It's no secret that I loved the Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship of the Ring. I saw it in the theater 6 times -- the first time at a midnight showing in Hollywood. I bought the first DVD on the first day it was available, and watched it twice that first week. I voted for it in the SAG awards in nearly every category. And, last week, as soon as the new Extended Edition was released, I bought that as well.
Sadly, I did not have time to watch it that first day. But I did watch it the next day. And the gist of what I have to say is ... wow.
The extended version is even more wonderful than the original. All of the newly inserted and lengthened scenes are truly excellent. The bulk of the new material, happily, is not full new scenes, but, rather, expansions of existing scenes. These expansions broaden Gandalf's sense of humor, underline the fear and self-doubt in Aragorn, solidify the state of relations between Elves, Men and Dwarves, and, especially, deepen the tragedy of Boromir. That last is actually my favorite part of this new version: Boromir is my favorite character in the trilogy (despite the fact that he dies in the first book), and his new and extended scenes paint a much fuller, richer character. The addition of the Lothlorien gift-giving scene is very welcome, as is the Lament for Gandalf, and the initial encounter with the Lorien elves, but I especially enjoyed the smaller touches -- an extra sentence or smile here and there, the acknowledgment of Bilbo's Trolls, the Sackville Bagginses, Legolas shooting five deadly arrows in a row instead of three, etc. It's those little things (along with the bigger scenes, of course) that make this new addition so delightful, for me. It's easy enough to stick a handful of new scenes into a film, but to go through and add all of those small extra touches throughout makes watching this extended version almost as exciting as watching the theatrical release for the first time.
In fact, I think every new and extended scene on this DVD is a welcome addition, save one. In this new version, right after the "History of the Ring" intro, but before the point where the Theatrical Release story starts (with Frodo reading under a tree in the Shire), New Line has inserted a sort of second introduction. It's actually taken from the early chapters of the Hobbit -- it's narrated by Bilbo, as he is writing his book, There and Back Again. The chapter is entitled "Concerning Hobbits" -- it's an introduction to the idea of Hobbits and life in the Shire. I don't want to imply that the scene is not well done. On the contrary -- as with everything else in the film, it is beautifully shot and highly entertaining. The real problem with it is that you end up with two "prologues" -- 30 - 40 minutes of voice-over descriptions before the story gets moving. It's just too long, and it is unnecessary. It is delightful to watch Peter Jackson's presentation of Hobbit life, but it hurts the movie as a whole.
The other features of the 4-disc set are, as you might imagine, deep and rich. Tons of interviews, storyboards, behind the scenes footage and still pictures make up about 8 hours of extras. I'll admit I've watched only about a quarter of them so far, but they are wonderfully put together.
The Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship of the Ring -- Extended Edition is a required addition to the collection of any true Tolkien or Fantasy fan -- that goes without question. The wonderful thing about this new addition is that it will hold magic for even casual fans -- if you have not yet seen it, rent it soon. It might tide you over until December 18, when The Two Towers is released.