Ultra HD: Highly Recommended
4.5 Stars out of 5
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Release Date: December 1st, 2020
Movie Release Year: 2001
MPAA Rating: Parental Guidance Suggested
Release Country: United States
COLLAPSE INFO -

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring - 4K UHD Blu-ray

Review Date December 24th, 2020 by
Overview -

Twenty years later, Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring remains an extraordinary adaptation of Tolkiens' fantasy adventure books, offering the perfect recipe of escapism from the real world. Journeying across the lands of Ultra HD Blu-ray, the first entry in the trilogy arrives with an exceptional 4K video presentation, a demo-worthy Dolby Atmos track but lacking in special features. Nevertheless, the overall UHD package comes Highly Recommended while we wait for the eventual bonus-riddled special edition.

OVERALL
Highly Recommended
  • TECH SPECS & RELEASE DETAILS
    Technical Specs:
    Nine-Disc Special Edition
    9 UHD-100 Triple-Layer Discs
    Region Free
    Video Resolution/Codec:
    2160p HEVC/H.265
    Dolby Vision HDR
    HDR10
    Length:228
    Release Country:United States
    Aspect Ratio(s):
    2.40:1
    Audio Formats:
    English Dolby Atmos
    English Dolby TrueHD 7.1
    English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1
    French Dolby Digital 5.1
    Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
    Subtitles/Captions:
    English SDH, French, Spanish
    Movie Studio: Warner Bros.
    Release Date: December 1st, 2020

Story Review Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

5 Stars out of 5

As a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy books and of Peter Jackson's earlier films, I was just as keenly enthusiastic about seeing The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring brought to life on the silver screen as I was apprehensive Jackson could potentially muck up the whole thing. After all, at the time when the film premiered, the New Zealand filmmaker was only known for his splatter comedies and The Frighteners with Michael J. Fox and Jeffrey Combs. At best, his bio-drama Heavenly Creatures with Kate Winslet earned him some repute in the U.S., but even this award-winning film mostly made the rounds within the arthouse and cinephile circles. The point being, when The Fellowship finally released during the 2001 holiday season, my level of confidence for Jackson's live-action adaptation was not initially high, and I remember walking into the theater with mild, ready-to-forgive expectations.

To my amazement, Jackson not only surprised me with a fairly faithful interpretation of the first volume in the adventure saga to save Middle-earth, but he also exceeded those expectations with impressive camerawork that beautifully transformed the New Zealand landscape into a fantastical world and felt almost as though I were reading the books all over again. The awesome action sequences and the central theme of good vs evil were further brought to life by the incredibly memorable performances of the entire cast. Looking back and reminiscing on that time, part of the film's greatness is perhaps also its timing, premiering just a few months after the World Trade Center attacks, whisking audiences away to a fantasy world and providing the perfect escapism when it was needed most. 

Nearly twenty years later, The Fellowship of the Ring arrives on 4K Ultra HD, once more, just in time with its fantastical escapism and a moment of respite from the real world. 

For a more in-depth take on the film, check out our review of the 2012 Blu-ray edition

Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray

Warner Bros. Home Video brings The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy to Ultra HD as a nine-disc package with a Digital Copy code. When redeeming said code via wb.com/redeemmovie or MoviesAnywhere, users are granted access to the 4K digital version in Dolby Vision with Dolby Atmos audio. All nine UHD100 discs, three of which contain the theatrical cuts of each film while the extended editions are spread across a pair of UHDs, sit comfortably on either side of four center spindles. They are housed in a thicker than normal black keepcase with a side-sliding slipcover. At startup, each disc goes directly to the standard menu screen with full-motion clips and the usual selection of options along the bottom while the iconic music plays in the background.

  • TECH SPECS & RELEASE DETAILS
    Technical Specs:
    Nine-Disc Special Edition
    9 UHD-100 Triple-Layer Discs
    Region Free
    Video Resolution/Codec:
    2160p HEVC/H.265
    Dolby Vision HDR
    HDR10
    Length:228
    Release Country:United States
    Aspect Ratio(s):
    2.40:1
    Audio Formats:
    English Dolby Atmos
    English Dolby TrueHD 7.1
    English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1
    French Dolby Digital 5.1
    Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
    Subtitles/Captions:
    English SDH, French, Spanish
    Movie Studio: Warner Bros.
    Release Date: December 1st, 2020

Video Review

4.5 Stars out of 5

2012 Extended Blu-ray Edition:

4K Ultra HD Disc:

Given the somewhat controversial Blu-ray releases of the first entry in The Lord of the Rings saga, I decided to revisit the extended editions of all three films prior to sitting down for their new Ultra HD adventures. And I'm happy to report, the trilogy has never looked better on any home video format, and The Fellowship of the Ring, while still falling short of perfection, offers a well-deserved upgrade over its predecessor that is sure to please loyal fans everywhere.

Reportedly coming from a recent restoration of the original elements and remaster for a fresh 4K digital intermediate, the HEVC H.265 encode definitely delivers the precious goods with several stunning moments that puts the aforementioned Blu-ray to shame. Undoubtedly, this is the best version of the now-classic fantasy-adventure film, and the most immediate difference is a new color timing that removes the heavy greenish-blue tint that previously washed over Andrew Lesnie's teal-orange cinematography. Overall, this makes for a more natural and attractive 4K video with notably improved contrast balance throughout, affording not only more vivid, true-to-life whites but also allowing for better clarity and visibility of background information. In fact, the picture is for a majority of the runtime highly-detailed, exposing the fine stitching in the costumes, razor-sharp hairs and whiskers of the male characters, and lifelike textures in the entire cast during the many close-ups.  

However, it's not the breathtaking showstopper that was highly touted or anticipated, especially when compared to others from the same era or even to its HD SDR counterparts. This is not to take away from or downplay the positives throughout, of which there are many. 

To start, many of the panoramic and extreme wide shots of the New Zealand landscape are striking, showing the small fractures and holes in the rock formations and the minute architectural features of the production design. The improved whites make for brightly glowing clouds against the beautiful cerulean blue skies, and Saruman's spotless gown really pops against his darker surroundings. But there are also moments where resolution dips and contrast suddenly flattens, such as the scenes with Saruman, the Orcs and the Uruk-Hai in the fiery pits of Isengard or when Boromir is tempted to steal the Ring from Frodo. It's not a glaring problem that happens often, but it is very noticeable nonetheless and stands out against the best moments, which could also be excused as innate to the source. To a smaller degree, there remains evidence of some digital manipulation and very mild noise reduction. It's nothing terribly egregious or remotely close to the degree of Terminator 2, but occasionally, the faces of the cast can appear a tad waxy or lacking the finer details seen in other, better sequences. 

At the same time, as clean and vivid as the whites may be, peak luminosity is frankly on the lower end of the spectrum and not quite as dramatic as we've seen from other releases. Some of the best, brightest moments, however, are at the start when Sauron is defeated, during Gandalf's fireworks display, Frodo's dreamlike vision of Arwen and a few other times. Thankfully, this doesn't affect specular highlights or brightness levels since the jewelry and various other metallic accessories worn by the characters glimmer and shine with eye-catching brilliance and realism. In fact, this is arguably the transfer's strongest aspect, offering a great example of the format's strengths and the benefits of HDR technology. 

2012 Extended Blu-ray Edition:

4K Ultra HD Disc:

While black levels show impressive improvement, looking richer and truer throughout, visibility in the darkest and gloomiest shadows are rather extraordinary. The scenes at and inside the Mines of Moria serve as some of the best examples where we can see every nook and cranny of the chambers and every crevice, crack and pockmark in the masonry is discrete. Or better yet, when Gandalf confronts Durin's Bane, the Balrog bursting into flames offers an excellent demo-worthy freeze-frame, especially when compared to the Blu-ray. The highlights in the flames are tighter and narrower yet remain radiant, allowing for more fine details in the Balrog's face, upper torso, horns and even in his claws. The same is true during Sauron's defeat at the beginning where we can still plainly make him out at the center of the brilliantly hot, white flash and the metallic armor of the surrounding armies intensely sparkle in the light.

Finally, the last aspect of this Dolby Vision HDR presentation is the surprisingly small boost in the colors. Again, that is not to suggest Lesnie's cinematography does not show a notable improvement or benefit because it certainly does, particularly with the primaries looking fuller and better saturated. As mentioned above, the blue sky is a more natural, realistic shade while greens are more lively and accurate, making for some really gorgeous picturesque moments, especially those set at Hobbiton, and the reds of clothing and fire are more animated. Only, the overall palette does not show a significantly wider gamut or more variation in the other hues when compared to its HD SDR counterparts. Looking at the Balrog sequence, once more, the flames certainly blaze a hotter, fiery mix of red, orange and yellow, but it's not the sort of dramatic shift we've come to expect from the format. The same is true of the earthy browns and tans in other sequences or the dreamy quality of Rivendell where everything may appear more colorful after removing the greenish-blue tint of the previous HD version, but it's not by a significant margin. 

In the end, the 4K edition is definitely and undoubtedly an improvement over the Blu-ray with improved highlights, shadow details and healthier, rosier facial complexions in the cast. This is hands down the best way of watching and enjoying the first installment of the trilogy. (Dolby Vision HDR Video Rating: 92/100)

Audio Review

5 Stars out of 5

2012 Extended Blu-ray Edition:

4K Ultra HD Disc:

On the audio side, The Fellowship marches into home theaters with another winner in this spectacularly awesome, demo-worthy Dolby Atmos soundtrack that will have its DTS-HD predecessor running into the darkest caverns of Moira. 

Immediately, Howard Shore's iconic music fills the room with exceptional, room-penetrating clarity, quickly displaying an extensive mid-range with superb warmth and fidelity in the orchestration. While maintaining remarkable acoustical details from start to finish, even during the loudest, most boisterous action sequences, imaging continuously feels wide and expansive as background activity fluidly moves into the off-screen space and into the top heights, creating a highly engaging half-dome wall of sound. One of the more impressive aspects is the ear-piercing screeches from the Orcs and Nazgûl exhibiting splendidly clean separation and distinction into the upper ranges while the clanging of metal in battle scenes resonate throughout the room and envelop the viewer. 

In fact, various other atmospherics constantly employ the side and rear speakers with either the screams and yells of people in battle, the strange yet familiar wildlife of Middle-earth or the joyous cheers of patrons at The Prancing Pony and of hobbits at Bilbo's birthday party. This creates a wonderfully immersive 360° environ that only improves with even more subtle activity coming from the ceiling. For this, the battle inside Moria, proves once again, our go-to scenes for reference, starting from the moment Pippin accidentally causes a raucous and we can plainly hear the crash and the Orcs coming in a distance echoing in every direction and from above. Later, more Orcs crawl overhead and are then interrupted by the Balrog's fiery roar reverberating all around with a discrete popping and hissing sound, or arrows pan flawlessly across the room. The entire scene at Moria is honestly outstanding, generating an awesome hemispheric soundfield that will leave listeners holding tightly to their armrests.  

Amid the chaos, vocals remain precise and very well-prioritized, never drowned out or overwhelmed by the fantasy mayhem. And finally, as has always been the case with all LotR home video editions, an absolutely robust and commanding low-end provides a palpable, wall-rattling presence to the action sequences. The most notable, demo-worthy moments are at the beginning during the battle against Sauron and the aforementioned sequences with the Balrog. (Dolby Atmos Audio Rating: 96/100)

Special Features

0 Stars out of 5

2012 Extended Blu-ray Edition:

4K Ultra HD Disc:

This UHD edition of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy is a standalone release without any of the previous bonus features ported over. 

Final Thoughts

2012 Extended Blu-ray Edition:

4K Ultra HD Disc:

Back in 2001, I walked into Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring slightly hesitant and with low expectations. Thankfully, the New Zealand filmmaker did not disappoint in the least and instead, gave Tolkien fans the definitive adaptation of the book series that still holds up extraordinarily well nearly twenty years later. Journeying across the lands of 4K Ultra HD, the first entry in the trilogy arrives with an exceptional Dolby Vision HDR presentation and a demo-worthy Dolby Atmos soundtrack, providing a notable improvement and satisfying upgrade over its Blu-ray predecessor. Although lacking in special features, the overall UHD package makes for a highly recommended purchase to hold devoted fans over until the next bonus-riddled edition come along.

  • TECH SPECS & RELEASE DETAILS
    Technical Specs:
    Nine-Disc Special Edition
    9 UHD-100 Triple-Layer Discs
    Region Free
    Video Resolution/Codec:
    2160p HEVC/H.265
    Dolby Vision HDR
    HDR10
    Length:228
    Release Country:United States
    Aspect Ratio(s):
    2.40:1
    Audio Formats:
    English Dolby Atmos
    English Dolby TrueHD 7.1
    English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1
    French Dolby Digital 5.1
    Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
    Subtitles/Captions:
    English SDH, French, Spanish
    Movie Studio: Warner Bros.
    Release Date: December 1st, 2020

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