Four hours of The Two Towers

So my copy of the four-disc, extended edition DVD of The Two Towers arrived in the mail Wednesday. Bloody fast shipping time for Shawville: Amazon only announced it had shipped two days before. I picked it up from the post office around noon.

Guess what I did Wednesday afternoon? If you guessed that I sat, rapt and slack-jawed, in front of the screen for four hours straight … well, you’d be dead-on.

Since I made a point of not buying the theatrical release DVD — I haven’t watched my copy of the theatrical version of Fellowship since the extended version came out — I haven’t seen The Two Towers since January. And, of course, this was my first shot at the extra 43 minutes of footage.

About that extra footage. I liked it. A lot.

Hardly any of it was action sequences; you can understand completely if Jackson cut these scenes from the theatrical release in the interest of keeping up the pace. As a result, the movie does tend to plod in the extended version, but if you’re like me you’re unlikely to care.

All the new footage, in other words, enriches the story but slows it down. What ended up getting cut the most were Faramir (I for one will not mourn when Denethor char-broils himself in the next movie), Théodred (who wasn’t even onstage in the book), and Merry, Pippin (think: flotsam and jetsam), the Uruk-hai and the Ents (draughts, wives, poetry), along with some talky bits regarding Aragorn’s Númenorean heritage.

Some bits could have remained — the trees coming to Helm’s Deep would have added, what, 90 seconds, tops, and not have slowed the action down overmuch. If I had to hazard a guess, it would be that those two clips were among the last to be cut. They must have been looking for seconds at that point. No doubt I’ll find out when I listen to the director’s commentary.

The extended footage also continues the writers’ tendency to use Tolkien’s words in the mouth of a different character. Faramir speaks aloud what Sam only thought in the book about the dead Southron — appropriate, because it reflects his character. But Treebeard speaking a couple of Tom Bombadil’s lines is jarring, because Bombadil speaks in rhyming couplets — even if transposing the scene with Old Man Willow makes sense.

Well, you know what I think about the extended editions. Buy them — or at least watch them — with all dispatch.