This comprehensive survey of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings is billed as "the definitive guide to the world of the Rings," and it delivers what it promises. Hosted by Tolkien scholar Robert Di Napoli, the 80-min... more »ute documentary is academic without being dry or pretentious, covering such aspects of the Tolkien epic as its literary influences (including Beowulf), character and plot analysis, inspirations on other arts (such as the progressive rock of the 1970s), and enduring popularity. While Tolkien's fiction is spectacularly visualized in the artwork of the Hildebrandt brothers and Roger Dean, an impressive variety of Tolkien experts--from literary scholar Helen Kidd to former Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman--offer eloquent insight into the value of Tolkien's writing. A Hildebrandt gallery is included on the DVD, along with supplemental interview clips to expand on previous discussions and further examine Tolkien's lasting influence. Altogether, this is an eminently respectable study that any Rings fan will readily appreciate. --Jeff Shannon« less
"Produced at as joint production between Cromwell Productions Limited and Eagle Media, J.R.R. TOLKEIN: MASTERS OF THE RINGS: THE DEFINITIVE GUIDE TO THE WORLD OF THE RINGS (not to be confused with an unauthorized version out there by nearly the same name) is a treat for any serious fan of Tolkein. Indeed, I watched the DVD twice the first day I bought it.Perhaps the greatest feature available on the disc is the 3D CGI mapping and virtual tour of Middle-Earth, a treat for the eyes laying out in exacting detail the geography of one of the 20th century's most beloved tales. While the lands of Mordor don't exactly spring to life on the screen before you, the wizards manage to lay out all of the key locations as they (chronologically) appear in THE LORD OF THE RINGS.Additionally, the film on the disc features excerpted interviews with Tolkein experts (ranging from literary critics, Tolkein scholars, Tolkein family members, to military specialists) and even a few words from the master himself, J.R.R. Tolkein. While these video clips are well worth the purchase price, don't be boondoggled: it isn't as if Tolkein gives you any grand insight into the substance behind RINGS, as he spends a great deal talking about WHERE he wrote the epic and not so much his methodology. Certainly, a great deal more information is learned from the others interviewed than from Tolkein.Additionally, the disc offers several brief interviews with artists (including two music videos) whose work is heavily laced with Tolkein inspirations.One feature, an interactive interview with a literary historian, is very interesting, but the footage (for reasons unknown to me) appears fuzzy and 'jiggling' on the screen, whereas the same footage is vibrant and crisp throughout the film.
Lastly, the DVD offers a library of The Brothers Hildebrandt images from throughout the years.Is it a great DVD? For Tolkein purists, you betcha. For Tolkein neophytes inspired by the recent blockbuster film, be warned: the entire story of THE LORD OF THE RINGS is laid out, not in precise detail, but enough to give away some of the surprises that lay ahead for the silver screen."
Sharon Yvonne | Chicago, United States | 10/12/2002
(1 out of 5 stars)
"I bought this DVD based on laudatory reviews I read here and was VERY disappointed in what I got. I was expecting background information on the author and his work, but this DVD contains very little of that. I don't understand HOW in the world it can bill itself as "the definitive guide to the world of the rings." What a joke.My biggest single gripe is that a large part of the DVD consists of a synopsis of the Lord of the Rings, complete with bad renactments of some of the scenes. Not ONE of the "actors" looked remotely suitable for the part he was supposed to be playing, and they were wearing some of the most ludicrous costumes I've ever seen in my life. (Hobbits in plumed hats? Give me a break!) The whole thing was pointless and stupid. It was way too spoiler-ridden for anyone who hasn't read the books, and for those who had, it was stupendously BORING, due to being so poorly done. All in all, a complete waste of time.Another large percentage of the screen time is given over to pretentious prattle from so-called "experts" who don't do a thing except spout their own precious opinions (as opposed to providing actual information that might help the viewer better understand the world created by Tolkien). And then there were the bits about artists and musicians influenced by Tolkien...can we say TEDIOUS, boys and girls? I can't understand why filmmakers think people are even interested in that stuff. I got this video because I wanted to to know more about Middle-Earth, not some no-name musician who wrote a few songs based on Tolkien's books.The DVD also contains an attempt at rendering a 3D landscape of Middle-Earth. That was kind of interesting to watch, but unfortunately, it was not completely accurate. I think the Atlas of Middle-Earth would be a better way to get a handle of on the geography of Tolkien's world.In short, I didn't learn a blasted thing from this DVD that I didn't know already. The only thing that was genuinely new to me was the clips of Tolkien speaking. I'll admit those were sort of amusing, but not, I think, for the reason intended. (Another reviewer here mentioned JRRT's "unintelligble speech" being captured on film. Unintelligible is definitely the word for it...the man may be a great writer, but he talked like he had a mouth full of pipeweed!) Those were worth seeing, but not worth the price of the DVD.If anyone ever makes a GOOD video presentation on the life and work of Tolkien. I'd be happy to buy it. Unfortunately, this is not it."
Informative, Exciting Narrative & 3D Maps of Middle Earth !
forrie | Nashua, NH United States | 01/16/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Finally a very informative collection of film, 3D maps, a chronological detail narrative about the "Lord of the Rings", comments from Tolkien scholars, JRR Tolkiens son & daughter. Plus some film and the voice of the Master Of the Rings himself, JRR Tolkien.This is a very exciting Full Screen DVD. Summary: We get many features with this great "Tolkien Definitve Guide" to Middle Earth. 1.) An 80 minute film with the telling and explanation of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. Narrated, and comments provided by scholars, musicians, Tolkien family members, friends and JRR himself!!! Within this film you have extensive information and superb detailed 3D graphic maps used to move you through the telling of the trilogy. Also the narrator provides very simplified & detailed chronological explanation of this complex tale of JRR Tolkiens, Middle Earth. 2.) A very delightful Illustrations Gallery by the artists "Brothers Hilderbrandt (probably the most famous of the Tolkien Calender Artists). 3.) Musicians Music Videos from Middle Earth - very nice addition. 4.) Comments from various English Scholars and Famous English Musicians (ie Rick Wakeman).The crowning jewel of this DVD is seeing and hearing the Master himself, JRR Tolkien on film. Making his comments and explanations about his lifes work of "Middle Earth". Plus he does a couple of brief readings from the "Hobbit". This is worth the price of admission alone!!!!A great value and an invaluable addition to the Tolkien DVD Library. So don't wait get this DVD!!!!! This is a golden opportunity to enter and possess the masters tool of an unforgetable journey into the world of JRR Tolkiens "Lord of the Rings". Enjoy."
For completists only...
Low-Ranking Reviewer | US of A | 11/01/2002
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I too bought this due to some early 'rave' reviews, and after viewing it all can only think "it's not too bad...at least it didn't cost a lot". The disc basically has a narrator/host telling you the storyline of the Lord of the Rings interspersed with bland re-enactments, computer-generated geographic locations(nothing too complex or awe-inspiring), and interviews with 'experts'. This stuff is ok, but nothing really insightful or extremely interesting(well, the story is...but you can/should read the books for that right?). The two main selling points are some clips of the author and the art gallery. The clips are, as many pointed out, a little hard to hear but it's good to see them nonetheless. The big issue I have is with the Brothers Hildebrandt gallery. When you try to view these in its 'extras' section, you get small versions of them...as if they were framed and mounted on the screen at a distance. What moron decided to do this? You get big full-screen versions of the artwork(most?) in the actual documentary(so i guess you can pause them then to enjoy the detail), but you'd have to sit/fast foward through the feature everytime just to do that. The point of having a stills gallery is to access them all conveniently, but that's ruined by the artwork's small dimensions on the screen. Anyway, I wouldn't recommended this unless you're a completist with money to spare, or a beginner who wants the 'cliff notes' on the books. Not essential by any means due to its dissapointingly executed presentation, but not an entirely bad dvd either."
Master-ly Middle-Earth mess up
donna m lake | petaluma, ca United States | 01/22/2003
(2 out of 5 stars)
""Definitive guide"? NOT.Don't misunderstand. There is some very interesting material in here, some good insights by Napoli, and the Sandhurst instructor, and the real reason for which I bought it, Tolkien himself. However, there was way too much time wasted in amateurishly produced re-enactments of the story, which were redundant in the extreme for a person who is moving outwards from LotR (books or films) and into Middle-Earth as a whole.
The makers did not seem to know what they wanted to do. Their production vacillated from being a showcase of the art of the Brothers Hildebrandt - as if they were the ONLY artists ever to paint ME - through being the promised "guide" - the CG maps were neat, and the discussions of the sources of JRRT's inspiration were good, if somewhat meager - to being (as mentioned above) a synopsis of LotR. Not a lot of guiding done, I'm afraid. There is more information for the curious mind in the Appendices at the end of Return of the King. Simply put, do not expect too much from this production, and you will not be too disappointed. Cuio mae, Celefinn Curunisse"