Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Blu-ray) (2001)

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Released 13-Apr-2010

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Fantasy Teaser Trailer-(1.41)
Teaser Trailer-(2.22)
Theatrical Trailer-(2.47)
Trailer-Lord of the Rings Supertrailer (6.39)
Trailer-Video Game Trailer (1.24)
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 178:24
RSDL / Flipper RSDL Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Peter Jackson
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Elijah Wood
Ian McKellen
Liv Tyler
Viggo Mortensen
Sean Astin
Cate Blanchett
John Rhys Davies
Billy Boyd
Dominic Monaghan
Orlando Bloom
Christopher Lee
Hugo Weaving
Sean Bean
Case ?
RPI $42.95 Music Howard Shore


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 6.1 ES Matrix (4608Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

   As reviewers on this website we are cautioned against reading other reviews prior to doing our own. In fact, we are "strongly discouraged" from reading other reviews. The fear, understandably, is that our views will be coloured by the words of our betters.

That's as reviewers. As format fan-boys, however, it is almost impossible to avoid taking a peek at advance reviews and, occasionally, to dip a toe into the muddy waters of the internet chat highway. After all, until the films arrive in a package at our doorstep we never know what we will be reviewing.

That's why one approaches reviewing a cornerstone title like The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Rings with some trepidation. After all this film, in its Extended Edition, tops our reviewers list of all time favourites. It is treated with a reverence by fans close to religion. If the tide of enthusiast opinion is anything to go by then the only real question is: What kind of fan are you?

That's not the beginning of an inquest but rather a way to decide which side of the flame war you sit. For a quick dip into the internet reveals a gaggle of Hobbit lovers full of righteous indignation. The reason? Well, two really.

The first has nothing to do with the quality of these Blu-ray releases but rather the perceived rampant greed of distributors. Put simply, these bare bones Blu-ray releases are seen as the first step in a vicious plan to bilk hard earned cash out of loyal fans. Those fans, the ones who are most upset, are outraged that these Blu-rays are of the theatrical releases and not the extended editions. The loyal fans see New Line/ Warners (the Blu-ray is distributed by Roadshow in Australia) as Saruman , one claw-like hand perched over the seeing stone. Instead of the unwavering eye of Sauron all he can see is an unending tide of dollars. For this film and the next two were not just a critical successes, but massive earners at the Box Office and already a blockbuster on DVD.

In it's defence the studio has already spoken of an intention to release the Extended Editions in 2011, when The Hobbit hits cinemas. By way of a carrot we are promised some new extras.

Fans have a right to complain. Many already forked out for the original DVD before the Extended Editions came along, forcing them to double-dip into their wallets. At least then there was an excuse. The films had just finished theatrical runs and Jackson needed more time to complete the editing of the Extended Editions. This time around the explanation seems hollow. Why not just produce barebones Extended Editions and work on a super-duper set of extras for the definitive edition? That way the most hardened of fans can choose to splash out on the elite edition leaving the rest of us to buy the Extended Edition with seamless branching.

But that is not what has happened. The Blu-ray releases are just the theatrical cut with a smattering of extras. To my mind the lack of extras is not of itself a big issue. For a few dollars more you can buy the "Exclusive Edition" which mirrors the US boxset release of this Blu-ray. That edition includes a DVD of the extras which came with the DVD extras. Why isn't this a problem for me? Having watched every minute of the Extended Edition extras and enjoying the journey I doubt that I would ever want to delve deep into them again. They were shot on standard definition and can't be turned into high definition. I am happy for the Blu-rays to be extra less to allow more space for the high definition sound and vision. After all these are all massively long movies with soundtracks that chew up gigabytes.

So first decision, do you want to buy the films now or wait until the Extended Editions. Can you do without hobbits singing? Do the extra gifting scenes with Galadriel fill you with quasi-spiritual significance? Is it necessary to see the hobbits and Strider struggling through the bitie ridden Midgewater Marshes? I suspect that the answer from the average fan is no and, correspondingly, the answer from hardcore fans of the film is yes and never the twain shall meet. It is not every day that a release of one of the worlds most beloved films scores a 1.5 stars on Amazon from literally thousands of commentators.

So greed aside is this film worth the money? On that score, it is worth noting that the film is priced at a sub-$30 mark, even at the most expensive stores. To answer that question - look below.

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

Transfer Quality

Video

   It goes without saying that the film is presented in its correct cinematic aspect ratio of 2.35:1. It uses the VC1 codec and occupies 37.6 Gb of this dual layer Blu-ray disc. I could not detect any layer change on my player.

Several forums have presented still images from the film as a comparison between the DVD quality, high definition TV broadcasts and the Blu-ray release to highlight perceived gross defects in the transfer. I am having none of that. The film on Blu-ray looks the best it has ever been. The film is sharper, cleaner and more colourful than ever before. It displays not a hint of compression and the former murky blacks - Buckleberry Ferry, Mines of Moria are deep and inky. The green of Bag End, the greys of Orthanc and the golden hues of the elf realms are beautifully rendered.

That said, watching the film for the first time in a few years and for the first time on Blu-ray carried with it a measure of disappointment. Seeing the film at the cinema (a few times) it always struck me that this was a raw and less "Hollywood' take on the genre than other fantasy films. Sure it was set in a fantasy world, but that world always felt real and vital. Take the outdoor scenes. New Zealand was exploited to its fullest by these wide vistas and hobbit dots on the landscape. The mountains always looked like real mountains and not set pieces. In other words it never looked Hollywood scrubbed but earthy. Maybe some people want the movie to look better just because they love it so much.

Looking at the Blu-ray reveals a combination of elements that sometimes jar.

There are probably a million and one reasons why this might be he case. The film is 10 years old and used CGI techniques that were developed further for the next movies. Particularly troubling, on DVD and Blu-ray are the mid-shots with the Fellowship together. Where the filmmakers were forced to use CGI to disguise the similar heights of the actors (to make the hobbits and the otherwise tall John Rhys-Davies smaller the effect is noticeable to the keen eye (or as Fran Walsh said in the Extended Edition Commentary track the "anally retentive mistake spotters"!). There is a mixture of styles on offer - remembering that this was a film with so many crews working at the same time that slight differences were bound to be apparent. Just looking at the Pass of Caradhras involves miniature work, stunt doubles, studio work and pick-ups in the real snow

Then there is the issue of Digital Noise Reduction, or DNR as it is usually known. If anything has been the focus of format enthusiast hatred it is the use of DNR in this film. For the uninitiated DNR has been part of the DVD authoring process (and Digital Intermediate process) since time immemorial. Once a film has been transferred to digital format it is open to manipulation to remove perceived problems. DNR is a tool like any other and is neither inherently good or evil.

Proponents of the active use of DNR claim that it makes the image better looking by removing unsightly marks and blemishes and corrects the look of the film. Opponents says that the removal of grain and noise, if handled too aggressively can result in a loss of fine detail, smudging if you like. On faces however, that smudging can result in the actors have waxy looking features and loss of detail. Spend some time on any Lord of the Rings forums and you can observe blown up screenshots until your eyes begin to bleed. You will also get the feeling that the film has been descended upon by evil Uruk Hai intent on stripping detail and enjoyment away from every moment of the film. Again, not really true. What is true is that certain scenes look like they had a little too much DNR applied. Frodo looks a bit wax-like at Bag End as does Gandalf. The sky in some of the exteriors, particularly in the chapter The Ring Goes South are a bit obviously smeared, probably to reduce grain. To the observant these problems are there. Are they therefore in keeping with the directors intention? That is, has the perceived improvement outweighed an obvious error.

Hard to say. It is not possible to compare the DVD with the Blu-ray as the difference is too noticeable. According to interviews with Peter Jackson he had seen and approved of the Blu-ray. Should that be the end of the matter? I doubt it as hardcore fans will still want more. Perhaps these problems will be "improved" by the next editions?

There are subtitles in English for the Hearing Impaired which give a good account of on-screen action.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

   The Blu-ray of Fellowship carries one soundtrack - a meaty English 6.1 DTS -HD Master Audio track. Being a lossless track it doesn't run at any consistent bit rate. Unlike True HD, DTS Master Audio downconverts to DTS if the player can't decode the higher format so one soundtrack is fine.

The soundtrack is a noticeable step-up from the DVD track - already a DTS marvel.

Pick your favourite point from the movie and listen to the depth of the sonic experience on offer. Is it the bucolic scenes in Hobbiton with the wistful country theme, the ethereal sounds of Rivendell or the flat-out bass blast of the appearance of the Balrog in Moria?

Whatever the choice this soundtrack delivers on all points. Dialogue is in sync and can be heard clearly at all times. The benefit of the Master Audio track is not just in punchiness - it also allows for a wonderful depth and subtlety. As with all Blu-rays there is no PAL 4% speed up. Therefore the problems in pitch correction which saw an unprecedented gathering of reviewers to listen to the DVD soundtrack do not exist in this Blu-ray.

It is an excellent track.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Extras? What extras. There are a few thrown in with this set but so inconsequential as to be barely worth watching: They are:

Teaser 1 (1.41)

Teaser 2 (2.22)

Final Trailer (2.47)

Lord of the Rings - Supertrailer (6.39)

Trailer from Lord of the Rings Videogame

This game is apparently coming out this year. The graphics resemble World of Warcraft and it is telling that it will be on Wii and PS2 but not Xbox 360 or PS3.

R4 vs R1

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

 The Region A edition appears to only come as a box set. The actual extras and features are identical to the Exclusive Edition which can be purchased from some retailers in this Region.

Summary

 The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Rings has been a slow train coming on Blu-ray. Now that is it here it is perhaps not want everyone wanted and has certainly stirred up a hornets nest of issues. Those issues have some merit but ultimately it is for each viewer to decide whether they want to hold out for later editions. My advice, rent before you buy.

For those who buy be prepared for an excellent step-up from the DVD but perhaps not the most revealing Blu-ray transfer on record. The sound is, on any score, excellent.

The lack of extras is a disappointment although I for one would like to see new extras and don't miss the inclusion of the old ones.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer BDP-LX70A Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayPioneer PDP-5000EX. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR605
SpeakersJBL 5.1 Surround and Subwoofer

Other Reviews NONE
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