I’ll have to do this little review prematurely since I have yet to, and never will, watch all the extras. Just to watch the commentary tracks alone would take over twelve hours, and I don’t think I can deal with three hours on production design and makeup. So this will be about the added and extended scenes.
I waited for this edition of the movie because I loved the additions to The Fellowship of the Ring. I’m not always a big fan of super long director’s cut DVDs; I really liked the fact that when the Coen Brothers did a director’s cut of Blood Simple they actually cut a few seconds out of a scene because they thought the pace was too slow. But the new scenes in this movie weren’t quite as meaningful as those in the first, a lot was just comic relief (Merry and Pippin, mostly, and they are quite funny) or endless exposition (notably a scene where Gandalf basically sums up the whole plot of the movie in one breath. Peter Jackson said something like, “Ahh, the scene where we explained it all”, in the commentary track). Of course, that’s to be expected. Editors aren’t going to leave a bunch of really expensive battle shots on the cutting room floor.
That said, the new scenes did add quite a bit to the story. There’s one where Aragorn explains that he’s eighty-seven years old since all of the human kings are extremely long lived. The cool thing about the scene is that it’s played for laughs, he’s embarrased to admit his age to a woman. Another few scenes flesh out the death and burial of Theodred. They don’t give much information, but definitely add to the texture of the movie, making the culture of Rohan that much more real. And there was actually a bit of CG battle footage put back in. At the end of the battle for Helm’s Deep the orcs are retreating and run into the Fangorn, which has moved to cover the valley. The forest then comes alive and starts thrashing back and forth to the sound of orc screams. Pretty cool stuff.
Is the special edition worth twenty-five bucks? I think yes, and that’s without even seeing any of the special features on the second two discs. I didn’t buy it for the features, anyway, I bought it for the extended movie.