The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this double-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. I anticipated a fine visual presentation, and this transfer of King more than lived up to my expectations.
No issues related to sharpness occurred. Despite the many very wide shots that occurred, the image remained rock solid. I saw no softness at all, as the picture appeared crisp and detailed. I also detected no jagged edges or moiré effects, and edge enhancement seemed absent. Those in search of print defects will hunt in vain, as I witnessed no specks, marks, or flaws of any sort in this clean presentation.
As with the first two flicks, King continued to display a rather stylized palette. Here, three types of hues dominated. The Rohan elements went with something of a golden tone, while Frodo’s scenes mainly used a dingy blue/gray. Minas Tirith featured blown-out whites. The DVD clearly replicated the movie’s intended palette. The colors were appropriately vivid when necessary and seemed accurately depicted.
Black levels also came across well. Dark shots demonstrated good depth and clarity. Low-light shots were nicely displayed and seemed clear and adequately visible. Shadow detail was clean and tight. Again, this was a very strong presentation that reproduced the movie swimmingly.
The extended edition of King integrated the extra 50 minutes of scenes neatly, and I never noticed any disruptive or awkward edits. The visuals appeared consistently positive for those segments, so I didn’t detect any decrease in quality. The elements flowed smoothly and concisely.
The Return of the King included a Dolby Digital EX 5.1 soundtrack. The soundfield appeared very active and involving. All five channels presented lots of material that kept the viewer at the center of a realistic and immersive world. Elements seemed appropriately placed and they blended together well. Flying creatures soared from location to location accurately, and other pieces popped up in their proper places too. The whole thing meshed together quite nicely, and the piece worked nicely. Not surprisingly, battle sequences were the most impressive, but the entire package seemed strong.
Audio quality equaled the positive nature of the soundfield. Speech was natural and distinctive, and I detected no issues connected to intelligibility or edginess. Music sounded bright and vibrant, as the score presented rich and full tones. Effects came across as accurate and concise. No problems with distortion appeared, and these elements were clean and broad. Bass response was excellent, as low-end consistently sounded tight and powerful. The audio of King just narrowly fell short of “A+” territory, as it presented a terrific experience.
When I compared this 2006 release of King to its predecessors from 2004, I thought all three looked and sounded very similar. If any notable differences occur, I didn’t notice them. I felt that this version was just as strong as the prior sets.
The sole extra found on this “Limited Edition” comes from a new Behind the Scenes documentary. A work by filmmaker Costa Botes, the program lasts one hour, 51 minutes and 57 seconds. Through this show, we get a “fly on the wall” view of the production and check out various elements of the shoot. We find comments from director Peter Jackson, 3rd AD Chris Husson, on set caterers Lucinda Sherratt, Lizzie Aitken and Ingrid Van Der Ley, stunt performer Steve Reinsfield, physical effects coordinator Karl Chisholm, medic/safety officers Mike Hayden and Steve Butler, makeup and hair designer Peter Owen, senior machinist/engineer Dominic Taylor, Gandalf riding double Basil Clapham, horse trainer Don Reynolds, horse wrangler Mark Kinaston-Smith, dolly grip Dean Maxted, key grip Terry Dosten, visual effects unit director Brian Van’t Hul, swordsmith Peter Lyon, Weta art director Kayne Horsham, producer Barrie M. Osborne, New Zealand casting Liz Mullane, Weta Workshop’s Richard Taylor, foreman Alan Wyllie, hammerhand Pete Loveridge, carpenter Martin Ulrich, set finishing supervisor Kerry Dunn, New Zealand stunt coordinator Kirk Maxwell, 1st AD Carolynne Cunningham, 2nd unit 1st AD Dave Norris, 2nd unit DP Simon Raby, DP Alun Bollinger, visual effects supervisor Jim Rygiel, senior keyframe animators Elisabeth Arko and Stephen Buckley, animator Michelle Meeker, 3D sequence supervisor Greg Butler, set finisher/props maker Hamish Wain, Weta machinist/engineer Bill Thomson, senior keyframe animator Matt Logue, senior animators Christopher Hatala, Mary Victoria and Andrew Calder, animator supervisor Adam Valdez, Weta Digital chief technical officer Scott Houston, scan/record supervisor Nick Booth, projectionist Tam Webster, digital colour grading supervisor Peter Doyle, lead colourist Florian Martin, on set dresser David Kolff, model technician Bruce McNaught, visual effects DP Alex Funke, visual effects producer Dean Wright, miniatures builder David Tremont, 2nd unit 1st AD Liz Tan, VFX compositor Tony Cole, 3D sequence supervisor Eric Saindon, best boy Ants Ferrell, motion capture combat choreographer Carrie Thiel, lead massive technical director John Haley, lead creature technical director Julian Butler, animator David Clayton, rotoscoping/painting supervisor Sandy Houston, sound effects editor David Whitehead, visual effects concept designer Christian Rivers, 3D sequence supervisor Dan Lemmon, senior animator Paul Story, armour weapons standbys Emily-Jane Sturrock and John Harding, designer/sculptor Shaun Bolton, boom operator Corrin Ellingford, lighting technician James Kennedy, New Zealand Army’s Lt. Grahame Doull, DP Andrew Lesnie, Barad-dur Destruction Lead Gray Horsfield,
3D sequence lead technical director Chris White, sound designer David Farmer, physical effects technician Peter Zivkovic, effects technician Scott Harens, focus puller Stephen Allanson, and actors Ian McKellen, Christopher Lee, Billy Boyd, Andy Serkis, Viggo Mortensen, Elijah Wood, Orlando Bloom, Sean Astin, and Dominic Monaghan.
The piece looks at locations and sets, stunts, fights and sequence specifics, physical pieces like dummies, fake animals, wigs, skulls and swords, working with horses and extras, technical details, and a visit from Sir Edmund Hillary. From there we see crew cameos, physical effects and action scenes, motion capture for Gollum and connected animation topics, the design and execution of the Shelob elements, and various digital processes. The rest of the piece views makeup and costumes, miniatures, CG animals and characters,audio, and other challenges.
If you hope to find a comprehensive, beginning-to-end examination of the film’s creation, you’ll not find it here. Like its predecessors for Fellowship and Two Towers, this show is more experiential than strictly informative. Yes, we learn a bit about different areas, but the four-DVD King offers much better details and depth in that regard.
Nonetheless, I find a lot to like about this program. I always enjoy footage taken from the set, and the show includes many fun and interesting shots. No, it won’t provide a concise overview of the film’s making, but fans will dig it anyway.
That means I anticipate die-hard Lord of the Rings lovers will glom onto this “Limited Edition”, but I’m not sure how useful it will prove for others. Without question, I continue to really enjoy The Return of the King. It creates a thrilling conclusion to a terrific trilogy, and the DVD gives us the same excellent picture and audio found on prior releases.
As always, I recommend that movie fans acquire a copy of King - the question revolves around which King to purchase. If you already own either the theatrical cut or the extended edition, I see very little reason to grab this one; if you want to own the version of the film you lack, just grab the 2004 DVD you don’t have. The extended release is my favorite, largely due to all the excellent supplements. The original theatrical DVD would be my second choice; it suffers from mediocre extras but comes with a very low price.
Where does that leave the 2006 “Limited Edition”? It’s a good choice for fans who own no version of The Return of the King and who want to be able to see both the theatrical and extended cuts of the film. That’s the only audience to whom I can recommend the set, as I think the other versions remain preferable for the reasons mentioned above. I have no problems with the “Limited Edition” on its own but I simply don’t think it adds much for the Rings fans.
To rate this film visit the original review of LOTR: THE RETURN OF THE KING