December 22, 2003
Movie Review: The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
What can I say, it was good.
As with the last two movies, people are upset with Peter Jackson for taking some liberties with Tolkein's original, but for the most part his changes were OK. It also helps that I've only read the book once and have forgotten most of it.
The beginning seemed a little out of place, but it was good to watch the Ring work its magic on Smeagol/Gollum over the centuries. We then fast-forward to the end of The Two Towers, with Frodo and Samwise climbing the staircase near Minas Morgul -- which was itself well done; it looked like an evil version of Minas Tirith -- and every arachnophobe's favorite character: Shelob. That's one big muh-fuckin' spider.
The minor characters got the short shrift again, as has to happen when condensing a 1,000,000-page novel into a three-hour movie. In this case I think Denethor came out the worst; I don't recall his being out of his mind in the book.
The scene with the palantir remained, although without the prophecy it doesn't really make sense for Sauron to pay attention to a hobbit when he knows his Ring is out there somewhere. A quick mention of the prophecy to Theoden or Treebeard (since it was left out of Frodo's encounter with Faramir in Two Towers) would have plugged that hole easily. Likewise, Aragorn's use of the palantir to lure the Dark Army to the Black Gate would have worked better than simply running an assault -- again, Sauron has gazillions of orcs, what does he care when he needs to find the Ring?
Gollum's demise at Mount Doom didn't ring true to me; I know what Jackson wanted us to think when Frodo basically shoved him over the ledge, but the accidental destruction of the Ring from the book would have been better -- part of the Ring's influence is to make the bearer unable to part with/destroy it. If Frodo had simply bucked when Gollum bit his finger off -- a reasonable reaction, no? -- the end result would have been the same.
OK, enough nitpicking. We got a pair of Braveheart-esque speeches from Theoden and Aragorn, and some kick-ass battle scenes. The seige of Minas Tirith was brutal and I felt like I was in there watching it. Eowyn's battle with the Lord of the Nazgul was similarly well-done, though there was no mention of either her or Pippin needing the healing touch of the king, even after they recoiled from their strikes against the Witch King and left their arms numb. That'll probably make the Extended Super-Duper Mega-Edition, due out in 2007.
Should you see the movie? Oh, hell yes. Unless you're a purist who won't be happy unless the novel is transcribed to the screen word-for-word you'll like it. It's worth $8.50, and worth standing in line for half an hour to get good seats. In fact, I think it's worth seeing twice.
Aside: Crap Codes update... Fuck you very much, MPAA, for interrupting the Battle for Minas Tirith with your asinine red dots. My hatred for you burns with the intensity of a thousand suns.
But still, see the movie. You'll like it.