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PLEASE NOTE: Michael D's is currently in READ ONLY MODE. Anything submitted will simply not be written to the database.
Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King: Special Extended Edition (2003)

Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King: Special Extended Edition (2003)

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Released 9-Dec-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Adventure Main Menu Introduction
Menu Audio
Dolby Digital Trailer-Rain
Audio Commentary-The Director and Writers
Audio Commentary-The Design Team
Audio Commentary-The Production/Post-Production Team
Audio Commentary-The Cast
Introduction-Peter Jackson (Disc 3), Cast (Disc 4)
Featurette-Documentary: J.R.R. Tolkien: The Legacy of Middle-earth
Featurette-From Book to Script ( 2 Featurettes)
Featurette-Designing and Building Middle-earth (4 Featurettes)
Gallery-Designing and Building Middle-earth: Design Galleries (3)
Featurette-Documentary: Home of the Horse Lords
Featurette-Middle-earth Atlas: Tracing the Journeys of the Fellowship
Featurette-New Zealand as Middle-earth (Interactive Map)
Featurette-Filming The Return of the King, Includes Production Photos
Featurette-Visual Effects: Weta Digital Doco, Demonstration
Featurette-Post Production: Journey's End (4 Featurettes)
Featurette-The Passing of an Age
Featurette-Cameron Duncan:The Inspiration for 'Into the West', 2 shorts
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 252:01 (Case: 240)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (58:56)
Multi Disc Set (4)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Peter Jackson

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Elijah Wood
Ian McKellen
Sean Astin
Orlando Bloom
Billy Boyd
Dominic Monaghan
Viggo Mortensen
John Rhys-Davies
Miranda Otto
John Noble
Bernard Hill
Christopher Lee
Andy Serkis
Case ?
RPI $69.95 Music Howard Shore

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX (448Kb/s)
English dts 6.1 ES Discrete (768Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (128Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (128Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (128Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (128Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
English Titling
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

"We come to it at last, the great battle of our time . . . "
". . . and the end of the greatest DVD trilogy of our era."

There can be no denying that 2004 has been the year DVD releases moved to a whole new level. The mid-year release of the long-awaited Star Wars trilogy sits atop a pile of quality releases that sees us moving into 2005 not quite knowing what will become the new most sought-after disc. It is fitting then that the last month of such a landmark year for DVD sees the release of the final instalment of a trilogy of films and DVDs that effectively redefined the way they are presented to the public.

If The Matrix was the disc that kick-started the rise of DVD around the world in late 2000, The Lord Of The Rings trilogy of Extended Editions are the discs that saw movie making and DVD production taken to a new level. No longer simply content with releasing the theatrical version of the film onto a disc with a few deleted scenes and a boring commentary, the makers of the Rings films have ensured that DVD releases can now be seen as an extension of the film themselves, offering a whole new experience to the one seen at the often uncomfortable, noisy, and generally low quality cinema. Never before has staying home to watch something new been such an exciting experience.

The key ingredient in these Extended Edition DVDs being arguably the best example of their kind to date is the director's personal and passionate involvement. Unlike many so-called Special, Collector's, Ultimate, or Limited Edition releases where the extras appear to have been conceived and created by marketing people intent on selling a few thousand more units, The Lord Of The Rings Extended Editions benefit greatly from having Peter Jackson's touch evident over everything. These extended editions are made for fans by a DVD fan and it shows in everything about them. From the quality of the menus, the ability to play all featurettes without having to constantly go back to the menu, no annoying ads anywhere to be seen, and a look to the packaging that simply oozes quality, these are sets that take pride of place in any collection.

If you are unfamiliar with the other extended editions you can check out the reviews for The Fellowship of the Ring - Extended Edition and The Two Towers - Extended Edition. The review of the theatrical cut of The Return Of The King can also be viewed if you want to directly compare the differences between the two versions.

This new version of the film clocks in at a lengthy four hours. Here is a quick summary of the plot, based mostly on the information contained in the original theatrical version review. After that is a more detailed description of some of the new scenes included in this Extended Edition.

The Return of the King Extended Edition opens with a flashback to show just how Gollum came under the influence of the ring and became the pitiful creature that he is. Gollum is still leading hobbits Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) and Samwise Gamgee (Sean Astin) to the dark land of Mordor and the steaming mountain that is Mount Doom. Frodo must destroy the one ring of power by casting it into the fires of Mount Doom. But the ring is becoming an enormous burden for the troubled Frodo and his will to continue on this perilous quest is being severely tested. Despite the constant misgivings of his faithful companion Sam, Frodo places faith in the creature Gollum to get the trio to Mordor safely. When Sam overhears Gollum plotting to kill the "filthy hobbitses", Sam begins to worry even more, but is unable to convince Frodo of Gollum's treachery. To the contrary, Frodo is beginning to have doubts about Sam's commitment and their relationship is becoming increasingly strained, helped along of course by the scheming Gollum. When it is revealed that Gollum plans to kill the Hobbits by luring them into the lair of the giant spider Shelob, the hair on the back of your neck cannot help but stand on end.

Meanwhile the battle to claim Isengard is over, with the treelike Ents and the two resourceful Hobbits, Pippin (Billy Boyd) and Merry (Dominic Monaghan) having defeated the evil Saruman. It is a rare moment of joy when the two slightly drunk hobbits are reunited with their faithful companions Gandalf (Sir Ian McKellan), Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Legolas (Orlando Bloom), and Gimli (John Rhys-Davies). But the joy is short-lived when it is revealed the Gondorian capital of Minis Tirith is the next target for the rampaging army of Sauron as he means to wipe Middle-earth clean of Men.

Gandalf and Aragorn again travel to Edoras to seek the aid of King Thoden (Bernard Hill) of Rohan, knowing that the Gondorians will be severely outnumbered, and that perhaps the horsemen of the Rohirrim can swing the balance in the favour of men. But Gandalf must flee Edoras and make haste to Minis Tirith when Pippin inadvertently gives away their location to Sauron when he peeks just one more look at the mystical Palantir orb.

Aragorn is left to rouse the armies of men, and with the reluctant hero slowly coming to the realisation of his royal heritage, the possibility of him announcing he is Isildur's heir might just swing the extra number of recruits that his army needs to help in the looming battle. From here the siege of the ancient and starkly beautiful city of Minis Tirith and the battle of The Pelennor Fields loom large and produce a series of battle scenes that make Helm's Deep look like a minor pub brawl.

As already mentioned, there are an additional 48 minutes of footage included throughout the film covering both discs one and two (this does not include the 10 minutes of credits listing the fan club members). In exactly the same way as with the Fellowship and Two Towers Extended Editions, there is a page in the booklet listing all the scenes in this edition and marking with an asterisk those that are either new or extended scenes. This is a handy guide, though for those intimately familiar with the theatrical version of the film, the new material will be quite obvious. All up, there are an additional 15 new scenes and 24 extended scenes.

New scenes allowing more detailed exposition are evident right from the start. The absence of Saruman in the theatrical cut and the classic line by Gandalf where he explains the evil wizard's absence by saying "He has no power anymore" was always seen as a bit of a cop-out for all involved (and apparently upset Christopher Lee considerably). Saruman is back in the extended edition with a considerably larger scene where he appears on top of his tower with Grima Wormtongue by his side as Gandalf and Aragorn seek information from him. Saruman's demise is shown in exquisite detail with one of the most comprehensive death sequences ever seen in film.

Other additional scenes include a brief sequence in The Houses of The Healing at the end of the battle of Pelennor Fields when Aragorn helps heal the wounded owyn. This scene also shows the first glimpse of an emotional connection between Faramir and owyn. Another more amusing inclusion is the scene on board the corsairs of Umbar as the pirate vessel pulls into the harbour at Minas Tirith. This scene is famous for the number of crew cameos in the space of about a minute. Peter Jackson is the captain of one of the boats and manages to upstage everybody with an outrageous over-the-top death scene. Also gaining a cameo here are producer Rick Porras, Weta supervisor Richard Taylor, and director of photography Andrew Lesnie. It is a little self-indulgent, but when you have made something this successful a moment of indulgence is most certainly excused.

All up, when compared with the previous two extended editions there is not as much included here that seems critically important to the story. Many of the scenes offer just a little more detail in the relationship between characters and do not affect the exposition in any great way. Key among these is the more obvious relationship that develops between Faramir and owyn, and Merry and owyn. Earlier on there is also more detail showing the conflicting emotions between Aragorn and owyn.

So, the journey comes to an end, and what a journey it has been, not only for the filmmakers who toiled through several years of back-breaking work, but for the fans who had to endure the agonising wait for each Boxing Day to see the new theatrical release and then later the next year to see the new extended editions. 2005 will seem odd with no release of anything Rings related. Peter Jackson and his massive team have ensured the legacy of J.R.R. Tolkien will live on forever by opening the world of Middle-earth to many millions of more people than had ever even glanced at the original novel and dismissed it as childish fantasy. Moreover, they have changed the way films are made for all time. As a result of some of the amazing visual effect shots in this trilogy, none more so than the stunning CGI creation of Gollum, Jackson and his crew have made every young filmmaker in the world suddenly realise that absolutely anything is possible on screen and the only limits these days are a director's imagination.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


The superlatives cannot describe just how good this transfer is. It is colourful, rich, clear, sharp, beautifully detailed and free from absolutely any imperfections.

The original aspect ratio of The Return of the King was 2.35:1, and that is of course the aspect ratio we get here. It is also 16x9 enhanced.

The transfer is as sharp as a tack throughout and exquisitely detailed. It is truly among the most film-like of transfers I have yet watched. Shadow detail is never compromised and amazingly there is not a trace of any grain at all. There is of course no low level noise.

The colours are wide and varied in their appearance. From the dark and rocky outcrops of Mordor and the dank mustiness of Shelob, the giant spider's lair, the feeling of coldness, despair, and lost hope abound. On the other side are the warm and inviting tones of the Shire and the Grey Havens which create a pleasant and truly homely feel, while the fires of Mount Doom are a brilliant burnt orange and truly glow bright in the climax. Skin tones are perfect throughout, while a special note must be made of the (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) pasty, death-like appearance of Frodo after he is poisoned and cocooned by Shelob. The black levels are as true as they can be and are without fault. Several of the screen images here could easily be captured and printed out as artworks, they are that good.

The quality of the compression here is exceptional. There is not a single artefact to be found anywhere. There are also no other film-to-video video artefacts such as aliasing anywhere in the transfer and best of all there are absolutely no film artefacts of any description. It is clean and crisp and just plain beautiful.

This Region 4 release has only two subtitle streams. The usual English for the Hearing Impaired variety are joined by some Greek subtitles. Sampling the English variety extensively found them to be highly accurate and well placed on screen.

With the film running more than four hours, it has naturally enough been spread over two discs. Both of these are dual layered efforts with RSDL formatting. The layer change in part one occurs at 58:56 just as Faramir is discussing the defence of Osgiliath. The layer change in part two occurs at 55:12. Both layer changes are well placed.

Additionally, with the film spread over two discs, it is worth mentioning the location of the disc changeover. It occurs at 122:20 and is during the siege of Minas Tirith, just as the orcs are about to use the Grond battering ram to bash down the gate. The stop is quite sudden and is certainly a little jarring to the flow of the story. It is unfortunate that the changeover occurs right in the middle of the second biggest battle in the film, but I guess as is the nature of a battle there are not any quiet moments.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


Just like the other two Extended Editions, there are a staggering seven soundtracks covering the film over the two discs. We are treated here to a Dolby Digital 5.1 EX soundtrack encoded at 448 Kb/s, an English Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded soundtrack encoded at 192 Kb/s and the highlight - a dts 6.1 ES discrete soundtrack encoded at the lower bitrate of 768 Kb/s.

As usual the commentary tracks are detailed in the extras section. As before there are four of them, all recorded in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo. In terms of the main film soundtracks, all of the following comments apply equally to both the Dolby Digital 5.1 and dts tracks.

Both Dolby Digital 5.1 and dts soundtracks are, as expected, sensational. They are rich, solid, clean and pack immense punch. They have a dynamic range the likes of which will test every inch of your speaker system. From the piercing scream of the witch king and the rumbles Mount Doom this soundtrack has it all. It will make use of every speaker you own to its absolute fullest and it must surely rank in the top ten of demonstration discs.

The musical scores in all three of The Lord Of The Rings films will go down in cinema history as amongst the most beautiful and awe-inspiring set of scores ever composed. Canadian Howard Shore has again surpassed all expectations. His music for The Fellowship Of The Ring and The Two Towers was amazing and this film score builds on that with more heart-wrenching themes. The film score climaxes after the ring is destroyed with some of the most moving and emotional themes of the trilogy as the friends say goodbye for the last time.

The level of consistent, engaging, enveloping, and downright make-you-jump out of your seat surround channel use in this soundtrack is quite remarkable and I am truly finding it difficult to remember a release that had such an all-eclipsing effect such as this one. From the opening scenes of the fight between Smagol and Dagol, through the initial siege of Minas Tirith, the ghastly encounter in Shelob's lair, and the mighty battle of The Pelennor Fields, the soundstage is incredibly lively, enveloping, and engaging. You are placed smack bang in the centre of happenings with action whirling around the room and it really doesn't let up very often. One special moment occurs when Galadriel speaks to Frodo while he is battling Shelob. Her soothing voice resonates from every speaker in the room and creates a truly haunting effect that will linger for some time.

With the surround channels served so well you would hope the subwoofer hasn't been forgotten. It hasn't. The low end use on offer here is about as forceful and thumping as you can possibly want. From the early rumbles of Mount Doom, the drone of the Fell Beasts, the ground shaking charge of the Mmakil, and the cacophony of noise that is created during the battle of The Pelennor Fields, this is one soundtrack with pretty near faultless subwoofer use. When the gates of Minas Morgul swing open and the Witch King riding on the back of the Fell Beast leads the hoards of orcs over the bridge, just past where Sam, Frodo, and Gollum are hiding, the thud and thump will shake your walls.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


The extras follow a similar theme and design as those found on the first two extended editions. If you are intimate with those, you will know what to expect here. As before, most of the making-of featurettes focus solely on the work performed on The Return Of The King. However, since this is the last film in the trilogy, there are also a couple of featurettes dedicated to the end of the moviemaking journey, the premieres, and the awards it won.

The only negative with all of these extended edition collections is the complete lack of theatrical trailers. These are obviously all available on the earlier two-disc theatrical release DVDs, but it would have been nice to include them here.

Unless otherwise stated, all extras are presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and are 16x9 enhanced. Audio is provided by a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo soundtrack.

DISCS 1 & 2

Discs one and two contain the four hour film, the four audio commentaries, and two Easter Eggs.

Main Menu Introduction

Menu Audio

Dolby Digital Trailer


DTS Trailer


Audio Commentary - The Director and Writers (Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens)

A quick note about all the audio commentaries. Just like the previous two extended editions, make sure you select them from the Special Features menu on either disc one or two and don't simply change to soundtracks four, five, six, or seven on-the-fly while watching the film. If you do it the latter way, you will not activate the caption stream that contains the name and title of the person speaking, which is an absolute must-have when some of the commentaries feature upwards of ten people all talking at once.

First up is a relaxed screen-specific audio commentary from the team who obviously had a significant creative input into the whole film. Director and writer Peter Jackson and co-writers Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens have a whole lot of fun during this commentary. They are extremely relaxed and comfortable with each other's presence and have plenty of anecdotes to tell. They explain a great many of the new or extended scenes and point them out right at the moment you are seeing something new. They explain reasons why various scenes are missing or have been included in this Extended Edition. Boyens and Walsh take great delight in taking the Mickey out of Jackson for his Monty Python-style moment during his cameo scene on the corsair.

Audio Commentary - The Design Team

The design team consists of production designer Grant Major, costume designer Ngila Dickson, Weta workshop supervisor Richard Taylor, conceptual designers Alan Lee and John Howe, supervising art director Dan Hennah, art department manager Chris Hennah, and Weta workshop manager Tania Rodger. This commentary contains everything you wanted to know about the sets, their construction and dressing, the costumes, the props (including the frozen stock of fresh Lembas bread always on hand), the art work, and the inspiration for some of the artistic concepts. Lots of detailed info, lots of good stories about the way things were constructed and how some little cheats were employed to get the thing finished. I particularly liked Richard Taylor's suggestion that all the fans write in and suggest they make The Hobbit, just so they get a chance to head back to Middle-earth one day.

Audio Commentary - The Production and Post Production Team

This commentary consists a who's who of the filmmaking process. It is introduced by producer Barrie Osborne, who is joined by executive producer Mark Ordesky, co-producer and editor Jamie Selkirk, editor Annie Collins, co-producer Rick Porras, composer Howard Shore, visual effects supervisor Jim Rygiel, Weta visual effects supervisor Joe Letteri, visual effects director of photography Alex Funke, supervising sound editor Mike Hopkins, sound editor Ethan Van der Ryn, visual effects designer Christian Rivers, visual effects DP Brian Van't Hul, and animation designer Randy Cook.

This is a more nuts and bolts type of commentary with most of the speakers solely focused on their area of expertise, such as the specifics of ADR use. The producers offer a more general approach, but it is good to hear from some of the effects guys as they explain their thought processes for a certain scene or shot. As a standalone commentary it is a little dull and too specific, but as a companion to the others it stacks up quite well.

Audio Commentary - The Cast

A who's who of the cast are included in this commentary. Included here are Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Sean Astin, John Rhys-Davies, Bernard Hill, Christopher Lee, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Hugo Weaving, Miranda Otto, David Wenham, Karl Urban, John Noble, Andy Serkis (who also pops up in character as both Gollum and Smagol) and Lawrence Mahoare (who played a few characters, most notably the Witch King). This is a pretty entertaining commentary that moves away from the filmmaking process and injects a little more humour into the production. Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan in particular poke fun at almost everything, and John Rhys-Davies' explanation of the difference between dwarf and elf farts is very amusing.

Easter Egg

The first of the two Easter Eggs is on disc one. It is a little tricky to find, but if you head to the scene selection menu and head towards the end of the film, you should stumble across it. The first egg is a quite amusing via satellite interview between Elijah Wood who is in New York and a crazy German interviewer called Hans Jensen. All is not as it seems of course, much to Elijah Wood's amusement. Runs for 8:36.

Easter Egg

The second Easter Egg is in virtually the same location on disc two as the one on disc one. This is a hilarious skit made for the MTV movie awards. It has Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn making a serious pitch for a sequel to the trilogy to none other than director Peter Jackson. Runs for 5:37.



As with the other extended editions, director Peter Jackson gives a quick introduction to the extras, explaining what is included and how you go about navigating through them. Runs for 1:29.

Featurette - The Legacy Of Middle-earth

The same as the other extended editions, the first major extra is dedicated to the work and life of author J.R.R. Tolkien. The Tolkien experts gathered from before explain how some of the themes in Tolkien's book came into being, drawn mostly it would seem from experiences the author had during the Great War. Runs for 28:16 and sets a good introductory tone to the extra material.

Featurette - From Book To Script: Forging The Final Chapter

The adaptation of the book pleased many, upset a few, and obviously proved a task of massive proportions for those involved. In this 23:56 featurette writers Peter Jackson and Phillipa Boyens explain just what needed to be changed from the original book and why. As in the previous editions their reasons are perfectly valid and an indication of why they now own the best adapted screenplay Academy Award.

Featurette - From Book To Script: Abandoned Concept - Aragorn Battling Sauron

A brief series of animated storyboards that show Aragorn battling Sauron. The concept was abandoned quite early in pre-production. Runs for 5:03.

Gallery - Design Galleries

There are hundreds and hundreds of design drawings available here, covering all aspects of the production design. Select from three categories - The People Of Middle-earth, The Realms Of Middle-earth, and Miniatures. Some come complete with audio commentary which plays after you select the image.

Featurette - Designing and Building Middle Earth: Designing Middle Earth

Running for a healthy 38:20, this featurette looks at the superb job done for some of the production design, including the sets, the rocks (and there were a lot of them by the look of it and a tonne of polystyrene was used), and the landscapes. The last part focuses on the impressive and detailed set design of the Gondorian city Minas Tirith.

Featurette - Designing and Building Middle Earth: Bigatures

The work put in by the team who built the stunning models (usually called miniatures or here the larger versions are called bigatures) is the stuff of legends and will go down as one of the key aspects that ensured the success of these films. This 19:10 featurette looks the sheer amount of work that went into making the stunning and detailed models of Minas Morgul, Cirith Ungol, Minas Tirith and the Grey Havens.

Featurette - Designing and Building Middle-earth: Weta

The other success story from the trilogy is the work put in by the team at Weta (both the workshop and digital) in Wellington. This 47:24 featurette sees workshop head Richard Taylor explaining much of the new armour and props that were designed for the film.

Featurette - Designing and Building Middle-earth: Costumes

Costume designer and Oscar winner Ngila Dickson shows off some of the intricate costumes created for the third film. She was most happy that several of the women characters get a little more screen time in the third film, since she enjoyed making dresses and had had enough of male battle clothes. This is one of the shorter featurettes, running for 12:02.

Featurette - Home Of The Horse Lords

This is one of the more interesting and touching featurettes. Focusing on the all-important horses used in the story, from the two stallions that played Shadowfax, to the hundreds of extras that showed up to help out with the charge at The Pelennor Fields. Incidentally, I think a couple of my cousins are in these scenes. The emotional attachment that some of the actors had with their horses is quite remarkable, as are the stories of what happened to some of the animals once the films wrapped. Worth a look to appreciate the amount of work that many people put in with their animals. Runs for 30:14.

Featurette - Middle Earth Atlas

This is exactly the same as the atlas that was contained in the first two extended editions. For someone such as myself who isn't 100 per cent familiar with all the mystifying place names and directions that each of the groups head off in, a featurette like this one is invaluable.

This is again a huge map of Middle-earth which allows you to select one of four different paths travelled by either Sam and Frodo, Merry, Gandalf and Pippin, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli. An animated trail then appears showing the locations they each found themselves in along with a brief snippet showing key scenes from the film at that location. You can get a sort of summarised view of the whole film here.

Featurette - New Zealand as Middle-earth

Probably the most disappointing of all the featurettes, this is an all too brief look at just a handful of the locations used in New Zealand for scenes in The Return of the King. Locations include Dunharrow (Greenstone Station), Paths Of The Dead (Putangirua Pinnicles), and The Pelennor Fields (Twizel). I would have liked a little more detail here with explanations of just where the Lighting of the Beacons took place, for example (around Franz Josef Glacier I think). Runs for just 15:19.

For those after more detailed information about actual locations than is offered in any of the three Extended Editions, there is a guidebook available that details almost every location in the film. The Lord Of The Rings Location Guidebook, written by Wanaka-based author Ian Brodie has been recently completely revised in a second edition and includes locations used in all three films. In amongst the many maps and photographs, it provides exact GPS coordinates for most of the famous spots so you can trek around and see just exactly where all the magic took place. Certainly worth a look if you are planning a Rings adventure to New Zealand.



This is similar to the introduction on disc three, but this time round it is actors Elijah Wood, Billy Boyd, and Dominic Monaghan who do the job. It runs for 1:35 and contains the same sort of explanation as the other introduction from Peter Jackson.

Featurette - Filming The Return Of The King: Cameras In Middle-earth

The longest of the featurettes, clocking in at a healthy 73:12. Like the corresponding making-of featurettes on the first two Extended Editions, this covers lots of detail specific to the making of this film only. Shelob and her lair get a lot of time and there is a bit of humorous discussion about the various cameos from director Peter Jackson, cinematographer Andrew Lesnie, effects guru Richard Taylor and several others on board the corsair coming into the Minas Tirith harbour. Highlights also include the visit to the set by New Zealand's other hero, Everest conqueror Sir Edmund Hillary, and the emotional farewells as in turn each of the cast wrap up their principal photography contributions.

Gallery - Production Photos

There are 70 photographs available here, taken of some of the behind-the-scenes action. Nicely sized and arranged on screen. Can be viewed individually or as part of an automatically running slideshow.

Featurette - Visual Effect - Weta Digital

If the team from Weta Digital thought they were busy producing the visual effects shots during the first two films, they were about to get completely swamped by the amount of work required on The Return Of The King. Nearly 1500 individual visual effect shots were needed for this film, more than the other two films combined. Amazingly, with just five weeks to go before deadline, they still had 700 to go. This is the story of the way they went about creating some of the most amazing CGI creatures and effects ever seen on film. Runs for 40:21.

Featurette - Visual Effects: Visual Effects Demonstration - The Mmakil Battle

The charge by the gigantic elephant-like mmakil is easily among the visual effects highlights of all the films. This 0:30 demonstration shows the various stages of visual effect creation on the same scene. From the rough pre-visualisation stage where the idea of the effect is tested in a very rough form, through the environment stage where the ground and the backgrounds are created, to the first cut animation, the use of the Massive computer program to add in thousands of horses and men, and lastly the finished composition, you get the idea of how a visual effect is built up across several complex stages. This featurette is similar to the sound design demonstration showing the various layers of sound for the Helm's Deep scene in The Two Towers.

Featurette - Post Production, Journey's End - Editorial: Completing The Trilogy

Film editor Jamie Selkirk won an Oscar for his efforts in this film. In this 21:20 featurette he and Peter Jackson explain the way they edited the film, why certain aspects were altered at the eleventh hour, and which bits they are most happiest with. It is interesting to hear about the process of editing used for the scene of the Ring's final destruction. Editing made such a difference to how this scene was originally planned and the result is so much more tense.

Featurette - Post Production, Journey's End - Music for Middle-earth

Both this featurette and the next one come complete with a lovely Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. This one deals with Howard Shore's remarkable work in composing one of the most memorable musical scores ever heard on film. Amazingly the score is now being performed around the world as a concert and some of the footage of a performance with Howard Shore conducting is shown here. The featurette also discusses the evolution of Into The West and how Billy Boyd came to sing The Edge Of Night for Lord Denethor based on his karaoke talents. Runs for 22:02.

Featurette - Post Production, Journey's End - Soundscapes of Middle-earth

Some of the amazing sound design used in the film is explained here, such as the multiple layers of effects used in the battle of The Pelennor Fields, the new sounds used when the thousands of skulls come crashing down around Aragorn, Leglolas and Gimli when they are in the dead city, and other scenes where the sound design is of utmost importance to how the scene plays out such as the Smagol and Dagol fight scene. Runs for 22:12.

Featurette - Post Production, Journey's End - The End Of All Things

After watching this featurette it is truly remarkable the film was actually completed on time. Right up until just a few days before the world premiere, last minute frantic work was being done and effects finished. This 20:37 featurette shows the race to finish the film on time, with visual effects, music, and editing all still happening weeks after the deadline had passed. It is amazing to see composer Howard Shore trying to write music to scenes that don't fully exist. In the end of course they made it, and it was obviously a truly magnificent team effort.

Featurette - The Passing Of An Age

This is a nice little 24:10 featurette that neatly wraps up the whole trilogy and the impact it had on the people of New Zealand. There is a lot of footage of the day the country came to a standstill for the world premiere in December 2003 and some footage (though not enough) of the clean sweep the film made at the 2004 Academy Awards ceremony. There is certainly enough here to make you shake your head in wonder, especially the photos of Peter Jackson at a small post-Oscars party where he is standing at a table surrounded by more than 30 Oscar statuettes.

Featurette - Cameron Duncan: The Inspiration for "Into The West"

This is the touching story of Cameron Duncan, a 16-year-old amateur filmmaker from New Zealand who Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh befriended during the shoot. He was asked to make a television commercial promoting organ donation, a cause which Jackson was passionate about. Sadly, Duncan developed cancer not long after meeting Jackson, and his battle with the disease and subsequent death became the inspiration for Fran Walsh to write the lyrics of the Academy Award winning song Into The West. Duncan made two short films before his death (DFK 6498 and Strike Zone), both focussing on his battle with cancer. They are professionally made and show what talent this young man possessed. The films are shown in full during the 32:23 featurette or you have the option to play them individually. A worthy tribute to an extremely talented person.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

Based purely on the contents of the discs, the Region 1 disc is identical to the Region 4, save for a minor difference with the subtitles (French and Spanish instead of Greek).


The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King - Extended Edition completes the magnificent trilogy of films from director Peter Jackson which started with The Fellowship of the Ring and continued with The Two Towers. This extended edition release also completes the full set of what is arguably the greatest DVD release the world has seen to date. It is quite sad to see it all come to an end, but end it must, and this magnificent collection does justice to the sheer scale and importance the three films have on the world of cinema.

If you already own the first two editions, you will need no convincing to go out and get this one. You probably already own it. In a year that has delivered so very much of what DVD fans have been waiting for, this four-disc set is simply the icing on one heck of a good 2004 DVD cake.

As with all the other instalments in the trilogy, the video and audio transfers are sensational - among the best yet seen.

I did not think the extras could get any better than the two previous instalments. I was wrong. These extras do justice to not only the third film, but the whole trilogy. The level of passion and commitment that went into realising them is truly remarkable. The extras offered here will bring a tear to the eye and a lump to the throat of all but the grumpiest orc.

Mr Jackson, I for one cannot wait for that much discussed 25th anniversary edition.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Darren Walters (It's . . . just the vibe . . . of my bio)
Monday, December 13, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-3910, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Calida (84cm). Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).
AmplificationHarmon/Kardon AVR7000.
SpeakersFront - B&W 602S2, Centre - B&W CC6S2, Rear - B&W 601S2, Sub - Energy E:xl S10

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