Which versions do the average viewer know best> The original, theatrical releases of the first two films were just under three hours, and King was about three hours and 20 minutes. Collectively, the extended editions make nearly 11 hours of material. Like many director's cuts, however, some of the reintroduced scenes deepen the story, while others merely draw it out. Here's a list of my favorite and least favorite "extra moments" from The Lord of the Rings.
The Fellowship of the Rings
Keep: Two charming moments with hobbits. First, when the Fellowship sets off from Rivendell, Frodo asks they have to turn left or right to get to Mordor. Later, in Lothlorien, elves sing an elegy to the (presumed) death Gandalf, and Sam offers an impromptu ode to the wizard's famed fireworks.
Cut: "Concerning Hobbits," an unnecessary introduction to the habits and social structure of the wee folk, which might be faithful to the book but pushes the whimsy way too hard.
The Two Towers
Keep: Prince Faramir's flashbacks to a meeting with his heroic brother Boromir ("Game of Thrones" Sean Bean), who was killed in the previous movie. The sequence features their father Denethor ("Fringe's" John Noble), who becomes instrumental in the third film, and otherwise provides great character background here.
Cut: Hobbits Merry and Pippin gulp down the Ent-Draught, a beverage of the tree people that causes them to grow a few inches. But any extra height never goes mentioned again, so the continuity makes no sense.
The Return of the King
Keep: The Fellowship's final confrontation with Christopher Lee's evil wizard Saruman, a famously glaring omission after The Two Towers. There's also an informative scene of Sam and Frodo in Mordor, disguised as diminutive orcs, which explains how they were able to cross the evil empire undetected.
Cut: Any of the humor with Gimli the dwarf, including a drinking game with Legolas and a scene with him blowing a whispy ghosts.
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