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Tuesday, 6 August, 2002, 14:31 GMT 15:31 UK
DVD born for the Rings
Christopher Lee, who played powerful wizard Saruman the White
Christopher Lee launched the DVD in the UK

The best thing about Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring on DVD is that you can get up, pause it and pop to the toilet.

This is of great importance in a movie that is nearly three hours long and demands fairly constant attention, lest you miss a plot-sensitive disembowelling or narrow escape.

The story is beautifully brought to the screen, the tale of a group of diminutive hobbits in a fantasy landscape who have to take on the dark Lord Sauron by destroying the ring of power he would like to get hold of.

The Fellowship of the Ring
It should make people go out and buy a DVD Player
As a cinematic spectacle, the film pulls it off with all the right costumes, make-up and even casting spot on, all important in winning over the legions of fans with their own fantasies about one of the most popular books ever written.

And despite its cinematic qualities, it makes the transition from big to small screen - like Gladiator - suprisingly well.

As long as you have a frighteningly big television that is.

If you are watching it on something that looks as though it ought to be carrying a feed from a CCTV camera, do not bother buying this disc.

But the strength of Lord of the Rings is that like Gladiator and Harry Potter, it is going to make people go out and buy that DVD player and that widescreen TV that they had not previously got round to.

If there is one major criticism of the movie, it is that the pacing is too quick, with the film jumping from spectacular set piece straight to set piece.

JRR Tolkien
JRR Tolkien painstakingly provided reams of appendix material
Sometimes you just want to stop and drink in the mindboggling production design and computer graphics, without having to concentrate on the cast fighting off ringwraiths and uruk-hai.

The strength of the book is that it is in no hurry to get anywhere.

It can be read on a number of levels using the maps, extensive family trees and reams of appendix material on Middle Earth's languages and history that JRR Tolkien painstakingly provided.

And the hardcore fans and newly-converted will also be picking up this DVD with a wish-list of extra material in mind.

The main behind-the-scenes feature on the second disc is over 40 minutes long and contains all the relevant cast interviews and detail on the costumes, make-up and swordplay.

There are two other 15-minute features as well as a lengthier preview of the next episode of Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.

Fellowship of the Ring
Some behind-the-scenes material is duplicated
The disc also contains a comprehensive set of trailers and TV adverts, a video game preview and various other items.

It is a shame there is not a wealth of deleted scenes, which would have been nice in a film that has been crammed into three hours from a lengthy tome.

Fans will have to wait until November for those when an extended four-disc DVD with 30 minutes of extra footage will be released.

Some of the cast interviews also disappoint, wandering into the anodyne.

There is only so much you can take of the stars saying how "lucky and blessed" they were to have been able to give two years of their life to the project, and the bland American voiceover irritates.

There is duplication across the behind-the-scenes material, and an annoying corporate type reading blankly off an autocue in an effort to advertise the book spin-offs from the movie.

Also missing among the voiceovers intoning "they said it couldn't be done", and technical detail, is any impression of the bigger struggle .

When people heard Peter Jackson - far from a Hollywood powerhouse - would be filming all three films together for 190m in New Zealand, they expected another Heaven's Gate/Apocalypse Now-style filming ordeal.

Instead, the behind-the-scenes features suggest it was all plain sailing.

But there remains plenty to watch here in addition to a chance to see the kind of movie that DVD technology was invented for.

Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is now available on DVD and video.

See also:

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