The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Special Extended Edition)
Credit: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings: Pierre Vinet

Let’s pretend, for a moment, that ”The Fellowship of the Ring” is a person. This past August, when ”Mr. Fellowship” premiered on DVD, he was in bathing-suit shape, coming in at a lean, theatrical 178 minutes. But now that he can hide under bulky sweaters and big winter coats, ”Fellowship” has put on an extra half an hour, and he’s fat and happy. It’s as if ”The Fellowship of the Ring” doesn’t have to suck in its gut anymore.

In crafting his director’s cut, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Special Extended Edition), Peter Jackson has done a masterful tailoring job: He let out the seams of an already majestic garment to make room for some beautiful extra story fabric. Some of the additions are just grace notes — a small scene extension here, a tiny snippet of dialogue there. But others are magical sequences that feel like they always belonged: an extended introduction to hobbits and Hobbiton, some poignant Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) back story and character development, a fuller Fellowship formation scene, the Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) gift-giving interlude in Lothlórien, and a resonant reworking of the fall of Boromir (Sean Bean). With all the newfound riches, it’s hard to imagine ever choosing to watch the theatrical cut again (unless, of course, you’ve got someplace to go).

While the reconstituted feature plays over the first two discs (accompanied by four commentaries — one from Jackson and his cowriters Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, one from the cast, another by the design team, and the last by much of the production staff), the balance of the set is devoted to documentaries and interactive features (including an editing lab, lots of still photos, and some storyboard assemblages of never-filmed scenes). Where the August release was buffered by a raft of shoddy promotional clips, this extended version offers the real deal: more than six hours of hardcore cinema education on topics ranging from adapting the unwieldy ”Rings” text and finding the New Zealand locations to the on- and offscreen antics of the Fellowship’s actors and the Herculean task of editing 5 million feet of footage into a watchable film.

And through all of the documentaries — the Appendices, as they’re called — Jackson emerges as a furry, cuddly shorts-clad juggernaut, powering through each phase of production like a kid charged with the terrific task of making his dream come true. Even though there are still two films on the horizon, Jackson can take solace in one thing: His extended ”Fellowship of the Ring” may well be the DVD of the year.