Review By Liam O Brien, 5 out of 5

?he battle of Helm’s Deep is over. The battle for Middle Earth is about to begin.?

For those of you who snapped up a copy of two disc version of The Two Towers (now there? a mouthful!) in August of this year, you made a mistake. This and the four disc FELLOWSHIP not only represent wonderfully rich film making, but also showcase (through their exhaustive extra features spread over two discs) the skill, time and effort that went into these magnificent films. I may have raved about THE MATRIX and I love STAR WARS, but LOTR is sheer brilliance. The director has assembled a cast a crew, so tight knit and able, that these films have a depth that no other blockbuster has ever managed to challenge. During a time when the cynics among us feel that great films, with great big running times, huge starry casts and expensive effects- that are actually good- simply don? get made anymore, along comes Peter Jackson. I can? tell you how much I love this film, I cant tell you how much im looking forward to RETURN OF THE KING. But why should you shell out for this four disc set then?

For starters, the version of the film is different to anything else you will have seen before, anywhere. Small scenes, big scenes, more character development- it has all been edited in, with new music, seamlessly done, with completed effects shots. It allows the film, which always felt to me like it needed a little more, to breathe, to set out its plot and story at its own pace. Whereas FELLOWSHIP was indeed better with extra material, TTT really reaps the rewards. Little things such as more back story for the previously one-dimensional Faramir, more Treebeard, Merry and Pippin (who finally seem important, compared to the original version, where there appearances seemed to be made out of necessity. The longer run time gives us more of what we love. The richness of Tolkien? world is made even greater. The only drawback is the fact these editions are spread over two discs, so about half way through, we have to swap discs. Only a minor niggle though, as the extra space is needed to carry the four audio commentaries the best of which is the writer and directors. Jackson is refreshingly truthful as to where he thinks things could have been improved, while the writer team spark off each other, taking us through the process of taking this mammoth doorstop of a book and putting onto celluloid. This is a tremendous movie. The story deepens after its splitting off into three sections at the end of film one. New characters, such as Treebeard and of course, Gollum are brought in. Unlike Jar Jar however, Gollum isn? an excuse to have a CGI character in your movie, he? no gimmick. Thanks to Andy Serkis? brilliant voice work/performance, the character delivers an emotional clout few real actors can match. He? not just a milestone, he? a miracle

The extras are as expansive as FELLOWSHIP, if not more so. There is hours of material to explore here. Brilliant, warm hearted documentaries with a run time of roughly half an hour to an hour each take us through (on disc three) everything from the writing of the film to the production and design stages of the project. This is a wonderful look at the technicians at Weta studios, who? consummate skill and talent made much of the movie possible. From building Helms Deep to creating Gollum, every moment of production is covered. Funny little stories, anecdotes and secrets are laid bare, all of which are moving and funny. These are people that genuinely love these films and they let you see that. They all feel like old friends, back for another year to share their world with you. This is a brilliant set, that takes you on as much of a journey as the movie does. This four disc set is available in two formats. One the standalone set, or, for those of you with a bit more cash to spend (or in my case, a madly generous girlfriend) can get the super, super edition- which comes with the four disc dvd, a book on the creation of Gollum, a statue of the man/hobbit/thing himself (which looks great) and a dvd on the making of the statue! The choice is yours, but the four disc is simply a thousand times better than the original. Overall? Truly wonderful, five star filmmaking, and the real example of exactly why dvd is light years ahead of VHS. Go buy now preciousssssN..


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