I have many opinions about media that other fans may find controversial. I am in love Rogue One and The last Jedi. I don’t like Damian Wayne. I think The Silmarillion is more readable than The Hobbit.
2021 marks The Lord of the Rings 20th anniversary, and we can’t imagine exploring the trilogy in just one story. So we’re going to go back and forth every Wednesday throughout the year and examine how and why the films endure as modern classics. This is Polygon’s Year of the Ring.
But if there’s one controversial opinion that’s most likely to cause a shocked gasp and immediate accusation of not being a real fan at all, it’s this: I prefer the theatrical versions of Lord of the Rings to the Extended Editions in the deluxe box set.
The Extended Editions of the Lord of the Rings films are rightly legendary in the canon of home video releases. They have “deleted scenes” fully built into the movies themselves (so large that you have to swap half the discs, like a VHS copy of Titanic or a video game from the 1990s), complete with fully covered special effects and a Restung Score. Finished with the movie? There are dozen of hours of cast and crew interviews about the techniques the film was made with and the friendships that were made on the set – enough behind-the-scenes adventure for their own trilogy.
But when I sit down to watch Lord of the RingsI want to see how it looked in the theater. Just like Peter Jackson really imagined.
Theatrical LotR is all killer, much less filler
There is no wasted shot in the theatrical version of The community of the ring. It’s a near-perfect film. Act 1 is perhaps the best example of seamless filmmaking portrayal ever produced, as the production spans 6,000 years of history, building a world in the textbook, and introducing a dozen instantly compelling main characters.
Would I have liked if there was room for the scene where Galadriel gave the scholarship gifts in Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, and Fran Walsh’s adaptation? Sure, she’s one of my favorite characters. Do I want to take a look at Gildor and his gang of elves? See Aragorn’s visit his mother’s grave? Yes of course! Do I want them to be cut at the gentle pace of? The community of the ringshatter the exquisitely balanced flow of the film? Not me.
The two Towers is dredged as Communitywith a few detours that never felt justified to me. Aragorn falls off a cliff and has a psychological conversation with his girlfriend. Faramir whistles back and forth over the ring, and it never really matters. It’s still a great movie, and my first choice when someone asks, “Do you want to see a movie from Lord of the Rings?”
I am only human and a giant Lord of the Rings Nerd. I want to see how Jackson and his staff found Treebeard’s house? Yes! What about the play in which Aragorn admits he is almost 90 years old? Obviously!
But when I sit down for a full-day marathon, I want the closer, better version of the film, designed as a cohesive film story rather than a collection of translated scenes.
The Extended Editions brought LotR home
The extended versions of Community, Two towers, and Return of the king came out when it was still amazing that a wider public would invest financially and emotionally in something that was historically niche, plain and, for lack of a better word, nerdy. They also provided the opportunity to bring an “exclusive” version of Lord of the Rings films into more intimate, fan-only spaces, where we could pause and rewind, rave and cheer without fear of judgment (or just others Harassing people). .
Every year my friends and family watched a movie about The Lord of the Rings just before Christmas. And the following year, the Extended Edition DVD would hit stores around the Thanksgiving break. We put the hard drive in for three years and got back to Middle-earth just in time to spark the hype for the next episode.
The issues also fostered a sense of intimacy through hours of filmed interviews about how the films came together. There are WETA designers who I can still recognize at first glance. I talk about how Viggo Mortensen breaks his toe on the screen The two Towers – something you would only know if you watched the Special Edition DVDs – is now a meme.
But the Extended Editions are no better films.
And Peter Jackson agrees with me
“The theatrical versions are the final versions” Jackson told IGN in 2019
For Jackson, things like Treebeard’s home and Galadriel’s gifts are indelible parts of the Lord of the Rings, and he didn’t want the footage to be lost forever. The Extended Editions preserve this work and are created with the understanding that fans will want to see them. But, Jackson said, any addition would have an adverse effect on what he was up to.
“Every time [I add something in] I think I spoil the movie, but I’m making it because people want to see it and will see it in their house. ”
There is a difference between adaptation and translation, and perhaps fans of a beloved story take it for granted that there should be accuracy over accuracy. But a novel is not a movie, and adjustments have to make decisions, and not just about what something that only exists in the text looks like when it’s a living, breathing, costumed actor.
The theatrical editions of the Lord of the Rings films made a wise choice. The Extended Editions choose Completionism, at least in part, to please the fans and not the creatives behind the work itself. And if you let the fans take the wheel, it’ll be right really, really messy.
The shape of the Lord of the Rings film fandom would be completely different without the expanded DVD releases. But even for the director himself, these versions of the films are novelties, not reality.
I don’t want to stop anyone from enjoying the Extended Editions by doing this. I just wish people would stop calling me a bad fan when I said I prefer the theatrical films. I’m just saying I like the same ones Peter Jackson does!
Nevertheless, there is a film by Lord of the Rings that I think is better in the Extended Edition and that brings me to my next controversial opinion: the return of the King is actually a kind of chaos, and the Extended Edition is necessary to complete key character arcs and create an emotional foundation for the best moments in the film. But that’s a story for another time. Please don’t yell at me on Twitter until then.