10-30-02 Latest News

LOTR:FOTR Extended DVD Review!
leo @ 4:52 pm EST

So, here I am; sitting behind my desk. Last week I was able to see about seven hours from the Extended DVD and here's my take on the entire thing. Owh and if you are wondering why it took me so long to write up this report, first I had to finish a very detailed one for the Dutch communitysite TheFellowship.nl so if you happen to know a few words Dutch and you are not afraid of a terrible ammount of spoilers you might want to think about reading that review, which can be found here. But enough of this shameless self-promotion, let's get down to business.

First of all, let me tell you that I will not get into great detail about the extras on disc 3 and 4 because I think Xoanon covered those quite well in his review (which, in turn, can be found here), I am here to tell you all about the extended cut of The Fellowship of the Ring and it will be quite spoilerish so keep that in mind before you continue.

Ahh.. where to start, where to start... My biggest fear before seeing the extended cut was that I was going to look at the theatrical version of FOTR with here and there a new scene plunged in. It was the feeling you would get when for instance you would look at a scene and know that it was new, because there is something entirely different happening in the movie compared to the theatrical version. The great thing about this extended cut is that you rarely have these kind of scenes.

What PJ did most of the time was simply make a scene longer, add a little bit dialogue or a make a shot last longer. This can quite easily be explained by one of the first added scenes on the dvd: the moment when Frodo and Sam run into a group of Elves heading towards the Grey Havens. Now it would have been very easy to simply 'dump' the scene anywhere in between the moment when Gandalf leaves Frodo and Sam and when they meet up with Merry and Pippin, but what PJ was a far better solution in my opinion. At a certain moment in the theatrical version we see the camera focussing on Frodo and Sam underneath a tree cooking some dinner. It then cuts to a totally different scene, I believe of Gandalf heading to Orthanc but I could be wrong there, but in the extended cut this scene lasts longer and we hear Frodo and Sam talk for a while until they hear Elves singing and decide to check it out. Very nicely done.

Now the result of cutting the movie that way leads to a quite different and, again in my opinion, far better movie. Not that the theatrical version of FOTR wasn't good, far from it in fact, but the extended cut is as a movie so much better because with all this added material is makes the movie more complete in various ways.

The movie starts of exactly like the theatrical version and the only new scene we see in the prologue is a scene of Isildur. The beginning of this scene is the one we see in the theatrical version of him and his soldiers riding through the woods, the extended bit is the part in which the Orcs attack him and he puts on the Ring and it slips from his fingers when he tries to swim. Not much new there although the look in Isildurs eyes when he sees the Ring sinking to the bottom of the river where he cannot get to it in his heavy armoury is a nice detail.

When the story gets started it does so with an entire new beginning. Instead of seeing Frodo read underneath a tree we see Bilbo starting on his book and in a voice-over we hear him discuss Hobbits and their behaviour while we get some beautiful shots of Hobbiton and the Hobbits gathered on the marketplace. Amongst other things the Hobbits love for food and pipeweed is mentioned.

Suddenly there's a knock on the door and Bilbo calls for Frodo to open the door. Frodo however is not there and we find him reading his book and meeting up with Gandalf much like in the theatrical version. But the conversation between Gandalf and Frodo has also been editted here and there, some parts of their discussion are replaced by Bilbo's voice-over and other parts in the conversation were not in the theatrical version. This gives it a much more serious 'tone' and overall makes it a whole different scene.

The entire Shire-sequence right until the Hobbits reach Bree contains a whole lot of new material, not only in the beginning but also during the Long Expected Party (which features some very funny moments) and an extended scene inside the Green Dragon in which we see Merry, Pippin and Frodo singing and we meet the Gaffer! A lot of nice stuff from the books has been put back in to the movies in these scenes and it's great fun recognising them.

The next bit of new material we see is when the Hobbits and Strider head to Rivendel. There is a great shot from the Midgewater Marshes with one of my favorite lines from the books in it and a lot more shots from the company travelling through a snow-covered landscape. There is also a very touching scene of Aragorn singing the Lay of Luthien and explaining it to Frodo.

Although I'd have to say that the Lorien-squence benifitted the most from the extended cut Rivendel would be a good second. We get a new beginning of the Council of Elrond with Gandalf uttering the Ring verse in the Dark Speech, much to the dismay of all the others present. Boromir also gets some more lines during the Council in which he tells about his dream and Isildurs Bane. After that we get another great scene when Aragorn visits his mothers grave and talks to Elrond about his mother and being the last in the line of Elendil. When I first saw FOTR I have to say I had my doubts about the way PJ decided to portray Aragorn but to be honest I quite like the change and with scenes like these PJ really 'sticks to his choice' and it makes the character a whole lot better in my opinion. The Rivendel-sequence ends with Elrond giving his blessing over the Fellowship and Frodo leading the Fellowship out of Rivendel, although he still needs Gandalf to tell him wether Mordor is to the left or to the right.

On the way to Moria we see some extended scenes again, mostly between Boromir and Merry and Pippin. Their 'fight' scene gets expanded a bit and we see a shot of Boromir protecting the two Hobbits on Caradhras. Then, when the Fellowship reaches Moria, the story turns more Frodo-centric again when Gandalf takes him apart and tells him about powers in Middle-earth he has not yet matched his strength against, and that he fears someone from within the Fellowship will try to take the Ring from Frodo. Perhaps some wink to Gandalf's foresight? The scenes before the Doors of Moria also have some great new dialogue in it ("Knock on the door with your head Peregrin Took, but if that does not shatter them, and I am allowed a little piece from foolish questions, I will seek for the opening words!' great stuff) and we get to see some sarcastic friction between Legolas and Gimli when Legolas questions the odd ways in which Dwarves tend to keep their secrets.

When the Fellowship finally enters Moria there is some good dialogue about Mithril and Bilbo getting a Mithril shirt that was worth more then the entire Shire. All this stuff is straight from the books and its combined with some more beautiful area-shots in Moria. The fight scene in Balin's Tomb also features some new material with Boromir being thrown across the room by the Cave Troll (and once again I have to say the interaction between the actors and the cgi-Cave Troll looks awesome).

Like I said before: the Lorien-sequences probably benifitted the most from the extended cut. Now when I first saw FOTR I felt that Lorien was probably the weakest part of the film. It was too short, it missed too much and it was too 'dreamy'. And here once again I think PJ on my bare knees for this extended cut, because especially for this part of the movie it does great things. There are tons of new scenes and shots and I won't mention them all because it is far more enjoyable to just sit back and watch them for the first time. However there are some extended scenes in which Haldir and Aragorn discuss in Elvish, we get to see a lot more stuff from Celeborn (he must have had a very bad they when he saw they only kept one of his lines in the final movie) and they slightly added the scene in which Galadriel and Celeborn talk to the Fellowship; Celeborn is more 'in charge' of the conversation whereas Galadriel has more time to 'read their minds'. Here again are some nice bits straight from the books like Galadriel saying that none knew fully what Gandalf was up to and Legolas defining the Balrog as 'A Balrog from Morgoth'.

We also get to see Sam reciting his verse in the lament for Gandalf, another great scene, and some smaller detailed stuff like Aragorn sharpening his sword and Galadriel showing Nenya to Frodo; a lot of little eyecandy for the fans!

Now as for the giftgiving-scene: that was truely awesome. It was beautifully cut (we basically get to see it in flashbacks when the Fellowship is leaving Lorien by boat) and head some great moments (I won't spoil them all) that brought a smile to my face. We saw Pippin and Merry getting their knives, Sam getting his rope (unfortunally he does not get the little box with 'dirt') and of course we see Gimli trembling and fulling over his words when he asks for his gift. There's more time for Aragorn's goodbye to Galadriel and some more Elvish lines are being spoken.

As the story reaches is end there's some added scenes along the Anduin with a discussion between Aragorn and Boromir which serves as an introduction to the breaking of the Fellowship, Sam taking care of Frodo en we even get to see Gollum on a log! At Amon Hen there's more fighting scenes, especially from Boromir who gets a more 'heroic' death and Legolas who gets to show of some more of his bow and arrow-techniques (we know it's all done by computers Orlando, you don't fool us;) ) And with that the extended cut ends.


Now if I am ever going to see a better movie like this one before TTT I'll eat my shoes. Or maybe my socks.. but you get the point. I love this extended cut, I think it's great! It has some fabulous stuff in it which I think should deffinitly have made it to the big screen, but alas, I am not the one who makes that decision. Now there's a lot of discussion here and there about the whole idea about this extended dvd only a few months after the first dvd etc. etc. I remember a great piece from fellow staffer Quickbeam about it not that long ago so I'll just throw in my two cents here as well.

At first I agree the idea might sound a bit odd. It might sound like New Line is trying to get us for all the cash we are worth (I am far beyond that point by the way), but to be honest: after seeing this dvd I know that's not true. What PJ did with this extended dvd is something we as fans should all be thrilled about; he gave us a new FOTR. And not only is this new FOTR better then the one you saw in theatres; it is also closer to the books we all know and love. And that is eventually what I find important. Because as much as I love these movies and everything about them, it all draws forth on my love for the books. And this dvd to me is a gift from PJ to those fans who feel the same. It is PJ saying to us: 'Hey look here guys, I know you love these books so I made this cut for you!' It is not a dvd that someone should buy who has no 'emotional string' with LOTR, it is a collectors item. Something that all fans will appreciate. It has all these great moments from the book we didn't get to see in the movie, and it has some awesome new music in it from Howard Shore which makes the movie all the more 'new' and better.

And that's just the movie! I haven't even begun to tell you all about disc 3 and 4 and all the fantastic material on those. And I won't because, like I said, Xoanon covered it quite good. I will however point out a few personal highlights from those discs.

Now there are a few things apart from the movie that I would advise everyone to look at right after they sat through the extended cut. If you are a member of the official fanclub you might wanna scroll through the fan credits (also; if you like Howards Shore's score as much as I do I would advise to do it too). I browsed through the fancredits and my name was amongst the fancredits as well!! It was there.. 111 minutes and 7 seconds into the second disc... I'm on the middle of the screen, only a few lines above Barrie Osborne and Mark Ordesky and I'm telling you: it is a very satisfying feeling to see your name in these credits, to me it was a reason to love this dvd even more.

But I'm getting carried away, the absolute must-see from disc 3 would have to be the Bag End Set Test. Again I woint spoil it all but it features some people from the crew (including PJ in the 'lead role') who play out a scene from the movie in a not-even-close-to-being-finished set of Bag End and I tell you; I was laughing so hard it took three people to shut me up! The tour through WETA Workshop was also extremely interesting, especially since I have a long history of standing outside the gates of the WETA Studios trying to peek inside, if only I knew this dvd was coming out back in those weeks I could have saved myself a lot of strolling around Miramar...

Disc 4 also contained a lot of goodies. The Fellowship of the Cast feature was very enjoyable and the 'A Day in the Life of a Hobbit' featured some interesting and funny stuff. Other then that is focusses a lot on all the technical thingies that were done on the movies with the sound effects, visual effects, digital grading and music. All very interesting and very detailed!

So all in all I'd say that anyone who would sit through all of these four discs in one long sit would know absolutely everything they will ever need to know about the production of FOTR (keep in mind; these discs only deal about FOTR, there's more of this goody-ness coming our way next year!), and I don't know about you guys but I live on stuff like this, I loved it, bring me more!

And actually, that was the feeling I had after sitting through almost eight hours of dvd. More, I wanted more. I wanted to know all about the TTT soundtrack. I wanted to walk around Helms Deep and Edoras the way I walked around Rivendel and Hobbiton, and I want to listen to Bernard Hill and Brad Dourif talk about what they thought of their character and their co-stars. But I guess I'll just have to wait for that, after all; waiting an entire year for The Two Towers wasn't as hard as we all thought it would be...