It’s hard to believe it was December last year when Warner Bros. released the great but barebone versions of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films in 4K. Fans have been eagerly awaiting a long overdue ultimate set with all of the films, all the extras and more, which brings us to the Middle Earth Ultimate Collector’s Edition set. While newcomers and regular viewers will benefit the most from this 31-disc release, die-hard fans will find this collection far from ultimate.
Just in case you’re unfamiliar with these films, be sure to check out the links above for my reviews on the sets released last year while I go into what’s new and different in this set. Starting with The Hobbit films, the 4K versions are the exact same from last year featuring the original and extended versions along with all-new remastered Blu-ray versions using the 4K versions as the source.
Sadly if you’re looking for the coveted 3D versions of these films, you’ll have to look elsewhere as they’re not included, nor are the special “Appendices” discs that originally came with the original Blu-ray release. Unfortunately it’s the same case with The Lord of the Rings films which are missing even more extras outside the “Appendices” discs, such as the Costa Botes documentary discs for each of the films and the features from the DVD discs that came with the original release.
Of course it’s not all gloom and doom with this collection, as there are plenty of special features and extras spread throughout the 30 discs that make up the films, from audio commentaries and behind the scenes features for the movie, to interviews and storyboards. Speaking of extras, there’s an all-new special features Blu-ray included with a lot of cool new extras, starting with some cast reunion featurettes hosted by the always fun Stephen Colbert that were made to be shown after each of the LOTR films at Alamo Drafthouse theaters in celebration of the 20th anniversary of them.
Here Colbert gets together with the cast featuring Sean Astin, Elijah Wood, Billy Boyd, and Dominic Monaghan for the Fellowship film. Then we have Orlando Bloom, Viggo Mortensen, Cate Blanchett, and Liv Tyler for the Two Towers. Lastly there’s Peter Jackson, Ian McKellen, and Andy Serkis for Return of the Kings. Sadly due to the pandemic these interviews are presented via a Zoom conference call. You soon forget about it though as the actors sharing all sorts of fun anecdotes and memories from being on the set quickly take center stage of your attention.
Last on this new extras disc is the “Cannes Presentation Reel”, which gave the world their first look at The Lord of the Rings films when this was briefly shown at the Cannes Film Festival in held in France during May 2001. This awesome reel shows off pieces of unused footage, different and extended takes with dialogue not featured in the final cuts, early special effects parts and more. While this is a sweet and rare treat, die-hard fans are still looking for features such as the original pitch reel Peter Jackson showed off to New Line Cinema back in 1998, and other hidden gems that have yet to come to light in any of the special features released.
Moving onto the cool box its presented in, it’s pretty cool how the boxes holding the disc sleeves unfolds into two halves which in turn unfolds again to stretch out into one massive box featuring the elvish language written on the one ring printed across it. You can also move the slip sleeve covering the box around to feature various characters and key moments from the film series as well.
There’s also a cool 64-page softcover “The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings: A Collection of Costume Sketches, Photography, and Production Notes” book included that features exactly those things, seven posters that show off some of the famous locations from the films that are rendered in art deco, and digital copy fans will be happy that codes for the films in 4K for both the theatrical and extended versions are included.
Die-hard fans won’t be impressed with this, but regular movie watchers and newcomers will love the Middle Earth Ultimate Collector’s Edition set. It would’ve been nice to have all of the special features from the previous releases along with those still in hiding, but what’s here is more than enough to keep fans new and old busy as the go there and back again on this massive adventure.