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The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King: Extended Edition

The end of an era, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King: Extended Edition is the last piece of the LOTR puzzle to come down the pike, and it's a spectacular final installment. Following up on the theatrical cut of Return of the King, and finishing out the Extended Edition trilogy (with the first reviewed here and the second here), the new cut adds 50 minutes of new footage to the Best Picture winner (with an additional 20 minutes of fan credits) and — much like the theatrical cut of RotK — is the longest of the bunch. But though the running time is elongated, the rhythms play better here; the story gets to take its time and allows for more grace notes and better characterization. Bottom line: Director Peter Jackson has made a great film better. The movie is presented in a stunning anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) and is spread over two discs, as in keeping with the template already established for the series. The audio is similarly spectacular and available in Dolby Digital 5.1 EX, Dolby Surround 2.0, and DTS 6.1 ES. And on Disc One and two there are Easter eggs. As for supplements there are four audio commentaries and — on Discs Three and Four — 16 featurettes ("J.R.R. Tolkien: The Legacy of Middle-Earth," "From Book to Script: Forging the Final Chapter," "Designing and Building Middle-Earth," "Big-atures," "WETA Workshop," "Costume Design," "Home of the Horse Lords," "New Zealand as Middle Earth," "Cameras in Middle-Earth," "WETA Digital," "Editorial: Completing the Trilogy," "Music for Middle-Earth," "The Soundscapes of Middle-Earth," "The End of All Things," "The Passing of an Age," "Cameron Duncan: The Inspiration for "Into the West") with a combined running time north of six hours, along with production stills and art galleries (some with optional commentary) and an interactive Middle-earth Atlas. Four-DVD digipak in paperboard slipcase.

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