From TORN Staffer Arwen

FOTR Extended version DVD – a must have for all LOTR fans!

Which LOTR fan would pass on the opportunity to attend a 12-hour marathon screening of the Extended Version of FOTR? OK, dumb question… On Saturday October 12th, Xoanon and myself were lucky enough to be among the crowd of 20 people or so who got a first glimpse at this much anticipated DVD, thanks to New Line who generously invited us to this special event. It was quite a unique experience, a bit eerie and quite overwhelming. And to harcore fans like us, a very special treat.

My general feeling tonight is two-fold. First, I have come to the realization that FOTR has become my favorite movie of all times, beating up long cherished films like Gone With The Wind, Close Encounters or Out Of Africa. Never have I felt such unconditional love for a movie, which to me now has become as much a classic as the above mentioned. This is indeed a masterpiece, a film that I never get tired of, and my love for it has only multiplied with each viewing.

Secondly, my admiration, respect and gratitude for Peter Jackson and his team have increased beyond words after this special screening. I am overwhelmed by the tremendous amount of talent, creativity, dedication and love that has been brought into this project. In other words, PJ has become a god to me. I am in total awe of this remarkable man.

Now, I don’t want to get into too many details of the DVD itself, as it would be totally unfair to spoil for the fans the many surprises and pleasures it contains. So I’ll just try and give a general feeling of what everyone can expect. Of course there will be spoilers, so read at your own risk!

Discs 1 & 2
The Extended version of the film. Let me just say that it is wonderful, and that all Tolkien fans will be delighted at the amount of extra elements from the book that have been put back into the movie. Let me also add that the three and a half hours go by like a charm, and the film does not feel longer than the theatrical version. The additional material has been added seamlessly into the narrative. There is more background information about the characters, and there is also more humor. What came as a real surprise to me, is that there are not only new scenes, but that some of the scenes from the theatrical release have also been extended, some of them quite significantly. At times it’s hardly noticeable, it can just be a couple of lines added to a familiar scene. For example, the gatekeeper in Bree who tells the hobbits that from their speech he figures they are from The Shire. Basically, the movie that many of us know by heart has been entirely recut. The prologue is a bit extended, and the opening of the story is entirely different from the theatrical version. It is, of course, “Concerning Hobbits” where Bilbo, in the process of writing his book, gives in voice over a whole overview of the hobbits’ culture and history. This is an absolutely delightful moment, and it flows perfectly into Gandalf’s encounter with Frodo. Another wonderful scene takes place at the Green Dragon Inn, where we see Merry and Pippin singing together, joined by Frodo dancing around their table, and moving in to a short scene involving the Gaffer. Bilbo’s birthday party has some special moments as well, including Bilbo and Frodo hiding from the Sackville-Bagginses, followed by a lovely dialogue exchange between Bilbo and Frodo. Another notable moment is the crossing of the Midgewater Marshes, complete clouds of tiny midges. And so it goes… I won’t disclose everything, so let me just mention, among the other extra or extended scenes I enjoyed most, the Council of Elrond, and the entire Lothlorien sequence. And for all of you pervy elf and ranger fanciers out there, yes there is more Legolas, more Haldir, more Celeborn, and more Strider. Can I just add that for Viggo fans (like me!) this DVD is an absolute must?…

And for the Fan Club charter members, yes the full credits are there… all in alphabetical order, so if your name starts with a Z, get ready to sit through 15 minutes of credits roll!

As if this somptuous extended version of the movie was not enough, Discs 3 and 4 of the DVD are loaded with amazing material. Disc 3 concentrates on pre-production (From Book to Vision) while Disc 4 covers Production, Post-production and release (From Vision to Reality).

Disc 3
Two of my favorite featurettes were “From Book to Script” and “Designing and Building Middle-earth”.
From Book to Script is an enlightening insight into the process that PJ, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens went through while adapting the book. It answers many of the questions we’ve all been pondering since December of last year, i.e. why no Tom Bombadil for example.

Designing and Building Middle-earth is made of three segments, one covering the design itself, with extensive interviews of Alan Lee and John Howe, the second one dealing with Costumes, with the creation process explained and demonstrated in detail by Ngila Dickson, and the last segment is focused on the work of Richard Taylor (one of the movie’s heroes, IMHO) and Weta Workshop.

Disc 3 is two hours and a half long! Each featurette on this DVD is an in-depth documentary, not a 5 minute vignette. I came out of this viewing even more amazed than before at the amount of work and dedication that has been poured into the production of these films. I cannot find a better way to describe my feeling, than to say that it is quite overwhelming.

Disc 4
Get ready for over three and a half hours of pure excitement and delight!
Probably the most enjoyable featurettes on this disc are “The Fellowship of the Cast”, “A Day In The Life of a Hobbit”, and “Cameras In Middle Earth”. Since in “real life” I work in the world of sound, I personally also loved “The Soundscapes of Middle-earth” featurette.

“Fellowship of the Cast” is a series of candid interviews of every member of the Fellowship, intercut with footage of on location filming. Each actor gets to speak about their fellow cast members, and we are treated to a number of colorful and funny anecdotes. This is something that I’m sure every fan will want to watch over and over again.

Similarly rewarding is “A Day in the Life of a Hobbit”, during which we follow our four hobbits from make up to filming to wrap up at the end of the day. This is all done with good humor from the all of the actors, while providing a very good insight on what it was like to be a hobbit day by day.

“Cameras in Middle-earth” takes the viewer through every single major location and film set used during the filming of the movie. There is the technality of it all, with lengthy interviews of Andrew Lesnie and his team, and there’s also the point of view of the actors, the physicality required by some remote locations, the funny or even sometimes almost dramatic incidents that occured during the filming. This is a segment that I know I wll be going back to numerous times.

The visual effects, editorial and digital grading featurettes are all fascinating and enlightening. Among them is a special segment addressing specifically the “scale” issue that was so important to the credibility of the story. Personally this is something that has always fascinated me – how did they manage to make hobbits look so much smaller than elves and men? Each time I see the movie I’m amazed at how seamless and believable it looks. The tecniques used are numerous, sometimes quite simple and sometimes extremely complicated. Even after having seen this and knowing how they did it, I am still in awe.

“The Soundscapes of Middle-earth” will delight people who wonder how the very unique sounds of the Balrog, of the orcs, and of the Nazgul were created. I won’t tell, you will have to wait and see (or hear) for yourself.

Of course we all love the soundtrack, and in the “Music for Middle-earth” featurette, Howard Shore and Peter Jackson take us through the challenging journey of creating the score.

Disc 4 ends with “The Road Goes Ever On”, which covers the various premieres of the movie, in London, in Los Angeles, and most prominently in New Zealand. The sight of hundreds of people lined up along the streets of Wellington, cheering the cast and welcoming Peter Jackson as a national hero, is something incredibly moving.

Some movies feel so perfect that sometimes one may not want to know how they were made, fearing that too much insight into the production process may spoil one’s enjoyment of the film and destroy the magic. Not in this case. As much information as this “behind the scenes” DVD provides, it cannot diminish a filmgoer’s enjoyment of the film. On the contrary, it makes the experience more pleasurable. And somehow, you feel you were a part of the whole experience. This is not just another movie, this is something special, unique, a true landmark in moviemaking. Like many cast and crew members, I do believe that this is an historical event.

A huge “Thank you” to everyone at New Line for allowing to be a part of this very special day. It was truly “A day to remember”.