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The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King 4K Blu-ray Review

At the time when the last payment of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy released on screens in 2003, it had become a real cultural establishment. Book lovers could no longer claim the series on their own; moviegoers embraced it with open arms, embracing the solid direction, got emotionally invested in the characters, and marveled at the visuals (always stunning). Even the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, whose bitter antagonism to fantasy films was well established, hailed it with 11 Oscars, including Best Picture – a feat that is matched only by that. by James Cameron. Titanic.

While Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Asin) continue their journey to the pit of Mt. Doom to destroy the One Ring, Sauron’s Eye closes summoning all manner of evils to thwart it, and their guide, the deceitful Gollum (Andy Serkis) leads them on a trail to certain death. Meanwhile, the World of Men, ruled by Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), prepares for one last fight against the Orc army amassed to ensure their extinction, with success hinging on the destruction of the Ring – which will not go away without fight.

A masterpiece for the ages, Return of the king is, and remains, a spectacular cinematic achievement that has transcended the expectations of its genre to become a true contemporary classic. Driven by strong home video sales, there was no doubt that the longest film in the trilogy was going to grow even longer, and for The king’s return, director Peter Jackson added 51 minutes of footage for the extended cut (not including extended credits). While many, if not most the Lord of the Rings fans prefer these extended cuts, it would be remiss to point out that Peter Jackson indeed prefers theatrical cuts for their more balanced approach, of which he had the final cut.

To celebrate the series’ 20th anniversary, Warner Bros. and Weta Digital have re-released both the the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies as two Ultra HD Blu-ray packages that mirror previous versions of DVD and Blu-ray by offering both the original theatrical cuts (on a 4K disc), as well as the extended cuts (spread over two 4K discs ).

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Video transfer

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is featured in its original 2.39: 1 aspect ratio, encoded with H.265 compression and finished with Dolby Vision and HDR-10 + HDR pass, which also features an HDR-10 base layer.

As with its predecessors, the presentation of Return of the king is not a full 4K restoration – instead, the pre-existing 2K digital intermediate has been converted to 4K. It’s still pretty standard for today’s productions (especially CG heavy blockbusters). However, the age of this digital intermediary, along with its archaic production techniques, make it a difficult production to shine.

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While the remaster offers several upgrades including the newly improved color sync, which takes full advantage of digital tools that didn’t exist, or weren’t mature enough when the film was first released, unfortunately this is compensated by certain often glaring digital. noise reduction, probably used to smooth the image and reduce noise and grain. The side effect is that the image often appears waxy and introduces digital artifacts. It seems that some of the noise reduction goes back to the original production techniques and is incorporated into the digital intermediary (again, this was produced at the cutting edge of technology at the time), but it seems like a bit more noise reduction was added on top of that.

All in all, this is a reasonable but not significant effort that provides just enough leveling for fans and aficionados. Still, it’s hard not to think that a film series of this magnitude deserves more. Until Warner Bros. undertakes a complete restoration of the original negative, in effect reconstructing the digital intermediary and replacing the non-visual effects shots with newly digitized footage and recoloring timing (similar to what the studio did recently with the much shorter, much less CG intensive Matrix trilogy) it’s as good as it gets. Of course, that would be a multi-million dollar restoration effort, and the likelihood of that happening anytime soon is decidedly nil.

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Audio transfer

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is presented with a newly remixed Dolby Atmos object-based audio track.

Again, better than video transfer, the new Atmos track outperforms the still impressive 6.1 mix of the previous Blu-ray release in several hardware ways, including adding height surround channels that provide extra immersion and an enhanced channel. separation. Return of the king has always had a very aggressive and impressive audio track (and won an Academy Award for sound mixing), but the new Atmos mix really takes that up a notch. Compared to the two previous films, Return of the king is much more action-oriented, and the mix responds appropriately, supporting the large number of action sequences aggressively and firmly, but not to the point of tiring viewers.

Dolby Atmos owners will hear the most improvements again, with contemporary sound mixers seizing a number of opportunities to deliver impressive pitch effects that rarely draw attention to their qualities.

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Bonus material

While previous DVD and Blu-ray versions of the Return of the king Featuring hours and hours of bonus features such as documentaries, four audio commentaries, and an archive of marketing material, this 4K version comes with exactly zero bonuses. Even the excellent comments were rejected. Naturally, diehard fans will want to hang on to these previous editions as well.

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