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Middle-Earth 31-Disc Ultimate Collector's Edition (UHD Blu-ray) review



Studio: Warner Brothers     
Release Date: October 26, 2021
Rating: PG-13
Film: 5/5 (LOTR) 3/5 (The Hobbit)

Plot
The Fellowship of the Ring
A meek Hobbit from the Shire and eight companions set out on a journey to destroy the powerful One Ring and save Middle-earth from the Dark Lord Sauron.

The Two Towers
While Frodo and Sam edge closer to Mordor with the help of the shifty Gollum, the divided fellowship makes a stand against Sauron's new ally, Saruman, and his hordes of Isengard.

The Return of the King
Gandalf and Aragorn lead the World of Men against Sauron's army to draw his gaze from Frodo and Sam as they approach Mount Doom with the One Ring.

My Thoughts
In case you've been in a coma for the past 20 years, Peter Jackson adapted the popular J.R.R. Tolkien novel with amazing results. Arguably, it's one of the greatest movie accomplishments of all time with 15 Academy Awards, over $1 billion in US box-office receipts, and nearly $3 billion worldwide.

The films have been released countless times on Blu-ray over the years—first with their theatrical versions and then ultimately the extended editions in order to extract as much cash as possible from the fans and of course, here we are with the films finally arriving in 4K. This release is a “bare bones” release with no supplements other than a 4K digital copy of the films, but at least the set includes both the theatrical and extended editions of each film all in one case. In addition, The Hobbit trilogy is being released at the same time.

In 2021, Warner will follow it up with a 4K UHD “Middle-earth” Ultimate Collectors’ Edition featuring the theatrical and extended versions of all six films, along with new bonus content, previously released Blu-ray discs of The Hobbit Trilogy, and remastered Blu-ray discs of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy will be released in the summer of 2021. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy featuring remastered Blu-ray discs of the theatrical and extended versions of the 3 films will also be released in the fourth quarter 2021, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

For this 4K release, Peter Jackson was involved with the 4K remastering process and this is a case where his attention to detail has been a blessing. These films have never looked or sounded better—not even in the theater in 2001-2003. All of the discs feature Dolby Vision HDR (as well as HDR 10) encodes along with Dolby Atmos soundtracks. Furthermore, the weird color timing issue with The Fellowship of the Ring has finally been fixed and watching these three films over the weekend was like watching them again for the first time. We were mesmerized by the experience and I have to say, watching them on a scope screen has been one of the greatest home theater experiences of my life. To say these films are demo-worthy is an understatement. The Balrog scene in Fellowship is a jaw-dropping experience with HDR visuals, Middle-Earth-shattering LFE, and overhead effects that will having you ducking for cover.

Video 10/10

Audio 10/10 (Dolby Atmos)
Plot
An Unexpected Journey
The adventure follows the journey of title character Bilbo Baggins, who is swept into an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome Dragon Smaug. Approached out of the blue by the Wizard Gandalf the Grey, Bilbo finds himself joining a company of 13 Dwarves led by the legendary warrior, Thorin Oakenshield. Their journey will take them into the Wild, through treacherous lands swarming with Goblins, Orcs and deadly Wargs, as well as a mysterious and sinister figure known only as the Necromancer.
Although their goal lies to the East and the wastelands of the Lonely Mountain, first they must escape the Goblin tunnels, where Bilbo meets the creature that will change his life forever…Gollum.

Here, alone with Gollum, on the shores of an underground lake, the unassuming Bilbo Baggins not only discovers depths of ingenuity and courage that surprise even him, he also gains possession of Gollum's "precious" ring that holds unexpected and useful qualities…A simple, gold ring that is tied to the fate of all Middle-Earth in ways Bilbo cannot begin to know. 

The Desolation of Smaug
Having survived the beginning of their unexpected journey, the Company travels East, encountering along the way skin-changer Beorn and a swam of giant Spiders in the treacherous forest of Mirkwood. After escaping capture by the dangerous Wood-elves, the Dwarves journey to Lake-town, and finally to the Lonely Mountain itself, where they must face the greatest danger of all—a creature more terrifying than any other; one which will test not only the depth of their courage but the limits of their friendship and the wisdom of the journey itself—The Dragon Smaug.

The Battle of the Five Armies
The epic conclusion of the adventure of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) and the Company of Dwarves. The Dwarves of Erebor have reclaimed the vast wealth of their homeland, but now must face the consequences of having unleashed the terrifying Dragon, Smaug, upon the defenseless men, women and children of Lake-town. 

As he succumbs to dragon-sickness, the King Under the Mountain, Thorin Oakenshield, sacrifices friendship and honor in search for the legendary Arkenstone. Unable to help Thorin see reason, Bilbo is driven to make a desperate and dangerous choice, not knowing that even greater perils lie ahead. An ancient enemy has returned to Middle-earth. Sauron, the Dark Lord, has sent forth legions of Orcs in a stealth attack upon the Lonely Mountain. 

As darkness converges on their escalating conflict, the races of Dwarves, Elves and Men must decide – unite or be destroyed. Bilbo finds himself fighting for his life and the lives of his friends as five great armies go to war. 

My Thoughts
When these films were first released in theaters, I was interested to see them for a few reasons. First, for their technical merits since they were released at 48fps in order to offer a better 3D experience, which is a format that has died yet again. Second, I grew up reading The Hobbit multiple times and wanted to see its prose come to life from the man who brought us The Lord of the Rings, Peter Jackson.

Unfortunately, I was wildly disappointed in both aspects. The technical merits ended up looking like a soap opera and were too lifelike—in fact, my wife refused to see the next two films in 3D because she was so turned off by the look of the film. As for the story itself, it featured terrible pacing due to the bloated story. Jackson relied on secondary Tolkien sources to expand the plot and frankly, created a mess. It turns out that too much of a good thing can be a negative.

Of the three films, I actually enjoy the second the most, but even that isn’t a great movie. All of them have way too much action and the truly great sequences in the films such as Bilbo’s interaction with Gollum and Smaug get lost in the shuffle due to overlong and boring fight sequences that seem to never end. Furthermore, don’t even get me started on the barrels down the river!

Some fans have taken to editing the films themselves and have created cuts based on the actual book that run in the three-to-four-hour range versus nearly nine with the Extended Editions and frankly, they are much better adaptations of the books. I’d love to see Jackson do something similar, but I doubt his ego would let him.

From a story standpoint, these movies still don’t meet the level of entertainment value that The Lord of the Rings trilogy offers, but maybe that isn’t a fair comparison. That trilogy is arguably the greatest cinematic achievement ever made and living up to that standard isn’t possible, but this effort from Jackson is mediocre at best.

One thing I can be happy with is the A/V experience, which is absolutely stunning. The films looked great on Blu-ray but take a big leap here due to the brand new 4K DI (even though the special effects were done in 2K, they have been upsampled to 4K). The only negative is that in some cases the VFX stick out a bit such as the Dwarfs trip into Rivendell—the village in the background doesn’t look quite “right,” but it’s a minor distraction in the overall scheme of things. The Atmos tracks are simply outstanding and create large environments with pinpoint discrete effects. Each film has multiple demo-worthy sequences but probably my favorite is when Bilbo and Smaug have their little chat—the rumble of Smaug’s voice will really test how well your subwoofers blend in with your main speakers.

Video 10/10

Audio 10/10 (Dolby Atmos)

Special Features:
The Ultimate Collector’s Edition comes in unique “Puzzle Box” collectible packaging and includes a 64-page booklet featuring costumes, photography and production notes from the film, and art cards featuring travel posters and images from iconic locations throughout Middle-earth including The Shire, Lake-Town, Erebor, Anduin, Rohan, Minas Trith, and Rivendell.

  • Cannes Film Festival Presentation Reel
  • Alamo Drafthouse Cast Reunion
  • “The Fellowship of the Ring" (with Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Sean Astin and Elijah Wood)
  • “The Two Towers" (with Cate Blanchett, Orlando Bloom, Liv Tyler and Viggo Mortenson)
  • "The Return of the King" (with Ian McKellan, Andy Serkis, and Peter Jackson)
  • UHD + Blu-ray of All Films
  • Movies Anywhere Digital Copies of All Films


Conclusion
There have been many fans waiting on the sidelines for this release and didn’t spring for the 4K movie-only versions released last year. This definitive set not only includes the same 4K discs, but it has the Blu-ray’s as well (along with new Atmos tracks) along with some new supplements highlighted above. What isn’t in the set are all of the supplements found on the LOTR ultimate collector’s release that was on Blu-ray over a decade ago. It would have been nice to have everything in one package, but then again, I’m not sure I could sit through all of those supplements more than once in my life. I will say that the “Puzzle Box” packaging is simply outstanding and is something you can display proudly. Overall, this is highly recommended for fans of the films.



Reference Review System:
 

 JVC DLA-RS2000 4K Ultra High Definition Front Projector
 (Calibrated with Portrait Displays CalMAN color calibration software & C6-HDR Meter from Portrait Displays)
 Stewart Filmscreen - Firehawk 110” 2.35:1 Fixed Screen
 Anthem AVM60 Audio/Video Processor
 ATI AT527NC Powering Bed Channels

ATI AT524NC Powering Atmos Speakers
 Panasonic DP-UB820 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
 System Controller: URC MX-980

M&K S-150 THX Ultra (R-C-L Speakers)
M&K SS-150 x4 (Surround Speakers)
 Atlantic Technology IC6-OBA x 4 Overhead Speakers
 SVS PC-Ultra Cylinder Subwoofer
 HSU VTF-15H MK2 Subwoofer
 JL Audio Fathom F110 Subwoofers x 2

Mini DSP HD controlling all subwoofers
 Audioquest and Monoprice - Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
PureAV PF60 Power Conditioner

« Last Edit: November 17, 2021, 02:06:08 PM by David Vaughn »
Blu-ray Reviewer / Technical Writer
Sound & Vision Magazine

bmoney

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Re: Middle-Earth 31-Disc Ultimate Collector's Edition (UHD Blu-ray) review
« Reply #1 on: November 17, 2021, 03:33:53 PM »
I watched all the supplements back in the day. They were awesome but soooo long lol

Do you have a picture of the set? 
SadieMax 2,0 Build thread

Nad t758v3 
7.4.4 diysoundgroup 1099's (3) 
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18" SI subs (4) 
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minidsp 2x4HD
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Re: Middle-Earth 31-Disc Ultimate Collector's Edition (UHD Blu-ray) review
« Reply #2 on: November 17, 2021, 03:56:00 PM »
Here you go:


https://i.imgur.com/Tc0IaRB.jpg
Middle-Earth 31-Disc Ultimate Collector's Edition (UHD Blu-ray) review
https://i.imgur.com/yKcnRtT.jpg
Middle-Earth 31-Disc Ultimate Collector's Edition (UHD Blu-ray) review
https://i.imgur.com/c2WgWNK.jpg
Middle-Earth 31-Disc Ultimate Collector's Edition (UHD Blu-ray) review
https://i.imgur.com/iZ96J2Q.jpg
Middle-Earth 31-Disc Ultimate Collector's Edition (UHD Blu-ray) review
https://i.imgur.com/Oj79zeJ.jpg
Middle-Earth 31-Disc Ultimate Collector's Edition (UHD Blu-ray) review
https://i.imgur.com/uROagxu.jpg
Middle-Earth 31-Disc Ultimate Collector's Edition (UHD Blu-ray) review
Blu-ray Reviewer / Technical Writer
Sound & Vision Magazine

bmoney

  • *****
  • 1381
Re: Middle-Earth 31-Disc Ultimate Collector's Edition (UHD Blu-ray) review
« Reply #3 on: November 17, 2021, 05:37:30 PM »
Wow that’s really nice. Thank you
SadieMax 2,0 Build thread

Nad t758v3 
7.4.4 diysoundgroup 1099's (3) 
Volt 6 (8 ) 
18" SI subs (4) 
diy 130" 2.40 spandex screen
minidsp 2x4HD
JVC rs600
Lumagen radiance pro 4242
Nvidia shield pro
Emby NAS media player

Re: Middle-Earth 31-Disc Ultimate Collector's Edition (UHD Blu-ray) review
« Reply #4 on: November 17, 2021, 06:27:05 PM »
Wow that’s really nice. Thank you
No problem. 
Blu-ray Reviewer / Technical Writer
Sound & Vision Magazine

Barry

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Re: Middle-Earth 31-Disc Ultimate Collector's Edition (UHD Blu-ray) review
« Reply #5 on: November 17, 2021, 06:31:48 PM »
I did enjoy the first three movies. And I think I actually like the standard edition wedding the longer edition. I am definitely not a fan of the last three movies but I did see them. I guess watching Tolkien is Hobbit forming.

Thanks for the review DV
McIntosh MX170 Controller: Projector JVC DLA-RS3000; Screen: Stuart StudioTek130: Amps: McIntosh MC-611(center),MC1.25KW (lf&rt);  Krell S-1500 Atmos/Surround; 4kDVD Panasonic UB9000; Speakers: Revel Ultima Salon 2, Ultima Voice 2, (Surround) W 990, Atmos C763L; Subs: SVS SB-13 Ultras;  Cable: 4K Verizon; Broadcast: Mediasonic HW-150PVR; Wiring: Shunyata; Apple TV,

Re: Middle-Earth 31-Disc Ultimate Collector's Edition (UHD Blu-ray) review
« Reply #6 on: November 17, 2021, 07:07:28 PM »
I did enjoy the first three movies. And I think I actually like the standard edition wedding the longer edition. I am definitely not a fan of the last three movies but I did see them. I guess watching Tolkien is Hobbit forming.

Thanks for the review DV
Barry, are you looking forward to the Amazon Prime series set in this Universe? It's supposed to be the most expensive TV production in history. 
Blu-ray Reviewer / Technical Writer
Sound & Vision Magazine

bmoney

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Re: Middle-Earth 31-Disc Ultimate Collector's Edition (UHD Blu-ray) review
« Reply #7 on: November 18, 2021, 05:22:45 AM »
I did enjoy the first three movies. And I think I actually like the standard edition wedding the longer edition. I am definitely not a fan of the last three movies but I did see them. I guess watching Tolkien is Hobbit forming.

Thanks for the review DV
Hahah. I see what you did there
SadieMax 2,0 Build thread

Nad t758v3 
7.4.4 diysoundgroup 1099's (3) 
Volt 6 (8 ) 
18" SI subs (4) 
diy 130" 2.40 spandex screen
minidsp 2x4HD
JVC rs600
Lumagen radiance pro 4242
Nvidia shield pro
Emby NAS media player

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