gandalf’s confrontation with the Witch King clocks in at a minute; Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) grabbing the palantir to tell Sauron that he’s the returned king is also succinct. They are welcome, but it points to how much was sacrificed to get the film down to its already unwieldy theatrical length.

the-lord-of-the-rings-image-elijah-woodThe longest addition is the one that fans (and Christopher Lee) have been clamoring for since it was announced that it was snipped: the resolution of Saruman (Lee) and Grima Wormtounge (Brad Dourif). But in finally seeing the sequence, it’s easy to see why it was excised; though it caps off two characters who were prominent in the last film, their fates don’t really advance the plot that much and the movie already has too much to cover before the battle for Minis Tirith. But it’s a welcome addition just the same.

Though the running time is elongated, the film’s rhythms play better here; Return of the King now gets to take its time. It allows for more grace notes, and characters get to breathe a bit more (though the film was always driven by its characters). Jackson made a great film better.

The film is presented widescreen (2.35:1) and is spread over two discs in DTS-HD 6.1 ES. These were made to be used for demoing your system. Most of the commentarians have graced the previous sets — the lineups are nearly identical — giving a sense of continuity to the supplements. The first commentary features Peter Jackson and screenwriters Frances Walsh and Phillipa Boyens, and as always there’s jovial but insightful about their work, and Jackson is quick to point out how much was directed by others (though under his supervision). Next up is audio commentary with design team, including costume designer and Weta workshop supervisor Richard Taylor, Weta workshop supervisor Tania Rodger, production designer Grant Major, art directors and set designers Alan Lee and Dan Hennah, art department coordinator Chris Hennah, and conceptual designer John Howe, in addition to costume designer Ngila Dickson, who skipped the Two Towers commentary.

This is followed by a commentary by producer Barrie Osborne, executive producer Mark Ordesky, co-producer Rick Porras, composer Howard Shore, visual effects supervisors Jim Rygiel and Joe Letteri, sound editors Ethan Van der Ryn and Mike Hopkins, creature effects supervisor Randy Cook, art director Christian Rivers, visual effects cinematographer Brian Van’t Hull and visual effects director of photography for the miniature unit Alex Funke. New to the track are editors Jamie Selkirk and Annie Collins (different editors worked on each film so this is fitting). The final commentary is with the cast, including Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Liv Tyler, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, Bernard Hill, Miranda Otto, David Wenham, Karl Urban, John Noble, and Andy Serkis. Coming back to the commentaries is Ian McKellen, while new additions are Hugo Weaving, Witch King/Gothmog Lawrence Makoare, and Smeagol and Gollum. Yep, Serkis provides some comic relief as everyone’s favorite bipolar case provides his thoughts on the making of. Some of which is funny, some of which… less so.

the-lord-of-the-rings-the-return-of-the-king-movie-poster-1Disc Three offers “The Appendices, Part V — The War of the Ring” which starts with an introduction by Peter Jackson (2 min.). If these summaries are invoking déjà vu, it’s because the blueprint is the same on all the discs: “J.R.R. Tolkien: The Legacy of Middle-Earth” (29 min.) speaks to Tolkien’s creation of the languages of Middle Earth and the roots of his mythology, while delving into thematics that correlate to the author’s life, as analyzed by Tolkien scholars. This segues well into the next section, “From Book to Script: Forging the Final Chapter” (25 min.). Tolkien thought that his trilogy could never be filmed, partly because timelines overlap in different books; stories in Two Towers have parallel action in King. A nightmare to solve, it’s probably why screenwriters Jackson, Phillipa Boyens and Fran Walsh netted their Best Screenplay Oscars.

Here, the filmmakers discuss how they reworked the book into filming shape, and what didn’t make the cut (even after filming stopped) especially a cut scene featuring Aragorn fighting Sauron — which was thought needed to give the final struggle to destroy the ring more drama, though proved unnecessary — and the absence of the long missed “Scowering of the Shire” sequence. There’s also a frank discussion of the film’s multiple endings. In this section one can also see the early animatics for the Sauron-Aragorn fight (5 min.).

In “Designing and Building Middle Earth” (39 min.), the struggles of creating the worlds for final chapter is under scrutiny, with the main new addition for the film being Minas Tirith. This section features footage from Jackson’s Dead Alive as the Dimholt road sequence was filmed in a shared location, where Bad Taste is featured in the “Bigatures” section (19 min.). It covers all of the large miniatures used in making the film. “Weta Workshop” (47 min.) offers an in-depth look at the New Zealand’s team’s work on the special effects, and on the design of the main villains, including the added Mouth of Sauron. “Costume Design” (12 min.) tracks the new outfits, while in this section one can also access Design Galleries, which has sections for “The Peoples of Middle Earth,” “The Realms of Middle Earth,” and “Miniatures.”

“Home of the Horse Lords” (30 min.) bespeaks the actor’s relationships with their equine counterparts. Most of the horses were difficult at best, while horse doubles (sometimes something as simple as a barrel) were used. “New Zealand as Middle-Earth” (16 min.) covers all the Kiwi locations of the third film, while Middle Earth Atlas allows the user to track the paths followed through Middle Earth in the course of the movie.

the-lord-of-the-rings-image-dominic-monaghanDisc Four is called “The Appendices, Part VI — The Passing of an Age” and beings with an introduction from Billy Boyd, Elijah Wood and Dominic Monaghan (2 min.). “Filming Middle Earth”, has two sections: “Cameras in Middle-Earth” (73 min.), and “Production Photos.” “Cameras” is easily the set’s best supplement — it’s the one that covers the production of the third film, which features a lot of the cast and crew saddened by finishing the series (many of whom were involved with it for nearly a decade). In the area entitled “Visual Effects” is the featurette “Weta Digital” (42 min.) and it reveals the labor that went into the film’s 1,488 special-effects shots, more than the two previous films combined. Also in this section is “Visual Effects Demonstration: “The Mumakil Battle” (1 min.) which offers seven angles on a short sequence from the Mumakils (the large elephants) vs. Horses fight with optional audio commentary on each angle.

Viggo Mortensen Lord of the RingsIn “Post Production: Journey’s End” there’s “Editorial: Completing the Trilogy” (22 min.). It sets up how RotK was forced to contain footage originally intended for inclusion earlier (such as Sarumon’s final scene and Smeagol’s discovery of the ring), while also shows how this film reunited Jackson with editor Jamie Selkirk, who worked on all of Jackson’s films previous to Fellowship of the Ring. “Music for Middle Earth” (22 min.) focuses on Howard Shore (who won an Academy Award for his score), and the songs that come into play in the theatrical and extended edition. “The Soundscapes of Middle-Earth” (22 min.) goes behind the sound-effects work, and to what lengths the recording crew went to find the noises they needed, which in one case meant getting close to horse raring to breed. “The End of All Things” (21 min.) talks of the bum-rush that went into finishing the final film, which had so much work being done on the technical end that the movie was worked on up until the very last minute.

“The Passing of the Age” (25 min.) spends much of time talking about the film’s premiere, the Oscars, and a short autopsy on the series. But the heart of the disc is “Cameron Duncan: The Inspiration for ‘Into the West’” (32 min.), which is about Duncan (1986-2003), a young filmmaker who Jackson and company brought into the fold because Jackson saw some parallels between Duncan’s work and his own. Unfortunately Duncan developed terminal cancer, but he provided the inspiration for the Oscar-winning song “Into the West.” Also included are two of Cameron’s short films “DFK6498” (4 min.) and “Strike Zone” (11 min.).

Disc Five offers Botes documentary on the making of RotK (114 min.) and it’s a nice playful version of a behind the scenes piece.

Also included with this set are codes for the downloadable versions of the films. Yeah. Impressive.



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