I, like a lot of fans, didn’t get a ticket to the Trilogy Tuesday screening for December 16th. Having just sat through 10 hours of TTT EX DVD bliss however, I’m glad! I’m not what one may call uber-athletic, and I’m not horribly out of shape either, but sitting in a theater/screening-room for 10 hours is near impossible. But, I took one for the team and managed to last until the very last documentary on the last disk. I gave up a few minutes into it! Sorry! I just had to get outta there.
While I didn’t get to see that last documentary, I did soak in the entire DVD set that is making its way to stores November 18th. This set, like the FOTR EX set is going to blow your mind. I’m one of the most antsy people in the world, and to stay in a chair for 10 hours meant my brain was thoroughly engrossed in what it was receiving.
Today I wanted to give you my brief synopsis of the actual The Two Towers Extended Edition film and my thoughts on its merits. In the coming week, I’ll discuss some of the highlights of the third and fourth discs as well.
First and foremost, The Two Towers Extended Edition is, like FOTR Ex, a far better piece of cinematic magic than the original theatrical release. It is unfortunate that we live in a time where the general movie going public, and the theater economic structure, does not allow this nearly 4 hour masterpiece to make it into all cities in every country. This is obviously the true vision of the filmmakers, and it shows.
When I first saw TTT in early December 2002, I loved it, but not as much as FOTR and, based on the extreme difference between FOTR Ex and FOTR, I came away with the knowledge “Yeah, there was a lot cut out” and I’ll see it in the Extended Edition. You could simply feel it when you watch the movie. Where did Brego come from? Why in one scene are 400 elves still alive and in the very next cut they are dead and we have 12 people in the Helm’s Keep. It was obvious to me that there was a lot missing, so I knew the Extended Edition would fill those holes, and it did.
What I did not expect was that there was a lot portions of the story to flesh out. I”m going to try and list the scenes that I saw, as briefly as possible, since I’m not a big fan of spoiling it for everyone.
Frodo, Sam, Gollum and Faramir
There is a lot more of Gollum, Sam and Frodo. One of the key scenes that come to mind is a conversation Gollum has with Smeagol right after Frodo releases him from the elvish rope. As Gollum flees the scene and the hobbits run to follow, Gollum has the first internal battle of the film, and it is just amazing. At one point, Sam is furious after it looks like ‘Gollum’ won over the internal debate and has convinced Smeagol to bolt. It makes for a very good addition to the narrative, establishing the dual personality of Smeagol early on.
Previous to TTT, I had heard rumors of a scene in which Faramir’s men beat the living snot out of Gollum after his capture at the pool. I did not expect to see the sequence in TTT EX, simply because the description relayed to me sounded excessively violent. Much to my surprise, we do get a brief glimpse of Gollum being beat to smithereens. In fact, in TTT EX Gollum is treated by men, especially Faramir, in a very violent manner. While this is another liberty taken by the filmmakers, it adds even more sympathy for the character. Whatever chance he had of keeping Gollum at bay and forgiving Frodo and Sam for allowing him to be captured, is long gone. At least from our perspective. There is even an apology sequence in the sewers of Osgiliath. Sam, trying to buddy up with Gollum, tells him how Frodo was only trying to help his situation and did not want to betray Gollum. Gollum puts on an act and seems to accept the apology. Little do poor Sam and Frodo know what is in store.
Faramir gets the long awaited ‘explanatory’ scene added in, in which Denethor’s lack of affection for his son, and the lack of confidence in him, comes across loud and clear. The keywords ‘prove his quality’ are delivered by Denethor as a step-father would to an unwanted son. We are truly now prepped for Faramir’s character development in TTT.
Denethor comes off as power hungry and cold hearted. (SPOILERS AHEAD FOR ROTK – HIGHLIGHT TO READ) I can now understand how Faramir, seeing his father despise him so much, would voluntarily ride to what is almost certain death.(END SPOILERS).
It was also great to see Boromir back in all his glory. Being a huge Sean Bean fan, and feeling that he should have at the very least been nominated for his role in FOTR, it was great to see the favored son of Gondor on the screen. He defends his brother against Denethor’s onslaught and then argues with Denethor about travelling to Rivendell. Boromir feels it is his place to stay in Gondor instead of being an errand boy. This is when Faramir speaks up and asks to take Boromir’s place. Denethor just outright tells him he wouldn’t trust such an important mission to a failed son.
Merry, Pippin and Treebeard
Merry and Pippin also have a significant amount of added scenes in TTT EX. My favorite, as strange as it may sound, is when the party of Uruk-hai meet up with the Mordor Orcs. In the original release, we’re never told how these Uruks meet up with the scraggy likes of Grishnakh. TTT EX has the Uruks come to a halt (as in the theatrical release), but instead of smelling ‘man flesh’ right away, they smell other orcs. This is when Grishnakh and his crew come out of hiding. Additionally we see Pippin begging for their captors to give Merry some water. Merry is barely alive on the back of an Uruk. In response, and much to Pippin’s horror, the Uruks force Orc ale down Merry’s throat. Merry sputters and chokes on the obviously disgusting brew. Pippin is then warn to keep quiet or he’ll have the same treatment.
|Who’s Taller Now?|
In the added sequence near Treebeard’s home Merry and Pippin have a great comic scene in which they argue about who is taller. Pippin has been drinking from the ent draught supply and seems to ‘grow’ in front of Merry’s eyes, with a series of tree-like creaking sounds emitting from his body. The argument leads to Merry grabbing the water vessel, and attempting to drink some of the draught himself. During the scuffle, they fall into the roots of a large knarly tree, only to find themselves fighting for their lives. The tree is…Old Man Willow! Granted the reference is a little out of place in the film version, it is a nice aside to add more to the Merry and Pippin storyline. Treebeard returns and coops some of ole Tom Bombadil’s lines to free the Hobbits from the roots of the tree. Its a nice little ‘shout out’ to Tom and Old Man Willow.
And of course, Merry and Pippin, after the flooding of Isengard, provide even more comic relief as they discover the storage closet of Isengard. Complete with FOTResque ‘leaf’ inferences.
Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas
As with the other story lines, a lot has been added back in.
The now infamous ‘Aragorn Cliff Diving’ sequence gets a little more added context as we find out where the heck that horse comes from! In the original release, I just assumed it was the horse he was riding on the previous Warg Battle, and the Men of Rohan just left it wandering. (Rather unlikely considering their love for horses and I’m sure they needed every horse they had) The real story is fleshed out with an added scene inside the Rohan stables which sets up Eowyn’s growing infatuation with Aragorn and Brego’s eventual coming to Aragorn’s rescue. As Aragorn and the others prepare their horses, one horse in particular is causing quite a stir. I believe one of the mean of Rohan say it has gone mad. Aragorn slowly approaches the creature speaking in an elvish tongue and is able to calm Brego down. Eowyn overhears and inquires about the language, only to find out that Aragorn was raised for a time in Rivendell. He orders Brego to be freed to the wild, since he had already served his time in battle for Theoden’s son, Theodred.
Speaking of Theodred, we do see Eomer’s discovery of his body on the banks of a stream, filled with slaughtered orcs and men. The subsequent funeral is added into TTT EX and proves to be an even more heart-wrenching scene, than just seeing Theoden outside the tomb. The entire city of Edoras comes out for the funeral. The Men of Rohan carry Theodred’s body to the burial ground, while the women wait by the tomb to mourn. Eowyn becomes the soloist of a very sorrow-filled song, sung in Old English without subtitles. I was slightly surprised when she started singing, but the performance was amazing, and quickly was engrossed into the emotion of the moment.
As the people of Rohan and our key characters travel to Helm’s Deep, Eowyn also finds out that Aragorn is 87. The news obviously blows her mind, but at the same time, we get the distinct impression that it is yet another piece that will add to her love for Aragorn. In fact, in one scene, in the streets of Helm’s Deep, she all but confesses her love for him.
The Battle of Helm’s deep, while amazing in the first film, manages to be even better in TTT EX. The differences from the theatrical release are not obvious, but some do stick out. One of my personal critiques in the theatrical release was the sudden disappearance of the entire Elf army. In the TTT EX version we get a few more sweeping shots of the battle, showcasing the slow but steady decline of the Elf army numbers.
The tension of Helm’s Deep was also heightened by a few more women and children shots inside the glittering caves. If I remember correctly, we see them reacting more to the uruks about to break in.
My favorite addition to the battle is the ‘final kill’ count exchange between Legolas and Gimli. The scene has Legolas conversing with Gimli as he sites, perched ontop of a dead Uruk (see the images). Legolas claims victory with a final kill count of 42. Gimli, in his typical manner, agrees that 42 is a big number, but his 43 kills beats it! Legolas, in a probably not-so-tolkien moment, reacts by firing an arrow directly into the orc on which Gimli is situated. “43,” Legolas says. Gimli directs Legolas’s gaze to his axe in the Uruks head and explains he was already dead. It makes for a great comedic moment. Of course my description does not do it justice!
The most significant Helm’s Deep change is the addition of the correct ending: The orcs running from battle into a forest of Huorns. What is described in the book as a few lines, comes across on screen very effectively. Lets just say its really cool to see the Uruks run into the forest…and after a significant dramatic pause, the trees start tearing into them. Why this, literally less than 60 second addition, didn’t make it into the theatrical release, the world may never know. I have a feeling it had more to do with special effects not being done, than just simply being cut. Thats my guess anyway.
|Eomer is Banished|
Before I forget, another hole that always bothered me was Grima’s banishment of Eomer from Rohan early on in the film. In the theatrical release, the impression is that Grima somehow has the authority to make such a dramatic decision. In TTT EX we see that he does not, but managed to convince poor possessed Theoden to sign a document for the purpose. This is just another example of the little holes being filled throughout the storyline.
There are a slew of more scenes added in, that I can’t recall from memory. The additions are dotted all over the place. The end result however is a much better Two Towers film and something that we can all be proud to add to our DVD collection on November 18th. As kiss up as it might seem, we need to once again thank the filmmakers and New Line Home Entertainment for providing fans with this opportunity to see the masterpiece in its entirety. If there is one thing we can say about Tolkien fandom and our relationship with the filmmakers, we are treated very well. (Unlike those poor Star Wars fans, like myself. We just know Lucas will NEVER release the original uncorrupted Star Wars films on DVD.)
I also had the chance to see the last 2 discs of the Extended Edition Set. I’ll be posting my thoughts on the documentaries and other features in the coming days.