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The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King [WS] [2 Discs] [DVD] [2003]

Release Date:05/25/2004
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The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King makes its way to DVD in this two-disc edition of the theatrical cut of the film thanks to New Line Cinema. Just as both of its two-disc predecessors, this initial release presents the movie along with a small amount of extras to tide fans over until the archives are opened for the Special Extended Edition, coming later in 2004. As usual, the picture and sound presentation is astounding, with a crisp 2.35:1 widescreen image (also available in a full-screen version) and both a Dolby Digital EX 5.1 Surround track and a 2.0 Surround Sound audio option ready to bowl you over with their layers of clarity -- for proof, skip right to Chapter 37 and the Battle of Pelennor Fields to really understand the time and effort that was put into this transfer. As far as extras go, this edition carries on the trend of including all of the two- to four-minute featurettes (five in total), along with other material that is mostly exclusive to this release. First off, there's "The Quest Fulfilled: A Director's Vision" and "A Filmmaker's Journey: Making Return of the King" featurettes, both of which seem to include many of the same interview segments and stories as not only each other, but also as all of the releases leading up to this one. Needless to say, thanks to the cheesy voice-over work by the narrator and the overlapping content, these two seem disappointing, but end up in the same ballpark as the two-disc Two Towers' Starz/Encore specials or the WB making-of. Those who have purchased the National Geographic special on the third film will be equally saddened by its inclusion here, just one year after it was initially released to DVD in 2003. One place where this edition does stand out is in its inclusion of both original theatrical trailers and a whopping 13 TV spots! Exclusive to this disc is the brand new six-and-a-half-minute Lord of the Rings Trilogy super-trailer documenting the story in a recap fashion that is almost more exhausting than any of the actual films, though neat nonetheless. Also included is a trailer for Electronic Arts' The Lord of the Rings video games, including the latest one, The Battle for Middle Earth. It's strange that New Line didn't include a trailer for the Extended Edition, since such trailers were on both of the last two-disc releases (for their corresponding extended versions). In fact, that was reason enough to buy the initial disc for many fans, so this really was a misstep on New Line's part for not including it. Still, for the stellar presentation of the theatrical film alone, this release is worth it for those looking to own a piece of history -- others might want to bide their time until the mammoth set hits the shelves.



"The Quest Fulfilled: A Director's Vision"

"A Filmmaker's Journey: Making The Return of the King" National Geographic special: "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King"

Featurettes created for "Aragorn's Destiny," "Minas Tirith: Capital of Gondor," "The Battle of Pelennor Fields," "Samwise the Brave," "Éowyn: White Lady of Rohan," "Digital Horse Doubles"

Original theatrical trailers and TV spots

The Lord of the Rings trilogy supertrailer

A special look at Electronic Arts' The Lord of the Rings series of video games

DVD-ROM content: Exclusive online content