June 30, 2011

These past few months have been a godsend for those who prefer their film trilogies in glitzy high-definition. And things are just getting started: by year’s end, fan favorites Jurassic Park and Star Wars will both be available on Blu-ray. Ranking almost as high as George Lucas’ trailblazing sci-fi trilogy, The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy – Extended Edition (Alliance) is one of the most coveted collections to arrive on this format. April 2010 saw the release of the theatrical versions, a collection that left much to be desired in terms of A/V and extras. But all that has changed with this 15-disc beast that includes all three films in their elongated cuts, in addition to all the groundbreaking goodies that accompanied the extended collection on DVD.

Content-wise, LOTR has its army of devotees, and this franchise certainly doesn’t need my endorsement. Nevertheless, all three titles have stood the test of time as first-rate, if slightly arduous, adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien’s sprawling vision and scope. In the case of this release, the most important issue to address is the quality of these new high-definition transfers, and whether or not this pricey package is worth shelling out for if you already purchased it in standard-definition. The short answer: yes.

When the theatrical trilogy was upgraded to Blu-ray last year, the video was about two-thirds satisfactory. The Two Towers and The Return of the King looked fairly impressive compared to their previous home video editions, however, for some reason, The Fellowship of the Ring looked considerably worse. Once again, Fellowship has already stirred a fair amount of controversy. For this new release, that entry was re-mastered from its original 2K digital files. But when critics and fans finally got their hands on it, there was an overblown dispute over some new color tinkering. Rest assured, Peter Jackson and DP Andrew Lesnie recently confessed to overseeing the new transfer, and both claim that this is what they had always intended. As for audio: like the 2010 release, this set's DTS-HD Master Audio is reference-quality through and through. 

Like the extended DVDs, all three features are split across two discs. Couch potatoes may be less than thrilled to physically get up and swap discs midway, but one quick glance at the transfers should justify this petty sacrifice (while you're at it, take a bathroom break). The near-flawless level of detail is instantly noticeable, with visible grain and incredible depth that make these films look as good as they did ten years ago in cinemas. At the very least, this gorgeous set should satisfy the nerdiest of nerds until the inevitable definitive edition that will likely coincide with the home video release of The Hobbit. Truthfully, I’ll be more than fine with this package for the long run.