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Category:    Home > Reviews > Fantasy > Adventures > Battles > Epic > Drama > Middle Earth 4K 31-Disc Collector's Edition Box Set (2001 - 2014/MGM/Warner 4K Blu-ray w/Blu-ray Set)

Middle Earth 4K 31-Disc Collector's Edition Box Set (2001 - 2014/MGM/Warner 4K Blu-ray w/Blu-ray Set)

4K Picture: B+ Picture: B Sound: B+ Extras: B+ Films: C+

The Peter Jackson Lord Of The Rings 4K and Hobbit 4K films sets have been collected into a new Middle Earth 31-Disc Collector's Edition 4K Set, which also includes new regular Blu-rays with the new transfers reduced to regular 1080p HD quality, but include the new lossless Dolby Atmos 12-track upgrades and a really nice hardcover book. This packaging is nice overall. We already covered the films in their original, separate 4K-only releases at this link:


So despite the cast, its chemistry, status of the books and money on the screen, plus nice scenery the Rings films can deliver, I am not a fan of the films, they lost some of the character we were seeing in the animated versions of the books from decades ago and they have not aged as well as they cold have in a short time. With a TV series follow-up in the works, some of what I say will be vindicated when it has some visual effects that look better than these films.

Others have criticized the series for lack of diversity and some of that comes from the comparison of the books versus films, but that's a separate essay that will soon be revived by the release of the new series, so anything I could or would say would be dated and likely obsolete by then. Thus, I will skip that part.

That leaves us with the remastering of the picture. I have no doubt this is as good as these films will ever sound and even I cannot deny they have fine sound design, though I can name no specific scene from the six releases that I would consider a sonic demo.

The Rings films were shot on Kodak 35mm color camera negative with digital visual effects that were not all 4K (to say the least) and many CGI effects that looked dated on arrival to me. The Hobbit films were shot with Ultra HD cameras that delivered authentic 4K, but had odd limits where you could not have certain kinds of materials in front of the camera or they would ruin the image (!!!???!!!) and it was all recorded at 48 frames per second (of 'fps') versus the world sound standard of 24fps that the new versions have been reduced to. Errors on the later were annoying and even headache inducing, especially in 3D versions we also covered elsewhere on this site.

So that begs the question, are these even authentic representations of the films as original issued theatrically? Not always, but since there are a ton of the older regular Blu-rays and Blu-ray 3D editions out there, some purists will want to keep those versions and even bigger fans will want at least one of EVERY version that has been issued to date.

However, any remastering on the Rings films definitely brings out more of the original photochemical camera negative quality, especially thanks to the 12-bit color and scene-specific capacities of the Dolby Vision (plus 10bit HDR for older 4K setups) used on all six 4K 2160p versions of these films and their various cuts. That outdoes the older versions including likely some original theatrical presentations, while the Hobbit remasters make the images sharp, clean and color-corrected in a way that does not always resemble the older editions, though I like the results better, why could they not have looked this good in the first place versus such a high-risk production with a camera that was semi-obsolete on arrival that should have stayed in the research and development lab. Not as obnoxious as what Ang Lee has been doing in the place of actual storytelling for the last decade or two, it is the reason the films were not as commercially and critically successful as the Rings films. That they came after is NOT the reason either.

If anything, it makes the Hobbit films a whole new experience and though it does not make them better films, it makes them more tolerable. Still, they managed to have a fake look and feel like nothing else I have sat through before, save some very bad (ofter earlier) CGI feature productions (Zemeckis' Beowulf or Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, now also out in 4K like other CGI features in the series, all reviewed elsewhere on this site) that feel fake off the bat and makes me wonder why I am even bothering watching in the first place.

Part of this comes from Hollywood trying to work its way into the lucrative and often fun video games market, but these have often been ill-advised projects (reflected in more than a few cases by how much money was lost) and is barely for such fans only. However, if you are a Rings/Hobbit fan, this is obviously the set to get (whether they hold onto those earlier, now out of print editions) and they should snag their copy while supplies last!

- Nicholas Sheffo


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