The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy - Extended Edition

Is this the Blu-ray boxset to rule them all?

The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy – Extended Edition delivers exactly what its name implies. It takes three of the biggest films in the history of cinema and restores a huge amount of deleted material to each (running from around half an hour in The Fellowship of the Ring to almost an hour in The Return of the King), making them bigger and better than ever.

Picture: Well it wouldn’t be a Blu-ray release of The Lord of the Rings trilogy if there wasn’t some controversy surrounding the image quality of The Fellowship of the Ring. Last time around it was down to the comparatively poor quality of that film’s 1080p encode as opposed to the image quality offered by the Blu-ray’s of the theatrical cuts of The Two Towers and The Return of the King.

In response to the wave of complaints that greeted the theatrical cut, this Extended Edition set features a brand new transfer of the film taken from the original 2k digital files (and if you’re bothered by the fact that it’s only a 2k scan – that’s the highest resolution source for the film that exists, so tough luck). So you’d expect everything to be hunky-dory. But it’s not. Because director Peter Jackson and director of photography Andrew Lesnie have been playing around with the colour grading, pushing green and cyan heavier in many sequences (resulting in what was once white snow in one scene now turning blue) – but while this may not be what all fans want, it certainly brings the film’s colour temperature more in line with that of the two sequels (just check out the mountains at the start of The Two Towers to see what we mean).

Away from the colour-grading controversy, what about the image quality itself? All three extended cuts are split across two BD50 discs, allowing the studio to get the max out of the AVC 2.40:1 1080p encodes and eliminate any trace of banding or artefacting. If I have any minor quibbles, it’s that the post-production tinkering robs the films of some fine detailing in places and crushes blacks in some other scenes, but these are unavoidable side effects of intentional decisions made by filmmakers. So it’s hard to think any of the three will ever look any better than this.
Picture rating: 4/5

Audio: While enthusiasts and fans will no doubt continue to argue about supposed picture issues for years to come, I feel I’m on very safe ground stating that everyone is going to be happy with the audio on these Blu-ray discs. All three films feature DTS-HD MA 6.1 soundtracks and they sound absolutely superb. From the booming bass of the battle with the Balrog to the ridiculously aggressive dynamics during the battles of Helm’s Deep and the Pelennor Fields, all three films are packed full of audio demo sequences that put them up there with the very best lossless soundtracks available anywhere.
Audio rating: 5/5

Extras: This fifteen disc set doesn’t offer up anything new in the way of extra features, but that’s hardly a problem when the existing extras are this comprehensive. Each of the films gets five discs, two Blu-rays for the movie itself (each accompanied by four commentary tracks and a couple of old DVD Easter Eggs, now plain to see on the menus), and then a trio of DVDs packed with supplementary material.

The first two DVDs accompanying each film play home to The Appendices, a wealth of behind-the-scenes documentaries, featurettes, animatics, art and photo galleries, interactive maps and more, covering pretty much every aspect of the production. Thankfully, each of the six of such discs has a comprehensive index making it easy to track down content you’re particularly interested in, and a Play All option for all documentaries and featurettes (more than 19 hours worth across the six discs).

As you’ll notice this still leaves one DVD for each film unaccounted for. These are taken up by Costa Botes’ superb feature-length behind-the-scenes documentaries for each of the films. Taking a fly-on-the-wall approach, they provide a fascinating warts-‘n’-all insight into the creation of this landmark achievement in cinema history.
Extras rating: 5/5

We say: Ignore the colour grading controversy – this stunning set deserves a place in every home cinema fan’s collection.

Entertainment in Video, Region B BD/R2 DVD, £70 approx, On sale now