December 15, 2005


by psu

Why, you might ask, am I going to write about movies that have been out on DVD for two years?

Well, new TV in hand, we sat down to watch some big movies. The biggest movies that we have are the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings trilogy. When these were released on DVD, I originally picked up the extended versions, not so much for the extra film material, but more for the commentaries and documentaries. I'm a sucker for that stuff. I neglected, however, to buy the theatrical DVDs, except for The Fellowship of the Ring.

Having worked through the non-extended FOTR, and most of the extended TTT, I have to say that with the benefit of hindsight and time, the theatrical cuts are unquestionably the better films.

Now, this should not be surprising. Jackson himself repeats over and over again that the extended versions of the films are not supposed to be a director's cut, or the canonical versions of the movies. The extra material was just there because they had shot it, and they thought that people would find it interesting even though for various reasons it did not make the final cut of the theatrical films.

When the extended Fellowship was released, it was pretty clear that the extra footage was glued on mostly for the fan boys and completist freaks than out of any consideration for the film itself. Every time you hit one of the extra scenes in Fellowship the film grinds to a deathly halt, and by the third hour you just want to get on with it already.

By comparison, the theatrical FOTR is tightly paced and while it is often leisurely, it never drags. The story always moves forward, rather than standing still. Exposition and development are deftly overlapped with the emerging story. You don't really appreciate how carefully and wisely constructed the theatrical cut of the film is until you see what was taken out. So, in this way, the extended cut does its job. While a weaker film than the theatrical release, it does serve to provide you with insights into the original film that you might have missed the first time through. But, I never found much reason to watch it again.

The Two Towers surprised me though. With two years of shelf time, my opinion has completely changed. Originally, I thought that this was the weakest of the theatrical releases, and that much of the extra material in the extended version made it better. After a run through over the last couple of nights, I have to say that I was wrong. There are entire scenes in the extended film that do nothing but summarize the film that you have just watched. There are a few of the additions that do add to the context and background of major characters and storylines. But, they do not add that much, and I think that on the whole, cutting them was the right choice. Finally, there are various additions that are just complete drek (scenes involving stew, for example) and were justifiably thrown on the cutting room floor and probably should not have been brought back.

Overall, my opinion of the extended TTT is now much like that of the extended FOTR. I think that Jackson has achieved his goal of providing fun bits of extra detail and insight into the characters that inhabit the movie. And, having watched them, you can bring this extra knowledge to your appreciation of the shorter versions of each film.

However, I will no longer tell people that the extended Two Towers is more enjoyable. Because we are not even to Helm's Deep yet, and I just want them to get on with it already.

Unrelated Note

The TV looks great with these DVDs, even using my crappy old 480i DVD player.

Posted by psu at December 15, 2005 09:32 PM | Bookmark This

I only just read this post and laughed a bit. I liked how the extra footage slowed down FOTR. It felt like they really __had__ travelled a long way. This is the only one I felt this way about. The others the footage seemed to really have been cut out for good reason. I mean really, long off-key singing for dead brother we never really knew? Hard to sit through I will agree.

I hate all the documentaries and special features. Except Jackie Chan out-takes. It helps you appreciate the movie to see how hard those stunts really are.

Posted by Doug at April 22, 2006 06:29 PM

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