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STUDIO: New Line
RUNNING TIME: 178 & 208 Minutes, respectively
• Both versions of the film
• 109 minute documentary
• Neat packaging
"Come on, only one shelf for your Lord of the Rings dvds?"
Viggo Mortensen. Sean Bean. Elijah Wood. Ian McKellan. Sean Astin. Liv Tyler. Hugo Weaving. Orcy McOrc.
Don’t worry, I won’t be reviewing it again.
It’s been a couple of years now. The furor has subsided. King Kong has come and gone. The Lord of the Rings has etched its place in the hallowed halls of film and left in its wake a few contenders for Next Big Franchise but no guaranteed choices to manage the combination of critical and financial success as Peter Jackson’s epic. I’ve reviewed this film to death so there’s no real need to go over the same details again and again. I’ll just say that though many are trying to fill its leather boots (Narnia? Please.) there’s nothing that exists even in the same ball park and whether you’re a fan or not.
For those who aren’t aware, the first film in the series focuses on the return of the ultimate evil in Middle-earth and the quest of a small group of people to take a very powerful ring to a giant volcano. Shit happens.
A few years into the film’s legacy, it’s great to see how people dismiss it as just a bunch of boring swill. The tirade in Clerks 2 is a good example of both the barrier between Star Wars and Lord of the Rings fan bases as well as the generic writing off of the Tolkien films as simple examples of hairy-footed people walking around. It’s great because of how lame the argument is. The backlash to the films is expected and I have to admit that after the theatrical releases and extended editions, I’d had my fill for a while too. That said, the films are absolute and utter classics.
Revisiting them one thing just keeps coming back to mind: The Sheer Effort of it All. This is filmmaking at its most awe-inspiring. There’s a kitchen sink aspect to the films evidenced by Peter Jackson’s use of techniques both twelve minutes old and seventy years old. Seeing the massive thing coming to life is almost enough to justify the endeavor, but seeing it work so well is nearly breathtaking. I won’t see something like this again in my lifetime.
The real focus of this new release is to make the films available in one package but for people with copies of everything thus far there’s only one feature that captures the interest; a lengthy documentary by Costa Botes. Well, the packaging is quite nice and though you have to flip the disc regardless of which version of the film you’re watching, they are finally available together. But still, the new and supposed "warts and all" documentary is the main attraction.
Bad news, folks. The new documentary is far from worth the triple dip, especially if you expect a gigantic all-encompassing box set in the next couple of years as I do.
Employing a very loose "fly on the wall" style, Costa Botes (which I think is a store at the Venice Marina) showcases a lot of the behind the scenes antics and arguments during the making of The Fellowship of the Ring. You get to see people haggle about overtime pay, Peter Jackson state that he needs a couch in the editing room, Sean Astin’s foot injury that got so much attention on the commentary track in the Extended Edition, and a bunch of other stuff. What the documentary does well [this is the shortest of the three, and I'll discuss the other two in the next two reviews on the way] is shine a light on the people who typically don’t get much attention. There’s some nice little moments in there and though there were no shortage of behind the scenes glimpses on the other discs, this one does feel decidedly loose and without the air of corporate interference.
It also does a good job of showcasing the painstaking nature of every aspect of making these films. I’d imagine that most of the cast and crew were a little burned out around two years into this three-plus year adventure. The first film’s documentary didn’t blow me away though, whether because of its lack of narrative flow or because I’d seen so much stuff on these films already I didn’t feel the need for more. I especially didn’t need to see that weird guy with dreads practicing swordplay in possibly the least excited and least interesting manner ever.
Still, the films are still the love and the packaging is terrific.
Plus, it is almost worth getting if just to see a bunch of Ringwraiths standing around holding umbrellas in the rain.
8.0 out of 10