Ultra HD: Highly Recommended
4.5 Stars out of 5
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Release Date: November 16th, 2021
Movie Release Year: 2014
MPAA Rating: Restricted
Release Country: United States
COLLAPSE INFO -

Middle-earth 6-Film Ultimate Collector's Edition - 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray

Review Date November 13th, 2021 by
Overview -

Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of Peter Jackson's film adaptation and the first installment in J.R.R. Tolkien's classic and iconic fantasy saga, Warner Bros Home Video has assembled the entire franchise into one massive thirty-one disc box set, dubbed Middle-earth Ultimate Collector's Edition. Housed inside their own dedicated individual keepcases, this impressive 4K Ultra HD box set features stunningly gorgeous Dolby Vision HDR presentations and reference-quality Dolby Atmos soundtracks for each film. Although we're still missing all the exhaustive bonus material from previous releases, this beautifully attractive edition nonetheless comes with a few new surprises and goodies, making it a Highly Recommended addition to the 4K library that devoted collectors will be proud to display on their shelves.

OVERALL
Highly Recommended
  • TECH SPECS & RELEASE DETAILS
    Technical Specs:
    Thirty-One Disc UHD Combo Edition
    15 UHD-100 Triple-Layered Discs
    15 BD-50 Dual-Layered Discs
    1 BD-25 Single-Layered Disc
    Region Free
    Video Resolution/Codec:
    2160p HEVC/H.265
    Dolby Vision HDR
    HDR10
    Length:2290
    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
    Special Features:
    Audio Commentaries (Blu-ray Only)
    Featurettes
    Postcards
    Booklet
    Blu-ray Copies
    Digital Copies
    Movie Studio: Warner Bros. Entertainment
    Release Date: November 16th, 2021

Story Review Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

4 Stars out of 5

[Excerpt from our review for An Unexpected Journey HERE

"With the same CG spectacle and visual eye candy as seen in The Lords of the Rings trilogy, director Peter Jackson returns to Middle-earth with the bloated idea of stretching a tale that Tolkien told in a single book into a three-part trilogy. Granted, the end result is at times a wondrous and somewhat exhilarating adventure, but it is also unnecessary to incorporate material from the original trilogy or expand otherwise minor characters into significant contributors in a plot that hammers itself into an unrelated storyline. For all its minor, and arguably forgivable, imperfections, however, the first in the trilogy remains an entertaining fantasy and decent start to the adventure." (Movie Rating: 3/5)

[Excerpt from our review for The Desolation of Smaug HERE]

"Picking up soon after the events of An Unexpected Journey, the next chapter in the epic-fantasy trilogy based on one book is an unexpected improvement over its predecessor, introducing a few new characters — as far as the original source is concerned — while still managing to stay faithful to Tolkien's vision. In this adventure, while in the guild of brave dwarves, Peter Jackson and his team appease the devoted fandom with the appearance of Beorn (Mikael Persbrandt), the shapeshifting giant who's only ever seen changing into a bear, imbuing an air of mystery and generating some well-earned sympathy. Of course, his purpose is simply to set Thorin and his company back on the right path to reclaiming the Lonely Mountain from the fire-breathing dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch)." (Movie Rating: 4/5) 

[Excerpt from our review for The Battle of Five Armies HERE

"In spite of the thrilling visuals on display, however, the clash between the dwarves, elves, humans and eagles against a terrifying horde of goblins and orcs doesn't quite measure up to the encounters seen in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. It's a shame really since the story picks up immediately where the second film left off with explosive action and mayhem as Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) sets Laketown ablaze. The promise by this visually potent and energetic start soon subsides when it becomes clear that Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and Bilbo (Martin Freeman) are treated as side characters to the clash over who has a rightful claim to the share of the gold. Thorin's (Richard Armitage) gold-lust and Arkenstone obsession blinds him from peaceful negotiations with the Bard (Luke Evans) and Elvenking Thranduil (Lee Pace) while Azog and his Orc army fight for the mountain as a strategic stronghold." (Movie Rating: 3/5)

[Excerpt from our review for The Fellowship of the Ring HERE

"To my amazement, [Peter] 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. 

"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." (Movie Rating: 5/5) 

[Excerpt from our review for The Two Towers HERE

"Going bigger and bolder, Jackson undoubtedly outdid himself in [The Two Towers] and again, managed to surpass all expectations while also remaining faithful to Tolkien's central theme of the second volume. As the title so eloquently suggests, this plot where we keep inching closer to the volcanic plains of Mordor is, at its heart, a battle of duality, of life's opposing forces pulling and tugging at us to go in one direction or another and of the conflict between good versus evil, doing right versus wrong. And Gollum is pivotal for bringing this to the forefront, as he struggles internally with his desire for the One Ring but also wishes to be rid of it. This is also demonstrated in Saruman's industrialization and exploitation of nature and its resources versus the Ents fighting to preserve it." (Movie Rating: 5/5)

[Excerpt from our review for The Return of the King HERE

"[One] of my favorite aspects of Jackson's [The Return of the King], which he co-wrote with Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, [are the minor alterations for a surprisingly more compelling and poignant tale of heroism and hope]. The bravery, courage and gallantry traditionally associated with heroism is not a purely masculine trait, but it's a quality found in any individual fighting to defend their home and loved ones. This is not only beautifully captured by the actions of Éowyn and Sam but also eloquently expressed by Merry's speech joining the war simply to help his friends rather than any expected loftier ideals. This theme in the third film is all the better when Aragon displays both stereotypically masculine and feminine traits, a confident leader who is also humble and submissive, someone who is viewed as manly but unafraid to show emotion and fear. And it is this balance in his personality that ultimately makes him a great king, a ruler others willingly and gladly follow while audiences proudly cheer to prevail. 

"It is a well-earned, heartfelt conclusion to one of the greatest film franchises of all time, one that stood the test of time and continues to entertain a younger generation of moviegoers." (Movie Rating: 5/5)

Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray

Warner Home Video brings home Peter Jackson's six-film adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien's classic novels The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray as a massive thirty-one disc package. Dubbed Middle-earth Ultimate Collector's Edition, the entire epic fantasy adventure arrives in a gorgeous box that can be arranged into three unique designs for display on the shelf. The first is a simple enclosed box decorated with various collage images from each film. When opening the box at the center, it can be reconfigured to display the franchise set to look like books. The final design opens into an extended, black-and-gold display with the ring's original inscription in Black Speech, or flip it around to display the collage artwork from the films.

All six films are housed in their own dedicated black, eco-elite keepcase with glossy slipcovers featuring new cover art and center spindles comfortably holding more discs. In total, there are fifteen triple-layered UHD100 discs, six of which contain the theatrical cuts of each film. But the extended editions of each Hobbit movie are on one UHD disc while the extended editions of The Lord of the Rings films are spread across a pair of UHD discs. The same applies to the fifteen dual-layered BD50 discs inside each keepcase, but they now feature new AVC encodes struck from the same 4K remasters as their HEVC counterparts.

A final silver blue box at the end houses another Region Free, BD25 disc on a digipak-style plastic tray, containing all-new special features. Also inside is a 64-page glossy booklet with color photos, production stills and concept art of the costume design for each film and brief descriptions of the work performed. In addition, there is a sturdy, attractive set of seven double-sided, travel postcards for each film and one for Rivendell. And finally, there are two flyers with Digital Copy codes for both trilogies redeemable at MoviesAnywhere, granting owners access to the 4K UHD digital versions of the films in Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos audio. 

  • TECH SPECS & RELEASE DETAILS
    Technical Specs:
    Thirty-One Disc UHD Combo Edition
    15 UHD-100 Triple-Layered Discs
    15 BD-50 Dual-Layered Discs
    1 BD-25 Single-Layered Disc
    Region Free
    Video Resolution/Codec:
    2160p HEVC/H.265
    Dolby Vision HDR
    HDR10
    Length:2290
    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
    Special Features:
    Audio Commentaries (Blu-ray Only)
    Featurettes
    Postcards
    Booklet
    Blu-ray Copies
    Digital Copies
    Movie Studio: Warner Bros. Entertainment
    Release Date: November 16th, 2021

Video Review

4.5 Stars out of 5

[From our review for An Unexpected Journey

"The teal-orange aesthetic in Andrew Lesnie's cinematography benefits greatly and arguably, offers the more dramatic upgrade in this UHD edition. The Dolby Vision HDR presentation comes with a wider and fuller array of secondary hues throughout, from the striking mix of bubblegum pinks, royal violets and indigo blues of sunsets to the healthy, rosy-peach tones in the faces of the entire cast. Warmer, buttery yellows bathe several interiors scenes like the dinner at Bilbo's or at Rivendell, but other scenes are engulfed in the fiery orange and deep marigold glow of the fire. Gollum also has more of a silver coin tone to him, and the browns in the costumes are impressively varied while reds and greens are more vibrant and richly saturated, making for a stunning upgrade overall." (Dolby Vision HDR Video Rating: 94/100)

[From our review for The Desolation of Smaug]

"The second adventure in the Hobbit series finds its way to Ultra HD with a remarkably stunning, demo-worthy HEVC H.265 encode that offers a massive upgrade over its Blu-ray brethren. Reportedly coming from a brand-new remaster of the original elements, the native 4K transfer is consistently detailed and razor-sharp, exposing the tiniest flaw and imperfection in the clothing, armor, buildings and various weapons. The individual hairs of the entire cast are shockingly even more discrete, and the stitching and fabric in the costumes are amazingly distinct and realistic while the intricate patterns in some outfits, such as in the elvish clothing and armor, are striking. We can better make out every nook and cranny in the stage production, from the small rust spots in the set of Laketown to the individual grain in the wood." (Dolby Vision HDR Video Rating: 96/100)

[From our review for The Battle of Five Armies

"This 4K edition remains the king of the mountain thanks to the improved contrast and brightness balance, supplying the action and the many daylight exteriors a  noticeably brighter and more energetic appeal. Whites really pop off the screen with vibrant luminosity, giving the hottest areas like the sunshine bouncing off the stone edges of Dale and the fluffy clouds in the sky an enthusiastic glow that's true to life. Specular highlights are top-notch and radiantly mesmerizing, equipping the armor and the edges of various weapons with a realistic metallic brilliance or the jewelry and eyes of the cast with a dramatic sparkle. A good chunk of the movie is also inundated in luxurious, inky-rich blacks that penetrate deep into the screen, providing the 2.40:1 image with an appreciable, three-dimensional cinematic quality. Velvety, stygian shadows remarkably never obscure the finer details in the darkest portions or in the blackest corners of Erebor's poor-lit halls." (Dolby Vision HDR Video Rating: 94/100)

[From our review for The Fellowship of the Ring

"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." (Dolby Vision HDR Video Rating: 92/100)

[From our review for The Two Towers

"The most impressive improvement in this fresh transfer is the better contrast and brightness balance throughout, boasting pitch-perfect, splendidly brilliant whites that make the action pop with sometimes eye-squinting brilliance. A case in point is the dramatic entrance of Gandalf the White where the white light behind him glows with intense radiance and excellent peak luminosity. Specular highlights are likewise extraordinary, supplying a more true-to-life splendor to the clouds in the sky, a narrower sparkle in the jewelry and accessories, and adds more realistic metallic polish to the swords and armor, most notably during The Battle of the Hornburg as the elvish helmets and suits glisten from the glow of the moon and rain. Speaking of which, the 4K video is consistently bathed in silky, raven blacks and remarkable shadow details in the darkest, blackest segments, providing the 2.40:1 image with a gorgeous cinematic quality. The best examples of this are the halls of Rohan and Wormtongue's entire appearance where we see excellent gradational differences between the various shades and still plainly make out the finer aspects of the building or Wormtongue's velvety, furry coat." (Dolby Vision HDR Video Rating: 94/100)

[From our review for The Return of the King

"Overlooking those, however, the 4K video is magnificent with improved contrast balance, displaying pitch-perfect whites in every scene, from Gandalf's immaculately clean hair to the marble-like walls of The Tower Hall. Interestingly, as in The Fellowship, peak luminosity is on the lower end of the spectrum and not quite as dramatic as we've seen from other releases. Nevertheless, specular highlights provide a narrower radiant glow in the brightest, hottest spots, such as the flowing flames swirling around the palantír or the way Shelob's web glistens the light of Frodo's crystal phial. While the clouds during daylight sequences have a lovely, true-to-life splendor to them, the armor and various weaponry come with a realistic polish and sheen that twinkles in the sunlight. Brightness levels are equally impressive with inky rich blacks in the clothing and dark, velvety shadows that never obscure the finer details but penetrate deep into the screen, providing the 2.40:1 image with an attractive cinematic appeal." (Dolby Vision HDR Video Rating: 94/100)

Audio Review

5 Stars out of 5

[From our review for An Unexpected Journey

"The first chapter in the trilogy arrives with an outstanding, reference-quality Dolby Atmos soundtrack that fills the room with a variety of subtle ambient effects playing almost non-stop throughout the film's entire runtime. The scenes with Radagast the Brown are particularly impressive as all sorts of wildlife are heard constantly making a racket from every direction. Expectedly, battle sequences come to life with arrows flying directly overhead, swords swinging clear across the room and the goblins swarming all around the listening area. Inside Gollum's cave, voices echo everywhere with remarkable realism, and panning is fluid and flawless, generating an immersive hemispheric soundfield that's pits viewers in the middle of the action. Also, Howard Shore's score fluidly bleeds into the surrounds and heights, enveloping the listener with the exhilaration and excitement demanded of the visuals." (Dolby Atmos Audio Rating: 98/100)  

 

[From our review for The Desolation of Smaug]

"This UHD edition of the fantasy sequel chalks up another win with an impressive, highly-satisfying Dolby Atmos soundtrack that rivals and surpasses its DTS-HD predecessor.

"As soon as the music and action begins, listeners can appreciate the improvement in the mid-range, exhibiting the smallest detail with superb, crystal-clear clarity. Whether it's Howard Shore's score or the many action sequences, acoustical details in the upper ranges display outstanding distinction and definition, allowing for each death yell of the Orcs and every clash of metal swords to be heard with amazing precision and directionality. The sizzle of Smaug's fiery breadth is discrete and accurate as it echoes throughout the room and into the top heights, creating an awesome half-dome soundstage. All the while, dialogue remains precise and very well-prioritized amid the loudest, chaotic segments." (Dolby Atmos Audio Rating: 96/100)

 

[From our review for The Battle of Five Armies

"On the other hand, the constant use of sound effects throughout are the track's ultimate highlight, sure to sweep the audience away and drop them in the middle of this fantastical world. Imaging is layered with tons of background activity fluidly moving across the screen and into the top heights along with Shore's music, generating a highly-engaging, half-dome wall of sound that feels constant. A variety of subtle ambient effects expand into the surrounds and ceiling channels to create a stunningly immersive 360° soundfield. The scenes of war and mayhem provide are even more active with battle cries and howls effectively circling the listener while arrows, eagles and bats fly overhead with flawless panning, creating an awesomely satisfying hemispheric dome. In the end, the final chapter in the trilogy comes with a marvelous and highly-enjoyable mix." (Dolby Atmos Audio Rating: 96/100)

 

[From our review for The Fellowship of the Ring

"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." (Dolby Atmos Audio Rating: 96/100)

 

[From our review for The Two Towers

"Overlooking [a slightly weaker than expected low-end], which brings it down a couple notches, the design's saving grace is how well sound engineers employed and utilized all the channels for creating an awesome 360° environ. As would be expected, the battle scenes at Helm's Deep and Isengard offer, of course, some of the best demo-worthy moments, as arrows fly across the ceiling, debris rains down from all directions and the cries of soldiers from either side are distinctly heard in the distance. My favorite scenes, however, are the quieter ones with the local wildlife of Middle-earth filling the entire room or while traveling through the Dead Marshes, a Black Rider on his fellbeast discretely fly overhead, panning between the channels flawlessly. And then, there are a couple brief moments when Éomer and the Rohirrim are plainly heard riding from behind the listening area." (Dolby Atmos Audio Rating: 96/100)

 

[From our review for The Return of the King

"The object-based mix also astounds with various subtle ambient effects bouncing and moving between all the channels with convincing effectiveness, creating an amazing 360° soundscape that lasts from start to finish. The wind faintly blows across the room, and we can practically feel a chill in the air when wandering the Dead Men's cavernous lair. During quieter moments, the heights are often employed with the distant chirping of birds and other wildlife, and water seems to drip from the ceiling when venturing through Shelob's nest while Gollum's taunts echo and fluidly move all around the listening area. Of course, the battle scenes offer the best demo-worthy moments as boulders and arrows fly from one side of the room to the other and debris scatters in every direction. The Nazgûl on their fellbeasts flawlessly pan overhead as every flap and screech is discretely heard, generating an immersive hemispheric soundfield that puts the viewer in the center of the chaos. One of the more impressive moments is hearing the ropes strapping the Oliphaunts tugged and pulled directly above the listener, making an immensely satisfying listen at home." (Dolby Atmos Audio Rating: 98/100)

Special Features

2 Stars out of 5

For this UHD collector's edition, Warner has ported over the same audio commentaries from the previous Blu-ray releases and made them available on the accompanying BD copies of each film. But they have also culled together new bonus material that is exclusive to this set and contained on its own dedicated BD disc. Sadly, for hardened, loyal fans, this edition is still missing all the Appendices and special features from the previous Blu-ray releases of all six films, meaning fans will continue waiting for a true, exhaustive Ultimate box set.  

Bonus BD disc

  • Alamo Drafthouse Presents The Lord of the Rings Cast Reunions (HD) houses three separate interview segments hosted by comedian, television host and avid Tolkien fan Stephen Colbert, and they were conducted via Zoom during the pandemic. 
    • The Fellowship of the Ring (40 min) with Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan
    • The Two Towers (32 min) with Viggo Mortensen, Liv Tyler, Cate Blanchett and Orlando Bloom 
    • The Return of the King (30 min) with Peter Jackson, Ian McKellen and Andy Serkis
  • Festival de Cannes Presentation Reel (HD, 27 min) 

Final Thoughts

[From our review for the 4K trilogy set of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings]

"Although failing to reach the heights of the original Lord of the Rings trilogy, Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey makes for a decent and mildly enjoyable return to Middle-earth. Picking up soon after those events, The Desolation of Smaug improves upon its predecessor and continues the adventure with more satisfying effectiveness. Sadly, The Battle of the Five Armies concludes the needlessly overlong adaptation of Tolkien's prequel more with a whimper than as the exciting conclusion to the grandiose adventure it originally set out to be. 

"Back in 2001, I walked into Jackson's The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring slightly hesitant and with low expectations, but thankfully, the New Zealand filmmaker did not disappoint in the least. A year later, Jackson surprised and further exceeded expectations with The Two Towers, littering the screen with a stunning spectacle that effectively brings fantasy characters to life. And then, without fail, he outdid himself once more in The Return of the King, a breathtaking, Oscar-winning conclusion with excellent performances and dazzling, sweeping camerawork."

Celebrating the 20th Anniversary release of the first installment in Jackson's epic fantasy saga, Warner Bros Home Video journeys the tough terrain of 4K Ultra HD once more with both trilogies housed together in a massive 31-disc box set, dubbed the Middle-earth Ultimate Collector's Edition. Each of the six films features a spectacularly gorgeous and stunning Dolby Vision HDR presentation and a reference-quality Dolby Atmos audio mix, delivering splendidly satisfying and notable upgrades over their previous Blu-ray counterparts. Although lacking in special features, this impressive UHD edition of the entire franchise makes for an awesome, Highly Recommended addition to the 4K library, but the collector's box set makes for a must-own purchase for loyal, devoted fans until the next bonus-riddled edition comes along.

All disc reviews at High-Def Digest are completed using the best consumer HD home theater products currently on the market. More about the gear used for this review.

  • TECH SPECS & RELEASE DETAILS
    Technical Specs:
    Thirty-One Disc UHD Combo Edition
    15 UHD-100 Triple-Layered Discs
    15 BD-50 Dual-Layered Discs
    1 BD-25 Single-Layered Disc
    Region Free
    Video Resolution/Codec:
    2160p HEVC/H.265
    Dolby Vision HDR
    HDR10
    Length:2290
    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
    Special Features:
    Audio Commentaries (Blu-ray Only)
    Featurettes
    Postcards
    Booklet
    Blu-ray Copies
    Digital Copies
    Movie Studio: Warner Bros. Entertainment
    Release Date: November 16th, 2021