Saruman: Delightful to see Christopher Lee and Brad Dourif, but I have to agree with Peter Jackson that the scene is just not necessary for any dramatic purpose in the story, except perhaps to show Theoden's willingness to forgive Grima after everything he had set into motion. One of the things I really disliked about the theatrical ROTK was Gandalf's characterization; turning white from gray seemed to have turned off his brain, and this is yet another example. How could he not have known that Sauron would strike Gondor if he was going to pick a place in Middle-earth to attack -- he'd have to march through Gondor to get to a lot of them, anyway -- and how could he not suspect that he'd approach by water as well as by land? This, along with his whining to Aragorn about his fears for Frodo, his bitch-slapping Denethor, his tantrum-like behavior with the soldiers and his failure in general to act like a wizard in any way (couldn't he have lit the beacons of Minas Tirith with his staff or something?) really bugged me. I thought of him all through the movie as a crotchety old man, not a powerful being.
I have been a defender of the use of Gimli as comic relief -- these films have needed some comic relief, and I have a much different sense of Gimli as a character because he can smile in the face of doom -- but the drinking scene was a little much, and did not improve my opinion of Legolas any more than his wonder-tricks with arrows, though on a purely slashy level it was entertaining. On the other hand, his crack about the end of negotiations after Aragorn whomps off the head of the Mouth of Sauron was fantastic. But we saw far less of him in battle than we did of any of the others, including the hobbits, and that, along with his being a big chicken on the Paths of the Dead, bugged me; this guy grew up underground and went through the Mines of Moria, he's not going to freak out over skulls underfoot.
Fine, so it was only ten seconds of Boromir and he didn't talk; I still love, love, love that moment, and getting to see that big open happy smile which, interestingly, we never saw Boromir give Denethor in life; he gave his father the strained "Yeah, yeah, I did what you wanted" smile and saved the big grins for his brother and his soldiers, among whom I count Merry and Pippin. It's a particularly lovely juxtaposition, Denethor speaking to a ghost and looking at Faramir who so wants his father to be looking back, but he's not even seeing him. The fact that we can clearly see Denethor's madness makes him very slightly less of a caricature, though he's still written very over-the-top and I wish we'd seen him gazing into the palantir and what he was seeing for a few seconds so we understood what had happened to his mind. The scene with Faramir and Pippin talking about the armor is wonderful -- I need to watch it again to catch exactly what was said, but I loved them relating to one another on that level.
I'm not sure exactly how the Battle of the Pelennor Fields was recut for this edition but it was a much, much better scene than I remembered. My impression is that there were a lot more close-ups of characters we care about fighting, and a lot less swarming-orc stuff, though maybe the swarming-orc stuff was still there and I just noticed it less because I was seeing the characters fighting as individuals. I also have a much better sense of where everyone was in relation to everyone else, particularly how Eomer and Aragorn found and rescued Eowyn. (I thought it was Gamling that Eomer was crying over all this time in that clip, not his sister.) For some reason, the sequence also made Theoden's death more emotional and I hadn't thought it could get any more dramatic than it already was. I am grateful for every single Eowyn inclusion in the film but particularly some of the fighting.
I did like the Houses of Healing sequence despite what was not there, namely, Aragorn healing Faramir, which is my favorite moment in all three books. We needed to see Aragorn as a healer, though I wish we had seen something more than mystical laying-on-of-hands stuff; watching him use his Ranger knowledge there would have been very nice. Since we did not see him heal Faramir, however, it came across as this big bonding thing with Eowyn, and since we only got a few seconds of her and Faramir falling in love -- one kind comment and some hand-holding in the face of darkness -- it makes even less sense that she suddenly got over Aragorn and fell for Faramir. I was watching with perkypaduan and we both sighed, "Aragorn!" together as Eowyn and Faramir were looking out in the distance, because it seemed so obvious that that's what each of them was thinking, even if they were cuddling each other. Even without seeing Aragorn healing Faramir as we should have, in the EE as much as in the books it seems obvious that being in love with Aragorn is the main thing Eowyn and Faramir have in common, and they probably both cry out his name in bed.
I would just like to state for the record that I love Liv Tyler as Arwen, I have always loved Liv Tyler as Arwen, and I am very fond of movie!Arwen as she is written even though I wish she had something more to do in this film than just fade away; my perception is that it's more than she got to do in the book, anyway, and I am really glad she got inserted into The Two Towers film as well.
The only part of the documentaries I have watched thus far is the one on the premieres and awards, which was delightful -- not just the obvious appreciation for fans and fandom, but the fact that none of the people interviewed really seemed changed by success per se, more by the ways the films had obviously affected fans and New Zealanders (the people who reenacted the trilogy at that premiere -- was that Oslo?) and the relationships. That photo sequence at the very end just killed me -- made me sniffle.
I also watched both easter eggs with my kids at their request -- they wanted to see them before I could pre-screen and say no, as I had with the one on FOTR when they were younger. I don't think they understood why I was screeching about Frodo and Sam but they got most of the fake-Dom interview of Elijah, and I don't know whether that is a good thing or not. *g* I must admit that I am not a big Dom fan -- he's okay as Merry but Merry is the least interesting of the hobbits for me by a very long stretch, and I don't know how much of that is him versus how much is the writing and the cutting of the film. But I did giggle at him declaring, "Sean Astin is gay!" in a fake German accent while Elijah tried to keep what he thought was a real interview from becoming a PR disaster. (And okay, yeah, it is perfectly obvious why these two get slashed even more than Dom and Billy...)
Sam is still the most compelling character in this film for me. I need to watch the whole thing again, and who knows when I will have time to do that. If I had any fic-related bunnies they would all pertain to Faramir and Eowyn (not necessarily together) and possibly to Aragorn, who did not bug me quite as much this time around -- I would like to see fanfic where he expresses to someone, Gandalf, Elrond, Arwen, Faramir, Eomer, that he really has no idea how to be a king, because he looks so lost at the end that it's almost unnerving. Watching this DVD did have one entirely unexpected effect on me: I got the urge to read one of my own pieces of fic, which pretty much never happens to me. I need to go look at "Cloaked By Snowfall" and see if maybe Faramir will talk to me again.