Towards the end of the 1990s, cinema changed forever as New Line Cinema greenlit a trilogy that would define movie making for a generation, The Lord of the Rings. Based on the acclaimed novels by author J.R.R Tolkien, the fantasy series follows a hobbit named Frodo Baggins as he and a Fellowship compromised of hobbits, men, elves, dwarfs and wizards embark on a extensive journey to destroy the One Ring, to ensure the destruction of its maker, the Dark Lord Sauron. As the Fellowship breaks up, all-out war arrives in Middle Earth, and it is up to all who are good to come together to give Frodo enough time to destroy the ring before evil spreads across the entire world. The films were considered a massive risk, as both the property and the director, Peter Jackson, weren’t proven commodities at the time to mainstream audiences. But with three critically acclaimed films, nearly 3 billion dollars at the box office, and 30 Oscar nominations, including 17 wins. The Return of the King alone is responsible for 11 of those wins, taking the 2003 Best Picture prize and making Oscar history by tying 1997’s Titanic and 1959’s Ben-Hur for the most wins in Academy Award history. I think it’s safe to say, the risk was well worth it. It is considered by many to be one of the greatest trilogies of all time.
Flash forward 11 years from the release of the original trilogy, where Jackson and his team brought audiences back with three more films in the form of The Hobbit trilogy. The Hobbit, a prequel set sixty years before the events of The Lord of the Rings, follows Frodo’s Uncle Bilbo Baggins, as he and the wizard Gandalf the Grey, assist a company of dwarves as they seek to take back their homeland from the clutches of the fire breathing dragon Smaug who took it from them. As this is going on, sinister plans are starting to rise, with the first signs of Sauron and his power emerging. Gaining nearly as much as the first three films in the franchise, The Hobbit trilogy was considered more of fanfare for those who love the world that Tolkien created, as critics were mixed on the series overall, and the series was only able to land 7 Oscar nominations with no wins.
I’ve always been a fan of these movies. As a child, seeing The Lord of the Rings on the big screen with my parents, grandparents, cousins, aunt, uncles (basically anyone who was willing to see it with me), they changed my perception on what film could be. For my generation, this was like seeing Star Wars in 1977. It became normal to camp out for pre-sale tickets to be released or wait hours in line so you could get a good spot in the theater because there weren’t advanced tickets. Repeat viewings, dressing up like hobbits for Halloween, buying the DVD of both the regular and extended cuts when they were released were enough proof to anyone that Jackson had me hooked on his cinematic version of Tolkien’s genius work.
Which brings us to the Middle-Earth Ultimate Collector’s Edition, the latest box set of these epic trilogies. Within the expansive box set are each of the 6 films found in the franchise, with both the theatrical and extended cuts presented in both 4K Blu-Ray and regular Blu-Ray format. This encompasses 31 discs to provide a completely thorough handling of the physical media preference for all fans of the film. Also included are digital codes for streaming on any device, so audiences can take these movies where they go. Each film is packaged in a slipcover case designed specifically to the film the content is contained in. Those 6 films, as well as a bonus box, rest inside a collectible display that metallically configures into 4 different artistic styles. It is an impressive way to package content.
The bonus box contains the rest of the collections goodies as well as 32nd disc, containing special features. Inside are 7 travel poster art cards, one for each film and for the world of Middle Earth. There is also a detailed booklet with information on the costumes, production design, and general information about the films. These are things most fans of the series haven’t received before and are nice touches to owning this boxset. But there is a small problem, and that is the special features disc, which only contains the presentation reel that was displayed to the audience at the Cannes Film festival two decades ago, as well as the three Alamo Drafthouse interviews done for the 20th anniversary of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, moderated by Stephen Colbert, that were released in theaters only last year. This is an extremely disappointing items to see considering the original Blu-ray collection of Lord of the Rings contained multiple hours of behind-the-scenes features, only presented in regular DVD format. This desired upgrade, alongside any special features for The Hobbit trilogy, is a glaring omission for massive fanatics of the saga and a bit of a disappointment.
Though the collection is low on special features, the film’s 4K restorations are immaculate and some of the best 4K transfers out on the market. The addictive nature to watch these stories will lead to the purchasing of this collector’s edition and all-day marathons of these iconic movies. With so much action, romance, humor and heart, the Middle Earth movies are comfort films for all who want to see big special filmmaking done the right way. These films are special, and this box set will be cherished by all who get it this holiday season.
The Middle Earth Ultimate Collector’s Edition Box Set is now available for purchase.