Warner Bros. has thought of everything, aimed at enticing the lovers of all things J.R.R. Tolkien and Peter Jackson into the purchase to end all purchases, the Middle-Earth Ultimate Collector’s Edition of the films that brought The Lord of the Rings saga into the twenty-first century and made its characters household names even among those not versed in the Hobbitverse. Thirty-one discs and hard-copy inclusions mean that this is a wildly decorative and in-depth package for collection, viewing, and display.
The first three films arrived in theaters from 2001-2003, annually delivering a different section of Tolkien’s storyline, first assembling the fellowship of the Ring in Gandalf, Frodo, Sam, Aragon, Gimli, Legolas, Merry, Pippin, and Boromir (Ian McKellen, Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Viggo Mortensen, John Rhys-Davies, Orlando Bloom, Dominic Monaghan, and Billy Boyd) to destroy the ring, and then moving the action through to the confrontation with Sauron and his evil army. Then, Star Wars prequel-style, ten years later, Jackson delivered the prequel films that were based off of Tolkien’s first Hobbitverse book, The Hobbit, from 2012-2014, explaining how Bilbo (Martin Freeman) originally interacted with the life of Gollum (Andy Serkis) and ended up in possession of said ring. There are dragons, more battles, and lots of box office monies made, with a few less awards than the first set. Audiences can choose the 1032-minute route or the 1258-minute route with the bulk of the difference in the original trilogy (each of the prequel films gets approximately twenty additional minutes).
Tolkien’s worldview was absolutely shaped by the evils he saw fighting in the First World War, and by his Christian faith. The images of human courage, faith, and struggle with good and evil are evident throughout the film, alongside friendship, greed, hate, and most of the important principles that one can read discussions about throughout the teachings of Jesus and the letters of Paul. This Middle Earth exploration is part adventure yarn and part allegorical lesson (a lot like C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, but thanks to Jackson, with much better visuals and script).
The discs themselves include the theatrical and extended versions of all six films: the original trilogy that Jackson created first, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King, and the prequel trilogy, An Unexpected Journey, The Desolation of Smaug, and The Battle of the Five Armies (extended cut received an R-rating for violence, while the rest are PG-13). The films themselves are each in 4K HD – always spectacular! – and in remastered Blu-ray, included in separate sleeves by film. The Blu-ray versions each include Jackson’s commentary on the individual films. Each of the films is available digitally in 4K HD (and lower) via digital code as well. (In a cool twist, the packaging itself folds two ways for side-by-side storage with crafty external images of the films or in elongated form with different images displayed.
The seventh package inside the case includes hard copy like the pamphlet, “A Collection of Costume Sketches, Photography and Production Notes,” that shows the development of the appearance of beloved characters like Bilbo and Eowyn, and seven “travel poster” cards that highlight places like The Shire, Rivendell, Rohan, and Erebor. But the exclusive Blu-ray bonus disc is the real catch.
To honor the twentieth anniversary of the original trilogy, Stephen Colbert hosted three conversations with LOTR notables for Alamo Drafthouse. The first reunited Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Sean Astin, and Elijah Wood for Fellowship of the Ring, the second reunited Cate Blanchett, Orlando Bloom, Liv Tyler, and Viggo Mortensen for The Two Towers, and the third brought Ian McKellen, Andy Serkis, and Jackson for The Return of the King. And the Festival de Cannes Presentation Reel is included on that Blu-ray as well.
Fans old and new can now watch the story from beginning to end in crystal-clear 4K HD, all the better to capture the picturesque backdrops of New Zealand that Jackson used to depict the beautiful world Tolkien created and the fantastic action scenes where good and evil literally battle. While the dialogue might be great in SD – the world of Middle Earth was always meant to be seen in exquisite detail on the written page or the beautiful HD screens at home, bringing the theater to the comfort of your living room.