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With 6 hours of extras, Rings is Lord of the DVDs

The verdict is still out on whether The Fellowship of the Ring is one of the best films ever made. What is clear, however, is that the newly-released extended version and the four-disc edition (there’s five in the ultimate collector’s gift set) is, simply put, the best and most comprehensive DVD made to date.

The film in its new version, unlike the movie-only version that was released in August, is now spread across two discs and has never looked better. The new transfer, at a higher bit rate, looks even better than the nearly flawless original.

The new cut, now running approximately 208 minutes (30 minutes longer than the theatrical release) incorporates a lot of things that had to be cut due to running length without slowing the film down too much.

Director Peter Jackson repeatedly says, in the included behind-the-scenes features, that he liked the theatrical release version. But not being limited to a running length below three hours on the DVD allowed for a more intricate cut of the film.

Subtle changes have been made that further character development along and make the world depicted in the movie even more captivating and believable. This is, for example, the case in the new opening scenes of the movie as the camera moves through the set of Bag End and, later, Hobbiton.

Small scenes are added, such as a talk between Frodo and Gandalf before they enter Moria, that make the loss of Gandalf even more emotional. Another major scene that was added is Galadriel giving gifts to The Fellowship before they leave Lothlorien. All of these gifts will play major roles in the upcoming movies, The Two Towers and The Return of The King and were only cut from the theatrical release when New Line Studios gave Peter Jackson its word that an extended version would be released on DVD before the opening date of the next movie.

The extras on the other two discs, as well as the four commentary tracks, which include most of the key people on both sides of the camera, give a well-rounded insight into the creation of this movie and the two movies that are yet to be released. Many of the actors even crack jokes during the commentaries, which show the light-hearted nature brought to the project.

The documentaries, logically divided on the third and fourth discs between design and inception, and actual production of the movies, combined run about 6 and a half hours.

They again give a very detailed, but never redundant, insight into the production, and show how much respect the crew had for the original works of J. R. R. Tolkien. Similar DVD sets are already in production for the other two movies in the trilogy.

This new extended cut, available in two versions, a four-disc set (retail $30) and one with a fifth disc ($60) covering the life of Tolkien and two very nice book-end statues, is well worth the money and should not be missing in any fan’s DVD collection.

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