I was lucky enough to see this special screening in Los Angeles, Universal City to be exact. Arriving hours early-just in case, I was among the first 10 to enter and register in. While I was dismayed at the center portion of the theatre being roped off for New Line associates, press etc, we busted through and sat amongst those seats-much better. They showed the Two Towers trailer first, then the FOTR began. You no doubt have read all the reports and teasers/spoilers-the whatevers but I’ll just add the ones that stuck out in my mind the most. This may be too long to include as one of your reports, but what the heck. Here goes!

The beginning is almost identical with just a few additions. The opening scenes of the prophecy include Isuldur after he’s struck down Sauron and he himself puts the ring on and disappears as his company is being attacked. He jumps into the water to escape the attackers only to lose the ring and then the arrows find him-that made more sense. I liked this as I’d personally wanted to see someone other than Bilbo and Frodo disappear when wearing the Ring. Bilbo’s scenes at his writing table as he is writing his book are very enjoyable. He narrates over scenes of Hobbits and their ways with some humorous footage included here including one involving an intense pursuit of ear wax. There is knocking at Bilbo’s door and he calls out to Frodo never once turning to face us, to answer the door but Frodo is not about. Bilbo continues telling the intro story as you see the original footage plus some of Hobbiton and life there. Back at Bag-End, Bilbo’s door is knocked on again and he calls out to Frodo who again, is not about, but then we cut to Frodo sitting out in the woods reading and hearing Garndalf’s approach as in the first version. This part has some additions and a few subtractions as well but over all, is great and we get more of a sense of who the Hobbits are and what is going on with a wee bit of their history. The set-up for Bilbo’s party is a bit different too. Gandalf and Frodo’s interaction of Bilbo’s being up to something are more in depth here.

There is a neat scene with Merry, Pippin and Frodo singing and Frodo dancing around them I believe in the Green Dragon and also a new scene with Sam, the Gaffer and a few others sitting around discussing the outside world and the “cracked’ Bagginses to which Frodo admits to being, but enjoys. More interaction between Rosie and Sam and a bit of ‘jealousy’ on Sam’s part as a patron hits on Rosie on his way out. Frodo assures Sam that Rosie knows an idiot when she sees one to which Sam says you think so? He pauses considering what he just asked.

Bilbo’s party has some changes. An interesting scene I found was one where Bilbo and Frodo are trying to hide from the Sackville-Bagginses and he admits to Frodo he is selfish and his reasoning for adopting him was to prevent the very S-B’s from getting anything of his. Frodo asks if he’s been drinking the Gaffer’s brew to which Bilbo admits he has, but that had nothing to do with his telling him that. Interesting interplay between these two.

The film continues much as it does originally: dare I use that term. As Sam and Frodo set out on their journey, there is additional footage of them that I really enjoyed and the music that accompanied it was fabulous as well. The two Hobbits see Elves on their way to the Gray Havens and it’s got a misty wonderful feel to it with some very lovely layered vocal work.. As the two are camping out, Sam is seen cooking while Frodo is up in the tree branches smoking his pipe seeming blissfully unaware of what the next part of his life is about to undergo. As night falls, Sam cannot sleep so Frodo tells him to imagine he’s back at home in his nice comfy bed and feather pillow to which Sam tries, but fails and grabs a leftover to console him while Frodo sleeps. The film continues much as we’ve already seen.

The next set of changes occur at Bree-seems to be a different greeting with Butterbur and his welcoming them in. The additional scenes of the joining up of Hobbits and Strider is welcome as well. Pippin gets quite a few one-liners here that brought a lot of laughs. His delivery of the multi meal habits of Hobbits gets the usual laughs. You just gotta love Pippin-his lovable innocent personality really comes through in this version. At the night scene we get to see and hear Aragorn singing in Elvish. Frodo wakes up and inquires as to the lady he is singing about. Aragorn tells her story briefly.

The scenes at Rivendell are quite different and the film really reveals a lot more to the Fellowship’s personalities. When Boromir wanders the chamber where the shards of Narsil are displayed, he meets and talks briefly with Aragorn-nice scene. Then to the Council scene. Elrond gives much more dialogue here which is both informative and welcome. Then we come to Boromir’s part. We’ve read before about more Boromir and his purpose of wanting the Ring and his telling more of a back-up reason, but as he approaches the Ring, Gandalf puts on a spell display that knocked my socks off, and I wasn’t even wearing socks! Wow, this was a great scene indeed. Boromir went back to his seat like a puppy with his tail tucked. Wow! The theatre was rumbling and it was awesome. Just when you wonder if Gandalf really has magical wizard powers, well, the scene reveals all the proof you could ask for.

As the Fellowship is about to part, there is a new scene of Aragorn at his mother’s grave. Elrond and Aragorn engage in dialogue here that explains a little bit more of Aragorn’s fate or what have you. Also a sad scene of Aragorn and Arwen having a quiet but difficult parting as he nods to her and she bows her head and teary eyes.

The next real departure scene was a bit odd I felt, but welcome as well. The Fellowship is awaiting Frodo to lead them on their journey out of Rivendell and Frodo whispers to Gandalf, which way, left or right and Gandalf tells him which direction to go once out of the gates. (Left by the way). It was a kind of an awkward humor scene at this point, but I guess thinking it over now, it was necessary because you really see that Frodo has absolutely no idea where Mordor is and he is so dependant on Gandalf’s direction and guidance that the story as it continues on and the events we’re all familiar with become so much more emotionally-impacting.

The Mines of Moria had a lot more footage and helped further tell the tale. Gandalf describes Mithril to the Fellowship and its value. Now Frodo is wearing a shield of the stuff unbeknownst to his companions, he seems to have a new respect for it. A new scene of Gandalf asking Frodo to help an old man out and pausing to tell him in murmured voices about the forces at work against the Quest would be internal as well as external and already, Frodo is being warned to be especially on his guard. There are reinforcing scenes between Legolas and Gimli that displayed the friction between the two races that were rather funny as well.

Lothlorien had some very interesting changes. When Gimli claims his superior senses and Haldir and company come upon them, the scene where the Elf says Come, the Lady of the Wood is waiting… is now missing, but there are now loads of new dialogue scenes between Haldir and Legolas and Haldir and Aragorn all in Elvish. There is much more interaction between the Lothlorien Elves and the Fellowship and when Celeborn and Galadriel approach them, Celeborn has loads more dialogue. Galadriel has more to her scenes, but I found her character was somewhat distilled from the 2001 version to which I had become so accustomed to seeing her as a very strong, dominant figure, as probably most of us had. The new scenes show Celeborn being just as involved if not more in the greeting. He also speaks a lot more with Aragorn and Legolas. Interestingly enough, the possibility of Gandalf not completely passing into shadow comes up here as Galadriel states that no one really knew the complete powers or abilities of Gandalf and she hints that he may not be completely gone from them. Hmmmm, ok, if this had been in the 2001 release, I think unfamiliar audience members would be biting their nails in anticipation when seeing TTT trailers while the “old timer” Tolkien fanatics and avid readers would be speculating how this issue would be dealt with.

The Lamentation of Gandalf scene now features Sam standing up and reciting his own tribute to Gandalf by way of a spontaneous poem which he almost apologizes for its being so ‘lame’. Aragorn is shown sitting next to a slumbering Gimli who is snoring so loud that Aragorn reaches across and what looks to be either him whacking Gimli to wake him up or stop his snoring or? More humor is intermixed with the somber so it’s an interesting dichotomy of emotion in this new footage: slightly disjointed, but did I like it.

The much anticipated gift-giving scene came up and I was not disappointed. I felt a wee hint of the Wizard of Oz where Galadriel gives Merry and Pippin swords/knives and she tells Pippin he will find his courage-very touching as we know what will come to him later on. The scene with Sam brought much laughter when she gives Sam his rope and he quips about the others getting the weapons, but he gladly accepts them not wanting to be rude. Gimli’s scene was very touching. He was so humbled and so embarrassed by his request that he turns away probably blushing beneath all that flaming beard and hair yet he gets what he asked for and more-not one strand of her hair, but three.

As the Fellowship is leaving and getting into their boats, Legolas picks up a piece of Lembas and nibbles just a small corner and says just one bite can fill up the belly of a grown man to which Merry and Pippin turn to each other and Merry asks Pippin how many he ate and Pippin admits to having 4 and lets out a belch to wake the dead! The audience ate this scene up.

There are a few additional new scenes and some that had been deleted, and new music, but overall, I think this is truly THE version New Line should have released last year and I truly hope they have the intelligence and enough compassion for the true fans to release this version theatrically for at least a few weeks before TTT breaks out to help stay off the hunger and thirst that we’re all experiencing right now. Not only will they prove they care for the fans and followers, but hey, they can make a couple million more $$$ to boot. Hey New Line CFO’s are you reading this?

As the credits began to roll a few exuberant fans off on the sidelines voiced some appreciative comments and clapping. There was some slight audience participation/reaction i.e. cheering at PJ’s carrot-eating appearance, Boromir and Aragorn’s fighting scenes etc. If this is released back into theatres, I’m sure there would be additional cheering, clapping and audience gobbling-up. Let’s face it. LOTR has created some extreme junkies and we just gotta have our fix, again and again and again.

The scene where the Fellowship is setting up camp and cooking features a bit more as well. Boromir teaching Merry and Pippin to fight also sneaks in a part where Aragorn gets up and tells them to break it up and the other three end up tossing him into almost a back flip landing smack dab on his back. Again, Pippin is getting a one-liner in here and there.