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The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring(2001)
With the help of a courageous fellowship of friends and allies, Frodo Baggins embarks on a perilous mission to destroy the legendary One Ring. Hunting Frodo are servants of the Dark Lord, Sauron, the Ring's evil creator. If Sauron reclaims the Ring, Middle-Earth is doomed.
For more about The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and the The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Blu-ray release, see the The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on June 17, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Ian Holm, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Bean, Liv Tyler
Director: Peter Jackson
» See full cast & crew
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Blu-ray Review
"The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air..."
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, June 17, 2011
Much that once was is lost, for none now live who remember it. It began with the forging of the Great Rings...
In 1957, Morton Grady Zimmerman tried his hand at adapting J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" for the silver screen. But Tolkien, despite his satisfaction with early concept art and designwork, was furious with Zimmerman's script. "I would ask them," Tolkien wrote, "to make an effort of imagination sufficient to understand the irritation, and on occasion the resentment, of an author who finds, increasingly as he proceeds, his work treated as it would seem carelessly in general, in places recklessly, and with no evident signs of any appreciation of what it is all about." He wasn't opposed to changes to his text, though. Just changes that affected elements "upon which its characteristic and peculiar tone principally depends." Tolkien defended the integrity of his work with voracity, and put a stop to anything that undermined that integrity. In fact, it would be another forty-four years -- some twenty-eight years after Tolkien's death -- that the complete "Lord of the Rings" saga would be fully realized on the big screen. (Ralph Bakshi's incomplete animated adaptation notwithstanding.) And so it was that, in December of 2001, literary purists, Tolkien devotees, movie critics and cinephiles of all stripes filed into director Peter Jackson's The Fellowship of the Ring with bated breath, wondering if the film they were about to see would cause Tolkien irritation or resentment, or if it would even work as a film at all. cut "upon which [the book's] characteristic and peculiar tone principally depends"
Thankfully, to his great credit, director Peter Jackson delivered something akin to a miracle: a near-reverential adaptation anchored to the heart and spirit of Tolkien's tale and a dazzling fantasy film in its own right, willing to part ways with the original text when it became, as Tolkien dubbed his saga, "unfilmable." Were he still alive, the late author would have no doubt taken issue with some of the particular decisions Jackson and co-writers Fran Walsh and Phillipa Boyens made in the course of their adaptation. But he certainly wouldn't be able to say the film treated his work carelessly, recklessly or "with no evident signs of any appreciation of what it is all about." Quite the opposite. Jackson's Fellowship of the Ring is a masterclass in adapting an unfilmable literary text, an arguably perfect fusion of faithfulness and freshness, and a movingly intimate, beautifully haunting grand-scale epic in every sense. It's all at once true to its source and a bold, cinematic take on Tolkien's beloved story. It's resolute in its treatment of the Fellowship's heroes and manages to contextualize and enhance their motivations, conflicts and struggles for a modern audience. It embraces the heights of Tolkien's high fantasy and grounds it in the mud and despair of a Middle-earth in peril.
Jackson's extended version of The Fellowship of the Ring, aside from doubling the burden on his shoulders mid-production, afforded the filmmaker a unique opportunity to cast aside one of his greatest limitations -- the final cut's theatrical runtime -- and reinsert scenes and shots that expand upon the characters and themes that, in some cases, were so crucial to Tolkien's text. The Hobbits' trek from Shire to Bree isn't significantly longer, Tom Bombadil and Glorfindel are still nowhere to be found, and the time it takes Gandalf to return to the Shire (in the book, 17 years) remains as truncated and immediate as ever (a wise decision on Jackson's part, all around). No, Jackson's extensions are far more integral to the fabric of the film and the sequels that follow. We're made privy to Isildur's death, given a few more brief glimpses into Bilbo and Frodo's personalities before they part ways, witness the Wood Elves traveling to the Grey Havens, Aragorn singing and visiting his mother's grave, Gandalf giving Frodo an important warning, Galadriel offering gifts to the Fellowship, and other small but welcome moments between the various members of the Fellowship. The scenes themselves aren't monumental, or really all that necessary -- especially when compared to the additional scenes in the Two Towers and Return of the King extended cuts -- but each one serves a greater purpose, enriching the tone and texture of Jackson's adaptation and the humanity and bonds of brotherhood shared between Tolkien's protagonists. In the end, the extended version is as powerful as its theatrical cut, if not more so.
The Fellowship of the Ring isn't just an absorbing swords-n-sorcery epic or the first step in a three-part journey. And it certainly isn't a dull Middle-earth road trip, as some have crassly pegged it. No, it's a dense, bountiful trove of spectacular sights, frightening creatures and meaningful moments; a sobering, lushly shot tour de force of harrowing adventure, poetic heartache and gripping conflict; a timeless tale of flawed but endearing heroes who pledge themselves to overcome insurmountable odds no matter the personal cost. Aragorn isn't simply a benevolent scrapper, he's the best of mankind, insecurities and all. Legolas and Gimli aren't merely bickering warriors slowly but surely developing an affinity for one another, they're contrasting voices of reason and wisdom that compel the fellowship toward action. Frodo isn't a victim of circumstance, he's a willing sacrificial lamb who, despite his people's modest roots, commits himself to a task few others could embrace. Sam isn't a dutiful friend, he's the very heart of the fellowship, lending strength wherever there is none, cheer wherever sorrow resides, and discipline wherever the Ring seeks chaos. Gandalf isn't a ubiquitous sage, he's a loving father, a galvanizing guide and an insightful companion. Together, they aren't the world's salvation, they're everything that propels humanity forward whenever hope wavers and fear takes hold.
Debate will always swirl around The Fellowship of the Ring, its theatrical and extended cuts, and Jackson's trilogy as a whole. But I can't conceive of an adaptation, particularly in regards to The Fellowship of the Ring, that could strike such a careful balance between the literary practicalities and cinematic possibilities inherent in Tolkien's text. While some will always bemoan the absence of Tom Bombadil and the changes Jackson and his writers made over the course of their adaptation, I can't help but celebrate everything they accomplished. I would even go so far as to say they accomplished the impossible: making The Fellowship of the Ring an engrossing experience for those who treasure Tolkien's books and those who've never cracked a page of "The Lord of the Rings." No small feat, as far as I'm concerned. Jackson proved himself the right filmmaker for the job, Weta and Jackson's production team proved to be exactly what his adaptation needed, and The Fellowship of the Ring, be it the theatrical or extended cut of the film, has proven to be a breathtaking masterpiece worthy of any and all praise it has received and will continue to receive.
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Blu-ray, Video Quality
It is a strange fate that we should suffer so much fear and doubt over so small a thing. Such a little thing.
The Color Change: An Unexpected Journey
If you haven't been embroiled in the debate over the revised color timing that graces the new Extended Edition release of Fellowship of the Ring, be grateful. The differences in color and contrast between the extended cut's 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer and its theatrical cut presentation are slight but somewhat unmistakable; the differences in color and contrast between the EE's presentation and that of its 2002 Extended Edition DVD counterpart are as well. Shadows are darker, saturation has been dampened in key scenes (the Council of Elrond, in particular), crush is now more problematic than before, and greens and cyans, though already heavily at play in the film's original palette, have been slightly intensified throughout, in some cases during sequences that once featured very little green or cyan at all. In fact, all objective analyses show that a blanket tint is present (to some degree) over the course of the entire film. It isn't always apparent -- reds are still red, blues are still blue, they're just different shades of red and blue -- but it is there. Any ensuing debate, though, needs to center on film revisionism, and nothing more. Both Peter Jackson and director of photography Andrew Lesnie have confirmed that the new color grade was intentional and was created under their supervision. To those who are upset by these changes in principle, to those who believe a film should remain untouched, I sympathize and, I have to say, I agree to some extent. I would simply remind you that this is Peter Jackson's extended cut; he has always made it clear that his extended cuts are not his Director's Cuts, nor the versions of the films he considers canon or sacrosanct. They are meant to supplement, not supplant, the theatrical cuts. Lest we forget, the extended editions have been an exercise in revisionism since their inception. The fact that the color changes weren't made to the 2010 theatrical version -- effectively preserving Jackson's original vision -- should take some of the sting out of the issue.
To those who are pleased with these changes, there is absolutely no harm in raising the question of why Fellowship's palette is suddenly being changed or, more importantly, why a blanket tint -- however obvious or imperceptible it might be -- has been added to the film. It is admittedly odd at times, especially when key shots from Fellowship appear again in The Two Towers and The Return of the King without the green/cyan tint. (The flashback to Boromir's death in The Return of the King isn't affected by the tint; other flashbacks follow suit.) Thankfully, the obvious answer -- Jackson is in the unique position to see The Fellowship of the Ring in the context of the Hobbit films and adjusted the FOTR palette to bring it in line with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey -- is now confirmed, as the Blu-ray presentation of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey exhibits strikingly similar (albeit more refined and precisely implemented) color grading. For me, any lingering doubt has been officially quashed.
Where does that leave us then? Or more specifically, this review? The Fellowship of the Ring's AVC-encoded presentation is true to its filmmakers' intentions. So with that...
The Transfer: There and Back Again
Whew. Glad that guy's done talking. On to the goods. Altered color timing aside, The Fellowship of the Ring has, quite frankly, never looked as strong, confident and capable as it does here. There are a few ragged edges, a few flaws here and there, but nothing that should prevent anyone from enjoying the upgrade the new transfer offers. The image is rich and bold, primaries are tenacious, black levels are deeper than ever, the overall palette remains lush and lively, and detail is excellent. While a measure of filmic softness still prevails at times, many a scene is Glamdring-sharp. Textures are often exceedingly refined, edges are crisp (without the help of any egregious artificial sharpening) and additional noise reduction hasn't been applied. I use the word "additional" because Jackson and Weta, like most filmmakers and effects houses, did employ some judicious noise reduction techniques when finalizing the original film; the evidence of which is still somewhat apparent on occasion. However, the kind of sweeping, post-theatrical-release DNR that reared its head on the Blu-ray edition of the theatrical cuts is nowhere to be found. (At least that's one debate settled: the Blu-ray release of the theatrical cut does indeed suffer from unnecessary noise reduction and aberrant smearing. It's only taken us more than a year to put that argument to bed.) It's important to note, though, that the transfer was created from 2K scans, and the resulting clarity should be viewed with an understanding of the limitations of a 2K source. To be clear, the studio didn't shortchange the film's new master by settling on a 2K scan; no higher resolution scan of The Fellowship of the Ring was ever produced, meaning it's as accurate a source as Warner will ever have. (Unless Jackson and Weta decide to go back to the drawing board, essentially reassemble the entire film and recreate the effects. The chances of this happening? Zero.)
Delineation is suppressive -- mainly due to the apparent choices Jackson and Lesnie made when re-grading the film -- and crush sometimes consumes shadow details and fringe elements. (Bree, Weathertop, The Mines of Moria, Rivendell and Lothlórien are all much darker than before; by thematically powerful means, perhaps, but undoubtedly to detail-quashing ends.) Problematic shots remain problematic. (Gimli trying to re-enter the Mines after Gandalf's defeat, Isengard at dusk, and Aragorn greeting the Uruk-hai horde, just to name a few.) And faces occasionally take on a waxy appearance, most notably during the Council of Elrond. (Again, that traces back to Jackson, not Warner.) But each instance is negligible at best and a slight distraction at its worst. The encode itself is also sound. The artifacting, ringing and banding that creeped into the theatrical cut's Blu-ray presentation has been largely eliminated (spreading the film across two BD-50s helped, no doubt), errant crush isn't a factor (even though inherent crush is), aliasing, wavering and shimmering are held at bay, and other digital oddities are kept to a bare minimum. I still caught sight of anomalies here and there (watch the background behind Lurtz when he receives his marching orders in Saruman's tower), but I didn't encounter anything that was cause for any serious concern. It isn't exactly perfect, but it's a far cry from last year's theatrical cut release and stands tall with a variety of significant improvements.
As to my score, I danced around a 4.0 and a 4.5 throughout the film, settling on a 4.25 in the end. Fans can set aside their fears and enjoy The Fellowship of the Ring's high definition presentation for the experience it offers.
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Blu-ray, Audio Quality
You cannot pass! I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the Flame of Anor. The dark fire will not avail you, Flame of Udun! Go back to the shadow. You shall not pass!
No need to break down each individual release here. Like the 2010 theatrical cut releases, the Extended Editions of The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King charge the fields of Blu-ray with a trio of powerful DTS-HD Master Audio surround tracks, all of which allow Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy to storm every home theater, no matter how grand in scale. Dialogue, whether whispered or shouted, is crisp, clean, and intelligible; voices, whether human, beast or ethereal warrior, ring true across the soundfield; and creature cries, whether spittled roars or high-pitched screeches, are sharp and stable. LFE output deserves a score of its own, aggressively supporting every lumbering giant, thundering horse, weapon of war, and bellowing monstrosity the Fellowship encounters. Brace yourselves as the Nazgûl emit their fearsome wail. Close your eyes as an angry cave troll bursts into Balin's Tomb attacking anything and everything that moves. Listen intently as the Uruk-hai wash over Aragorn like an iron-clad flood. Try to lift your jaw off the floor when the Balrog rears up in front of Gandalf and shakes the floor with its very breath. Environmental ambience never relents (the haunting depths of Moria!), directionality is impeccable (the race to Rivendell!), and pans are as smooth and sure as an Elven archer's best shot (oh, dear readers, the arrows that sail across the soundfield). Best of all, the experience is as immersive as they come. Howard Shore's masterful score is perfectly prioritized beneath the film's soundscape, gut punch revelations are as pitch-perfect as they are emotional, restless armies will make viewers turn their heads, and the terrifying clamor of orcs, goblins, demons and more will unsettle the most steely listener. And dynamics? Prepare yourself. The Fellowship of the Ring, and really The Lord of the Rings trilogy as a whole, is a sonic powerhouse.
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
And some things that should not have been forgotten were lost. History became legend. Legend became myth...
The 5-disc Extended Edition of The Fellowship of the Ring includes all of the special features that appear on its 2002 DVD counterpart, in addition to filmmaker Costa Botes' 85-minute documentary, previously available as part of the Limited Edition DVD release. If there's any disappointment to be had, it's that the various documentaries and featurettes are presented in standard definition. Still, considering the sheer volume of extras on hand, and the fact that all of the content was produced in SD, I doubt many fans will get worked up about it.
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I made a promise, Mr Frodo. A promise. "Don't you leave him Samwise Gamgee." And I don't mean to. I don't mean to.
Assuming The Fellowship of the Ring's new color grading has made its way to Blu-ray exactly as Jackson and Lesnie intended, Warner's Extended Edition Blu-ray release is a strong one. Its highly detailed, notably more filmic video transfer rights many of the wrongs of the previous theatrical cut's presentation; its DTS-HD Master Audio track is, in my estimation, perfect; its supplemental package goes on and on and on; and the film itself remains as powerful a fantasy epic as ever. The film's updated color grading will no doubt give purists fits, but there's still a lot to enjoy about this release. Barring any further revelations, this is presumably as impressive as the Extended Edition of The Fellowship of the Ring will ever look or sound.
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring: Other Editions
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