Andare, Partire, Tornare


A Spoilery RotK EE Review

SPOILERS for Return of the King EE - Ye have been warned.

So I've been spending the past few days snuggling up to my DVD player, busily wearing out all the buttons as I work my way through the RotK Extended Edition.

I don't think it's burnout that's got me feeling that this is the least of the three movies. Mostly, it's a combination of earlier bad decisions by PJ and the crew finally catching up with them, and a sense that PJ's schlock-side got the better of him in several cases.

The new footage, in general, adds very little. We still don't have a clear understanding of Denethor's progression into madness - the palantir issue is only referred to in a veiled manner which I'm sure most people missed. Denethor himself remains a badly-written and poorly played character, with John Noble's pouchy face slobbering and spitting all over the screen. His death is still stupid, and as my friend said, she's surprised that PJ didn't feel the need to bounce his body off the walls a couple of times, just to round things out. Eowyn and Faramir's storyline doesn't get much more, although what's there is lovely. It's also hard-pressed to stand up to more Aragorn-Eowyn bonding, which occurs in another lovely scene set in the Great Hall after Helm's Deep. Sadly, instead of another minute or two of Faramir and Eowyn, we get a ludricrous and utterly useless drinking contest scene between Legolas and Gimli, which markes the lowest point these two characters hit. It's stupid and it completely pops me out of the movie, and if I can find a way to remove it from the DVD (scalpel? Sharpie? Sharks with lasers on their heads?) I will do so.

I know people will object to Eowyn's softening - a small bit of addition to her scene after slaying the Witch King has her frantically scrambling to find a sword as Gothmog comes after her. Although I do like the irony of Aragorn and Gimli killing Gothmog in the midst of the hurly burly of the battlefield without even seeing Eowyn, the fact is that after slaying the Lord of the Nazgul, it's a weakening effect to see her panicked and running from a minor baddie. I don't object to her character being altered slightly, however - she is not quite the isolated woman of the books but is rather more directly cherished and therefore not as sunk in despair. She becomes more of a rounded woman, but her hard shining edge is blunted. I like it because it gives Eowyn and Theoden a lot of scenes together, where both actors positively shine. It comes, unfortunatly, at the expense of Eomer.

This is not to say that the movie is entirely bad - big chunks of it are absolutely nail-on-the-head right. Aragorn's singing during his coronation, the Ride of the Rohirrim, Eomer (they gave him too few lines, but his physical embodiment of the character takes my breath away), Theoden's death scene, Frodo and Sam on the side of Mt. Doom. Although the Pelennor Fields battle loses a lot of impact after the better constructed (but far too long and too dominant at the end of the movie) Helm's Deep battle, it does have its interesting moments - Gandalf and Pippin's talk and Grond being my favorites. Although it doesn't do to look too closely at Faramir's charge into Osgiliath because I don't think that Faramir would use his bad relationship with his dad as a reason to take a bunch of troops on a suicide mission, because a calvary charge against an entrenched and protected enemy armed with long-range weapons is just bloody stupid. Faramir is not bloody stupid. However, the visuals of the scene itself, as well as Pippin's plaintive voice over it all, is lovely.

I want to love the movie a little more than I do, although as I said, there are big chunks that make me cry my eyes out at how perfect they are. But at the end of things, Jackson and crew have done a near-miraculous job at bringing the books to life, and I admire the hell out of them. After watching the appendices and seeing hordes of people laboring around the clock to bring these movies to life, I can swallow most of my disappointments and focus on the many things that were exactly as they should have been.

Except that goddamned drinking scene.

11:17 a.m. - 2004-12-20


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