Top 7 Reasons Why Lord of the Rings the Theatrical Version is far BETTER than the Extended Version
Believe it or not this seems to be the minority opinion. But I feel strongly that the original Theatrical Version (TV) of LOTR is so much better in almost every way compared to the “Extended Edition” (EE). Here’s just a few reasons why (in no particular order):
- Jackson prefers the theatrical versions and they are the “definitive” movies. Here is a direct quote: “The theatrical versions are the definitive versions. I regard the extended cuts as being a novelty for the fans that really want to see the extra material.” Man, I should just leave it there: *mic drop*. I mean, this says a lot, doesn’t it? – when the director and mastermind behind a film says a version is far superior it probably is accurate. But the majority of fans somehow disagree! But don’t they say “the customer’s always right…?” Well, not in this case methinks…
- 99% of the scenes in the EE don’t add any value. They are just “ok, that’s nice” moments at best (e.g. the scene where Gimli gets the final count +1 over Legolas was probably the best cut scene in the trilogy) and at worst they completely remove you from the movie and are silly (e.g. the mouth of Sauron looks ridiculous and is a complete snooze because you know Frodo is alive. Whereas it works in the books because you don’t)
- Movie Pacing so OFF. This is a really big one for me. A good movie needs to have a good flow to it. It needs to have a story arc that’s steadily moved along at a pace that’s consistent and exciting. The Extended version completely messed with the pacing of the movie, making it almost unwatchable for me and my ability to enjoy it as a good film. Whether it’s the 30 minute unnecessary buildup at the beginning of Fellowship (“concerning hobbits”) to the even LONGER 4 or 5 endings in the ROTK – the pace is all out of wack. It’s really a slap in the face to good editing and movie pacing. A textbook example of how to drag on scenes and add extra scenes that are detracting vs additive.
- Some things just need to die on the cutting room floor. SO many scenes in the EE just — plain SUCK! They do nothing but serve to appeal to the super-fans. I could literally list 100 excruciating scenes in the EE, but these ones immediately come to mind as the most awful: a) All the extra Erwin scenes! com’on – the most boring character in the entire franchise does not need an extra 7-8 minutes devoted to how so un-stereotypical she is as a woman that she’s unable to even make a decent soup! Complete nonsense and unneeded as a scene. It adds nothing and completely ruins the pace (Two Towers) b) The mouth of Sauron – silly; just horrible and silly. I laughed out loud at how stupid and unnecessary it was (ROTK). c) The breaking of Galdalf’s staff by the Witch King (ROTK). First – not in the book; second – ruins the pace and adds nothing to the story (it’s not like Galdalf’s broken staff was even mentioned or referenced again … ever) third – stupid, just stupid. The “eliminate the stupid” factor needs to be considered when you’re a movie editor. d) The explanation of Shelob in the Two Towers and essentially ruining a good bit of plot for the next film by Farimir. e) The killing of Soroman by Wormtongue in the tower. Bad on so many levels – first, it’s not how it happened in the books (which is forgivable since the burning of the Shire wasn’t depicted either) but also it really didn’t help with any significant plot point (ROTK). I could go on and on – but the list of BAD scenes in the EE is sadly pretty endless.
- SO. MUCH. FILLER. Or if I was a teenie-bopper I’d say “TMI!” Okay, I get it – the Books! Yes yes yes. So something was in the books so it should be in the movie too, right? I assume that’s your position? Well – your position is wrong; sorry! You simply cannot translate an amazing book and every possible scene to film. A lot must get cut to keep things exciting and interesting. The necessary scene-cutting was done in the TV and they just got “dumped back in” to the EE. It truly makes for a completely different (and worse) version of itself.
- Too. Damn. Long! This point should speak for itself. But a movie (even the really good ones and even the extended version of one) should consider the story you want to tell and not include unnecessary elements. I would be all for the EE if the scenes that were added actually HELPED explain vital missing pieces or built up character arcs — but they didn’t. It’s almost as if someone said “let’s just stick a whole bunch of crap in the films to add a worthless hour and a half to each film” and get more money. And the room cheered! To choose an analogy – the TV was a well-balanced meal: it had the meat, potatoes, and veggies. But the EE took that delicious meal and bathed it in a tub of maple syrup. Sure, I like sugary food as much as the next guy: but only in moderation. When a meal is drenched in it, it’s ruined!
- Music and scene timing are “off” in the EE. Given the extra 1.5 hours that was just crammed into place in the EE, the intricate subtleties involved with timing are now … off! For example the timing of music with scenes and creating the narrative as well as crafting the artistic style involved with film production is all askew. These are likely small things that a non-film critic might miss; but to someone looking for the “flow” of scene and music and storyboard to come together in a harmonious way, it was entirely missing in the EE. It’s like listening to your favorite song when the instrument is just slightly out of key. But in this case – things were more than slightly discordant. Take for example everything from the opening credits of FOTR – the scene with Gandalf entering the Shire feels laborious. And who the hell cares to hear Bilbo go on about the pettiness of the Sackville-Baggins when there’s an entire 4 hour movie about to unfold. It just unfortunately belabors the insignificantly trivial at the expense of the larger picture. And in an epic film like LOTR that’s a pretty egregious issue. And back to the original point: the negative consequence of a lot of this is scenes lose their power; music is put in different spots than intended and the “art” of the sequence is significantly diminished.
Well those are the top 7 reasons I think the Extended Edition of LOTR is dumb and the Theatrical version is light-years ahead on so many levels. Sadly, I feel I’m taking crazy pills when I read some of the fan reviews of the EE and the majority of people say the exact opposite as me. But that’s fine – they can be wrong. Hell, they’re probably the same people who say the Star Wars Prequels are better than the Originals, it’s okay that Han shot second, and that Midichlorians “make sense.” And the opinions of those people frankly don’t mean much to me.
But lend your thoughts below. What do YOU think?
16 thoughts on “Top 7 Reasons Why Lord of the Rings the Theatrical Version is far BETTER than the Extended Version”
Just a quick remark: the “4 or 5 endings in RotK” are all present in the theatrical version as well. All of the extended scenes take place prior to the Ring’s desctruction.
Thank-you for this review.I ordered the Blu-ray theatrical version of the Hobbit, and the Lord of the rings. Noticing the times of the movie’s I thought I might be missing precious scenes versus the extended version. What you said really makes sense. I actually spent a couple hours trying to make up my mind. Noticing that the extended versions came in a 30 disc box, I was like what. Thinking something clearly had to be wrong. Jackson’s opinion of the theatrical version being better was the deal sealer. I do understand the flow of the movie is important. Not just for this movie but for all movies. Thank you for this review. I believe that this will help people that enjoy all the Hobbit and The Lord of the Ring trilogies. I don’t like the idea of having my mind boggled around by seen’s that clearly elongate and are not necessary.Giving the movie a different feel. And in a way ruin the plot and idea of the film.
The use of numerous low-framerate slow-mo shots in the Extended Editions also doesn’t really help the overall look of the films.
It’s interesting that you mention the death of Saruman because nearly everyone I’ve read reviews from says that’s the only extended scene worth keeping.
From a storytelling perspective, Saruman was a big deal. He was the one human-like villain to really hinder Gandalf, he was the major threat in the second movie – so just leaving him locked in his tower offscreen seems like a huge oversight.
I tried watching all the extended versions because simply I never had before, and it made me appreciate Peter Jackson is a good film-maker and he knew what he was going when he pulled a scene out. I can understand that the extra stuff in Fellowship doesn’t spoil the film, but Two Towers become interminable, I just quit caring. Then when I got the death of Saruman scene in Return of the King I quit.
That scene was brutal, you could tell it was abandoned early, the hard cuts between close up shots of actors, the terrible line readings, the bizarre back and forth between the good guys and the bad guys that clogged up and made no sense, and then the bizarre stabbing followed by bizarre shooting. I imagine Jackson thought that scene was an embarrassment, I don’t know how anyone could want it included, it lessens the entire film with how poorly executed, acted, and written it is.
Almost all of those extras truly belong on the cutting room floor, and though they’re neat for big fans of the movie to see, but can also safely never be seen because they’re generally poor and meaningless.
What do you think about the EE of The Hobbit?
I saw someone pointing out that the extended version of the first one is useless, the second one has a scene that was added and was useful because it talks a little about the rings, and the third one should be the original version because it does justice to the film having the name battle on it, not to mention that it explains things that the theatrical version left without explanation (like what they did with the stone).
What do you think?
(I’m asking you this because I liked your explanation of what you personally thought about the extended version of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, I understand if you don’t want to answer it because you didn’t like The Hobbit very much or something else)
I have to say, I think you’re dead wrong. You have good points on some of scenes just dragging on and adding nothing, but the Theatrical versions leave out vital information. You don’t get Gandalf’s explanation of Smeagol/Gollum in the first film, you don’t get the first instances of “Time for Faramir, Captain of Gondor, to show his quality” and “sends him a Mighty Gift” which makes the repetition of them by Faramir into just really weird line readings (and loses a *lot *of Faramir and Denethor’s backstory and characterisation which means their interaction in the third film has no basis and just makes Denethor weird with no rationale – you miss why Osgiliath is important, the relationship with the brothers), you don’t get the explanation of why Pippin is interested in the palantir – there’s a lot that’s left assumed you know or just glossed over.
The theatrical versions are actually pretty confusing if you haven’t read the books first. When Frodo first called Gollum Smeagol in TTT, I had no idea what that was or where Frodo had suddenly acquired that information.
Are all the scenes in the Extended Editions, vital, useful, or good? No. But some of them definitely are and for me the films are significantly lesser without them.
Also, the breaking of Gandalf’s staff serves several purposes. It raises the threat level of the Witch King and creates a deeper “darkest before the dawn moment” before the arrival of Rohan. Also, it removes Gandalf’s magic from the battle for Minith Tirith and closes the fridge-logic argument of, “Why didn’t Gandalf just X instead of fighting a mundane war?”
“But that’s fine – they can be wrong. Hell, they’re probably the same people who say the Star Wars Prequels are better than the Originals, it’s okay that Han shot second, and that Midichlorians “make sense.” And the opinions of those people frankly don’t mean much to me.”
That’s funny, because they said anybody who liked the Theatrical version better must also have preferred the Star Wars prequels. Since you’ve just endorsed that as a good argument yourself, I have to take their word for it.
Yeah, the EE are vastly superior to the theatrical versions. An important factor is, a lot of context and certain oddities are made clearer and given transparency to a number of scenes and exposition. Sure, there are some scenes that may serve as filler but the point of the EE versions isn’t about conforming to the editing practices of pacing. It’s about FULL immersion into the world of Middle Earth and not to just breeze through it. Even then, a lot more could have been added to what we already got which could have elevated the movies to greater heights than it’s already at. I can’t wait for this new Amazon show to come out. I NEED more to explore of this fascinating world Tolkien created.
After just binge watching all the extended versions of LOTR, I am coming around to your view. While I don’t dislike the extra footage as much as you do, I do feel they don’t add enough to justify the extended length of the movies. The fact that Jackson prefers the theatrical release speaks volumes. I wish I could do my own edits and keep SOME of the added scenes, but get rid of most. I would especially like getting rid of Gimli’s kill counts and a lot of ponderous on camera soul-searching.
In my view there are four things wrong with the series:
1. Too long
2. Too many endings in ROTK
3. They ruined Gimli’s character by lampooning him and making him more of a children’s cartoon character. I especially hated the kill count contest he had going on in Legolas. It totally ruined the feeling that they were fighting for their existence when they have time for such juvenile games.
4. The army of ghosts were all Mary Sues. They just wafted over Sauron’s armies like they were nothing. Hell, they look like they could have single handedly won the big battle all by themselves with little effort. What were they worried about?
Looks like switching back to the theatrical release will help with issues #1 and #3 at least.
Although WE may know that Frodo is alive,the fellowship doesn’t.
The mouth of Sauron is an epic character,and when he reveals the mithril armour of Frodo ,stating that he suffered a lot,Aragorn “cuttingly” grows some balls and develops as a character into becoming the “returning king”.
This also adds a layer in the scene in front of the gates of Mordor,where he charges first in the name of Frodo.
Now,imagine having in the back of your head that your companion ,and all hope of M.Earth is dead,and doing that.
Could be revenge,could be the certainty that Sauron is deceiving,but it definitely is a king like move.
Ok,some extended parts where just fan serving,but this scene,your very first argument,is movie changing.
Lotr was a trilogy that began the trilogy scheme in the movies,never before had we the chance to see productions like these.
Was it a more mature market,the extended would be canon,would/if they put the money to raise it to an epic level.
Gandalf,also,is a damn demigod.Having his staff broken like it was nothing, isn t stupid.
It adds to the fact that the witch king can only be killed by a woman,no matter how powerless she is,you know a prophecy/witchcraft whatever ,we are watching a FANTASY movie after all,making Erwin’s characters vital.
So,sorry that you don t see the implications of the staff breakage,but we don t need them to understand the meaning of the scene.
Lotr are a 25 year old movies,some things may not age well,but you want to criticize a film?Take the genre into perspective
I like theatrical versions because all those extra scenes don’t fit into the movie series at all and they don’t feel like a part of the movies.
On the first part I would say in that quote he does not say “far superior.” Second, the author’s opinion of a text is largely irrelevant (see Roland Barthes’s :Death of an Author” and Michel Foucault’s “What is an Author?”). For less academic proof as someone mentioned I would direct you to George Lukas’s comments on Star Wars.
At the end of the day, its just what you like more and I enjoy spending more time with these characters if I can.
I have never disagreed with something so much in my entire life.
For a starter calling something the definitive version in no way shape or form alludes to liking it over the other, it’s just what Jackson considers canon.
Your second point is hugely subjective, so I won’t bother retorting it, just save for the fact that again, I disagree.
Third point and 6th point kind of amount to the same thing. And is somewhat fair if you’re looking for a traditional movie experience. I get it, not everyone has the time to spend watching an extended movie delving into more lore and character depth, that’s fine… don’t watch it then. But to call it categorically bad is odd?
Your 4th point is more or less the same as your second point, like I said, it’s entirely subjective. Not absolutely every scene in a movie needs to contribute to the plot directly imo, scenes which give you deeper insight into a character and why they might make the choices they does during said plot, or the lore behind a world and why things are as they are in said plot, are all great. Sure, there are a few novelty goofy scenes added, but the majority adhere to exactly what I just said.
5th point, again really the same as the 2nd. But filler? Really? And Tom Bombadill wasn’t? I don’t really think Tolkien’s work contains filler as such, but going by what I believe your definition to be, there’s still an immense amount of filler cut from jackson’s work when compared to Tolkiens.
And point number 7 honestly just annoyed me. I am a classical musician, played violin since I was 7, piano 11 grade 8 in both, and took A level music. I genuinely have 0 clue what you’re even on about with this. I hold the position (subjectively) that LOTR has the best soundtrack of all time, and that Shore is a genius, I have listened to it more times than I can count. And I’m not trying to be rude, but I can’t even fathom what you’re trying to say with point 7?
You’re not wrong as they’re all your opinions (maybe with exception of point 7), but you’re certainly not right.
Yes the extendeds aren’t for those seeking a traditional movie going experience, they’re heavier, denser and require more patience. But if you know what you’re getting into, everyone I have met who loves LOTR far prefers the experience. Even those (like myself) who was introduced to them having no knowledge of LOTR prior to watching them.
And people like you are why idiots exist in the world. The theatricals are far far superior to the extended. The EE adds too much levity and character comfort. Too much comic relief and way too much filler, just like the author said. It’s not a movie for you to get intimate with the characters, you’re subject to their experience, not to feel friendly and cozy with them. It’s not a f*cking romcom. General viewers don’t give a rats ass about the song of Eowyn, or Faramir’s backstory, or Gimli blowing spirits away like a cartoon character, or Merry and Pippin farting loud in Fangorn Forest. How f*cking weak and gay is that. The theatricals, by the grace of God, cut all that silly nonsense out and retained the serious gritty tone that Jackson was going for, making the films closer to a war movie than a Tolkien light hearted fan viewing.