The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
First of all, let me just say, I've been looking forward to doing this for a while now. Actually, I've been looking forward to this DVD for a while now – since about Easter I think – so when I started doing these reviews one of my first thoughts was 'oooh, the Fellowship of the Ring Extended Edition, ooooh.
Yes, I am a Tolkein geek. And yes, the films have made me much much worse. So I ordered this, when it arrived I stroked it a bit, gave up essay writing immediately, and started watching. That was nearly three weeks ago. I still haven't seen everything in the DVD sets, and I have watched A LOT.
Just a quick note, I'm not the only one this bad – there are two copies of this DVD set in my house, and several friends piled round on the couch in the first weekend to watch the film.
This is 'The Fellowship of the Ring' as you’ve never seen it before. It's 45 minutes longer than the version shown in cinemas, and it's better. No, really, that is possible... (yeah, I know, from my raving review of the first DVD you didn't think it possible). On the other hand – I think it is definitely a Tolkein-geek edition. Normal mortals, especially those who found the original slow, may find themselves with a sore rear-end.
So – the extra footage: There's more of Hobbiton, including a scene with Frodo and Bilbo, and a scene in the Green Dragon pub, which does involve singing. There's a glimpse of the Elves leaving for the Grey Havens, seen by Frodo and Sam on the way to Bree. When the Hobbits and Aragorn leave Bree there is a re-inserted scene in the Midgewater Marshes, which gives a smoother introduction into the relationship between them.
There's an extended introduction between Aragorn and Boromir at Rivendell, and an extended Council of Elrond scene. This last is in fact, one of the highlights of the new film. For those who know the book, Boromir gets to mention his dream about Isildur's Bane and we
can see his immediate attraction to the power of the Ring. Which means we get to see Gandalf reciting the Ring verse – 'One Ring to rule them all…' – in the language of Mordor. It's an amazing addition – another glimpse of the power of Gandalf. This, then, is Disc One, ending with the formation of the Fellowship.
Disc Two begins with another entirely new scene – that of Aragorn at his mother's grave, and a conversation between him and Elrond in which it is really spelled out that Aragorn is reluctant to take up his destiny. You may, like me, not entirely agree with Peter Jackson's
interpretation of this – I reckon that Aragorn was more than ready to take up the Kingship – but still, you just accept that they've changed that and moved on. In the storyline of this film, it works, and in this film, Aragorn's uncertainty works as well.
The journey of the film until the Dimril Dale (after Moria) is full of little glimpses of reinserted shots. You can end up bouncing up every few minutes going 'oooh look' if you're not calm about things. So, there's a special Departure of the Fellowship scene, a tiny bit extra in the scene where Boromir and Aragorn are teaching swordplay to Merry and Pippin, another small bit on the way to Moria where you can see the tension between Legolas and Gimli.
The main beneficiary of the new cut is the section in Lothlorien. This is the section that drew most 'complaints' from fans on the original release. Now it is here in all its glory. The tension on arrival is present, yet Galadriel comes across as more kindly in her longer scenes. We see Sam's lament for Gandalf, and above all, the Gift Giving, which is central to future films – as Sam receives his rope, Frodo his light and Merry – since the Barrow Wights are missing – is given an elvish dagger of the Noldor. There is also a conversation in Elvish between Galadriel and Aragorn in which his relationship with Arwen is mentioned, and the tension of that for future films set up as Aragorn admits that despite his love he doesn't wish Arwen to leave her people.
From Lothlorien, on we go. There is a new scene on the river in which Aragorn and Boromir come to open dispute over the direction in which the Fellowship should go, and this sets up the new extended death of Boromir. In this, we see some of Merry and Pippin fighting, and a longer cut of Boromir's last stand. This is one of the most touching scenes of the film. Hankies at the ready.
Throughout this new edition of the film it sounds to my untrained ear as if the audio and visuals have been touched up. Things look and sound a little cleaner, and Howard Shore's extra music comes into its own during Lothlorien. We get to see a bit more of the thawing
between Legolas and Gimli – Orlando Bloom particularly benefits from more screen time, and John Rhys Davies is perfection in his Gift Giving moment with Galadriel. Basically there is more of everything you loved the first time round, and nothing becomes wearisome. In all honesty, I can’t see going back to watch the original version again – unless I'm running short of time!
This is turning into a bit of an epic review isn't it? Bit like the DVD set really. There are two discs loaded with extra material, plus four audio commentaries alongside the extended edit. So where to begin? First of all, you can watch every documentary in the extras in one go – there's a set-up option on each of the two discs that is 'Play All' and you can just sit for two-three hours and watch.
The material is split: Book to Vision on disc three – which deals with script writing, storyboarding and animatics, design and locations. Disc four is Vision to Reality – casting, filming, scale filming, editing, special effects, sound, music and the film's release. In addition to the documentaries there are galleries, and clips.
I won't tell you everything that’s in here. It would take too long for one thing, it would spoil it for you for another, and for a third – I can't remember everything I've watched! For an overview though, here goes. The commentaries are really well grouped: Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens on first talking about the script making and
filming, they're hugely interesting, especially on how/why things were left out or incorporated – and the best joke is that they got the scream from the Nazgul out of Fran Walsh by telling her PJ had bought the rights to the Silmarillion (we wish). The next is the design teams (to which I admit I have not listened yet), and then the post-production crew, which I currently have playing – it features the producers, director of photography, composer and sound and FX guys, and it's very interesting – watch to see Ian McKellan knock the table in Bag End. The last is the Cast – four hobbits, two elves (one archer, one female), one dwarf, two wizards, and a human (Boromir) and it is fantastic, they are hilarious and informative about their parts and the filming.
For the rest? Well, if you want to know about the scripting watch Peter Jackson's commentary and the first two documentaries on Disc 3. If you want the filming go for the cast commentary and the first three documentaries on Disc 4. Highlights include: Dominic Monaghan’s impressions – of Sean Astin guiding helicopters, John Rhys Davies ordering food, John Rhys Davies as Sulla in Indy – he really is the star of the show; John Rhys Davies generally – never the first member of the cast picked for the 'who would you have to dinner' game, but he’s certainly shot up my list.
On disc three the storyboards and pre-viz section is my favourite – there are storyboard galleries, storyboard films, and animatics – computer generated versions of scenes of the film to try out filming angles and so on, try watching the animatic version of 'The Stairs of
Khazad-dum', it’s amazing. The best bonus is the Bag End set test, when Peter Jackson and various crew members – notably co-producer Rick Porras and producer Barrie Osborne went off to the Bag End set to have a test run with camera angles and script. Want to see Peter Jackson playing Frodo and someone waving Gandalf in the air on a stick? Go here, it's hilarious.
Well, I admit that I haven't seen everything – I have to go away now and watch the sections on editing and digital stuff, just for fascination value. The one thing that really comes across in this edition is the attention to detail – both in the preparation of this set (there is everything from specially made documentaries to galleries of art and photography), and in the making of the film – to the extent that they had two different sized looms to weave costumes on to keep the scale actually perfect. If you're a fan then this is essential -
and I'd guess you’ve either got it or got your eye on it. If you're not, then I recommend getting hold of this and having a look – it might just convert you.