Review of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring – Extended Edition

First, a thank you to Cinemark Legacy in Plano (TX), and to Amberly (sic?) of New Line for allowing me to view the special screening as a stand-by in line. My daughter won a ticket to the screening, but opted to take her brother as her guest. I had to be there to drive them both home. The rest of the family came to see Santa Clause 2 – when it finished, Amberly also let the rest of the family come in (they saw about 3 hours of the film).

Second, this was the finest theater I have ever been in (including Cinerama Dome in Hollywood); this is the only DLP (Digital Light Processing, Texas Instruments) in the North Texas area. The video was beautiful, clear and unblemished (none of the scratches or end-reel burns of film); the sound system was incredible. I highly recommend to all that if you get the chance to view a film in one of these theaters, do it – you will be impressed. I met a man in line who had actually worked on the DLP engineering here in the Dallas area for TI; he explained some of the rudimentary techniques and principles. He was excited about seeing his product at work with this film (he also got in as a stand-by).

One more note before the review. Cinemark Legacy has not yet finalized their commitment to showing The Two Towers. I found out that one thing they are waiting on is word from New Line as to the availability of a digital version of the December 18th release. Apparently New Line is at least contemplating making a digital version for theatrical release.

On with the film (feature?, this was a digital version, no film was in the room).

First of all, this was NOT a showing of the DVD. This was a digital copy of the extended edition; no intermission or break of any kind. The viewing began right on time (6:00 p.m.) with the new Two Towers trailer – looked great on that screen, with that sound system.

Rather than review the details of the changes to the feature, I’ll just give my overall impressions and thoughts:

1) The additional scenes are evenly spread throughout the feature. I checked my watch throughout the viewing – the first half of the film (Pippin: Right! Where are we going?) originally timed at about 1 hour, 30 minutes – it is now at 1 hour, 45 minutes. The second half has also gone from about 1 hour 30 minutes to 1 hour, 45 minutes (including end credits).
2) The two most significant benefactors from the additional scenes are a) the Shire/Hobbits and b) Boromir. I realize there are other significant additions (Council of Elrond, the door to the Mines of Moria, Lothlorien), but the changes in the Shire and in Boromir most changed my impressions and expectations in this version (compared to the original release). In the Shire, Peter has completely recut our introduction to hobbits in general, and to the Baggins’ in particular. This refocusing really sets up the entire story line (all three films/books) and just what is at stake. Boromir’s character is given much more interplay with the entire fellowship; his own inner struggle with loyalty, honor and power is much more prominent. This, of course, further intensifies the emotional ending with his fall, repentance and personal sacrifice (girls, and maybe some guys, make sure your hankies are available).
3) The pace of the film is not nearly as frenetic. I didn’t think just 30 minutes interspersed throughout would make such a difference, but we now get opportunities to catch our breath and regroup our emotions (just as the characters do). My biggest critique (not complaint) with the original version is that Peter, due to time constraints, had to quickly pace the film; it moved so fast, it didn’t seem like three hours long.
4) In some ways, this reminded of comparing a long theatrical movie that gets shown on commercial television and is edited for time, against the full-length, uncut version of the film. Many years ago my wife and I would annually watch “The Sound of Music” on TV. This 178 minute film was somehow shown in a three-hour time frame including 45 minutes of commercials. We eventually watched the full-length version, and saw the directors’ intentions in certain responses from the actors. It was actually the short chunks that got cut which better enhanced the film when added back in. We saw the same thing last night – some of what you have already seen (close up actor’s looks, short responses) will have more context around them – I believe we are seeing a better representation of Peter’s vision and intention when he was actually filming the movie.

Overall, I consider the original release to be a wonderful, sufficient expression of the first book in the trilogy. That release is one of my top 5 favorite movies of all time.

The extended edition fleshes out a story that already had skeleton, muscle and sinew. The original stood and walked on its’ own merit; the extended edition not only stands and walks, it runs all over any other fantasy/adventure competition. If choosing only one of the releases, this is the one to see.

Only 41 days until the Two Towers – see y’all in line.