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Peter Jackson
Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Liv Tyler, Cate Blanchett, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Hugo Weaving, Sean Bean, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee
Fran Walsh & Philippa Boyens & Peter Jackson, based on the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien

One Ring To Rule Them All.

Box Office:
$109 million.
Opening Weekend
$66.114 million on 3359 screens.
Domestic Gross
$313.322 million.

Rated PG-13 for epic battle sequences and some scary images.

Academy Awards:
Won for Best Cinematography; Best Visual Effects; Best Makeup; Best Score-Howard Shore.
Nominated for Best Picture; Best Director; Best Supporting Actor-Ian McKellen; Best Adapted Screenplay; Best Sound; Best Art Direction-Set Decoration; Best Costume Design; Best Editing; Best Song-"May It Be".

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
English DTS-HD MA 6.1
Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 228 min.
Price: $119.98
Release Date: 6/28/2011

Available Only as Part of “The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy – Extended Edition” 15-Disc Set

Discs One and Two:
• Audio Commentary with co-writer/co-producer/director Peter Jackson, co-writer/co-producer Fran Walsh, and co-writer Philippa Boyens
• Audio Commentary with production designer Grant Major, costume designer Ngila Dickson, Weta Workshop creative supervisor Richard Taylor, conceptual designers Alan Lee and John Howe, supervising art director/set decorator Dan Hennah, art department manager Chris Hennah, and Weta Workshop manager Tania Rodger
• Audio Commentary with producer Barrie Osborne, executive producer Mark Ordesky, director of photography Andrew Lesnie, editor John Gilbert, co-producer Rick Porras, composer Howard Shore, visual effects supervisor Jim Rygiel, supervising sound editor/co-designer Ethan Van der Ryn, supervising sound editor Mike Hopkins, Weta animation designer and supervisor Randall William Cook, Weta VFX art director Christian Rivers, Weta VFX cinematographer Van’r Hul, and miniature unit director of photography Alex Funke
• Audio Commentary with actors actors Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Sean Astin, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, and Sean Bean

Disc Three:
• 17 Documentaries: “J.R.R. Tolkien – Creator of Middle-earth”; “From Book to Script”; “Storyboards and Pre-Viz: Making Words into Images”; “Designing Middle-earth”; “Weta Workshop”; “Costume Design”; “The Fellowship of the Cast”; “A Day in the Life of a Hobbit”, “Cameras in Middle-earth”; “Scale”; “Big-atures”; “Weta Digital”; “Editorial: Assembling an Epic”; “Digital Grading”; “The Soundscapes of Middle-earth”; “Music for Middle-earth”; “The Road Goes Ever On...”

Disc Four:
• Introductions from Peter Jackson and Elijah Wood
• Early Storyboard Sequence: The Prologue
• Abandoned Storyboard Sequences
• Pre-Viz Animatics
• Storyboard to Film Comparison
• Bag End Set test
• Middle-earth Atlas
• New Zealand as Middle-earth
• “The Peoples of Middle-earth” Galleries
• “The Realms of Middle-earth” Galleries
• Editorial Demonstration: “The Council of Elrond”
• Production Photos
• Stills for Six Miniatures

Disc Five:
• “The Fellowship of the Ring: Behind the Scenes” Documentary

Score Soundtrack

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The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Extended Edition) [Blu-Ray] (2001)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 23, 2011)

Nearly a decade after the film’s theatrical release, The Lord of the Rings trilogy continues to maintain a great reputation. Back in the spring of 2010, we got the theatrical cuts of the three films on Blu-ray, while this summer 2011 package brings the movies’ extended cuts to the format.

For full coverage of my thoughts about Fellowship, please check out my review of the theatrical version. For this article, I’ll stick mostly with the differences evident in the SE’s extended cut of the film.

As I noted in my prior review, I enjoyed the original version of Fellowship but it didn’t dazzle me. However, I must note that I grew to like it more with additional viewings. The flick withstands repeated viewings quite well as it reveals additional charms with additional scrutiny.

Really, the world of Tolkien seems so dense and complicated that for someone with little background in that universe, it can be somewhat inaccessible. That’d be someone like me, as I never read the books or saw any of the prior film adaptations. As I rewatched Fellowship, I felt better equipped to enjoy its nuances since I became more comfortable with its myriad number of characters and settings. It’s really a pretty terrific movie.

Already a long movie, the “Extended Edition” adds about half an hour to the flick. Fellowship now runs about 208 minutes versus the original’s 178 minutes. Actually, the entire program lasts 228 minutes, but the final 20 minutes display “Special thanks to the charter members of the LOTR official fan club”.

While the original Blu-ray packed the entire feature onto one disc, the extended version spreads the film across two platters. The first one runs 1:45:43 and cuts at a very appropriate point right after the formation of the fellowship. The second disc offers programming that lasts 2:02:34 if we include the lengthy fan club credits. In a nice touch, when you start Disc Two, it offers a menu that lets you either go right back into the movie or allows you to choose one of the four audio commentaries. Some may see this as a distraction since the film doesn’t simply continue without input from the viewer, but given the myriad of auditory choices, I like the fact the disc’s producers don’t just assume what version you’ll prefer.

As for the actual film footage, this material integrates quite well into the action. I recognized some of the added scenes but not all of them. Many of the extended sequences seemed pretty modest in nature. Rather than add a few long bits, this version of Fellowship mostly featured a lot of smaller extensions.

I liked that approach, for it supplemented the original film but didn’t alter its flow. To my eyes, the most substantial change occurred at the start of the movie, as it offered a longer introduction to Hobbiton. While not necessary to establish the characters and the setting, I enjoyed this sequence. It nicely set up that realm and provided a nice backdrop for the flick’s opening.

Overall, I felt that the additions didn’t substantially change the movie. They fleshed out sequences and characters well but they didn’t provide any extreme variations. Unlike something such as The Abyss, the extra material didn’t alter the story or our interpretation of things. I viewed the new material as icing on the cake. The film works well in its theatrical cut, but these extended pieces make it just a little bit more satisfying.

One nice touch: if you check out the chapter menus on Discs One and Two, you’ll find notations that indicate which ones include either new or extended scenes. This provides a helpful notation for those of us who feel less than secure in our knowledge of the material.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture A/ Audio A- / Bonus A+

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on these Blu-ray Discs. Overall, the picture seemed solid.

Sharpness appeared excellent. The movie always remained nicely crisp and distinct, and I noticed virtually no instances of softness or fuzziness. Detail could be extraordinary and revealed plenty of tiny nuances in the image. Jagged edges and moiré effects created no concerns, and I also detected no signs of edge enhancement. As for print flaws, the image seemed free of any form of defects.

Black levels came across as deep and dense, while shadow detail was appropriately heavy but not overly thick. Fellowship enjoyed a stylized palette that varied dependent on the location. For example, when we entered elf territory, the film adopted a heavily golden tone, and other climates might strongly desaturate the image. The colors always remained nicely vivid and vibrant, and they showed no problems related to bleeding, noise, or other concerns, even when we entered some red-dominated areas.

Speaking of colors, pre-release Internet buzz indicated that parts of the film were retimed and given a heavier green orientation. This was accurate; I compared the Extended Edition Blu-ray to the theatrical version and definitely sensed a stronger green tone in some sequences.

Why did this change occur? Apparently director Peter Jackson approved of the alteration, but I couldn’t say why he did so. The additional green tint didn’t affect the whole movie, though, so it’s not like someone just flipped some switch and had the coloring cover the entire film.

Did the green tint affect my enjoyment of the movie? Nope. Honestly, if I’d not known about the issue in advance, I doubt I’d have noticed it. It’s not like Fellowship suddenly looked like The Matrix; the green tone tended to be pretty light, and the movie already used a stylized palette.

Much of the furor about the colors related to some pre-release screen shots; in particular, one that showed a white screen which now boasted a distinctly pea soup orientation. I think those screen shots overstated the green orientation. When I compared the white screen in question – from the scene where Frodo wakes up in Rivendell – I can see a smidgen of green in the EE Blu-ray, but not a lot. It’s certainly not the pea soup orientation indicated by the screen shot. As they say, your mileage may vary, but I thought the transfer looked great, even with some mild color alterations.

The DTS-HD MA 6.1 soundtrack of Fellowship was strong, though it came with one minor concern: heavy bass. The original 2002 DVD came with overwhelming low-end throughout the film, and some vestiges of that still appeared here. This was especially true in the early moments, as I thought the prologue suffered from bass that threatened to overwhelm the story.

Unlike the old DVD, however, the track became more balanced pretty quickly. Most of the film displayed low-end that was still loud but not as oppressive. Bass still occasionally veered toward the excessive side of the ledger, but I thought it was appropriate most of the time.

The soundfield offered a wide and engaging piece. All five channels received active usage throughout the film, and they created a nicely vivid and life-like environment. Music showed fine stereo presence, while effects appeared from all around the spectrum. Those elements blended together neatly, and they moved cleanly from speaker to speaker. Surround usage was effective and accurate without becoming overwhelming or gimmicky. None of the film’s scenes stood out to me as anything particularly noteworthy, but the package mixed together to become a fine and seamless whole.

Audio quality seemed strong. Dialogue sounded natural and crisp, and I noticed no problems related to edginess or intelligibility. Music was bright and vibrant and displayed positive range. Effects appeared clean and distinct, and they lacked any signs of distortion. Except for the early examples of too heavy bass, I thought this was a stellar track.

How did the picture and sound of this version compare to the original DVD from 2002? Both were stronger. Audio was a bit more dynamic and offered less intrusive bass, while visuals demonstrated notably stronger definition and clarity. The color palette differed, of course, due to the new (occasional) emphasis on green that I mentioned, but that was the only potential “problem” with the Blu-ray. Otherwise, it was a substantial step up over the DVD.

For this five-disc release of Fellowship, we find tons of extras. On the first two discs, we locate a whopping four audio commentaries. Called The Director and Writers, the first logically comes from director/co-writer/producer Peter Jackson, co-writer/producer Fran Walsh, and co-writer Philippa Boyens, all of whom sat together for this running, screen-specific affair. And a good one it is, as the participants offer a light and lively discussion of the film.

They cover a terrific variety of topics. We learn about the additions made for the extended edition of the film as well as working with the cast, changes from the Tolkien book, effects, location and set challenges, plus many other areas.

Jackson dominates but both women offer some good notes as well, and they cumulatively prove to be very chatty. Despite the very long running time of the feature, almost no empty spots appear during this entertaining and compelling piece. I never thought I’d listen to a three-and-a-half hour commentary that left me eager for more, but this fun track kept me constantly interested and engrossed.

Next we find a Design Team track that includes remarks from production designer Grant Major, costume designer Ngila Dickson, Weta Workshop creative supervisor Richard Taylor, conceptual designers Alan Lee and John Howe, supervising art director/set decorator Dan Hennah, art department manager Chris Hennah, and Weta Workshop manager Tania Rodger. It appeared that most of the participants sat on their own for this edited piece, but the Hennahs clearly were recorded together. If you listen to this track, you’ll learn about all things visual in regard to Fellowship. The program covers props, sets, costumes, makeup and pretty much everything else under that falls under that umbrella.

Though this might seem dry, the commentary actually comes across as nicely lively and engaging. The pace moves quickly and provides lots of cool details about the material, with many fun anecdotes along the way. Want to know how they tried to keep the Hobbit actors feet warm? Listen here. Want to know about a controversy related to arcane languages? Here you go!

I liked the fact it offered so many notes about the visual design rather than simply “nuts and bolts” issues. For example, we learn about the stylistic concerns related to the computer created characters but we don’t hear about the technical areas; that’ll follow in the next commentary. Many tracks of this sort can drag due to excessive jargon and procedural matters, but this one goes by briskly since it avoids those traps. It offers a great look at the ways the crew brought Middle-earth to life, and it manages to provide a fun and entertaining glimpse at the design issues.

For the third commentary, we find a discussion from the Production/Post-Production Team. This program includes remarks from producer Barrie Osborne, executive producer Mark Ordesky, director of photography Andrew Lesnie, editor John Gilbert, co-producer Rick Porras, composer Howard Shore, visual effects supervisor Jim Rygiel, supervising sound editor/co-designer Ethan Van der Ryn, supervising sound editor Mike Hopkins, Weta animation designer and supervisor Randy Cook, Weta VFX art director Christian Rivers, Weta VFS cinematographer Van’r Hul, and miniature unit director of photography Alex Funke. Many of these folks obviously sat together, and it appeared they clustered in logical teams. The results then were edited together to make this track.

While the production/post-production commentary seems like the least interesting of Fellowship’s four pieces, it still gives us a good look at the film. It covers a mix of issues not discussed elsewhere. We hear a little about casting as well as lighting and other photographic issues, sound effects, computer and other visual material, the score, editorial decisions, and a few additional subjects. As always, the pace remains brisk and lively, and the commentary includes virtually no dead space. Some minor redundancies occur when we get more notes about the scenes reinstated for the extended cut of the film, but even those happen infrequently. Overall, this commentary adds a lot to one’s knowledge of Fellowship.

Lastly, we find a Cast commentary that provides material from actors Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Sean Astin, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, and Sean Bean. The four hobbits clearly sat together for their pieces, but it appeared that the others were taped separately. Not surprisingly, that means that the four hobbits dominate this lively little track.

Of the four commentaries, the cast program probably offers the lowest level of concrete information about Fellowship, but it still presents a good deal of data, and it seems like a lot of fun. The hobbits spend too much time talking about how great everything and everyone is, but they interact well together and toss out lots of entertaining anecdotes from the set. The remarks from the others lack the same level of energy, but they compensate via more substantial notes about the film. McKellen and Tyler seem especially useful in that regard, as they provide many compelling statements about their experiences and how they achieved their work. Rhys-Davies also adds some great insight and anecdotes. The cast track finishes this run of commentaries on a pleasurable and satisfying note.

With the end of the fourth commentary, we finish with the first two discs, but I want to make one remark before I progress. I don’t skim through portions of discs when I review them, which meant I needed to sit through all 14 hours of commentaries to write this article. I can’t say I looked forward to that task, simply because it would be so incredibly time consuming. However, these tracks all seemed so good that I didn’t mind the time at all.

Admittedly, I love audio commentaries, but the prospect of 14 hours worth of Fellowship data sounded wearying. Pleasantly, the tracks went by quickly and I enjoyed the entire process. This set for Fellowship didn’t just pack in four commentaries for bragging rights. Each one seems compelling and entertaining in its own right. Clearly a lot of care and thought went into the creation of the various tracks, which helped make this package all the more useful.

After all that we finally move to Discs Three, Four and Five, where boohoogles of additional extras reside on standard DVDs. Disc Three starts with a 78-second Introduction from director Peter Jackson. He gives us a quick overview of what to expect from these platters and also provides tips for navigation of them. Jackson points out the existence of a “Play All” option but notes the potential drawbacks to its usage.

Entitled “From Book to Vision”, DVD Three initially splits into six subdomains. J.R.R. Tolkien – Creator of Middle-earth offers a 22-minute and 27-second program that mixes short movie images, archival pieces, and interviews with Peter Jackson, co-writer Philippa Boyens, Tolkien historians Tom Shippey, Chris Upton, Humphrey Carpenter, and Dr. Patrick Curry, Tolkien’s published Rayner Unwin, Jane Johnson of Harper Collins, conceptual designer John Howe, and actor Viggo Mortensen. The program provides a short biography of the author and then delves into some discussion of the nature of some parts of the stories. “Tolkien” gives us a nice look at the realm’s creator and his influences and attitudes.

The 20-minute and three-second From Book to Script gives us some shots from the set, movie clips, and interviews with Peter Jackson, director of photography Andrew Lesnie, actors Sean Bean, Christopher Lee, Billy Boyd, Elijah Wood, Liv Tyler, John Rhys-Davies, Viggo Mortensen, Ian McKellen, Orlando Bloom, Sean Astin and Dominic Monaghan, Weta Workshop designer/sculptor Daniel Falconer, miniatures director of photography Alex Funke, executive producer Mark Ordesky, co-writer Philippa Boyens, Tolkien scholar Brian Sibley, editor John Gilbert, Weta Workshop creative supervisor Richard Taylor, Weta VFX art director Christian Rivers, co-producer Rick Porras, co-producer Jamie Selkirk and producer Barrie Osborne. As indicated by its title, this show covers the initial parts of the film adaptation. We hear about how the project went from Miramax to New Line and we then learn about all the difficulties cast and crew encountered when they tried to meld the tale for the screen. The program provides a very nice discussion of the challenges and why the filmmakers made some of their choices.

One other interesting aspect of “From Book to Script”: you’ll note the absence of co-writer Fran Walsh from that program and all the other video snippets. That seemed odd, but Philippa Boyens explains that Walsh doesn’t show up so she and Jackson can still try to maintain some form of privacy; he represents the public face of the team, as required of a high-profile director.

Five smaller segments make up the content of Visualizing the Story. “Storyboards and Pre-Viz: Making Words Into Images” lasts 13 and a half minutes and uses the standard format with movie clips, behind the scenes footage, and interviews. We hear from Jackson, miniatures director of photography Alex Funke, Weta VFX art director Christian Rivers, producer Barrie Osborne, production designer Grant Major, actor Elijah Wood, co-producer Rick Porras, Weta VFX cinematographer Brian Van’r Hul, Weta animation designer and supervisor Randall William Cook, and pre-viz/VFX art department coordinator Marion Davey. “Images” covers all the preparation for those elements of the movie. We learn about the storyboards and all the other forms of visual planning Jackson and the rest accomplished. We’ll see more detailed examples of these in the rest of “Visualizing”, so this program provides a nice introduction and overview for the subjects and how they were used during Fellowship.

”Early Storyboards” contains filmed and acted art for three different scenes: “The Prologue” (7:38), “Orc Pursuit into Lothlorien” (93 seconds), and “Sarn Gebir Rapids Chase” (102 seconds). None of those ended up in the final film, which makes their appearances here all the more valuable. The “Pre-Viz Animatics” offer basic looks at two sequences: “Gandalf Rides to Orthanc” (68 seconds) and “The Stairs of Khazad-Dum” (2:19). These demonstrate early computer animated renditions of those scenes.

More of this sort of footage appears in “Animatic to Film Comparisons”. This shows a “Storyboard to Film Comparison” for “Nazgul Attack at Bree” that allows you to watch the split-screen comparison or the storyboards or film alone; it lasts 106 seconds, and you can use the “angle” button to flip through the three options. A “Pre-Viz to Film Comparison” shows up for “The Bridge of Khazad-Dum”; like the last piece, it lets you jump from the split-screen presentation to the pre-viz or film elements alone, and it runs two minutes, 34 seconds.

Finally, the “Bag End Set Test” takes six minutes, 33 seconds and starts with comments from Peter Jackson, co-producer Rick Porras, and Weta VFX art director Christian Rivers. They discuss the material we’ll see, which mostly consists of practice footage that shows Jackson as Bilbo and Porras as Frodo. This offers a very entertaining piece.

We get four subdomains in Designing and Building Middle-earth, three of which provide documentary programs. “Designing Middle-earth” lasts 41 minutes and 11 seconds and features the same format seen with the prior piece. It includes interviews with Peter Jackson, conceptual designers Alan Lee and John Howe, Weta Workshop creative supervisor Richard Taylor, production designer Grant Major, Weta Workshop designer/sculptor Daniel Falconer, Christian Rivers, visual effects art director Jeremy Bennett, co-producer Porras, and supervising art director/set decorator Dan Hennah. This show covers many of the film’s visual elements. From early conceptual art to specifics of locations and sets and props, we get lots of information about these topics. After a general introduction, we go through each of the movie’s sites in the order they appear. This becomes a satisfying way to explore the places and artifacts of the film, and “Building” works nicely.

Called ”Weta Workshop”, the next program examines that studio’s work on Fellowship. The documentary lasts 43 minutes and features interviews with Jackson, actors Wood, Lee, McKellen, Tyler, Rhys-Davies, Bean, Mortensen and Astin, conceptual designers John Howe and Alan Lee, producer Osborne, Weta Workshop creative supervisor Richard Taylor, Christian Rivers, co-producer Porras, designer/sculptor Falconer, Weta Workshop manager Tania Rodger, miniatures director of photography Funke, prosthetics supervisor Gino Acevedo, and sword smith Peter Lyon. While “Building” covers the design of the many elements, “Workshop” looks more at the actual construction of those pieces and it also gets into the creatures, weapons, armor, and various other elements.

“Workshop” features discussions of the film’s miniatures as well as the building of the monsters, prosthetics, and additional practical pieces. Mostly we watch Richard Taylor as he walks through the different props and other things and tells us about them. That may sound dry, but the presentation mixes up the media enough to keep matters interesting. The material about hobbit feet and other alterations to the actors seems especially interesting. “Workshop” nicely matches with “Building”, as the combination of programs provides a good examination of the film’s physical design aspects.

This domain’s final documentary, “Costume Design” runs 11 minutes and 33 seconds. In addition to the standard movie bits and behind the scenes material, we hear from costume designer Ngila Dickson, producer Osborne, and actors Wood, Mortensen, McKellen and Lee. Dickson strongly dominates this entertaining piece. She leads us through the enormity of the task and then offers specific comments about the creation of many of the different outfits. She gives us a great deal of detail and insight into this aspect of the production.

In the “Design Galleries”, we find substantial stillframe materials and more. This area splits into two smaller domains: “The Peoples of Middle-earth” and “The Realms of Middle-earth”. “Peoples” further divides into “The Enemy”, “The Last Alliance”, “Isengard”, “Bilbo Baggins”, “The Fellowship”, “Rivendell”, and “Lothlorien”. Unsurprisingly, each of these then breaks down into character-specific galleries, and with so many of them at hand, I won’t list them all. Within the “Peoples” section, we find galleries for 28 different characters or types. Each of these includes between nine and 106 images for a total of an amazing 1223 stills. The shots show concept drawings as well as costume tests and other photos.

In addition, 35 of the stills include optional commentary. An icon notes when this becomes available for certain shots, and we find statements from Christian Rivers, John Howe, Alan Lee or Daniel Falconer. Their remarks provide some nice insight into the design of the various participants.

The other section of the “Galleries” features “The Realms of Middle-earth”. This divides into 12 smaller domains: “The Second Age (Prologue)”, “The Shire”, “Bag End”, “Bree”, “Isengard”, “Weathertop”, “Trollshaw”, “Rivendell”, “Moria”, “Lothlorien”, “The Silverlode and the Anduin”, and “Amon Hen”. These areas provide between 16 and 95 stills for a total of 705 individual images. Like the “Peoples” domain, these mix photos and concept art. We also get 21 more commentaries for various shots; the remarks here come from Lee, Howe, and Jeremy Bennett.

With the Middle-earth Atlas, we can examine the “geographical context to the events that take place in The Fellowship of the Ring”. It allows you to follow either Frodo’s journey or Gandalf’s path. Essentially this means we wind out way through the map and see brief movie clips to illustrate each location. Frankly, the “Atlas” seems a bit lame. I’d prefer some greater depth of information about the different places instead of this abbreviated version of the film.

For specific location information, we move to New Zealand as Middle-earth. It leads us through the sites for Hobbiton, Weathertop, Fordof Bruinen, Rivendell, Lothlorien, River Anduin, and Amon Hen. You can examine these individually or use the “Play All” to see them as one nine-minute and 52-second program. It includes remarks from Rick Porras and Dan Hennah plus lots of video footage from these places. We see Jackson and crew as they scout the spots. “New Zealand” offers a quick and efficient glimpse of these locations.

Disc Four receives the title “From Vision to Reality’ and divides into six smaller sections after a 27-second Introduction from Elijah Wood; it serves the same purpose as Jackson’s opening on DVD Three. We begin with Filming The Fellowship of the Ring, which then splits into four subdomains. As one might glean from the title, “The Fellowship of the Cast” mainly examines the movie’s actors. It runs 34 minutes and 37 seconds as it offers the standard combination of film snippets, behind the scenes footage, and interviews. We get remarks from Peter Jackson plus actors Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Sean Astin, Sean Bean, Liv Tyler, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Orlando Bloom, Viggo Mortensen, and John Rhys-Davies.

”Cast” doesn’t try too hard to let us know how the actors approached their roles. Instead, it provides a nice look at their interactions and bonds. Mostly anecdotal in nature, the program relates lots of incidents from the set. We hear how Astin sort of remained in character and cared for Wood even after the cameras stopped rolling, and we also get notes about personality traits of other actors. We watch some of the training through which the performers went and learn about their doubles. The program emphasizes personal information and it offers an unusual and entertaining experience.

“A Day In the Life of a Hobbit” relates the average experience for those actors. We see material from the set and hear from Jackson, Wood, Monaghan, Boyd, and Astin. The program starts at five AM with the application of the hobbit feet and traces the day through additional makeup work and information about topics like their doubles and forced perspective work. The 13-minute and six-second piece gives us a quick but enjoyable behind the scenes glimpse at the actors’ time on the film.

Though its title implies a fairly technical program, “Cameras in Middle-earth” really offers more of a production journal. The 49-minute and 38-second documentary goes through different realms as it conveys general details about the shoot. In addition to the scads of on-set footage, we get comments from Jackson, actors Wood, Monaghan, Astin, McKellen, Boyd, Lee, Mortensen, Tyler, Bloom, Rhys-Davies and Bean, producer Osborne, director of photography Andrew Lesnie, physical effects technician Geoff Curtis, co-producer Rick Porras, supervising art director/set decorator Dan Hennah, riding doubler Jane Abbott, production designer Grant Major, Weta supervisor Richard Taylor, and physical effects supervisor Stephen Ingram.

Like “Cast”, “Cameras” also seems somewhat anecdotal in nature, but it more fully provides documentation of the shoot. We learn of the different camera units used for the film and then follow the production from location to location. These elements show lots of behind the scenes material that aptly displays the various challenges and issues. The interviews tell us more nuances of the production and toss in some nice details such as the special lighting used for Galadriel, boat training, and Astin’s foot injury. “Cameras” remains engrossing and informative from start to finish.

When we move to the Visual Effects realm, we discover three documentaries related to that topic. “Scale” discusses the challenges required by the different sizes of the various Fellowship characters. The 15-minute and 34-second show mixes good material from the set with comments from Jackson, Weta VFX cinematographer Van’r Hul, producer Osborne, director of photography Lesnie, Weta chief technological officer Jon Labrie, Weta animation designer and supervisor Randall William Cook, production designer Major, VFX supervisor Jim Rygiel, Richard Taylor, Rick Porras, Elijah Wood, Billy Boyd, John Rhys-Davies, and Ian McKellen. The program offers a fine chat that aptly describes the different methods and shows us the ways in which they work. It provides a compelling and satisfying examination of this topic.

“Miniatures” divides into two pieces. “Big-atures” offers a 16-minute and 15-second documentary about the film’s small-scale sets and objects. It includes comments from Jackson, Richard Taylor, Barrie Osborne, Alex Funke, and Weta Workshop miniature builders Mary MacLachlan and John Baster. After a general discussion of miniatures, we get more specific information about the following topics: “Rivendell”, “Lothlorien”, “Isengard”, “The Argonath”, and “Khazad-Dum”. It shows these components in nice detail and allows us to gain insight into their creation.

Also in the “Miniatures” section, we find a collection of six “Galleries”. These cover “Orthanc” (36 stills), “Rivendell” (63 shots), “Moria” (36), “Lothlorien” (14), “Hobbiton Factories” (14), and “The Argonath” (16). The galleries offer a mix of concept art and photos of different parts of the miniatures. These elements really allow you to appreciate all the detail work that went into their creation.

For information about computer effects, check out “Weta Digital”. This 24-minute and 50-second piece offers statements from Jackson, Osborne, Alex Funke, Jon Labrie, Weta conceptual digital visualization Gray Horsefield, Weta digital models supervisor Matt Aitken, visual effects art director Jeremy Bennett, Jim Rygiel, Christian Rivers, Randall Wallace Cook, Brian Van’r Hul, Digital Domain VFX supervisor Mark O. Forker, VFX art director Paul Lasaine, and Weta crowd software developer/supervisor Stephen Regelous. This program covers most things computer animated, with a particular emphasis on digital sets and monsters. Some of the better moments relate the details about the cave troll and Balrog as well as the Wraithworld, digital doubles, and the water horses. “Weta Digital” includes lots of nice information and is an enjoyable piece.

Post-Production: Putting It All Together splits into two areas. “Editorial: Assembling an Epic” gives us a 12-minute and 45-second featurette about this topic. We hear from Jackson, editor John Gilbert, first assistant editor Peter Skarratt, co-producer Jamie Selkirk, director of photography Lesnie, producer Osborne, executive producer Mark Ordesky, and assistant editor Annie Collins. They discuss the enormous of amount of footage shot for the film as well as how they pared down all that material. They also comment on issues related to the scenes restored to the extended cut. Some of the information seems redundant after the commentaries, but “Together” packs these topics together into one solid little package.

An unusual supplement arrives next. Called “Editorial Demonstration: ‘The Council of Elrond’”, this combination of six different 88-second snippets lets you examine the decisions made by the editors. Six windows run various takes while we see the final one at the bottom of the screen. Helpfully, the borders of the take currently in use light up, so you can follow each one as it hits the bottom image. Click on each of the six windows to watch those takes on their own. This offers a very cool and entertaining look at the raw footage from the film and the way it made it into the final product.

In Digital Grading, we get a 12-minute and seven-second program that discusses color alteration done by the computer. We get comments from Jackson, Andrew Lesnie, Barrie Osborne, supervising digital colorist Peter Doyle, and Jim Rygiel. They cover the ways that the computer allowed them to work on color issues, and we see many demonstrations of these instances. Most of these show before and after shots, so this provides an informative and useful piece.

The Sound and Music section offers two separate documentaries. “The Soundscapes of Middle-earth” lasts 12 minutes and 35 seconds as it presents remarks from Jackson, supervising sound editor Mike Hopkins, supervising sound editor/co-designer Ethan Van der Ryn, Barrie Osborne, post-production supervisor Rosemary Dority, actor Elijah Wood, and sound designer David Farmer. After some general comments about how the team came together, we get specific material about the following elements: the Watcher, the Moria orcs, the cave troll, the Balrog, the ringwraiths, the ring, and ADR. I always find sound design fascinating, and this program offers a nice look at how they brought the audio of Middle-earth to life.

Unsurprisingly, ”Music for Middle-earth” concentrates of the film’s score. In this 12-minute and 28-second piece, we get comments from Jackson, Osborne, composer Howard Shore, dialect coach Roisin Carty, and co-writer Philippa Boyens. It follows a format similar to “Soundscapes” in that it starts with general material and then gets into more specific information. We learn about the following areas: “The Song of Beren and Luthien”, “A Choir For Moria”, “In Dreams”, “Aniron (Theme for Aragorn and Arwen)”, “Lothlorien”, “The Revelation of the Ringwraiths”, “Isengard”, “The Voice of the Ring”, “The Fellowship Theme”. Shore goes into what he wanted to achieve with some of the music, and he also discusses the new music he composed for the extended version. In addition, we hear about some of the recording sessions, with notes about some of the vocalists and other areas. “Music” gives us yet another very informative and enjoyable documentary.

Disc Four comes to a close with The Road Goes Ever On.... This seven-minute and 21-second program offers a valedictory statement for the movie. We find statements from Jackson, Dominic Monaghan, Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Sean Bean, Viggo Mortensen, Liv Tyler, executive producer Mark Ordesky, Weta Workshop Creative Supervisor Richard Taylor, and producer Osborne. Other than some shots of the Fellowship premieres in London, Los Angeles and New Zealand, “Road” offers little useful material, but it acts as a nice send-off for the package, especially since it concludes with a couple of minutes of credits for the folks who put together this amazing set.

Over on Disc Five, we find a Behind the Scenes documentary created by filmmaker Costa Botes. Originally on the “Limited Edition” DVD of Fellowship, this show runs one hour, 24 minutes and 49 seconds as it consists entirely of “home movie” footage from the shoot.

It includes comments from extras wranglers Christina Hazard and Karl Kite-Rangi, director of photography Andrew Lesnie, director Peter Jackson, writer Fran Walsh, conceptual artists Alan Lee and John Howe, first assistant director Carolynne Cunningham, costume designer Ngila Dickson, 2nd assistant director Joanne Pearce, production manager Nik Korda, best boy Ants Farrell, greens master Brian Massey, Weta Workshop’s Mark Newnham and Richard Taylor, plane spotter Emma Simmers, construction supervisor Ed Mulholland, Elvish expert David Salo, assistant dialect coach Roisin Carty, head dialect coach Andrew Jack, swordsmith Peter Lyon, swordmaster Bob Anderson, New Zealand casting director Liz Mullane, horse master Harley Young, senior miniatures builder Mary MacLachlan, unit manager Richard Sharkey, visual effects DP Alex Funke, on set model technician Verena Jonker, 2nd AD Skot Thomas, on set art directors Simon Bright and Joe Bleakley, physical effects technician Geoff Curtis, 2nd unit director John Mahaffie, physical effects Steve Ingram, supervising editor Jamie Selkirk, editor John Gilbert, sound designer David Farmer, sound editor Tim Neilsen, digital models supervisor Matt Aitken, animation supervisor Randall William Cook, senior animators Andrew Calder and Matt Logue, texture painter Paul Campion, shader writer Robert Shrider, digital assist operator Anthony Sumich, unit assistant Missy Rika, producer Barrie M. Osborne, Weta art director Kayne Horsham, chain mail technicians Christopher Smith and Carl Payne, supervising sound editor Michael Hopkins, composer Howard Shore, re-recording mixer Christopher Boyes, and actors Dominic Monaghan, Billy Boyd, Elijah Wood, and Viggo Mortensen.

The program looks at complications on locations, production design and sets, storyboards and animatics, issues related to the scale of the various characters, costumes, makeup, weapons and prosthetics, stunts and fight scenes, cinematography, speaking Elvish, extras and animals, miniatures, audio and music, digital effects, and various challenges.

Don’t expect this program to offer a particularly coherent documentary that follows a logical course. It doesn’t spotlight the various subjects in a way that really details them. Instead, it sticks with a “you are there” feel to cover various aspects of the production.

And it does that pretty well. I enjoy this sort of behind the scenes footage, and I like being able to view the shoot in this manner. On its own, the documentary satisfies.

It took me a few viewings, but I finally figured out why so many people love The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. I don’t know if I’ll ever reach their level of fervor, but I’ve come to really enjoy the flick and think it works quite well.

The Extended Edition of the film adds a half an hour of mostly useful and entertaining material that serves to make the film even stronger than its Oscar-nominated theatrical cut. The Blu-ray boasts excellent picture and audio along with a thorough, nearly exhaustive set of supplements. It’s too bad this release doesn’t feature an option to watch the theatrical version of the film as well, but I think the Extended Edition Blu-ray offers the best Fellowship set to date.

Note that as of June 2011, you can only purchase this version of Fellowship as part of a 15-disc “The Lord of the Rings Motion Picture Trilogy: Extended Edition” package. This includes all three movies with copious amounts of extras for a retail price of $119.98.

To rate this film visit the Extended Edition review of LOTR: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING

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