PHOTO:Treebeard, voiced by John Rhys-Davies, who also plays the dwarf Grimli, is one of the intriguing characters in “The Two Towers,” the second film of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy (2001-03, New Line, 6 Blu-ray discs, 13 hours). Collected here are the theatrical versions of the three films, “The Fellowship of the Ring,” “The Two Towers” and “The Return of the King,” presented on Blu-ray for the first time. Reportedly, the extended versions will be released on Blu-ray in 2011 or 2012.

That would raise the question of whether one should wait. Cost-wise it might make sense — I don’t know why, with seamless branching, that both versions of each film were not offered together – but certainly the films have never looked better. The amount of added detail that can be seen in such scenes as the Elvish city of Rivendale and the mines of Moria in “Fellowship” and from the small, the spirits in the marsh water, to the vast, the destruction of Isengard, in “Two Towers,” is simply stunning. Details of the many creatures leap out at you, among them Treebeard, the walking-talking tree Ent.

For those unfamiliar with the films or J.R.R. Tolkien’s original books, the story is about how a simple Hobbit (Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins) is taken out of his idyllic everyday existence in the Shire when the wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) asks him to take the One Ring (“one ring to rule them all”) to destroy it by casting it into the volcanic Mount Doom in Mordor. Mordor, however, is also home to the evil wizard Sauren, whose all-seeing eye can view through the Ring and to whom the Ring is drawn. The Ring had been found by Bilbo Baggins, who finally gives it up on his 111th birthday. Accompanying Frodo from the Shire are fellow Hobbits Samwise Gamgee (Sean Astin), Peregrin “Pippin” Took (Billy Boyd) and Mercado “Merry” Brandybuck (Dominic Monaghan). Along the way to the Elvish city of Rivendale, they encounter a protector in Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen). Once in Rivendale, a Fellowship of nine is formed to help Frodo get the Ring to Mordor. The others are the Elvish warrior Legolas Greenleaf (Orlando Bloom), the dwarf Grimli (John Rhys-Davies) and human Boromir (Sean Bean), as well as Gandalf.

Gandalf is betrayed by ambitious wizard Saruman the White (Christopher Lee), who rules Isengard and turns the surrounding territory into a mining pit for making weapons and produced the fearsome Orcs. Saruman has forged an unholy allegiance with Sauren. Meanwhile, Sauren has sent out the nine Ring Wraiths to search for Frodo and the Ring. “The Two Towers” has the epic battle of Orcs against the humans at Helms Deep — again, the Blu-ray detail is amazing, especially with most of the battle at night. In “The Return of the King,” Frodo must battle both the treachery of Gollum (the amazing creature based on Andy Serkis’ motion-capture performance), who once owned the Ring, his Precious, and has been driven mad by it, and the arachnid Shelob. Aragorn also comes to take up the sword of his forebears and the crown of his birthright to lead man kind in the final battle.

All three films were nominated for Best Picture Oscars, with “Return” finally winning the statuette, along with 10 others. “Two Towers” was nominated for six Oscars and won two, while “Fellowship” won four of the 13 Oscars it was nominated for. The seven hours of extra features, on three discs of their own, are mostly the same that came with the original DVD releases and are very worthwhile watching. New is a trailer for the upcoming computer game “The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn’s Quest.” The carried-over bonus features are not in high definition. Grade: overall set 4 stars

Rating guide: 5 stars = classic; 4 stars = excellent; 3 stars = good; 2 stars = fair; dog = skip it

Additional reviews are available online at and include the Blu-ray debut of Ralph Bakshi’s animated version of “The Lord of the Rings” and the six-film “Hammer Films” collection emphasizing the non-monster and non-vampire releases by the company, including radioactive children in “These Are the Damned.”