The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
(4-DVD Special Extended Edition)
Director: Peter Jackson
Well, okay, I'm biased here, so take the following with a grain of salt.
#1, I love the original story of "The Lord of the Rings" by J.R.R. Tolkien. It's a genre-defining book that helped foster my creativity as a kid. Sure, there's a lot of decent authors out there writing in the Fantasy genre, but this story is really the best of them, and helped define a new standard in this realm.
#2, I think Peter Jackson is a great director, to be able to take a story and be able to translate it well to the screen. There are few movies that I truly look forward to, and when that happens, it tends to be a bit of a let-down upon finally viewing, particularly when it's the translation of book to film. This book's a whopper, and the "Extended" version does a pretty good job with it considering the scope and history behind the book. (Even the regular feature-length film is good, it's just some attention to detail that flushes out the 'extended' version.) Most of the added material to the original theatrical release embellishes a bit on the history and the characters. I'm surprised they didn't add more. Hell, if you're willing to watch a 3-1/2 hour movie, wouldn't an extra half-hour be that much better to get even more info across? I can only say that because the additional footage they did include was done so well. Maybe when they put out the full 'omnibus' collection that the total running time will clock in over 12 hours. Fuckin' 'ell, that's not even a single season of "The Sopranos" when put together!
But regardless, little complaint here. Thinking about the genre of Fantasy in the movie industry, there have been few live-action films done, mostly because of the ultimate cheeziness of the integrated special effects. (Think about it, before CG really took hold, what were the more well-done movies in the genre? "Clash of the Titans" with the Harryhausen claymation, Ridley Scott's "Legend," "Conan," "Willow," and even Boorman's "Excalibur" if you're really hard up for choices [or too buzzed to recall any others]) So yeah, this is a story that can finally be told without a tsk-tsking under your breath when the specatacular dragon is unleashed in it's full glory and you can tell it's a puppet, or see it's stop-motion animation of the giant snake. It's nice to be able to finally see a fantasy movie that isn't just a vehicle for the special effects, but rather is an asset in telling the story in a realistic, believable manner. So this movie definitely tops my list for best "Fantasy" film ever made, even despite the fact that Liv Tyler is involved (sorry, she actually does a good job, except for an emotional scene by the river that just doesn't do justice to her role.)
Technically, the book known as "The Lord of the Rings" is one huge story. The publishers had to split it up just to be able to print it in manageable chunks. But even that is just the tip of the iceberg for what the entire history of what is known as Middle-Earth. The prologue goes into this on a very superficial basis, to give the people who haven't read the book a bit of a back-history. But once into the "Fellowship," it is the tale of the end of an age that is pivotal on the fate of a single ring, and how the various races band together for good or evil to determine the fate of the world. More specifically, how the various peoples of the free world must find their courage and be able to unite on this single quest, to try and destroy the one Ring.
There are a shitload of "people" involved (I use the term 'people' loosely, as it includes the various races of hobbits, humans, elves, dwarves, and some others...) in this monumental task. Ultimately, the "Fellowship" sets up the premise for the next two films, "The Two Towers" and "Return of the King." This movie deals with some pretty universal themes and unique histories, so it really is a kind of film a lot of people should be able to get caught up in, and some who will curse themselves later after realizing they just enjoyed a movie that had wizards, dwarves, and elves involved. Seeing how well the first film has been done, it will only make the next two films that much more enjoyable as the story progresses, and the characters involved form more personal relationships while they experience the horrors that transpire before them.
DVD Notes: Not only do you get a fuller picture of the movie (re: added/prolonged scenes), the two other DVDs go into great detail on the production of the film. The amount of detail that has been put into the film is pretty fucking incredible. The Appendices Part 1: "From Book to Vision" starts off with an excellent bio on J.R.R. Tolkien, and has a numerous number of behind-the-scenes interviews with the major players of the movie, from forging the weapons to designing the set pieces to costume design. This in itself is about 2-1/2 hours of documentary-style footage. But that only scratches the surface of the rest of the content involved, from original sketches to CG "Pre-Viz" comparisons to a full break-out of Middle-Earth history.
The Appendices Part 2: "From Vision to Reality" is an additional 3 hours of documentary-style footage, plus a whole lot more. I've run out of time to fully explore this disc at this point, so an addendum will be forthcoming to replace this entry (I have got other things to do than watch good movies, so back off, mang!). What I have seen delves deeper into the production of the film itself, and some of the post-production work involved, all top-notch.
If you like in-depth looks at what goes into the making of a movie, and in this case, the history of the book and film itself, there has not been anything else like this put to DVD. Even if (or especially if?) you've never read the book and enjoyed what the movie had to offer, the documentary-style featurettes included are very interesting and in some cases actually enthralling in considering all the major shit they went through to make these movies. Plus, the DVD navigation makes it very easy to select just the featurette options, before specifically choosing the major, technical shite.