Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The (UK - BD)
Marcus retreads the LOTR path again doing his best to get excited in Hi-Def.
Writing the synopsis for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring seems a little fruitless given the film’s popularity but here we go, the short and sweet version. All the powers that be in Middle-Earth make a ton of rings. Then someone makes one more powerful than the others and shifts the balance. The Hobbit is about to hit at cinemas to let us all know exactly how Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm here but Martin Freeman in the new Prequel) gets hold of the one ring to rule them all but in The Fellowship of the Ring it’s decided that a small band of Middle-Earthians, will embark on a quest to drop the ring in a volcano but can new holder of the ring Frodo (Elijah Woods) remain strong enough not to be corrupted by the ring's power before he finishes his mission?
My personal feelings towards The Lord of the Rings trilogy are that of respect rather than admiration. What Peter Jackson achieved across his trilogy both in scale and success is the sort of thing that doesn't happen a whole lot and for that I really do appreciate the trilogy. However if I'm really honest, the only reason I’d actually sit down to rewatch The Lord of the Rings trilogy is for the sake of the this review because the thought of sitting down to rewatch the extended trilogy in a short period of time by choice is not high on my to do list. With that said, I still walked the entire Rings journey back in 2001 onwards. From cinema, through all of the DVD releases and the butt-ton of extra features offered along the way. I got the lot but this is my first venture in the HD releases, despite these individual releases arriving at the ass end of the already released trilogy and extended trilogy boxsets.
So why am I not a LOTR uberfan? I sometimes question that myself as many of my friends, who share similar movie tastes to me, really are. Hitting the cinema for Fellowship back in 2001, my only real knowledge of Rings was the animated feature. I sort of knew how the story played vaguely but I don’t think I quite expected the drawn out nature of this quest. I'm also not the biggest of fantasy fans. There needs to be a whole lot more scantily clad chicks or lightsabers for me to really enjoy wizards, dragons and things like goblins, orcs and trolls.
I've grown to appreciate Fellowship of the Ring the more I've watched it over the years and small moments like Frodo offering up his services as the fellowship come together and Gandalf’s subtle but heartfelt reaction resonates the more that I watch it but I really do struggle with the overall pacing of these flicks. I remember being quite taken-a-back by the shear amount of screentime left after the dramatic loss of Gandalf the first time I saw the movie and there’s so much packed into each instalment (especially the longer editions) I often find it more rewarding to watch them in two parts as the extended discs dictate. Making it a six part rewatch as opposed to three but even then I struggle.
I guess my biggest issue is that I don’t really care for Frodo all that much or many of those around him really. I do like the metaphor of what the ring is and what it enables in the world and the references to what war can do to all those normal folk and the world is very, very well handled but I just don’t have any emotional connection to the trilogy beyond the ideas within it and because of that I always remain at arms length from really embracing all that's great about it.
Fellowship of the Ring is a very well made piece of cinema. Peter Jackson brings his A-game on every level and watching it again for this review, more moments hit me harder than ever before but really it's only moments rather than the whole. On every rewatch that scene setting score kicks in and I think I've misjudged my feeling towards LOTR as the pitch perfect introduction to the world unfolds but even going in with the attitude that “ this time LOTR will finally click with me” I still found myself losing interest post Gandalf’s face off with the Balrog. Honestly, I really try guys but I’m just not a Ringer it seems. That’s what you guys are calling yourself right?
So whatever my personal feelings are on The Fellowship of the Ring, all you’re really here to find out is how good these discs look and sound right? Well given that the Extended Editions have all been available boxed together previously the hoo-har over the re-colouring of Fellowship is already out there. Greener green scenes and warmer orangey scenes are all noticeably boosted from the DVD releases, and honestly it sometimes takes it a couple of notches too far and loses the real world vibe I remember from the scenes like the Shire based stuff and trips it over into a much more cartoony, special effects feel. It's also worth noting a whole bunch of the special effects look pretty ropey here too, check out some of the digital backgrounds, they've not aged all that well.
Other than the overblown colours in certain scenes, most colours generally make good use of the HD step up. The overall image really does have a softer look than I expected from such a big title and it's usually in the wider shots where it's felt the most. Elements can look rather lacking in real clarity but when we cut to close ups this turns into a much crisper looking transfer. Little things come to life in wonderful ways, such as the props and costumes and while skin textures still suffer from a certain softness from time to time, given the right lighting the image can really spring to life.
Many of the scenes that consist of one colour tone and plenty of shadow can also feel like they are just off of being truly impressive. Jackson opts for a lot of dark blues rather than black in Fellowship and this sometimes makes the image feel a bit like it could do with a bit more darkness.
There are a fair few issues here and like the Star Wars Saga last year, I felt like there was a whole lot more that could be done to make such a core title shine on Blu-ray. Generally, I’d call this transfer good and only occasionally great unfortunately.
The DTS-HD Master Audio track on Fellowship is a stunner. All the great words to sum up an audio track apply. Strong, crisp, powerful, subtle, all apply to this textured and well layered mix. The combination of the fine score and sound effects in the action scenes fully takes control of your senses and as tension builds in scenes such as the Balrog face off and the bit with the cave troll, small moments become large audio events. Bass heavy, weight filled thumps, sharp clashes of weapons and a real sense of the space the scenes are taking place. It all makes this presentation work in all the right ways. This track is both well thought out and aggressive as well as gentle and smooth when it’s required. Fellowship has always been a film that sounded great on a home surround system but this Blu-ray release really takes advantage of the already great mix and gives it that little extra oomph that goes a long way.
Extras wise we don't get to see the avalanche of extras we've had on previous Extended Edition releases. All we get to see here is;
- Commentary with Director & Writers
- Commentary with Design Team
- Commentary with Production and Post Production
- Commentary with Cast
Also there's some not so hidden easter egg extras. The old MTV Fellowship clips with Sarah Michelle Gellar and Jack Black is in the menus on disc 1 and the trailer for The Two Towers pops up on disc 2.
So that's the first Lord of the Rings done and dusted and I have to say the Blu-ray release for the first LOTR movie is far less impressive than I imagined it would be. It doesn't really help that there's a total lack of the features beyond the commentaries but hey, they are available in the boxset if you really wanted them and those that do, have the boxset already I guess. The video presentation here is a mixed bag but there's a lot of room for improvement I feel but the audio presentation is very impressive. Next up in my journey through Middle-Earth is The Two Towers. See you there.
Review by Marcus Doidge
General viewing, but some scenes may be unsuitable for young children
Release Date: 3rd December 2012
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Subtitles: English SDH
Extras: Commentaries, EasterEggs
Easter Egg: No
Director: Peter Jackson
Cast: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Orlando Bloom, Liv Tyler, John Rhys-Davies, Sean Bean, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Cate Blanchett, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Ian Holm
Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama and Fantasy
Length: 228 minutes
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