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  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL 45.22)
  • English: Dolby Digital Surround
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround EX
  • English: DTS 6.1 Surround ES
    Greek, English - Hearing Impaired
  • Additional footage - 30 mins
  • Teaser trailer - The Two Towers preview
  • 4 Audio commentary
  • Photo gallery - 2000+
  • Animated menus
  • Behind the scenes footage
  • Booklet
  • Awards/Nominations - 6 hours
  • Multiple angle
  • Dolby Digital trailer
  • DTS trailer

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring - Special Extended Edition

New Line/Roadshow Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 218 mins . M15+ . PAL


So much has been written over the past year about Peter Jackson’s remarkable first instalment in a trilogy of films based on Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings that even those who haven’t seen the film (presumably that half dozen of you up the back there!) will be well familiar with its cast, its visual style and its status as one of the most successful movie adaptations of classic literature ever attempted. And as the release of the second film in the trilogy approaches and the final marketing assault for the first film gets properly under way, the one thing we don’t want to do this time around is bore you with yet another review of a film that’s already been declared sacred by those who love it and a Stonking Good Time by just about everybody else.

And yet this time, more so than before, some kind of critique is warranted. The reason is that the version of the movie contained in this four-disc epic DVD set is one which is making its premiere here and now, a longer, more indulgent version of the film that was never shown theatrically (in fact, it was completed specifically for DVD).

Jackson has gone to great lengths to point out that this is not a “director’s cut” - at least, no more than the theatrical version was, as both then and now the results have been 100% director-approved. What this longer version of the film gets to do, ultimately, is take advantage of both the DVD format and the notorious patience of that format’s audience. Just under a half hour of footage that was removed during the editing process for the theatrical version has been restored here, given the same attention to post-production detail as the rest of the movie (and, remarkably, their own freshly-composed music score fragments as well). Now, it’s a dangerous thing, this tampering with finished movies - after all, it was the theatrical version which captured the imaginations of millions, and history is littered with misfired reconsiderations of classic movies by directors with way too much time and money on their hands (Close Encounters, anyone?) But this is different.

Peter Jackson talks of this longer cut almost as if it’s an indulgence, a gift to die-hard fans that can’t get enough of the film and long to see more detail. But what he’s created here is actually a better movie. An added half hour on a film that already ran a shade under three is really not that much of an imposition upon the audience (and the “interval” enforced by the disc change actually lends it even more of a sense of occasion, just like in the days of big long blockbuster ‘50s and ‘60s epics). And this isn’t just a bunch of scenes that have been grabbed at random and rudely shoved into the theatrical cut of the film. Instead, Jackson has gone through his entire movie and tweaked it, in some cases adding entire new scenes, but often just including an extra shot or two that illuminate the story more clearly (as with the brief additions to the prologue). Where full scenes are added, they serve the story - peripheral characters get more screen time, smaller plot points are given more attention. As a result, the whole thing seems warmer - a more rounded, satisfying experience that arguably captures the spirit of the book even more strongly than the original cut.

The additions have been made so seamlessly that they seem like they’ve always been there, and are immediately missed when you go back and watch the shorter version. Even the new opening sequence (in which Bilbo Baggins tells the audience about the Hobbits and their lives) seems like a more natural way to open the story, relocated opening title and all. And thanks to a vital added scene in the Lothlorien sequence, this movingly ethereal section of the film carries even greater emotional weight. Sure, a lot of the added material is fairly dialogue-heavy, but that’s what makes it work so well; the words are so insightfully chosen that even the most tiresomely essential exposition turns into poetry. It’s a beautifully-judged screenplay; how could we not want to hear more of it?

Those who haven’t seen the movie before should probably opt for this cut - sure, it’s three and a half hours long, but we’re willing to bet that you won’t be bored for a single second of that time.

Oh, and one note on the longer running time: the 200-minute figure quoted on the packaging is correct, and the Official Fan Club Credits that have been added to the end of the movie’s credit crawl is not counted as part of that running time. That roll call - which lists each and every member of the fan club - takes a remarkable 18 minutes to scroll through, minutes that are not part of the half hour of added footage! Most won’t bother watching this interminable crawl, but do note that the entire thing comes with a big chunk of Howard Shore music in full surround sound; it makes for great “play-out” music, once again just like they used to do on the big blockbusters of the past.

This 'Extended DVD Edition' is available in two forms - as a four-disc set in a (fairly flimsy) multi-fold “Digipak” card inside a cardboard slip-case, and as an ultra-expensive five-disc version which comes with bookends (!) and an extra disc. Roadshow sent us the four-disc set for review (the discs all still using the movie’s “code name” Changing Seasons!) but also included a copy of the fifth disc that the “bookend” set’s owners will get. A 52-minute National Geographic documentary, it will be made available separately for under $20, so those who don’t want to take out a bank loan for the “bookend” set can still get all the content. With that in mind, we’d have to recommend the four-disc option unless you’re either a die-hard collector or insanely rich.

The main four dual-layered discs are the same in both sets - two discs for the movie (splitting it almost exactly down the middle, with an interval neatly placed after the “Council of Elrond” sequence) and two discs for the extensive extras.


Shot on actual film, but boasting all the advantages of the digital age, the video transfer for Fellowship of the Ring was as spectacular as they come on the original DVD release, and remarkably it looks even better this time around. Presented in its theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and 16:9 enhanced, the image throughout is loaded with detail (but without the use of unnecessary edge enhancement), rich in colour and adventurous in its use of contrast. The film was extensively colour-corrected digitally prior to release, and so there’s a lot here that looks immensely unconventional. If you’re expecting a naturalistic colour palette, you’re watching the wrong movie; this is a fantasy set in a familiar yet different world, and nothing here looks quite the way it would to the naked eye.

The new footage (which also got the digital-colour-correction treatment) is seamlessly intercut with the rest of the film, and looks every bit as good; one or two edits between new and old material seem a teensy bit clumsy, but that’s got more to do with timing than any technical issue.

Once again, a subtitle stream is used on the disc for the various translations when needed, rather than the carefully-chosen font seen on theatrical prints (and, going by the clips shown in the extras, the US extended-version DVD as well). This is a bit of a shame, though mercifully the obtrusive “60 years later” title has been removed from the top of the film in this version.

Video compression is flawless, with not a problem or an artefact in sight. The layer changes are both fairly well placed, but were both unusually slowly negotiated by our review player (a Sony). Still, they’re not too bothersome.

One thing that’s especially welcome is the way the disc authors have chosen to handle the two-disc format. Those who bought Columbia’s dual-disc Lawrence of Arabia set will know all too well the pain of being unceremoniously dumped back to the main menu at the intermission, then having to negotiate company trailers, copyright notices, more menu screens and another loud and obnoxious Dolby trailer before being allowed to watch part two. No such problem here; the first disc plays out then drops the viewer into a text-only, silent screen that invites you to head for disc two and provides an option to return to the main menu if desired; inserting the second disc immediately brings up a similar screen offering options to continue the movie, continue the commentary and to set up screen and sound options. It’s beautifully, intuitively done.


While Star Wars Episode 2 cheerfully levels lounge rooms across the globe with its over-the-top subwoofer bombast, the soundtrack for Fellowship of the Ring is far more restrained - and far more suited to the film. Supplied on this version of the DVD in three formats - Dolby Digital EX 5.1, DTS-ES Discrete 6.1 and good old fashioned Dolby Surround - the audio mix is richly detailed throughout, the crystal-clear dialogue also seeming a little better balanced with the other channels this time around. Remixed especially for the DVD, the soundtrack has been deliberately designed so as not to need “re-EQ” (any such settings should be turned off if you’ve got them on your decoder or receiver; most do not).

The addition of a half-bitrate DTS track is certainly going to be an appealing prospect for many, but those without DTS decoding ability shouldn’t feel too bad; the difference between the DTS and Dolby Digital tracks is VERY slight, and is mainly in the usual dual areas of LFE handling and surround channel level. The LFE channel on the DTS track is far less “boomy” than its Dolby equivalent, and consequently sounds more natural; the louder surrounds give an illusion of greater spatial definition, but we suspect the old review chestnuts that always get pulled out when a DTS track surfaces - “richer”, “more detailed”, “fuller” and so on - will get a run for their money from the Dolby track here, mainly because for the first time in living memory the two competing formats are encoded here at similar overall levels. Both tracks are excellent, and most people wouldn’t be able to tell them apart in blindfold tests; however, it’s great to have the DTS option there for those that can use it, and the added attraction of an extra discrete surround channel is hard to deny (as long as you have a system that can decode it, of course). For the record, by the way, the Dolby EX track is not flagged as such, while the DTS-ES track does have the appropriate flag set to tell decoders what to do.

The Dolby Surround track also supplied (and correctly flagged, naturally) is almost anaemic by comparison, and either of the multi-channel tracks downmixed to two channels are a far better choice than this rather cluttered and restrained matrixed surround mix for those that still rely on that technology (or, for that matter, plain old stereo!)

There’s only one downside to all of the above - and unfortunately, it’s a biggie. Like on the original DVD release, the audio has been time-compressed on this PAL version to ensure that it keeps up with the picture without any change of pitch (though often referred to as “pitch correction”, that’s actually not the process being applied here - though the correction of playback pitch is both the goal and the result). Obviously this is seen as a desirable thing by either the studio or the director, as it ensures the music score plays the right notes and that nobody’s dialogue gets unexpectedly chipmunked. But to do time compression (or stretching) well, you need to use capable software and be prepared to spend a bit of time doing it. Whatever software has been used to do the job here is sub-standard and the result is clearly audible. Any sustained orchestral notes, particularly higher-pitched ones, suddenly break up into “segments” in a kind of digital “stepping” effect, not dissimilar to the effect you hear when you turn a poorly-designed digital volume control on an amp up or down. This is a problem that is directly attributable to the time compression used on this PAL version, and it’s remarkable not only that nobody noticed it during the QC stage, but that it’s used at all on this edition after so much criticism was levelled at the technique when it was employed on the original DVD. This time around it’s even more noticeable in places, and it’s the only black mark on an otherwise flawless transfer to DVD. Many won’t even notice the glitching; those with a musical ear, though, will find their attention drawn to it.


The hype-laden marketing-fest that passed for extra features on the original release of the film on DVD tested even the most resilient fan’s patience; never for a second did anybody doubt that all the good stuff was going to be on the four-disc edition. Just how incredibly brilliant this good stuff actually is, though, comes as something of a surprise. Why? Well, over the past couple of years, the special-edition DVD thing has seriously taken off; it’s almost like a contest, at times, to see who can pile on the quantity when it comes to extra features. That usually involves a heap of tedious animated menus leading to more tedious animated menus, which in turn lead to dozens of three-minute fluff pieces about how impressive this effect was or how many sandwiches the star ate while waiting for his makeup. You spend so much time farting around with menus that you pay scant attention to the content, and when you finally do it just turns out to be an afterthought anyway. There are exceptions, of course - and those exceptions are usually the rare times when the trouble is taken to produce a self-contained, involving making-of documentary. The Close Encounters of the Third Kind disc comes to mind, or the doco on the Star Wars Episode 1 disc set. But such things are rare; mostly, you’re left to find your own way through interminable clips of raw production footage and whatever else can be found to fill up a few more page’s worth of interminable animated menus.

It doesn’t have to be this way, of course. Peter Jackson knows this all too well, having himself been frustrated by the unnecessarily complex structure of many DVDs. And this four (or five!) disc edition of Fellowship, which could have been one of those extras-fests that get left on the shelf unexplored by most, turns out to be the single finest collection of extras ever to grace a DVD. Everything - and we mean everything - is right; this is a set that’s quite obviously been designed by people who love their DVDs and know what works. The content is superb, and we’re willing to bet that it’ll be the first time many have actually watched all the extras on a DVD set and been left salivating for more.

Menus on all the discs are animated with audio, but this is handled in a low-key, low-delay and very visually appealing way throughout.

DISCS 1 and 2

The main movie discs aren’t actually quite as jam-packed with data as you might think, but don’t let that fool you into thinking any corners have been cut. Along with the three audio tracks for the movie itself, there are four - yes, FOUR - audio commentaries available here. The best ones are, perhaps not surprisingly, the director/writer effort and the one featuring members of the cast. Peter Jackson, joined by writer/producer Fran Walsh and writer Philippa Boyens, is a gracious and enthusiastic host and provides much insight into both the creation of the film and this new extended version. The three also give away a few minor spoilers about the next two films in the trilogy; if you haven’t read the books, don’t say we didn’t warn you! Superb stuff, rivalled only by the cast’s commentary effort, which brings ten of the principals back for an often hilarious, always entertaining and very informative romp through the film guided by a bunch of people who genuinely like each other.

The other two commentary tracks are far more serious and craft-oriented - one from members of the production team and one from members of the design team. These are noticeably less involving and probably of more interest to those with a specific interest in the exacting craft of producing a film; the production team effort is the better of the two here, and holds some gems of information amongst the detail.

One very welcome inclusion is something rarely seen with multi-person DVD commentaries - a set of subtitle streams that identify the person who’s speaking at any given time. This is especially invaluable in the cast and production-team efforts. These titles are only seen when you select a commentary via the main menu, and thanks to clever authoring once you’re listening to a commentary, a press of the menu button takes you directly to the commentary menu so that you may choose another one (though unfortunately there’s no “resume movie” option - you have to go back to the start when changing commentaries from here).

The only other extras on these first two discs are a pair of Easter Eggs, one on each disc. Disc 1 contains the hilarious MTV Movie Awards spoof of the Council of Elrond scene, with Jack Black and Sarah Michelle Gellar cleverly and seamlessly integrated into existing movie footage with great use made of reaction shots that originally meant something completely different. The clip is introduced by Peter Jackson, who’s a great sport for letting this very irreverent parody be included on the disc; it’s in letterboxed 4:3 format with surround-flagged stereo sound. Disc 2 includes the three and a half minute preview of The Two Towers that was seen at the end of later theatrical screenings of Fellowship, once again introduced by Jackson and this time 16:9 enhanced with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. See this site’s Easter Eggs section for details on how to find these if you’re stuck.

The first movie disc also includes the Dolby Digital Canyon Trailer and the DTS Piano Trailer (which one plays depends on which audio stream you choose).

The Appendices Part 1 - From Book to Vision

The first part of what is, essentially, an epic six-hour making-of documentary is contained on this disc. Six HOURS, you gasp? No, we aren’t exaggerating - using the “play all” menu item on both extras discs, you’ll be treated to a six hour continuous feature that traces the evolution of the film from concept to release; each disc also contains assorted other small extras, and each section of the documentary can be played as a separate featurette. But we’d recommend sitting back and letting the doco run its course - because even at this extreme length, it never even comes close to being an ordeal. In fact, this is quite probably the best behind-the-scenes documentary we’ve even seen, leaving everything else in the hype-laden dust as it takes us on its epic tour of this remarkable, complex production.

This first part runs about two and a half hours all up, so after you’ve watched the brief introduction from Peter Jackson, hit “play all” and make sure you’ve come equipped with snack food. Every single minute of the six hours, by the way, is in crisp 16:9 widescreen.

First up is a 22-minute look at J.R.R. Tolkien and his life, a very familiar story quickly recounted. From there it’s a 20-minute journey From Book to Script, where we find out how perilous the task of converting one of the most beloved books of all time into a workable movie script can be. Storyboards and Pre-Viz takes a 13-minute look at the intricate storyboarding process for the film and the adoption of modern “pre-visualisation” techniques for complex shots. Designing Middle-earth launches into a 41-minute chronicle of the design of the film from early visual concepts right through to the actual sets, and then we spend 43 minutes with the Weta Workshop, which was responsible for the gargantuan task of building props for the film. Finally, there’s a 12-minute look at the costume design.

Remarkably, not even the extremely lengthy features on design and props manage to get tiresome or slow, so skilfully is this whole thing put together; watching the filmmakers tackle each stage of the process is like an adventure in itself, in a way; it’s never less than absorbing.

Also on this first “appendices” disc are three storyboard sequences, two pre-viz animatics, a storyboard-to-film comparison with multi-angle, a previz-to-film comparison with multi-angle, and a rather amusing test of the Bag End interior set featuring Peter Jackson, actor! Along with that video material, there’s a couple of interactive video features - Middle-earth Atlas and New Zealand as Middle-earth, both of which are a little cumbersome but diverting enough. And to round off the first disc, there are image galleries of The Peoples of Middle-earth - hundreds and hundreds of images, all presented nice and large the way image galleries should be (but rarely are). Some of these images are accompanied by an “artist commentary”, and the authoring of the galleries makes navigation effortless and fast either in the full-screen images or the thumbnails.

The Appendices Part 2 - From Vision to Reality

This second disc takes us from the start of filming on through post-production and the release of the finished movie; Elijah Wood provides the introduction this time around, before hitting “Play All” takes us on a three and a half hour trip through the movie’s frenetic production stages.

First up, the 35-minute Fellowship of the Cast details the casting process, the challenges of filming and the bond between the cast members, who started out as strangers and became close friends. A Day in the Life of a Hobbit spends 13 minutes illustrating the unique challenges of playing a tiny rural creature with big hairy feet, before we get into the serious business of shooting with the 50-minute Cameras in Middle-earth, as New Zealand, indoors and out, is transformed into the mythical land. 16 minutes are devoted to the unique problems of Scale as hobbits and humans mix, and the various ways those problems were solved. Meanwhile, the many miniatures used on the shoot are the subject of their own 16-minute section, some of them being so large they were referred to as Big-atures! From here we spend 25 minutes with the wizards at Weta Digital, who created the remarkable digital visual effects for the film. Things speed up from here; there’s 13 minutes with the Editorial team and 12 minutes explaining the Digital Grading that gave the film its unique colour palette. The 12 and a half minute sections on Howard Shore’s Music for Middle-earth and the movie’s complex Soundscapes are both offered with 5.1 surround sound (the remainder of the documentary is 2.0 stereo); both have extensive practical examples in full 5.1. And finally, The Road Goes Ever On towards the global premieres and a set of documentary credits.

Once again, it’s fascinating stuff, and while this disc’s main content runs a couple of minutes over three and a half hours it’s never once anything less than compelling. We should note, too, that there are no problems with video compression despite the hefty running time and the provision of a few other extras on the disc.

Included here also is an editorial demonstration that uses a 90 second sequence from the Council of Elrond scene to show how many elements make up a single segment of film. Six windows show the various reels of source film, while a seventh shows the finished product. A highlighter shows on the fly which reel is being used at any given time. Hit “enter” on any of these windows and you get the reel shown full-screen, and you can then browse through each one in turn using the angle button (which behaves differently to what most will be used to from multi-angle - there’s a pause between each angle, but the actual switching between them is faster than usual). It’s all quite interesting (especially the raw, unfinessed footage) but despite what the title might suggest, this is not a create-your-own-edit feature!

And finally, there are yet more photo galleries here, this time offering a few production shots as well as plenty of pics of the miniatures.

National Geographic - Beyond the Movie

Only supplied with the over-priced “bookend” version, this fifth disc is also separately available. It’s a not-bad 52 minute doco from the National Geographic Channel that tries to take events in the book and the movie and put them into a historical context. If a lot of the interview footage here looks very familiar, that’s probably because you own the original dual-disc set! Offered with full-frame video with typically massive edge enhancement (well, this IS television!) and stereo sound, this seems a bit half-baked after the six hours of brilliant documentary on the main extras discs; most will be able to live without it.


An absolute triumph of adventure and fantasy filmmaking, Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring seems to get better with every viewing, and is greatly enhanced by the addition of extra footage in this special DVD edition.

New Line’s DVD (it was authored worldwide by the same German facility; the video transfer was handled by Warner in the US) presents the film flawlessly in the visual department, and the high-impact audio is spoiled only by the inadequate time compression, which has caused even bigger problems here than it did on the original DVD. The extra features are nothing short of groundbreaking, and provide a quality benchmark by which all other DVDs will be judged.

Despite reservations about the audio glitches (which, to be fair, are not epidemic) and Roadshow’s somewhat hefty price point, this one gets our highly desirable Gold award anyway - because as an exploration of the art of making a large-scale feature film, you simply won’t find anything better.

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      And I quote...
    "...greatly enhanced by the addition of extra footage... as an exploration of the art of making a large-scale feature film, you simply won’t find anything better."
    - Anthony Horan
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