Lord of the Ring Theatrical Trilogy Blu-ray
When video tapes became a common place item in living rooms all over the global people started to collect their favorite movies, then around 1997 a new digital format, DVD, began to replace VCRs and again people repurchased their collection to have those films in the more enduring format, now, we are once again at the crossroads in home theater technology as the high definition format of Blu-ray is starting to overtake DVD in popularity. One factor in all three of these formats is a list of fan favorites most people crave in the new format. At an ever increasing pace studios are re-mastering and re-releasing popular films on Blu-ray. One of the most highly anticipated of these releases is here, well sort of. ‘The Lord of the Ring’ trilogy has just received its high definition treatment at least for the theatrical cut of the films. As they did with the original film releases to DVD we get the theatrical editions first followed, hopefully soon, by the extended editions. Back in 2001 when the first installment of this extremely successful franchise was initially released movies still where in the process of migrating to DVD so there are fans out there with the original VHS copies as part of their collection. Aside from the obvious improvement in fidelity in the presentation each new format also greatly increased the storage capacity making it possible to include extra content. Blu-ray releases like this are no different although many of the bonus features are from other sources or ported from the DVD. As good as any set of extras may be the main reason to repurchase a film is the improvements made in reproducing the film maker’s vision of the project. In the case of this release it is pretty certain that a good number of fans of the films will wait for the release of high def extended cut but it is also just as sure that many out there are of the ‘collect the all mindset and will want this set. In any case this version will not disappoint in what was promised; the best looking and presentations of the theatrical cuts.
I can understand that people fell ripped off with a distributor that re-releases one variation of a film after another. The most infamous examples of this is, of course, the original ‘Star Wars’ trilogy that seem to little if anything to really add to the enjoyment of the films. On the polar opposite of the spectrum is the way ‘Blade Runner ‘was released. There was a onetime mega release with all the major variations in a very nicely constructed collectable package. The packaging in this release is fairly standard with three discs for each film; the film, extras and limited time digital copy. This is a free market so if you are prepared to wait for the inevitable extended Blu-ray just refrain from buying this edition. Since there are people would feel the three hour long theatrical is there preferred version then this is available for them now. I do greatly enjoy the extended cut but there are times when I want to enjoy another take on one of the best regarded stories in literature. After all the same story has different pacing and nuance depends on the method used to relate the story. A valid case can be made that the two versions can constitute different films.
With that debate duly note the actual technical merits can be considered. I prepared to consider the Blu-ray release by revisiting the DVD theatrical versions. I had upgraded the audio and video equipment and I want to be able to do a reasonably fair comparison. I’ve done this with several Blu-ray releases going head to head with their DVD counter parts and after calibrating both a Panasonic Plasma and Sharp LCD high definition televisions with the Joe Kane High Definition disc and the results here did blow me away. Of course there was a greater degree of detail visible but almost from the first frame it was the attention to realism that director Peter Jackson poured into every frame that enfolds the viewer. In ‘Fellowship’ there is a contrast between the bright, sunny scenes of the Shire with the dark, foreboding underground birthplace of the Uruk-hai at Isengard. This high def video is all about textures from lush green hills and field speckled with flowers to the grit under the fingernails of the hobbits. In ‘Two Towers’ and ‘Return of the King’ what truly pops are the massive battle scenes. On DVD you could perceive the virtual cast of thousands but know the throngs of foes clashing have the feel of being composed of individuals with unique characteristics notable with the combatants. In all the movies the costumer’s supreme dedication to period clothing is evident from the gossamer fabric of the Elvin ladies to the rough cloth and leather worn by the riders of Rowan. Not to be out done the Foley artists and musicians benefit from the DTS-HD audio track, soundstage is expansive with natural sounds willing it. When the Ents are attacking you hear the roots interacting with the ground as all around you are the sounds of Orcs being crushed. The low frequencies are give a great work out not only from the sub woofer but also the standard woofers of the front, center and rear really get a work out.