‘Lord of the Rings’ in 4K


Addison Etnier, Staff Writer

19 years ago, the first film of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy released in theaters. Now, the trilogy (as well as its prequel “The Hobbit”) have been released in a 4K set. As well as having the general improved picture quality expected in such a release, the editors went above and beyond to truly perfect the trilogy. They edited the original film at its source and improved the CG where it blends with the rest of the scene, and the audio quality and intensity to create a seamless viewing experience.

My eyes are stinging from dried tears after watching the trilogy for what must be at least the seventh time ever. For the 11-hour marathon (because the Extended Edition is the way to watch), I ate homemade po-tay-to soup and lembas bread. Watching “Lord of the Rings” is always an event and experience for my family. The movies are definitely worth it.

The Blu-Ray editions of the trilogy have always bothered me visually because they seem to have a grainy filter of some sort. The effect made it look obvious that they were from the early 2000’s. However, the 4K rerelease completely fixed this. The films look clear and the quality is as if they were made recently.

As for the CGI, I am pretty impressed. Most of the CG was improved upon, as it blended well into the rest of the objects in the scene. I couldn’t tell at all where a set ended and where a painted backdrop started. The improvement that stood out to me the most, however, was Gollum – which makes sense, seeing as he was the most impressive part of the trilogy visually when it came out. While his model on-screen has always been incredible, the editors found a way to improve on it anyway. He looks less plastic-y and obviously CG (not that he was before) and looks extremely natural in his scenes with Frodo and Sam. His skin looks realistic and his is blended well with the environment. The crystal-clear visuals are also highlighted in close-up shots. One shot was a close-up of Frodo’s hand, which was nearly comedically detailed, and in any face shots I could see every detail of an actor’s face.

The lighting also upgraded. Fans had previously complained about a “green tint” or film in “Fellowship of the Ring,” whereas the 4K version does not have one. Overall, scenes were more dramatically lit; in the Dead Marshes and Osgiliath scenes the color saturation is lower, save for a shot of a nearly colorless Frodo stroking the vividly gold One Ring. The Eye of Sauron was also extremely vivid and highly saturated; it was more visually intimidating than previously. One detail that stood out to me the entirety of the trilogy was how bright of a green the feathers on Legolas’ arrows were, a detail I had never noticed before.

My audio setup was Dolby Atmos, and I was blown away by the intensity of the audio. At own point, doors closed behind two main characters, and I could hear the doors closing from far behind me. In echoey scenes I could hear characters voices being broadcast all around me. My hands-down favorite audio moment was in the climax (SPOILERS), when Frodo holds the Ring aloft above the inferno of Mount Doom. The Ring attempts a last-ditch effort to keep Frodo from destroying it, resulting in a high-pitched shriek like a violent siren’s song. I almost cannot blame him for keeping the Ring after how intense the sound got. Another intense moment was after the Eye of Sauron was destroyed, sending a shock wave to all his allies. My seat vibrated from the intensity of it.

While the films were overall heavily improved quality-wise, there were some hiccups. Several shots were blurry, and a scene at the end with the Hobbits surrounded by a crowd of people was highly disappointing due to the Hobbits looking completely photoshopped in. The biggest oversight that I noticed was the Wargs. They did not look like their CG was blended at all, which was disappointing when everything else was so stunning.

“Lord of the Rings” on 4K was an announcement that sounded almost too good to be true. Most 4K rereleases are simply up-converted in format. However, “LotR” was modified at the source, and the result was a visually and audibly improved version of an already stunning trilogy. For fans of this masterpiece, “Lord of the Rings” on 4K is the capstone on an already exquisite film series. For those who aren’t already fans, “Lord of the Rings” is a must-see, 4K or no – although the 4K edition shows the films at their best.