Accidentally made this the first watch of both 2021 and 2022. Oops.

I have nothing new to say about the film, which remains a masterpiece, but I would love to write about the 4K disc, which I received as a gift from my in-laws for my birthday last month. (If a film’s presentation is irrelevant to you, this is your warning to move along.)

First, the good news: shadow detail is revelatory, and HDR makes these films look more tonally balanced than they ever did before. In short, they look how you remember they look. I don’t find that’s always true when you watch something at home. But they’ve also changed the colour timing. Mostly, this is in the film’s favour, but the flashbacks are all desaturated now (save for orange), which I found distracting.

The score has never sounded better. Edge enhancement has disappeared, at least to my eyes, which is a huge improvement over the Blu-rays.

Unfortunately, Peter Jackson also scrubbed all the film grain out of these transfers, so detail is often lacking. Medium-distance shots look flat and lifeless, and dimly lit interiors are near-DVD quality. People’s faces are either very sharp (when they’re still), or waxy when they speak, since the digital noise reduction doesn’t handle motion well. These are massive downgrades compared to the old Blu-ray. They scrubbed so much noise that, at one point, they literally scrubbed a couple pieces of Saruman’s staff out of some shots.

All in all (and I haven’t watched The Two Towers or Return of the King yet), this is probably the worst 4K disc I own.

That being said, this franchise looked so bad on Blu-ray that this is still a solid upgrade in most respects. These films had the best DVDs of all time. I’m still waiting for WB or Peter Jackson to give them high-resolution transfers of similar quality.

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