Alphabetical Movie – The Two Towers
When I watched the Lord of the Rings trilogy for the Alphabetical Movie Project, I made the choice to watch the extended editions. I don’t believe they are better than the theatrical editions but one of the most remarkable things about the universe Jackson created is how excited I was by the prospect of seeing more – even if the extra bits didn’t add all that much to the story.
If I’m watching a movie for the first time, I’m pretty much always going to try to see the theatrical cut of the film. If I don’t like that version of the film, why would I want to watch a version that has more stuff I don’t like? If I like the film, I want to establish a baseline and I feel that baseline should be what everyone else has already seen.
Besides, the theatrical cut is almost always better. Most movies don’t need to be longer. Most movies need to be shorter. As much as I love the extra stuff in the LOTR movies, I don’t feel like any of the movies are improved by the additional material. The theatrical versions exhibit better pacing and storytelling than the extended editions. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that the avalanche of skulls really makes Return of the King better.
Yes, I love watching the forest destroy the orc army at the end of The Two Towers. But let’s be honest – Helm’s deep is over. Everything following that battle is just a set-up for the next movie. The longer you take to set up the next movie, the less interested your audience is likely to be in the movie they are still watching.
A good experiment is to watch the theatrical cut of a movie and then watch just the deleted scenes that are re-inserted in an extended cut. Hopefully you can listen to the director commentary as to why they cut the scene.
Almost every time I listen to a good director explain why they chose to cut a scene, I agree. Most directors know what they are doing. They know how to tell a story. And they know when a scene isn’t really telling the story well.
Even if we are talking about a terrible director, the cut scenes are not likely to fix their film. In fact, those scenes will probably make the film even more tedious and ludicrous than it already was.
I’ve made a few videos myself and when it comes time to edit them, I always cut. When a friend asks me to critique something, I make sure to tell them where they can trim it down. Timing is essential to telling a good story and timing is rarely improved by adding stuff.
Making an extended edition works counter to that instinct. The best question any filmmaker can ask is “is this too long” and not “how can I make this longer?”
I really love the extended editions of the LOTR trilogy because they give me more of Jackson’s Middle Earth. Any problems with the length of the narrative are secondary to the geeky fanboy desire to spend just a few more minutes in that extraordinary place.
I can love them, though, and still conclude that the theatrical versions are better films.