And with this, I’m about half-way through the LOTR DVDs…

Finished watching the extended edition at 2am this morning (so now I can go and read all the magazines I have which talk about it! Speaking of film magazines though…I haven’t bought any since I returned from England midway through the year…I really wonder what’s happened to me…) and I’ll see if I can write sensibly about it.

The main additional scenes that were aimed at fans of the book (or characters) were…
– the drinking game
– some additional Faramir scenes
– the houses of healing
– Aragorn confronting Sauron with the Palantir of Gondor
– the fate of the mithril chainmail shirt (although they should have shown Gandalf returning it to Frodo too!)
and there was additional footage of the city and army of the dead, none of which was in the novel.

I can see why they cut some of this footage out. This extended edition really doesn’t flow so well, perhaps because of the multitudes of scene changes that were needed to show the proceedings of the book in chronological order. This would have been one of the reasons Tolkien left out some details (which Peter Jackson and co. later constructed to embellish the film), revealed others through various characters speaking of past events (eg. at the Council of Elrond), and above all, spilt TTT and ROTK into two ‘books’ each. However, I don’t recall the TTT extended being quite so disjointed.

That aside, I’ve enjoyed about half of the additions. The drinking game, although a bit stupid, had me grinning for the rest of the first half (“Game over!” I guess Legolas has had a LOT of time to drink. It has been written in other worlds that certain Elvish alcoholic drinks are much stronger than anything any other race concocts…but still…this was surprising. I can’t wait to listen to the cast and the writers’ commentaries on this!), and I liked the added Faramir scenes, as I’ve mentioned before – the cinematic releases made him seem somewhat ‘weak’ in a way. And Pippin may be a “Fool of a Took”, but he does have a way with words sometimes. (I love Pip – wonder if that’s largely because of the Scottish accent ^^) The Palantir scene where Aragorn confronts Sauron, and the additional exposition of the ‘diversion’ plan that went with it explained a few things. I wouldn’t say that’s how I imagined it would be, simply because I don’t remember what I was thinking four years agos when I read it, but that was an important challenge. The mithril chainmail scene at the Black Gate was also important – like the houses of healing, it shows Aragorn really stepping into his role as King.

That said…I stand by something I asserted in my Kingdom of Heaven review…Viggo Mortenson’s voice really isn’t suited for the big speeches, particularly before battle. When he raises his voice, it’s starts sounding really reedy. For a comparison of one I find commanding, listen to Theoden before the Rohirrim charge.

Oh, and Eomer when he finds Eowyn on the battlefield…that was something I’d been looking forward to seeing…

As for what I disliked…the houses of healing looked good, but the interaction between Faramir and Eowyn there was too brief. It may explain why they are together at the end of the film, but it wasn’t enough, especially given her interest in Aragorn. One problem is that the sense of time passing is a little warped. Eowyn and Faramir certainly recover whilst Aragorn is away, but, IIRC, not quite in the time that the remainder of the army took to go to Black Gate and back. (I may be mistaken however, and will need to read the novel again…). I think I can understand why Merry was at the Black Gate then, even though he should have needed time to recover as well – if Merry had been in the houses of healing, they would have had to show him there, which would have detracted from the relationship forming, and also from the important final confrontation. Still, I dislike the fact that Pippin doesn’t have a feat of bravery quite as important as stabbing the Witch King in the leg – Gandalf had said that the Black Gate was Pippin’s turn to shine (it wasn’t the beacons, the beacon of Gondor was lit on orders of Denethor in the novel, if I’m not mistaken), and he ended up killing a troll after all!

And for the things that were added/changed/left out. I don’t like the extensive usage of the army of the dead for one reason only…Elladan and Elrohir and the Dunadain rangers were cut. On the other hand, the addition of yet more characters would only have irritated n00bies to LOTR to no end, so I guess it was necessary. A similar issue applies to the ending – it’s much simpler to say that ‘this is the last ship departing from Middle Earth’, than to have to explain that Celeborn (Galadriel’s husband for those who’ve forgotten), Elladan, Elrohir, Legolas and a whole lot of other elves remained in Middle Earth for many more years before constructing their own ships to sail across the sea. Sam went as well, joining Frodo once more after Rosie had passed away.

I have enjoyed this Peter Jackson-led journey into Middle Earth, and am sorry that the anticipation is generally over now, although the journey is far from over for me. The changes Pete had to make really demonstrate that Tolkien constructed an incredible world, complete with culture and history that are so necessary to it that it is incredibly difficult to convey that to an audience who have not been previously exposed to it. (If you want to contrast Middle Earth with a fantasy world with a less well-developed history, try JKR’s world of magic. A warning: Red Hen has very good arguments, but a terrible writing style from a reader’s pov.) That is the advantage that ‘normal’ historical epics have over The Lord of the Rings – one can always read the history of the Crusades, the world wars, or even the Bible to get an idea of what life was like, but life in Middle Earth, as constructed by Tolkien, is far less accessible, or at least it was before the films were released. Despite it’s various flaws, many of which I haven’t indicated, Peter Jackson and the company he assembled have completed the challenge to bring Middle Earth to the big screen in an incarnation that, for many people, will be remembered for many years to come.

About karice
MAG fan, freelance translator and political scientist-in-training. I also love musicals, travel and figure skating!

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