Die hard fans of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings franchise could be the most punished DVD buyers in the history of film. They’ve been through so many incarnations of the trilogy on DVD that it could be prosecuted in a court of law. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, which distributes the former New Line property, has released the standard editions, extended editions and several “collector’s edition” box sets for the series since the release of Return of the Kind in 2003.
On April 6th, the distributor will release the first ever High Definition edition of Lord of the Rings in a 9-disc Blu-ray set that will include all three films and seven hours of special features. The special features will be comprised of featurettes and behind the scenes information seen in previous DVD releases, as well as featurettes from LordOfTheRings.net and HD trailers. The wild card is commentary tracks, which have not yet been announced.
What is evident from this announcement is that this will not be the final, essential Blu-ray release of LOTR. This release will not include the “extended” versions of the films, which were released separately from the original DVDs. This includes the gigantic 250-minute version of Return of the King, which would have no problem fitting onto any one of the 9 discs in the box set.
According to Video Business, Warner Bros. has said that they intend to release the extended editions on Blu-ray “at a later date,” a decision that has die hard fans (rightfully) crying foul. Essentially, they are double-dipping with these releases because they know they can. Much of the mainstream audience with Blu-ray players will be drawn to the first release, remembering the Tolkien adaptations that dominated the Oscars in the early years of this decade. While the most dedicated of fans will not only buy the first set, but another in time. So many fans have adopted the extended editions of the films as the “real” versions, leaving them almost helpless if they desire to see these beautiful films in glorious high definition.
I would finish by stating my own opinion on the matter, but it should be obvious. I’m with the fans. If a Lord of the Rings Blu-ray is going to be worth $99.98 (or $69.99 on Amazon pre-order), it should have the extended versions of the film. Fans should not have to buy it a second time.