In every aspect, the extended edition of Peter Jackson's epic fantasy The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is superior to the theatrical version. No-one who cares at all about the film should ever need to watch the original again. Well, maybe the impatient and the squeamish will still prefer it, because this extended edition makes a long film 30 minutes longer and there's a wee bit more violence. But the changes--sometimes whole scenes, sometimes merely a few seconds--make for a richer film. There's more of the spirit of JRR Tolkien, embodied in more songs and a longer opening focusing on Hobbiton. There's more character development, and more background into what is to come in the two subsequent films, such as Galadriel's gifts to the Fellowship and Aragorn's burden of lineage. Some additions make more sense to the plot while others are merely worth seeing, such as the wood elves leaving Middle-earth or the view of Caras Galadhon (but sorry, there's still no Tom Bombadil).
On the DVDs: The Fellowship of the Ring--Extended Version comes in two distinct packages: choose either the four-disc set itself, handsomely presented in a hardback book-style fold-out, or the huge and more expensive Collector's Box Set, which has the same four-disc set accompanied by two chunky "polystone" sculpted Argonath bookends, both of which are solid enough to support either your DVD or Tolkien book collection. The discs themselves have extremely useful chapter menus that indicate which scenes are new or extended. The only drawback is that the film is now spread over two discs, with a somewhat abrupt break following the council at Rivendell, due to the storage capacity required for the longer running time, the added DTS ES 6.1 audio, and the commentary tracks. But that's a minor inconvenience. Of the four commentaries those with the greatest general appeal are the one by Jackson with cowriters Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, and the one by 10 cast members; but the more technically orientated commentaries by the creative and production staff are also worth hearing.
The bonus features (encompassing two complete DVDs) are far superior to the largely promotional materials included on the theatrical release, delving into such matters as script development, casting, and visual effects. This extended edition DVD set is the Fellowship to rule them all. --David Horiuchi