DVD Review - Lord of the Rings

by Marty Demarest

When Peter Jackson set out to film J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy, he intended to make a film by fans of the books for fans of the books. Not only did he succeed in that specific task, but he also managed to give any viewer with even a mild taste for fantasy one of the most purely enjoyable studio films of last year.

The Fellowship of the Ring is the antidote to every knock-off, pre-fabricated, variation-on-a-theme movie ever made. Sure, the story's a by-the-numbers fantasy quest; but Jackson's filmmaking, from the distinct designs for the different mythical races to the soaring camera work, is anything but standard. This is the type of project that has been so well-realized, it's hard to imagine it as anything other than this specific film. Try saying that about even a good movie that comes out of a major studio these days.

Some people will whine about points where Jackson's film differs from the book. Ignore them.

The Fellowship of the Ring manages to capture in tone, theme and story more of Tolkien's epic than nearly any film adaptation of a printed source. And along with the fidelity are some better-than-the-book performances by Ian McKellen (as Gandalf the Grey), and Ian Holm (as Bilbo), which make one crave a version of The Hobbit starring these two.

All praise aside, dedicated fans of the movie should be warned: DO NOT BUY THIS DVD! New Line will release another DVD of the film in November, just before The Two Towers hits theater screens. That four-disc edition will have more than 30 minutes of unseen footage (including some great Cate Blanchett material) and detailed behind-the-scenes exposition. On the current two-disc set, all that viewers are offered, aside from the film itself, are three made-for-TV features and a slew of Web site movies. It's nothing you couldn't see in the theater, online, or on television.

So unless you're a collector, or are only interested in the movie itself, wait until November to pick up something that -- trust me -- is going to be a much better product. Jackson's film is wonderful, in every sense of the word, but the current DVD release is a poor partner in an otherwise magnificent project.

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