I love the way the three interlocking narratives -- set, respectively, at Helm's Deep, Isengard and Ithilien -- build to a tremendous climax. And the extra material, including comic relief and a considerably richer portrayal of Eowyn and her future husband Faramir, helps to space out the battle sequences, which are remarkably well done but a little like bone hitting bone in the shorter edition. Yes, the padding slightly undermines the impact of Sam's tremendous self-reflexive speech about the sort of tale in which he and Frodo are caught up, pushing it farther from the picture's end. But that's a price I'm willing to pay for the richer characterization.
I'm always susceptible to the call of allegory, particularly when it comes from the domain of fantasy or science fiction. Even the first time I read the trilogy, I found myself making connections to modern history. Now, though, decades of literary training combine with my extreme emotional vulnerability to burden the trilogy with so many levels of allegorical significance that it's a wonder the narrative doesn't crumble to dust as a consequence.
Tonight, because Skylar was sitting between me and her mother, a kind of "personal allegory" came to the fore. Given how hopeless I've been feeling about my future, watching any film as part of a rare family night out would feel like an attempt to fight for what is good against fearsome odds. When that film is part of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, though, that effect is amplified a hundredfold. Maybe I should be ashamed to admit how much Sam's speech moved me this time around, but I'm still so aglow with renewed inspiration to press on, whatever the obstacles, that my capacity for embarrassment is temporarily diminished.