Editor's note: Rather than write a straight review of the extended version of the film, we are simply commenting on the added scenes and bonus material. For reviews of the theatrical version, check these two stories.

One of the bonus discs on the highly anticipated Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King special extended DVD edition, which releases today, includes a telling scene.

It's three weeks after the film has racked up an amazing 11 Oscars—including Best Picture—at the Academy Awards, and director Peter Jackson is working on a new shoot, adding extra footage to the scene of The Paths of the Dead. The mini-documentary cuts to Jackson before an editing screen, surrounded by members of his crew. Jackson cracks, "We've already won the Academy Award for this film." Everyone in the room snickers. "That's the best thing to do—win the Academy Award for Best Movie before you finish shooting the last shot. That's the best way to do it, isn't it?"

Smeagol falls in love with his Precious, beginning his downfall to ruin

Smeagol falls in love with his Precious, beginning his downfall to ruin

There are yuks all around, but Jackson's rhetorical question does beg the question: Can one improve upon a multiple Oscar winner? Even if one has the opportunity, should he do it? And finally, are these additions necessarily improvements?

In the case of the 50 additional minutes of the ROTK special edition, that's debatable. Some of the additions and extended scenes unquestionably flesh out the story—and a few of the characters—making an already wonderful film even richer. But other additions—including several that undermine the dignity of some of the characters—do nothing to improve the film, making one ask, "Does this movie really have to be 250 minutes long, especially when the 200-minute theatrical version was clearly a winner?"

I'd say about ...

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