Beorthnoth writes: I wasn’t sure if anyone had brought this to your attention, but chief Kansas City Star movie critic, Robert Butler, was one of the very few reviewers in the country to pan The Two Towers last December.

…But for those of us who thought the first film was at its best when reveling in the little details of life in Middle-earth and examining the relationships between its characters, “The Two Towers” is a letdown.

What can you say about a movie in which the best performance is given by an animated creature? In which our heroes spend most of their time running around, assuming stock company heroic poses and spouting groaners like, “The red sun rises. Blood has been spilt this night”?

…Just when we’re starting to get into one particular story, we’re torn away and presented with another. We never get a clean dramatic arc to any of the three.

Moreover, some characters — Elrond (Hugo Weaving), Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) and Arwen (Liv Tyler) — appear only in unremarkable flashbacks. They seem to be here only so the actors’ names can appear on the poster.

Far more troublesome is the film’s lack of humanity — if that can be said about a film populated by elves, wizards and hobbits. New characters like Theoden and his niece, the warrior princess Eowyn (Miranda Otto), and the Gondor war chief Faramir (David Wenham) should have their own stories to tell. Instead they’re shallow, colorless and unremarkable.

[Click here for the whole interview]

Well: I think it worth noting that he has completely revised his take in his review of the Extended Edition. I think it worth noting for the broader community – a mark of just how much better this Extended Edition is over the original.

The review is NOT available online at this time. It may be later; then again they may decided to keep it as print-exlcusive content.

Extra time makes ‘Towers’ stand up taller

Robert W. Butler
November 21, 2003

All too often the special DVD “director’s cuts” are of movies that were too long to begin with and certainly don’t need additional padding.

But the new extended DVD version of “Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” is a case where more is better. In fact, it changes everything.

I was one of maybe five critics in the country who didn’t like the theatrical version of “The Two Towers” that opened a year ago. Aftet the excellence of “Fellowship of the Ring” it seemed to me that “Tow Towers” quickly deteriorated into a runaround movie. Everybody runs over here, then they turn around and run over there.

Moreover, the film seemed terribly stilted, with actors striking grandiose poses and making stentorian declarations. “Towers,” I thought, was too much bombat and not enough soul.

Now, I’m happy to report, all that has changed. For the extended DVD director Peter Jackson has released has included 45 minutes excised from the theatrical release, and the additions transform the film.

What happened is obvious. Required to turn in a three-hour cut, Jackson sliced away everything that wasn’t related to pure advancement of the story. Left in the can was tons of relationship stuff and character development which, for me anyway, is the equal of all the fighting and riding. The restored footage affects nearly every passage in the extended “Tower.” We get more Gollum and Frodo. We get an entire back story about Faramir (in the theatrical version a maddeningly undeveloped character) and his brother Boromir that finally gives this character a personality.

Pippin and Merry get a lot more time to explore the world of the Ents – the tree creatures which now are allowed to show more personality. In an amusing coda after the fall of Saruman’s citadel, the hobbit cousins discovered a vast cache of victuals and pipeweed seized from the Shire – a moment of pure Tolkien pleasure.

We learn a good deal more about Eowyn, the princess of the horse warriors, and her unrequited love for Aragorn. The friendly rivalry between Legolas and Gimli fully develops.

Great stuff. But there’s more.

The PG-13 rated violence of the theatrical cut struck me as sanitized. In the extended version, though, heads fly. There’s a scene of Faramir’s soldiers beating a captive Gollum that’s genuinely disturbing.

There’s also a good deal more humurous interplay this time around.

So what at first struck me as a tentative and under-inhabited spectacle now emerges as a truly gripping work that succeeds on a much more human, emotional level.

Watching the three hour theatrical version was a chore. But this nearly four hour DVD cut seems to fly.

In short, it’s a great way to get pumped up for next month’s opening of “The Return of the King.” And, yes, Peter Jackson is a genius.