Miami Mofo here to say that I have seen (and heard) the future! I am refering, of course, to last evening’s screening of the digitally projected, special extended version of ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.’
Last Thursday, I received an e-mail from AOL/Moviefone informing me that I had been chosen to attend the special screening. As excitied as I was to receive this news, my enthusiasm was somewhat tempered by the fact that I had a 240 mile, 3 1/2 hour drive from Miami to Orlando if I wanted to see it. Seven hours of driving (plus $50 in gas and tolls) to watch something on the big screen that I’ll be able to watch seven days later at home did sound kind of extreme. Fortunately however, I noticed the words “digitally projected” on the invite which piqued my curiousity even further, which eventually led to my deciding to go. So yesterday at 1:15PM, ignoring the voice in my head that said, “Fly, you fool,” I loaded the LotR:FotR soundtrack into my car’s cd changer, and hit the road for the drive to the AMC Pleasure Island theatres in Lake Buena Vista, Fl.
Three and a half hours later I found myself in ‘Downtown Disney’ (sigh … you just can’t escape the Mouse when traveling to Central Florida), presenting my pass, and receiving in return, entrance to the theatre AND a coupon for a free popcorn and a drink courtesy of DLP Cinema/Texas Instruments (see scan). Unfortunately, the concessionaire didn’t have a clue when I asked for a ‘proper 1420,’ so I had to settle for a coke instead. I then proceeded to theatre 19 (of 24) and was delighted to find a center seat, four rows up in the stadium seating section, so that my eyes were center screen, both horizontally and vertically. As I sat down, I couldn’t help but wonder how much better could the digital projection viewing experience possibly be when compared to the last time I saw LotR:FotR on the big screen. That was back on March 29th, when The Two Towers preview was added to the final final reel of what turned out to be a perfect print. Fifteen minutes later when the lights dimmed, I would have my answer.
The screening began, appropriately enough, with the current T2T trailer, and although I was immedately struck by how incredible the visual quality was, it was the audio that blew me away! From the moment that Sir Ian says, “I return now at the turn of the tide,” the timbre and resonance of his voice, coming through the theatre speakers, made me realize just how special this presentation was going to be. Two minutes later, with my heart still racing, the special extended version began.
I’m not going to go into the added and extended scenes — others before me have done that quite nicely, thank you, except to say that they were a delight to watch. I was worried that these scenes might decrease my appreciation of the original release because of feeling cheated by the fact that said scenes were not in the original, but I’m happy to report that this was not the case — with the sole exception of Lothlorien. I’m afraid New Line dropped the ball when they forced PJ to cut that scene. The other added/extended scenes were not as critical, but definitely enhanced the Fellowship experience. But what REALLY enhanced the experience, was digital projection. Everything was crystal clear in perfect focus (and will remain so — no print degradation), with perfect sound — every word of dialogue, every note of the soundtrack, every sound effect from the wind gently whistling through the trees to the monstrous Balrog, all heard in perfect clarity. I can still hear the ring hit the floor when Bilbo drops it even as I type this. The experience was, in a word, perfect, and well worth the trip, even though I didn’t return home until 1:15AM.