Phil's Quick Capsule Review
the-lord-of-the-rings-trilogy

Long VS Short(ish): The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy by Your Opinion Sucks

So Cineworld, my cinema of choice, finds its doors closing once again in the face of a bailing Bond and a human race too arrogant even for self preservation. I thought about sticking to shouting the F word over and over again but I want to be intellectual about it all so: oh drat! Just when it looked like the every men that make up the public crowds that fund the industry could continue taking it all for granted and paying top dollar without ever actually giving a shit like nothing ever sodding happened.

While I’m cynical about most things in life, the magic of the motion picture is not one of them; so who knows? Amidst a hundred and one news outlets wondering if this really is the end of the movie theatre, I’m feeling cautiously optimistic; as a string of new releases bursting onto the scene at the start of next year just might be what holds the power to resuscitate this thing! Jolting everything back to the way life was long before some teeny tiny spec of an organism, that we can’t even see, showed us just what horrors it was capable of.

But enough about Trump’s brain, I think everything is gonna be fine, all we have to do is follow the rules, wear masks, maintain social distancing and use your average common sense to dissipate this virus; we can do that, right…?

Oh my God, we’re FUCKING FUCKED!

 

Anyway, when cinema’s first re-opened, my got-to Cineworld of choice proved smart enough to, not only show older movies to fill in the spaces left by absentee newbies, but marathon the entire Lord Of The Rings trilogy, one instalment per night over a three-day weekend, in it’s extended – without intermissions – near four-hour-long-each runtimes; ON THE BIG-FUCKING-SCREEN!!! You’d better believe I went all three nights, saw The Lord Of The Rings extended cuts on a crispy big screen with a thunderous sound system, no breaks, and had the time of my nerdy little life!

 

I didn’t want to just review them outright because everybody and their mum has already done that several times over; and so a thought occurred to me: what about a showdown – a VS? Unlike Batman V Superman the theatrical cuts of Lord Of The Rings have not been made obsolete; people still watch and enjoy those as much and as often as they do the home media. Just what are the pros and cons of the extra footage? Does something actually work better in the shorter versions? What makes the extra footage so damn pleasing?

 

So here you are, I’m going to, as briefly as I can help it, pit the theatrical cuts against the extended cuts and find which versions I think are better – per individual film. If you’ve seen the Lord Of The Rings as many times as I have, them being some of my life long favourites of all time, you’ll have all versions entirely memorised. No, *you’re* a nerd! And because of this I was able to pinpoint exactly when new footage reared its beautiful head and immediately knew why it was cut out, or wonder why it was ever excised in the first place. The theatre experience drowns out all other commitments, it was just me and the greatest movie trilogy ever; we had the time and space to really get to know each other.

 

The Fellowship Of The Ring

 

The first instalment is the only one of the three for which, I feel, the theatrical cut and the extended edition are both exactly on par; as good as each other in every way. The extra footage feels very welcome without ever dulling or jeopardising the pace, and yet I don’t really miss it when I feel like watching the shorter cut for a change. It’s really strange, the generous world building of the Shire is probably the best example, the theatrical version’s is punchy and pleasantly energetic without feeling as though anything is missing; and yet the extended cut reveals so much extra content you would wonder how that’s ever possible.

 

In the shorter cut, Bilbo comes off as somewhat enigmatic, a curiosity; we wonder what his deal is against the information we have so far. In the extended cut he’s almost more of a protagonist than Frodo, until the reigns are handed over when he leaves the ring behind; both versions have something the other doesn’t but the stitches of the editing remain undisturbed – they both work as well as each other on a metric level. Must be one of those once in a blue moon with all the planets aligned sort of happenings.

 

Perhaps it’s because this point in the story has no time to faff around – its job is to set everything up in this endlessly huge world and get us ready for the journey ahead. So in either version, all the important beats, character/world building and story layout remain as informative as they need to be, it’s just that one has less footage than the other; but the resultant resonance remains unchanged. I wonder what everyone else thinks about that…

The Two Towers

For me, the theatrical cut of Two Towers is the superior version. This is the middle of the grand tale – its second act; the one that risks the loss of momentum the most in all three-act stories. Yet it has a unique responsibility for more than just riding the coattails of Fellowship’s established plot; and introducing even more characters for what’s to come. It’s a much slower burn than Fellowship, being more in line with a political thriller than an adventure. Much of the story deals with characters disagreeing on the best cause of action when faced with their deadly predicaments, like an army of ten-thousand Uruk-Hai for example, and not always coming to a swift/clean conclusion.

 

While there certainly is plenty of magic, adventure, wonder and fantasy action, this is a much more political, intimate and conversational film – building up and building up before erupting in the famous final act. Don’t think I’m holding this against the film too much, it’s still absolutely unbelievably brilliant, but I think it might be this different, less friendly and more direct kind of story telling during the trilogy’s inconclusive middle chapter that makes most of the extended footage feel unhealthy for the flow. There’s a lot I do appreciate, more screen time for Saruman is always nice, learning about Aragon’s age is great and the cinematography remains top notch with exception; but I can’t help but feel that most of it doesn’t really add much beyond more minutes for a story in need of less.

 

I’m not one to complain about length that much, it seems every movie ever made nowadays is accused of being too long if it dares to be longer than 80 minutes – almost like we’re obsessed with moaning about it because it means having to put our phones away for more than five seconds. And, again I must stress, I’m not criticising Two Towers really; I just think that, when you stand its versions side by side, the shorter of the two has the better rhythm, and the majority of the extra footage – while great in its own right and very much welcome, leaves no mysteries as to why it was cut in the first place. I don’t love Treebeard’s compositions or Merry and Pippin’s extra antics like I do Fellowship’s Beren and Luthien campfire story. But hey, while I’m on the subject of Two Towers, at least I can give mention to that opening scene with Gandalf and the Balrog: HOLY ORC FILTH, what an opener!

Return Of The King

OK, the extended cut is definitely the winner for this one because… well, do I really need to explain why? If you’re interested enough to read this far then you should also know all the obvious points: Resolution for Saruman, Gandalf VS Witch King, the Mouth of Sauron, Frodo and Sam amongst the Orcs, more Gothmog, more Pelannor Fields – these aren’t just extra scenes, they’re full on improvements; necessities even! Sure the army of the dead sequence is now very very VERY long and their arrival at Minas Tirith has less impact (due to us seeing them agree to help the heroes right away), and that extra scene between Merry and Eowyn is a little pointless, but the 4+ hour version of Return of the King remains a gargantuan earthquake of a movie master work.

 

Many of the extended scenes are my favourite parts of the film in general, when I see the theatrical cut I miss them and end up just wishing I was watching the longer blu-ray. I can’t even begin to explain my sheer disbelief that Saruman’s death was removed from the version seen in cinemas of all things, I’m not even joking when I say that this has kept me awake at night! As great a film as the theatrical cut remains, now, having seen the movie in its full unbroken glory with all the extra content acknowledged forever, it completely shrivels before the grandeur of its extended counterpart like it’s winter in a men’s changing room. The longer version is such an emotion-charging, epically cathartic mountain range of a motion picture art attack – that I sometimes wonder if the theatrical cut should have ever existed at all.

 

I simply can’t get enough of the battle of Pelannor Fields, it could be four hours long on its own and I wouldn’t complain. I feel the same way about most other extended scenes I mentioned before; and if nothing else, the knowledge that one is watching, not a director’s cut, but an *extended cut, helps one ease into the infamously long ending with much less effort than before. You’ve braced yourself for a commitment, you know patience is your responsibility this time, and with all the extra time that precedes it; the extended cut’s ending feels much more appropriate. And that’s it! Now that I’ve said my piece I can jump straight into a blunt-as-buggery, frank as Frank Booth, quick, simple, black and white, going once, going twice!!!

 

*Deep breath!*

The End.


 

Your Opinion Sucks

Your Opinion Sucks

What’s the difference between a film critic and a film maker? A film maker actually knows when to shut up, which certainly explains my big mouth.

Partial to the weird and the grotesque, James is a wannabe filmmaker and actor, who got lucky and allowed to review some pictures, the Donnie in Will and Phil’s bowling team, forever on a quest flex the truth... that your opinion sucks!

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