Summary: Spend no more than $60 on this product, especially if you have already purchased the Extended Edition DVDs. It is worth no more than that, due to the extreme lack of effort put in by the studio on this box set.
While it's great to have this amazing trilogy in 1080p Blu Ray format, it's important to keep the following questions in mind before making your purchase:
1. This is ONLY the Extended version of the movie, while the previous Blu Ray release (last year at this time) was ONLY the Theatrical release. Why hasn't the film been released with branches to both in the way that James Cameron does almost all of his releases? Actually, Peter Jackson even did this himself with a dual-layer DVD release of each of these films The Lord of the Rings - The Fellowship of the Ring (Theatrical and Extended Limited Edition)
, but I guess consumers were so sick of buying the same product over and over again between the standard release and the extended release, almost no-one bought the set, making it "rare" (or not). I have to wonder if Peter and the studio are planning yet another release, this time dual-layer, for which we will be expected to shell out the dough?
2. Double-layer Blu Ray discs can handle over 50 GB of information. Each 4 hour feature is contained on a single-layer Blu Ray disc. Why is this? Why wasn't the effort made to put the movies on a dual layer Blu Ray?
3. I'll tell you the reason: The menus. It's much easier to cheaply reproduce the menus from original DVD releases if all you have to do is exactly mimic the original DVD releases. Almost no effort at all was expended to turn the DVD menus into Blu Ray menus, including having the movie begin immediately and the menus accessible through the Blu Ray player menu button, much like The Dark Knight Blu Ray (which was done properly).
Instead, users are subjected to a series of idiotic ads and trailers for new movies prior to beginning this almost 10 year old film. What is the point of that? Oh yeah, money...
4. The special features: For this special, highly-priced release, the studio chose not to upgrade the special features to 1080p and put them on a BluRay with menus suitable for Blu Ray. In fact, they didn't even make the effort to move the standard quality (480p) videos onto a single Blu Ray (for which there would be plenty of room, whether single-layer or double-layer) and do some tweaking of the menus so that you could explore them all within the single Blu Ray.
Why did they not make that effort? Well, let's do some math. The studio had already paid to have the special feature DVDs produced as two standard-quality DVDs almost 10 years ago. At that time, they probably also produced such a high number of those DVDs that it brought the cost of production on those DVDs down to almost nothing. On top of that, they are still selling the Extended DVD box sets to this day, so they are probably still producing them. Now put yourself in the studio's shoes: If you could just repackage the DVDs in a Blu Ray package and try to sell them as if the consumer is receiving something special, would you? Of course not.
And think about this: It also gives the studio a chance to pump up the box set and make it look for more than it is, but it's not. In fact, if you already have the Extended DVDs, you already have all of the special feature DVDs in EXACTLY THE SAME FORMAT AS THE STUDIO IS SELLING THEM TO YOU AGAIN IN THIS BOX.
4. The "rare" Costa Boates documentary: This is NOT rare in any way, shape or form. This is marketers conning you yet again. In fact, you can probably still buy the dual-layer DVD release of these films, which contained both the theatrical and the extended versions of the films in branching format The Lord of the Rings - The Fellowship of the Ring (Theatrical and Extended Limited Edition)
AND as a special feature, contained the Costa Boates documentaries (Costa Boates was a special, "handpicked" director in that marketing collateral). The only thing "rare" about these docs is that consumers had already purchased the Theatrical and Extended cuts that they passed on the product I linked to above, so it's "rare" in the sense that very few people bothered to see it.
5. More special features: The Theatrical release on Blu Ray and DVD contains different special features than the Extended release on Blu Ray and DVD. So what am I missing? Do I need to buy both sets to get the whole story? Or does the content on the Extended release encompass that of the Theatrical release, but in a more structured narrative and not excluding any information from the Theatrical release?
If so, fine. If not, why am I expected to buy both packages? Why can I not just buy a branching version with all content on Blu Ray with Blu Ray menus? Why am I absolutely sure I'm being conned here?
So to summarize:
1. The three stars are for the films themselves, not for the packaging. The films are amazing on DVD and Blu Ray.
2. Why aren't the films on a single-dual layer Blu Ray?
3. Why aren't the films branched into Theatrical and Extended? Why must I purchase the films twice?
4. Why are the standard DVD special features being sold to me again in 480p DVD format?
5. The Costa Boates docs (also in DVD format) are not rare at all. Please don't talk to me like I'm stupid.
6. The package should be as follows to be worth more than $100:
a. Dual-layer branching Theatrical and Extended versions of each film, each on a single Blu Ray, not over two Blu Rays.
b. The original Extended Special Features on a single dual-layer Blu-Ray, with re-configured menus to fit the Blu Ray format.
c. The Costa Boates doc and the Theatrical Edition Special Features on a single, dual-layer Blu Ray, with menus to fit the Blu Ray format.
d. That equals 3 dual-layer Blu Rays per film, for a total of 9 Blu Rays.
If the studio is smart, they will issue this release. Of course, by that point we will have already bought the Theatrical and Extended Blu Ray cash cows, so we may reject the dual-layer branching Blu Rays like we did the DVD versions.
This means that either the studio is a) incompetent or b) greedy and, if b) then b) is related to a) and is truly preventing them from delivering good, competent product to willing consumers.
To conclude, spend no more than $60 on this product, especially if you have already purchased the Extended Edition DVDs. It is worth no more than that, due to the extreme lack of effort put in by the studio on this box set.