The One Cut: Review of The Two Towers: Extended Edition

By Susan Thea Posnock

The movie versions of The Lord of the Rings could never match the book. And that isn’t a bad thing. They are visionary filmic achievements that I believe honor the book, without being a strict paint-by-numbers retelling. The Extended Edition of The Two Towers is a great example of why some scenes—that perhaps make fans giddy with delight—really should be left to the cutting room floor.

That’s not to say it isn’t a wonderful, rich, textually deep version of the film. When it comes out on November 18 I’ll buy it and I’ll hold it in equal esteem to the theatrical version. But watching a preview screening of it Saturday morning, I was struck by just how successful (and necessary) the cuts in the earlier incarnation were. It is truly a gift to fans to be able to get these scenes back, but for the most part, I agree with Peter Jackson’s decision to keep them out in the first place.

Taken as individual scenes, most of the new material is excellent. Perhaps more importantly, it sheds light on Middle-earth and its history. Things like Ents, Aragorn’s lineage and Faramir’s motivation are seen more clearly.

Watching all these moments, there are a few that I wish had made it to the final cut. Without going into any specific spoilers, these include a more detailed establishing scene before Frodo and Sam encounter Gollum, a Frodo/Gollum moment that reinforces their connection through the ring, and a scene in Helm’s Deep between Eowyn and Aragorn that I believe takes dialogue from Return of the King and demonstrates the pain of her unrequited love for him.

The one scene that stands above the rest among the new elements is the flashback involving Boromir, Faramir and their father, Denethor. It features some of the finest acting of all the films, with John Noble’s performance as Denethor adding depth not only to Faramir in this film, but Boromir in Fellowship of the Ring. Sean Bean reminds us what a driving, powerful force he was in that film. Bust most importantly, the scene sets up the changes in Faramir’s character. While I still ultimately disagree with these, at least the inclusion of the flashback gives the “new” Faramir substance, versus his just being an obstacle in Frodo’s way.

Of the scenes that I’m glad didn’t make it into the theatrical version the one that sticks out the most is a pure nod to the fans. It is one with Merry and Pippin after the fall of Isengard. My problem with it isn’t so much the scene itself, but its placement after the climax of the film, when the emotions are the highest. It cuts into that feeling in the last 10 minutes. The theatrical version, from Gandalf’s return to Sam’s speech to Gollum’s final inner struggle is, in my opinion, flawless.

Oh, and I haven’t even gotten into the extras…Without going into details, all I can say is the obsession that went into making these films is at least equal (and perhaps surpasses) the obsession of the fans watching. I seriously doubt that geeks can ever expect a better, more beautiful, more faithful (at least in spirit) adaptation. These are cinematic masterpieces, every stroke made with love.