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DVD Review
The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Extended Edition)
by Jürgen Fauth

Guide Rating -  

You might remember that the first installment of Peter Jackson's outstanding "Lord of the Rings" adaptation came out on DVD last August (review). Pure greed must be the sole reason for this new box set, its release another feeble attempt at parting faithful Tolkien geeks with their hard-earned money, right? Well, wrong.

For starters, anybody paying attention in August was aware that New Line had another, definitive DVD release in the works. Many fans of the film made sure to rent the first release and waited to purchase the new set. It simply took Jackson and his team, hard at work on "The Two Towers," several extra months to complete this new version of "Fellowship of the Ring."

The wait was worthwhile. For starters, the new set offers an extended version of the film--a whooping 208 minutes, a half hour longer than the theatrical version. Some scenes are entirely new, others are edited differently. There is a lovely new introduction to Hobbiton, and many early expository scenes have added shots here and there that add dialogue or depth of character. But the new cut truly shines in the second half of the film. Pressured by time constraints, Jackson left out many small scenes that build side characters or establishes new locations more thoroughly. Galadriel's gift-giving is a special favorite of mine that is great to see back in the movie. The new cut, rather than an improved version, gives the film more room to breathe and fans another opportunity to luxuriate in Jackson's hyper-realistic recreation of Middle Earth.

The omission of commentary on the original DVD release was a real disappointment. To make up for it, the new set includes not one but four separate tracks, a total of over 12 hours. Jackson shares his outstanding track with wife Fran Walsh and their co-writer Philippa Boyens. Other commentary features the cast, the production team, and the designers, more than thirty participants in all.

The two additional discs, titled "The Appendices," contain thorough documentaries covering every aspect of the production, an interactive map of Middle Earth, and extensive galleries of production art, behind-the-scenes photographs, and storyboards. The special features on the original release were poor and generally confined to made-for-TV making-of specials that were more intend on selling the film than a detailed look at its evolution. If you're a fan of the books or the movie, there is no question about it: this is the DVD to own.

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