Disc 2: Each film has a new behind-the-scenes documentary created by filmmaker Costa Botes. Mr. Botes was personally selected by Peter Jackson to capture every moment during production of the trilogy. He had unprecedented access to the cast and crew during staff meetings and down time, training and rehearsals, laughter and arguments.
Mr. Botes created 3 feature-length documentaries using a raw editing style that gives the viewer a complete fly-on-the-wall experience. Here are the types of stories and moments you can expect to find throughout the 3 documentaries (one per film in the trilogy):
When Is The Lord of the Rings Going to Be Released in High Definition (Either HD-DVD or Blu-ray)?
The high definition formats that have recently launched offer exceptional picture and sound quality in addition to new interactive bonus feature capabilities. New Line Home Entertainment is committed to the high definition format and is very excited about the idea of releasing the Trilogy in the format. However, New Line is also committed to maximizing the capabilities of the technology to deliver a cutting edge high definition experience. This will take more time as well as the participation of the filmmakers to achieve. It is currently not scheduled for release until, at the earliest, 2008.
I already own both versions of each film. Why doesn’t New Line just release the documentaries?
Having unprecedented access to the cast and crew during film production inevitably means that there are some restrictions. In this case, releasing these documentaries unaccompanied by the film would be nearly impossible because of agreements that are in place with the cast and crew. We wanted to make the documentaries available while also giving the fans something they don’t have, which is why we included both versions of the film on one disc.
How are these documentaries different from the ones on the special extended DVD editions?
The in-depth documentaries on the Special Extended DVD Editions were custom made for the DVDs using new interviews from the cast and crew incorporated with the behind-the-scenes footage to tell the stories. The Costa Botes documentaries use only creatively edited behind-the-scenes footage to give you, the viewer, a feeling of "being there" in the moment while things are happening. There is no narrative to tell the story, but instead a constantly running series of clips that show the raw moments that make up the day-to-day progress on a large film production.
Do I have to flip the disc over to watch the whole movie?
Yes. Due to space capacities of the DVD format and the use of seamless branching, both the theatrical and extended versions of the film are split in the middle of disc 1, so part 1 of the film is on one side of the disc and the conclusion is on the other.
What do you get?
Both the theatrical and extended versions of all three films--The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King--are on three double-sided discs. The versions use seamless branching, meaning that the scenes that are common to both versions are stored on the disc only once. If you choose to watch the extended version, the disc "branches" out to the added or extended scenes. What does this mean to the viewer? Not much. The viewing experience is the same because the branching is imperceptible. But because both versions of the film don't have to be stored on the disc in their entirety (which would be six or seven hours total for each film), both versions together fit on two sides of one disc. The downside is that whichever version you watch, you have to flip over the disc halfway through; the film breaks at the same spot it did on the Extended Edition. Also lost are the meager features included on the theatrical edition, plus the four commentary tracks, two discs of bonus features, and DTS 6.1 ES sound from the four-disc Extended Editions.
Each film has a second disc with a documentary directed by Costa Botes, who was personally selected by Peter Jackson (about five hours for all three documentaries). Rather than the formal documentary structure of other editions, they consist of off-the-cuff interviews with Peter Jackson, Alan Lee, and others, and random bits of behind-the-scenes action and special-effects work. Those who have worked their way through the many hours of bonus content on the other editions might recognize some of this footage, such as the Hobbit actors mocking whichever of them is not around, then greeting him warmly when he shows up. Other things--Liv Tyler riding a fake horse, interviewing the rank-and-file cast members, touring Peter Jackson's trailer, Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd clowning around as a framing device, Ian McKellen flubbing his lines and conducting the crowning ceremony in a flowery wig--seem new. And some bits seem geared to those who've watched the other material--for example, some of the visual tricks explained there are only glimpsed without explanation here. They're entertaining, but because there's no structure (there are chapters, but no menu or chapter listing), they're not as convenient to watch, and go back to, as a documentary broken up into bite-size pieces. Note: New Line Home Entertainment couldn't release this material on its own a la the King Kong Production Diaries due to contractual restrictions.
Bottom line: Do I need this trilogy edition?
This Limited Edition combination of theatrical and extended versions plus new documentary seems likely to appeal to two camps. One is the devoted fan, who already owns all the previous editions but has to have everything LOTR. The other is the casual fan who liked the movies in theaters, heard good things about the Extended Editions, and doesn't need a ton of bonus material. This edition is attractively priced for that buyer, and the packaging is quite handsome. In between is the devoted fan who already owns all the previous editions but doesn't feel the need to watch more bonus material. When watching the movies, that fan will always choose the Extended Editions, but keeps the theatrical editions for (1) watching with guests, (2) the music videos, or (3) the convenience of skimming through favorite scenes without having to change discs. That fan can safely skip this edition, as can home-theater fans who love DTS. --David Horiuchi