have seen the extended versions of The Two Towers and Return of the King, and feel in general that the films gain much by the extended content.  Particularly ROTK, which in the heavily chopped theatrical release reminded me of the "final cut" scene from the excellent "The 15-minute Hamlet".

I liked most of the additions to TTT, which I had already come to feel was the finest of the 3 films.  However, there were one or two that I felt were slightly klunky.  "Wow, a Dunedain! You must be 80 years old!"  "Yup."

I was less happy overall with ROTK, even with the additions, some of which seemed very poorly thought-out indeed.

Frinstance, it was gratifying to have the "Saruman Question" settled definitively, but the scene itself was an almost complete plonk.  I would have much preferred:
  • To ditch Legolas' gratuitous arrow, Saruman dying by Grima's hand alone
  • Grima jumping off the tower in despair, or being thrown by a dying Saruman
  • The Palantir dropping from the top of the tower, rather than ridiculously from the hand of Saruman's mysteriously unflattened corpse
  • A grand and impressive death for Saruman, staff broken, gasping his last atop the tower, then shriveling away as in the book, with some sort of spectre appearing for a moment and/or a Sauron-style implosion effect
More peeves (some from the additional scenes, some not):
  • The "avalanche of skulls" was just silly
  • Orcs crossing the river in secret, but with torches lit?  Snerf!
  • The Witch-King of Angmar breaking Gandalf's staff?  Dude, no way!
  • Denethor was treated very shabbily indeed... a disagreeable cardboard-cutout crank.  At the very end, he reminded me of his counterpart in the Harvard Lampoon's "Bored of the Rings"... "bound, stabbed, strangled, and jumped out of a window while on fire... clearly a suicide", or somesuch.    Therefore I had a hard time not smirking at the "flaming plunge".  I would have liked to have seen Denethor played by George C Scott, and with better writing... not possible, sadly.
  • Much too much mooning, moaning and grunting in the Frodo/Sam/Gollum scenes.  Minutes of that could have been cut.
  • Elrond at the end looked like someone's tearful auntie at a wedding.  Dude, get some dignity!
  • Where was Denethor's Palantir?  And while I was glad to see Aragorn take a crack at Saruman's Palantir himself, I was disappointed not to see him wrest control of it as in the book, and use it to look where he wished (**)
  • Galadriel's wordless, perky "well, guess I'd better get on the boat now!" smirky thing at the end.  What the heck was that?
Stuff I particularly liked in ROTK (I DID like most of it, despite the complaints):
  • The restoral of "The Mouth of Sauron" in the extended version.  Nasty!
  • The portrayal of Sauron as a flaming "Jacob's Ladder" sort of thing
  • The lighting of the beacons, and the music that went with it
  • The "Rohan" theme with the amplified violin
  • Eowyn and Faramir, together at last, in the extended version
  • The extended scenes in Mordor with Frodo and Sam among the orcs
  • The casting, the casting, the casting.  Absolutely brilliant.
  • Gollum looks like one of those "goofy, slightly sinister smart aleck" images from 1910 on which Alfred E Neuman was based.  Excellent
  • The great graphics... almost goes without saying.

(*) "Extended Version"... If you have ever listened to the soundtrack album for "Monty Python and the Holy Grail", think "Executive Version".  If you have the DVD set, does a voice come on at the beginning of disk 2, shouting rudely, "THIS IS DISK TWO!!" ?  Maybe you had to be there...

(**) It may have occurred to those of us in IT that the Palantiri, not to mention the Rings themselves, demonstrate the perils of an absent or poorly thought out security infrastructure.  Talk about being owned...

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