Blu Tuesday: The Lord of the Rings – The Motion Picture Trilogy

While we all patiently await Guillermo del Toro’s big screen adaptation of “The Hobbit” (currently scheduled to be split into two parts and rumored for a 2011 release date), Warner Bros. has decided to whet our appetites by releasing “The Lord of the Rings” on Blu-ray. It’s certainly been one of the most requested titles since the format first arrived on the scene, but now that it’s finally here, the release has only been mired in controversy. Although a lot of fans have been aggressively vocal about the studio’s decision to only release the theatrical editions at this time (one look at Amazon’s product page shows an average rating of 1.5 stars), the reasoning behind the boycott is absolutely ridiculous.

It’s not as if Warner Bros. is trying to dupe consumers into buying two versions of the movies like they did with the DVDs. In fact, they were kind enough to announce fairly early on that HD versions of the extended cuts would be made available closer to the release of “The Hobbit” in theaters, namely because director Peter Jackson wants to produce all-new bonus material for that set. So why the outrage? Quite simply, because the only thing fanboys know how to do better than overhype a movie is complain about it. Sure, it sucks that fans of the extended editions have to wait so long, but to think that the studio has some kind of secret agenda is pure hogwash. Plus, some people actually prefer the theatrical editions to the overly long extended cuts (myself included), so it’s nice to see that Warner Bros. is offering that option from the get-go. If you don’t like it, too bad.

After all, you don’t hear fans of the theatrical editions complaining about the lack of new bonus material on this set, and that’s actually a more viable argument. You still get all of the special features from the original two-disc DVDs (with the exception of a new video game trailer in place of the old ones), as well as digital copies of each film, although it’s hard to imagine watching “LOTR” on such a tiny screen. It would have been nice if they had included a few new extras with this release, but that shouldn’t really affect whether you buy the trilogy on Blu-ray, because it’s really about the movies themselves, and they look and sound better than ever.

Each film is presented in full 1080p video (and in their original 2.35:1 aspect ratio) and boasts a powerful DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1 lossless audio track with a thunderous bass that won’t disappoint. The picture is also crisp and clean for the most part, although some might notice that “The Fellowship of the Ring” looks a little soft compared to the other two films. That’s likely a result of the way it was filmed as opposed to anything having to do with its transfer to HD, but I’m sure everyone will have their own theories. Still, even with a few minor imperfections, this remains a must-own for any fan of Jackson’s epic trilogy. Those who disapprove of the release can complain all they like, but after seeing just how awesome these movies look on Blu-ray, they’re going to find it pretty hard to resist.

  

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Blu Tuesday: The Lord of the Rings

Okay, so this doesn’t technically come out until April 6th, but seeing as how I’m already planning to cover a much bigger release that week (hint: it shares the same title), it’s probably as good a time as any to discuss the Blu-ray release of Ralph Bakshi’s 1978 film, “The Lord of the Rings.” Although it once held the honor of being the only cinematic adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous text (and hence the reason why it still has its share of supporters), Bakshi’s animated version isn’t even remotely deserving of having the word “classic” appear on the cover.

In fact, there are so many things wrong with this movie that it’s hard to believe anyone actually likes it. The biggest problem is with Bakshi’s decision to incorporate rotoscoped live action footage alongside the traditional cel-shaded animation, because while it might have seemed ambitiously artistic at the time, it comes off looking incredibly hokey. It’s also quite distracting, often making the animation look worse than it really is. Then again, I’ve never really been a fan of Bakshi’s work, so his reputation as an artist is completely lost on me.

Of course, even if you can get past the shoddy animation, Bakshi’s version only encompasses the first two books in the trilogy, abruptly ending after Gandalf saves the day at Isengard with no real concern for the fact that there’s still more story left to tell. Fans eventually did get to see the finale to the animated tale in 1983’s equally disappointing “The Return of the King” (albeit without Bakshi’s involvement), but it doesn’t make its absence in “The Lord of the Rings” any less bewildering. Obviously, it’s easy to criticize the film when the only thing you can compare it to is Peter Jackson’s award-winning trilogy, but how can you not? After all, the only reason people put up with Bakshi’s film in the first place is because it was the only one available. And now that Jackson’s movies are being released on Blu-ray as well, you’d probably be better off just forgetting this edition ever existed. Heck, I just watched it a few hours ago and I already have.

  

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