Lord of the Rings, The: The Motion Picture Trilogy (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Bill Hunt
  • Review Date: Nov 25, 2020
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Lord of the Rings, The: The Motion Picture Trilogy (4K UHD Review)

Director

Peter Jackson

Release Date(s)

2001-2003 (December 1, 2020)

Studio(s)

WingNut Films/New Line Cinema (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
  • Film/Program Grade: A+
  • Video Grade: See Below
  • Audio Grade: See Below
  • Extras Grade: N/A
  • Overall Grade: A

The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy (4K Ultra HD)

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Review

[Editor’s Note: This review is now complete. A similar review of The Hobbit Trilogy in 4K Ultra HD is also now available here on The Digital Bits.]

If you’re a fan of director Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings films, and you’re anything like me, you’ve probably already purchased several versions of them on disc. Personally, I own the original Theatrical Cut DVDs, plus the Extended Edition DVD sets, and also the Limited Edition DVDs (with their added Costa Botes documentaries). On top of that, I have the Theatrical and Extended Editions on Blu-ray Disc. And now, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment is offering them on disc in a new format… 4K Ultra HD.

Available on 12/1/2020, here’s what you get in the new Ultra HD package: All three films, with both the Theatrical Cut and Extended Edition versions, newly-remastered by Jackson in 4K resolution, which—as you’ll learn below—means better detail, better color, and better contrast than any version you’ve seen before. There are no extras whatsoever in this set, not even audio commentaries. You do, however, get a code on a paper insert in the packaging for a Movies Anywhere Digital Copy of all three films (again in both versions). And you can purchase the 4K Ultra HD versions of The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy and The Hobbit: The Motion Picture Trilogy individually.

Now then… Warner has also announced plans to release both 4K sets together in one more deluxe package next summer. That set is expected to include the same 4K movie discs coming on 12/1, with the same Hobbit Blu-rays already available (the movies only, not the extras), and newly-produced Lord of the Rings Blu-rays upgraded with better image quality from this new 4K remaster (those remastered Lord of the Rings Blu-rays will also be available separately next year, in honor of the 20th anniversary of The Fellowship of the Ring). That package too will include Digital Copies, but it will NOT include The Appendices or any of the other previous extras (with the likely exception of the audio commentaries on the regular Blu-rays). We’re told that it will, however, include one new piece of bonus content that’s still yet to be determined. And that package is likely to include deluxe packaging and swag items too (possibly a book of some kind, artwork cards, and maybe replicas of the One Ring and the Key to Erebor).

So if you’re considering upgrading to these films in 4K, what you have to decide is which version you want: The movies only now in two separate packages, or the movies later in one package, with Blu-rays too, and one new piece of bonus content? (I must tell you, I couldn’t wait myself, and you’ll see why below. But that’s just me.) Either way, you’ll need to keep your previous Blu-rays if you wish to retain all of The Appendices and other bonus content.

You might be wondering next: Does this new 4K remaster really make that big of a difference? Is the image and sound really improved over the previous Blu-ray release? The answer to that is: HELL yes. However, if you don’t already have them, you’ll need to get a 4K display, a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player, and a surround sound system that’s compatible with Dolby Atmos.

But here’s the thing: I’ve been reviewing Blu-ray and DVD quality professionally now for twenty-three years on The Digital Bits, and 4K Ultra HD quality for the last four of those years. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen a 4K remaster that made quite this much of a difference over a previous Blu-ray release before.

Warner’s new 4K Ultra HD release includes both the Theatrical Cuts and Extended Editions of each film, the former contained on a single UHD disc for each film while the latter are split over two UHD discs each. So let’s take a look at the A/V quality of each remastered film one by one…

 

THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING

“In the lands of Middle-earth, legend tells of a Ring...”

It’s many years after the events of The Hobbit. Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm) has grown old in the Shire, and now longs to retire in peace. But Bilbo has a secret—he’s been keeping a ring that he found on his adventures. And it’s no ordinary ring. This is the One Ring, created by the dark lord Sauron many thousands of years ago to enslave the world. Sauron was defeated then, and the Ring was thought lost. But Bilbo passes it on to his nephew, Frodo (Elijah Wood), not realizing that the dark lord has risen again and is scouring all of Middle-earth for it. When he learns what’s at stake, the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) instructs Frodo to leave the Shire for his own safety and take the Ring with him. But Sauron’s forces are hot on his trail and pursue him mercilessly. Thankfully, a band of loyal companions joins Frodo on his journey, including his friend Samwise (Sean Astin) and a mysterious ranger from the north with a secret of his own (Viggo Mortensen). And soon, new members join Frodo’s group in a true Fellowship tasked with the seemingly impossible goal of destroying the Ring once and for all. But to do so, they’ll have to take it back to Mount Doom where it was originally forged... straight into the very heart of Evil itself.

Peter Jackson’s film adaptation of the first book in this trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring, manages to stay almost perfectly true to the spirit of the original novel. Jackson’s cut out all of the unfilmable literary texture—the limericks, the irrelevant characters, the slow build-up of detail—so this film gets right to the story and keeps the action moving all the way through. But lest fans get too upset, he’s managed to replace much of that literary texture with its equivalent in production design texture and visual splendor (thanks to cinematographer Andew Lesnie). So this film feels like the world we pictured in our heads as we read the novels. Better still, the casting here is magnificent. Ian McKellen simply is the wizard Gandalf. While Elijah Wood might have seemed an unlikely choice to play Frodo Baggins at first, he proves in this film that he’s more than up to the task, infusing the Hobbit with the perfect measure of pathos and humanity. And the rest of the cast delivers in spades too, including Mortensen and Austin, as well as Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Cate Blanchette, John Rhyes-Davies, Sean Bean, Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee... the list is long and there’s not a single weak link. Even Liv Tyler shines here.

The Fellowship of the Ring was shot photochemically on 35mm film in Super 35 format using a variety of Arriflex, Arricam, Mitchell, and Moviecam cameras with Zeiss Ultra Prime and Angenieux Optimo lenses. Only about 70% of the film was finished as a Digital Intermediate at the time, as the process was then new and still evolving (the other 30% was finished traditionally on film). For this new Ultra HD remaster, Park Road Post (a New Zealand post facility owned by WingNut Films) went back and scanned the original camera negative in 4K, then scanned the VFX film-out elements (for VFX shots that were finished on film) in 4K, and upsampled the VFX shots that were finished digitally (in 2K resolution) to create a brand new 4K Digital Intermediate at the proper 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The film’s color was then completely re-graded from the ground up, a process that included new grading for High Dynamic Range (both HDR10 and Dolby Vision options are available on these discs). All of this was personally supervised and approved by director Peter Jackson.

From an image standpoint, the result is nothing short of remarkable. After having watched all of The Fellowship of the Ring: Extended Edition in 4K with HDR, I went back to look at the previous Blu-ray release. The new 4K image is an order of magnitude better. Let’s start with image detail. Everything scanned directly from the original camera negative—which means all live action shots not containing visual effects—looks spectacular, with very light grain in evidence, a significant improvement in overall detail, and lovely fine detailing. You’re truly seeing the benefit of camera negative that’s been beautifully photographed (by the film’s late DP, Andrew Lesnie), well cared for, and scanned in native 4K using state of the art technology. The detail is so much improved, in fact, that in one shot, during Aragorn and the Hobbits’ approach to Weathertop, something caught my eye that I thought at first was a weird compression artifact. Nope... turns out it was grass on the side of a rocky hill blowing in the breeze, a detail I’d never noticed before on the Blu-ray! All of the film’s upsampled VFX material is lovely too—obviously the VFX weren’t originally produced in 4K resolution, so they’re not quite as detailed as the OCN and some shots have a very slight digitally-processed look, but they still match up well. And that digitally-processed look is much less noticeable here than it was on the previous Blu-ray. It does appear that a low level of DNR has been intentionally applied here and there to the OCN footage to reduce photochemical grain, so as to improve the blend with VFX. But I wouldn’t call it excessive. The only material that could be called slightly problematic is that last 30% of footage—VFX shots that were finished on film (which means they were originally scanned from the OCN, processed through the digital pipeline that was state of the art at the time, then scanned back out to film). Those exhibit a more noticeable loss of fine detail, and have a slightly more digitally-processed look as well. There’s also virtually no grain visible in them—that might be because a little DNR (digital noise reduction) was used at the time, or it might be because the completed footage is a couple of generations down from that original camera negative, or it might be a little of both. These shots are scattered here and there throughout the film, but they’re most noticeable early on—nearly all of the “scale gag” shots of Gandalf, Bilbo, and Frodo in Bag End are of slightly lesser quality. But please keep in mind as I’m saying this that even these shots are noticeably better looking here than they were on the previous Blu-ray. Part of that is because Park Road’s gone back and rescanned those original film-out elements in 4K. But the rest of it is due to the new HDR color grade. And here’s the thing about that…

It’s spectacular.

I’m not kidding you, the new HDR color grade is absolutely, jaw-droppingly stunning. Remember that dreaded green-tint that appeared on the Fellowship Blu-ray, a product of the fact that it was created from the original HD master and not a proper remaster? Yeah… it’s GONE. When the Fellowship attempts to cross the Caradhras mountains now, the sky is a perfect high-altitude electric blue. Shadows are extraordinarily deep, yet retain abundant detail, while the brightest highlights are bold—to the point of being slightly eye-reactive. And the colors! I don’t even have the words to describe them adequately. They’re accurate and richly-saturated, with delightfully greater nuance than ever before. And whenever the Elves appear—especially in Rivendell and Lothlórien—they’re truly luminous. But here’s the more important thing: Whereas on the previous Blu-ray there were many VFX shots where the CG backgrounds and creatures didn’t quite match well with the live action footage in terms of color and contrast—thus making it more obvious that they were indeed effects shots—the state of the art in image grading technology today means that those elements are now perfectly blended together in 4K and HDR. So the entire film now feels more cohesive, more of a piece than it ever has before.

I’m also pleased to add that there does not appear to have been any attempt to “upgrade” or “redo” the VFX in this film with newer, revised CG effects (in some kind of Star Wars: Special Edition effort). The early shots of Gollum are just as they’ve always been. Ian Holm still plays young Bilbo in the flashbacks where he finds the Ring in Gollum’s cave. And I think that’s exactly the right decision. Especially now that Holm has passed, any attempt to replace him in those shots—even though they represent a slight continuity error with The Hobbit films—would dishonor Holm’s remarkable performance. So this Rings fan and cinephile tips his hat to Peter Jackson for letting the film remain just as it always was.

The result of all of Park Road’s hard work is a 4K image that’s not just massively better than the previous Blu-ray, but better than the very best theatrical experiences during the film’s original release. Watching Fellowship of the Ring now via this new 4K master with HDR is like seeing the film for the first time again. It’s not quite perfect, but it’s so much better looking than you’ve ever seen it before, that it’s a truly thrilling visual experience.

On the audio side of things, Warner’s new 4K UHD release also includes a brand new English Dolby Atmos mix (that’s 7.1 Dolby TrueHD compatible). And the most important thing you need to know is that, is that it’s—hands down—a reference quality cinema surround sound experience. For one thing, the soundstage is absolutely huge, and not just across the front—this is a truly complete and hemispheric sonic environment. Every channel is active at once, including the overheads, uniformly engaged in creating a sense of whatever space is being depicted on screen at that moment. Dialogue is crystal clear and naturally-positioned. Panning is so smooth as to seem effortless. And the dynamics! There are moments so soft and subtle they’ll take your breath away with tiny little environmental sound effects filtering in around you—burbling water, bird calls, insects at night. And then, in the middle of the action, the full sturm und drang of battle assaults you from all sides, as if to shake the very foundation of your house. Swords scrape, clash, and ring sharply, their sounds lingering in the air. The orc drums in the depths of Moria, the roar of the Balrog, Boromir’s horn of Gondor—you can practically feel the low end in your chest. One of the scenes that surprised me most with this mix was Gandalf and Saruman’s first confrontation in Orthanc—just listen to the surround panning and bass as Gandalf is being thrown around the room! It’s marvelous. And topping it all off, Howard Shore’s score has simply never sounded better, presented here in lossless fidelity. Additional audio options on the 4K EXTENDED EDITION discs include French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and German, Italian, and Castilian Spanish in 6.1 DTS-HD MA, with optional subtitles in English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, French, German for the Hearing Impaired, Italian for the Deaf, Castilian Spanish, Dutch, Simplified Chinese, Cantonese, Korean, Latin Spanish, Czech, Danish, Finnish, Greek, Norwegian, Polish, Swedish, and Thai. Additional audio options on the 4K THEATRICAL CUT disc include French 5.1 DTS-HD MA, German and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Italian 6.1 DTS-HD MA, and Spanish 2.0 Dolby Digital, with optional subtitles in English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, French, German for the Hearing Impaired, Italian for the Deaf, Dutch, Simplified Chinese, Korean, Latin Spanish, Czech, Danish, Finnish, Greek, Norwegian, Polish, Swedish, and Thai.

FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING: THEATRICAL CUT (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO): A-/A-/A+
FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING: EXTENDED EDITION (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO): A/A-/A+

 

THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS

“It is an army bred for a single purpose... to destroy the world of men.”

The Two Towers opens by returning to the mines of Moria to revisit the Fellowship’s confrontation with the fiery Balrog. But this time, when Gandalf falls into the abyss, we fall with him as his fight continues. The consequences of this event will resound throughout the film, as Frodo and Sam continue their quest to carry the One Ring into Mordor, and Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli race to save Merry and Pippin from the orcs. Along the way, we’re finally introduced to Gollum (Andy Serkis), who is bound to the Ring and is torn between helping Frodo and Sam in their quest to destroy it and killing them to take it back. Meanwhile, Aragorn and company enter the horse realm of Rohan, whose king has fallen under Saruman’s spell. Saruman has built an army of murderous orcs for the dark lord Sauron to attack Rohan and Gondor, and thus destroy the world of men. What follows is truly epic battle in which the fate of both Middle-earth and the Quest of the Ring-bearer hang in the balance.

What makes The Two Towers so refreshing is that director Peter Jackson has made no compromises for his audience. There are no easy choices for its characters, and every decision has lasting consequences. He also assumes that you’re already familiar with the story, so there’s no time wasted in getting viewers back up to speed. You’re simply launched right into the middle of the continuing action and the pace is relentless, with only brief moments to catch your breath. In addition to the deft direction, breathtaking cinematography, and fine performances by cast members new and old, there’s much to be impressed with technically here as well. The character of Gollum, created with a pioneering combination of mo-cap performance and CG animation, is astonishing. It’s easy to forget now, but this was really the first time on the big screen that a CG character had given a genuinely dramatic performance. Equally wondrous is the astonishing battle for Helm’s Deep, in which literally thousands of computer generated soldiers fight to the death alongside their human actors. The sense of scale in these moments is nothing short of jaw-dropping.

Like Fellowship before it, The Two Towers was shot photochemically on 35mm film in Super 35 format using a variety of Arriflex, Arricam, Mitchell, and Moviecam cameras with Zeiss Ultra Prime and Angenieux Optimo lenses. Unlike Fellowship, this film was originally finished as a complete Digital Intermediate. For this new Ultra HD remaster, Park Road Post (a New Zealand post facility owned by WingNut Films) went back and scanned the original camera negative in 4K, then upsampled the VFX shots that were finished digitally (in 2K resolution) to create a brand new 4K Digital Intermediate at the proper 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The film’s color has also been completely re-graded from the ground up, a process that included new grading for High Dynamic Range (both HDR10 and Dolby Vision options are available on these discs). All of this was supervised and approved by Peter Jackson.

As before, the resulting image quality is remarkable, and an order of magnitude better than the previous Blu-ray release, not just in overall resolution and texturing but color and contrast as well. Everything scanned directly from the original camera negative—all live action shots not containing visual effects—looks spectacular, with very light grain in evidence, a significant improvement in overall detail, and lovely fine detailing. All of the film’s upsampled VFX material—though not originally produced in 4K resolution—looks lovely too. It’s not quite as detailed as the OCN and some shots (particularly during the Warg attack on the way to Helm’s Deep) have a slight digitally-processed look, but overall they still match up well with the rest the film. And again, that digitally-processed look is much less noticeable here than it was on the previous Blu-ray. As was the case with Fellowship, the new HDR grade is absolutely stunning. Colors are rich, natural, and accurate. Shadows are deep and detailed, with inky blacks, while the highlights have a genuinely bright sheen—apparent on things like swords, armor, the One Ring, and Arwen’s Evenstar pendant. The brightest imagery—including the rays of the morning sun, the shine of Gandalf the White, and the Eye of Sauron—is very bold indeed. Thanks to advances in modern color grading technology, the live action and CG elements are now much better blended in the frame, allowing for far more cohesive imagery. And again, it appears that there’s been no effort to “fix” or change any of the film’s previous VFX work. This is not quite a perfect 4K image, but it’s a slight step up from Fellowship thanks to the fact that few to none of its VFX shots were finished photochemically. And it’s a dramatic improvement upon not only the previous Blu-ray but also the best theatrical presentations of the past. Truly, The Two Towers has never looked this good before, at home or on the big screen.

On the audio side of things, Warner’s 4K UHD includes a new English Dolby Atmos mix (7.1 Dolby TrueHD compatible) that is—hands down—reference quality. Like Fellowship, the soundstage is absolutely huge, a complete hemispheric environment. Every channel, including the overheads, is engaged to create a sense unique sonic spaces. Dialogue is clean and clear, with smooth and natural panning. Howard Shore’s score is presented in full rich tones in lossless quality. The mix offers tremendous dynamics, from the quiet whisper of the breeze as Gollum leads Frodo and Sam through the Dead Marshes to the absolutely thunderous war drums of Isengard and the screams of berserker Uruk-hai as they swarm Helm’s Deep. And when Gimli sounds the Horn of Helm Hammerhand in the battle’s desperate hour, the reverberating bass is like a punch in the gut. This Atmos mix is an unrelenting sonic assault and it’s just magnificent. Additional audio options on the 4K EXTENDED EDITION discs include French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and German, Italian, and Castilian Spanish in 6.1 DTS-HD MA, with optional subtitles in English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, French, German for the Hearing Impaired, Italian for the Deaf, Castilian Spanish, Dutch, Simplified Chinese, Cantonese, Korean, Latin Spanish, Czech, Danish, Finnish, Greek, Norwegian, Polish, Swedish, and Thai. Additional audio options on the 4K THEATRICAL CUT disc include French 5.1 DTS-HD MA and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital. This is odd, because the Fellowship: Theatrical Cut disc in this package also includes Italian 6.1 DTS-HD MA and its Spanish mix is 2.0 Dolby Digital. Optional subtitles are available in English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, French, Dutch, and Spanish only—again strange because the Fellowship: Theatrical Cut disc includes a lot more (see above).

THE TWO TOWERS: THEATRICAL CUT (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO): A-/A/A+
THE TWO TOWERS: EXTENDED EDITION (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO): A/A/A+

 

THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING

“We come to it at last... the great battle of our time.”

The surviving members of the Fellowship, with the help of the Elves, have defended the kingdom of Rohan at Helm’s Deep, as Gollum leads Frodo and Sam ever closer to Mordor. But Sauron is marching an even larger orc army, led by the vile Witch King, to the defenseless city of Minas Tirith. If it falls, so too will Gondor, and all hope for the world of men will be lost. Gandalf races to the city with Pippin to sound the alarm, while Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, and Merry attempt to convince King Theoden of Rohan to ride to its defense. With the fate of Middle-earth about to be decided in a last, massive battle on the fields of Pelennor, Aragorn must finally accept his destiny. And Frodo and Sam will face the ultimate test of friendship, and their very lives, in their quest to destroy the One Ring.

For three years, legions of moviegoers gathered in theaters around the world to marvel at director Peter Jackson’s film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s literary classic. The Fellowship of the Ring proved that it was possible to realize Tolkien’s world on film. The Two Towers managed to top it for action, emotion and excitement. And finally, The Return of the King exceeded its impossibly high expectations, sweeping the 76th Annual Academy Awards as the first fantasy film to win the Oscar for Best Picture. What makes The Return of the King so effective is the way Jackson and company are able to weave personal character moments against some of the most epic battle scenes ever captured on film. Every actor rises to the challenge and some (like Sean Astin) significantly raise their game. Every visual is perfectly rendered here, every emotional note perfectly struck. All of the logistical effort, all of the creative passion, all of the attention to detail that’s been so carefully layered into these films... it all pays off beautifully. Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings film trilogy is one for the ages.

As was the case with the two previous films, The Return of the King was shot photochemically on 35mm film in Super 35 format using a variety of Arriflex, Arricam, Mitchell, and Moviecam cameras with Zeiss Ultra Prime and Angenieux Optimo lenses. And like The Two Towers, this film was also finished as a complete Digital Intermediate. For this new Ultra HD remaster, Park Road Post (a New Zealand post facility owned by WingNut Films) went back and scanned the original camera negative in 4K, then upsampled the VFX shots that were finished digitally (in 2K resolution) to create a brand new 4K Digital Intermediate at the proper 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The film’s color has also been completely re-graded from the ground up, a process that included new grading for High Dynamic Range (both HDR10 and Dolby Vision options are available on these discs). All of this was supervised and approved by Peter Jackson.

Again, the image quality is remarkable, vastly superior to the previous Blu-ray release in overall resolution, texturing, color nuance and accuracy, and contrast. All footage scanned directly from the original camera negative—live action shots without visual effects—looks spectacular, with very light grain, a significant improvement in detail, and lovely fine texturing. All of the film’s upsampled VFX—though not originally produced in 4K resolution—looks lovely as well. It’s not quite as detailed as the OCN, but overall they match up well with the rest the film. Even fewer shots this time exhibit the slightly digitally-processed look noted above (and again even that is less apparent here than it was on the previous Blu-ray edition). As you might guess by now, the new HDR grade is stunning. Colors are rich, natural, and accurate. Shadows are deep and detailed, with inky blacks, while the highlights have a bright shine—think metal, flame, etc—and the brightest imagery is bold enough to be just eye-reactive. Again, there appear to be no VFX changes or fixes. And again, the state-of-the-art color grade means that the live action and CG elements are now much better blended in the frame. The Return of the King looks absolutely stunning, dramatically better than you have ever seen it before in any format or venue.

What’s more, Warner’s 4K UHD release includes another new and reference quality English Dolby Atmos mix (7.1 Dolby TrueHD compatible). The soundstage is absolutely huge, with complete hemispheric immersion. Every channel, the overheads included, is engaged to create a sense unique sonic space. Dialogue is clear, with smooth and natural panning. Howard Shore’s score is presented in lossless fidelity. And the mix offers jaw-dropping dynamics. I’ll tell you this much: The Ride of the Rohirrim sequence in this film—in full 4K with HDR and Atmos—is the single greatest thing I have ever experienced in my home theater. And I do not say that lightly. I first saw The Return of the King theatrically during New Line’s Trilogy Tuesday event back in 2003 with my friend Matt. When this sequence appeared on screen, we both jumped out of our seats. And half the theater did the exact same thing. I felt that same thrill watching it again on Ultra HD. This Atmos mix is demo worthy and it’s magnificent. Additional audio options on the 4K EXTENDED EDITION discs include French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and German, Italian, and Castilian Spanish in 6.1 DTS-HD MA, with optional subtitles in English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, French, German for the Hearing Impaired, Italian for the Deaf, Castilian Spanish, Dutch, Simplified Chinese, Cantonese, Korean, Latin Spanish, Czech, Danish, Finnish, Greek, Norwegian, Polish, Swedish, and Thai. But like The Two Towers, additional audio options on the 4K THEATRICAL CUT disc include only French 5.1 DTS-HD MA and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital. Optional subtitles are only available in English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, French, Dutch, and Spanish.

THE RETURN OF THE KING: THEATRICAL CUT (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO): A/A/A+
THE RETURN OF THE KING: EXTENDED EDITION (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO): A+/A/A+

The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy (4K Ultra HD)

Once again, don’t forget that in addition to the films, you also get a Movies Anywhere Digital Copy code, which should be good for all three films in both versions in 4K. But don’t get rid of your previous Blu-ray and/or DVD editions if you wish to retain all of the extras, The Appendices, and other bonus features (because you won’t find any of that content here).

So is Warner’s new 4K Ultra HD remaster worth your time? Unquestionably. At the risk of beating a dead Warg, no matter how much of a fan you are of these films, you have never seen them looking or sounding this good before. These are near reference quality 4K image presentations, and they are absolutely reference quality Dolby Atmos mixes. I’m really blown away by the work Peter Jackson and his Park Road Post have done here to rebuild these films from the ground up in 4K. Buy them now if you can, or wait until next summer if you must. But if you love these films like I do, The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy in 4K Ultra HD is a must-have release. It’s very highly recommended.

- Bill Hunt

(You can follow Bill on social media at these links: Twitter and Facebook)

 

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