Unless you’ve been living under a rock (and perhaps even then), you’d probably have heard of Peter Jackson’s incredible Lord of the Rings and (not so incredible) Hobbit trilogies. If you’re somebody who consumes online media via streaming sites, you’d also probably have seen the Middle-Earth 6-Film Collection advertised.
What you probably don’t realize is that BOTH trilogies have just been given a massive facelift, with every film in the series remastered in 4K. Not only that, Warner Bros have also bundled the films and are having a massive 20% sale on them till the new year.
That being said…are they still worth the money?
What is the Middle-Earth 6-Film Collection (Extended Editions)?
I’m assuming that since you’re reading this part, you have no idea so I’ll start from the vary beginning. When the Lord of the Rings (specifically Fellowship of the Ring, the first movie), Peter Jackson (the director) had to shave off a ton of content he’d already shot to fit into the tradition 2 – 2.5 hours movie length. Even then, the movie ran long, with a runtime of 178 minutes.
This is what’s referred to as the theatrical version, the one you get when the movie came out in cinemas.
Despite being already nearly 3 hours long, Jackson still wasn’t satisfied. He had more subplots and scenes he wanted to show but couldn’t. Long story short, the solution was to create another version of the movie, which is called the Extended Edition.
With a runtime of 208 minutes, the Extended Edition added in more stuff. For fans, this is the definitive version that everybody should be watching.
Since then, it’s gotten to be a tradition of sorts. Each of the movies followed the same route as the first. An initial Theatrical Cut that’s meant for cinemas, and later down the road, an Extended Edition meant for the hardcore fans. That even goes for the Hobbit Trilogy.
Here’s a breakdown of the lengths for each movie:
- Fellowship of the Ring – 178 minutes
- The Two Towers – 179 minutes
- The Return of the King – 200 minutes
- An Unexpected Journey – 169 minutes
- The Desolation of Smaug – 161 minutes
- The Battle of the Five Armies – 144 minutes
- Fellowship of the Ring – 208 minutes (30 minutes extra)
- The Two Towers – 223 minutes (44 minutes extra)
- The Return of the King – 251 minutes (51 minutes extra)
- An Unexpected Journey – 182 mins (13 mins extra)
- The Desolation of Smaug – 187 minutes (26 minutes extra)
- The Battle of the Five Armies – 163 minutes (19 minutes extra)
Notice that the Hobbit Trilogy doesn’t really have much added to them, especially when compared to the Lord of the Rings trilogy. That’s because Jackson was forced to make 3 films out of 1 book, as opposed to 1 film representing a single book like in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Suffice to say, studio greed was the main reason for that and it showed. The Hobbit trilogy isn’t as well regarded as Jackson’s initial trilogy, though the final film turned things around somewhat.
There’s also another reason why fans love the Extended Editions of the films so much; they’re packing HOURS of bonus materials. Interviews with the cast, behind-the-scenes footage, commentaries and even whole documentaries are included with the Blu Ray and DVD editions.
Unfortunately, in a clear sign that the studio is going to milk fans, the physical Extended Editions of both trilogies only come with the movies.
Yeah, they’re US$90 EACH and still don’t come with the extras. The digital copies you get are the same ones in this review though.
That’s why I’m recommending interested parties to go the on-demand route instead. In my case, I went for Microsoft Movies & TV.
The app’s playable on Windows and Xbox and it’s also a partner of Movies Anywhere, so most of your library should also show up on Vudu.
Online, the Middle-Earth 6-Film Collection 4K version is only US$85.99, plus as a bonus, comes with most of the extras from the DVD and Blu Ray Extended Edition sets. They’re not 4K and are missing subtitles (which are present on other editions), but the extras are pretty much mostly there.
Sadly, there’s nothing new added to the extras but the fact that the online versions come with the extras and the physical editions don’t is a slap to the face of consumers. There’s already word that a boxed set of the two trilogies will be coming some time next year with the extras that are missing.
Yeah, not for me. I’ll stick with the cheaper streaming version for now.
Cheaper is always better, but is the 4K video really worth splurging on?
The answer’s a resounding yes.
If you have a 4K TV, you need the 4K Extended Editions.
The extra detail the bump in resolution affords is a huge leap over 1080p. It’s not the clarity that impresses, it’s the extra detail that you might have missed on lower resolutions.
Details like the engraving on Sauron’s armor, or the wrinkles in Gandalf the Grey’s cloak or the strands of white hair in Thorin Oakenshield’s beard. These are the stuff you’d be hard pressed to see, but on 4K, they catch the eye easily.
Those teeny details make the films all the more impressive, when you realize how much work and detail went into making them. The Hobbit trilogy might be a bit iffy as movies, but the production values are still a match for the work in the Lord of the Rings trilogy!
Weirdly, the color palette has been tweaked somewhat for the 4K versions. The vibrant filters used in the originals have been reworked to more natural looking ones in the new versions.
For one, the Shire’s definitely greener in past releases, with brighter colors. Still, it’s just a matter of taste. While I missed the vibrancy of the Blu Ray versions, the 4K look is just as good, especially with neutral colors like black or brown.
Owing to the extra boost in resolution, effects you’d have missed (like heat shimmer in the Khazad-dum climatic chase), bring a more lifelike quality to scenes you’d probably have seen a thousand times before if you’re a fan.
It might seem like hyperbole, but the leap to 4K does benefit the movies a whole lot. If you’re a fan with the requisite hardware to watch it, you owe it to yourself to buy the Middle-Earth 6-Film Collection, even if there’s nothing new content-wise.