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Blu-ray Review: The Lord of the Rings – The Motion Picture Trilogy (Theatrical Editions)

Behind the first Star Wars trilogy, Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings, an adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's classic fantasy novels, has been the most eagerly anticipated series to debut on Blu-ray. That will be remedied on April 6th; however, fans of the films will likely be torn in reaction to this set. It presents the theatrical versions, as opposed to the Extended Editions, which are likely to be released when Guillermo del Toro's The Hobbit hits theaters. The Blu-ray quality isn't as good as the format allows. Also, a letdown are the extras, meager compared to previous LOTR releases, are placed on regular DVDs.

The Fellowship of the Ring opens with the story of the Dark Lord Sauron and the One Ring created to rule over the people of Middle-earth and his defeat on the battlefield. About three thousand years later, the hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm) found the Ring during his adventure detailed in The Hobbit. Sixty years after that at his eleventy-first birthday, he left the Shire and the Ring behind. The wizard Gandalf the Grey (Sir Ian McKellen) learned Bilbo had the Ring and of Sauron's return. Gandalf enlisted Bilbo's nephew Frodo (Elijah Wood) to get the Ring out of the Shire. Gandalf tells the wizard Saruman (Christopher Lee) what he has learned, but Saruman has already joined the Dark Lord's cause and is creating an army of creatures.

Joined by fellow Hobbits Samwise Gamgee (Sean Astin), Merry (Dominic Monaghan), and Pippin (Billy Boyd), the foursome head to Bree, chased by Sauron's Ringwraiths, former wearers of the Rings of Power now caught between the living and the dead. When Gandalf doesn't make their rendezvous, the hobbits head to the Elven land of Rivendell with the assistance of a ranger named Strider (Viggo Mortensen), who is also Aragorn, the heir to the throne of Gondor.

It is determined that the only way to defeat Sauron is to destroy the Ring, which can only be done by the fires of Mount Doom where Sauron created it in Mordor. Frodo volunteers for the mission, joined by the hobbits, Gandalf, Aragorn, the man Boromir (Sean Bean), the dwarf Gimli (John Rhys-Davies), the elf Legolas (Orlando Bloom). However, the task is not easy due to Saruman's wizardry and the seemingly endless number of orcs in pursuit.

As the first film ends, the fellowship has broken apart. Frodo realizes the Ring is too great a temptation and must venture out on his own. Merry and Pippin create a diversion and are captured by the orcs. Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas head of to rescue them.

The Fellowship of the Ring is a marvelous adventure. The film creates believable characters for the viewer to care about and sets up a conflict with great stakes. Jackson does a fantastic job as director, delivering epic battle sequences and gentle moments between two characters. It is a very good set-up to propel the story.

The Two Towers refers to the towers of the villains Sauron and Saruman. As the film opens, Frodo and Sam encounter the creature Gollum (a CGI creation whose movements and voice were created by Andy Serkis), a hobbit formerly known as Sméagol, though he no longer resembles one as years of being in possession of the Ring, or more accurately being possessed by it, have taken its toll and he suffers from split personality. Gollum wants the Ring, his "precious" as he refers to it, but agrees to take the hobbits to Mordor. The longer Frodo wears the Ring the stronger its hold becomes on him.

Legolas, Gimli, and Aragorn track the orcs who are taking Merry and Pippin to Saruman at his tower. They pass through the Land of Rohan, currently overtaken by Saruman's armies, and King Théoden (Bernard Hill) is withering away due to the treachery of his advisor Gríma Wormtongue (Brad Dourif). However, there are still men who fight and they destroy all the orcs, allowing Merry and Pippin to escape during the chaos into Fangorn Forest where they meet Treebeard (voiced by John Rhys-Davies), a treelike creature known as an Ent.

Two large battles take place at the film's conclusion against Saruman and his forces. The people of Rohan take refuge at Helm's Deep against the orcs he has sent. The Ents discover forests destroyed to fuel the fires creating Saruman's armies and attack his tower. As the film closes, Gandalf speaks of Sauron's inevitable outrage at the losses and the battle for Middle-earth is about to commence. Gollum continues to get Frodo closer to Mordor, but hints at his own plans.

About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS
  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/christine-lakatos/ Christine

    Well, it’s about time you got this done, EL!

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    You’re a riot. Glad you were able to find it without a promo

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers-josh-hathaway Josh Hathaway

    I was always going to hold out for the extended editions but am surprised and disappointed to learn the picture quality leaves something to be desired. I never dreamed that would be an issue here. I’ll be waiting before I plunk down the cayshe.

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    I have no doubt if they had released these individually with time between release dates and all people saw was the quality of the Fellowship, the Internet might implode with fanboy outrage. Will be interesting to see what happens on Tuesday when the masses get their hands on them. Thanks for the comment.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/christine-lakatos-/ Christine

    lol, El, I got the inside scoop about this review.

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    oh yeah? through some type of secret project? dun-dun-dun!!!

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/josh-hathaway Josh Hathaway

    I’m sure the fanboys will begin tearing their clothes and howling with outrage when they get their hands on this set.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/josh-hathaway Josh Hathaway

    Actually, the fact that many of them are waiting for the extended might keep this from getting too bloody.

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    there’s some kooky ones who bought the regular DVDs, sold them to pay for Extended, are now selling those for the new Blu-rays, and will in turn likely sell those when Extended comes out for either 10th anniversary or del Toro’s “The Hobbit”.

    If I hadn’t gotten a review opportunity, I was completely happy with my Extended DVDs and wouldn’t have upgraded