December 17, 2003

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

While The Divine Miss Em is going to the Lord of the Rings Marathon with Josh, Peter, and Angus in Worcester tomorrow night, I will be simultaneously attending The Return of the King at a 12:10am show in Randolph. I can't go Wednesday night as I have another obligation (all the evening shows are sold out already anyway). I almost cry with awe/joy at the Return of the King commercials, so I am sure the drama will make me weepy. Best wishes to Em and her Mini-Fellowship: May their 11 hour mission be memorable, in all the right ways. LOTR3

Tuesday Morning, December 16, 2003: The King Is Returning Tonight! The reviews are beginning to come in. By this time tomorrow, I will let you know if the movie met my impossibly high expectations. The fact that I got shivers from the TV spot, and almost cried during the theatrical trailer, means the whole shebang has a lot to live up to.

As I mentioned yesterday, I have a ticket to a 12:10am show at Randolph tonight, so after work, I'm headed home to feed and dress myself. I am considering taking what Em calls a "disco nap" (an afternoon nap in preparation for a long night). My receipt for my ticket says the movie is "The evening of Tuesday December 13th, 12:10am". I guess this is their odd way of clearing up any confusion over the date of the showing: Technically I am going to the movie on Wednesday...10 minutes into Wednesday, anyway. The theaters were also smart to start the shows at 12:05am, 12:10am, et cetera, instead of 12:00 midnight, because no one knows whether midnight is 12am or 12pm.

Return Of The King Now Playing; All Other Cinema Ceases To Matter I guess I'll go join the seminary now", a tearful Martin Scorsese reports

Tuesday Evening, December 16, 2003: Showcase Cinemas Randolph.
I never thought I'd say this, but whoever handled the crowds at the theater did a fantastic job. They seemed to reserve at least one more theater than they technically needed to hold everyone who bought a ticket (I think there were six theaters showing The Return of the King). They herded everyone into TensaBarrier pens (you could almost hear the mooing and bleating). Then, they filled a theater to mostly-full (the front two rows were vacant) and then started directing the next pen to the next vacant theater. It didn't matter which showtime or theater number was printed on your ticket. Long-story-short: I sat exactly where I wanted to, and I had an empty seat next to me.

The best movie of the year by a long trebuchet shot, and the finest battle sequences ever filmed. The movie was as good as a non-mind-reading movie director could make. What I mean is, one key sequence was not shot the way I imagined it, and he made several choices that I would not have, but Peter Jackson is a magician and a hobbit, not a clairvoyant. However, the second-most critical scene was shot exactly the way I imagined: possibly the scariest monster sequence I have ever seen. My right thumb is beyond the nail, down to the bone thanks to Shelob.

Some critics have complained that the dénouement is waayyy to long. I disagree: when you're dealing with an epic story, it takes more than 30 seconds to wrap things up. I am a firm believer in not telling audiences too much, and I love ambiguity, but there is no place for ambiguity in the end of The Lord Of The Rings.

SIDE NOTE: I still haven't figured out one possible gaffe-- How does Shelob stab/poison Frodo through his special Elven mithril vest? We see the orcs examine his possessions, including the vest, while he's comatose. I guess it's possible that the end of the stinger is so sharp, that it would pass between the links of the vest?

My Father Reviews The Return Of The King

I'm sorry to say we were disappointed. The special effects are wonderful, but the acting was wooden, and a lot of the details were strange (e.g. -- in the days of swords and castles, you couldn't make large holes in the wall with a ballista or catapult, or even, in 1812, with big cannon, and, if you could, why bother to break down the gates?

You wouldn't even think about charging the elephant beasts with light cavalry. Cavalry is effective against infantry because of its shock value, as the first charge proved -- you can ride through and over an infantry line that an opposing infantry couldn't touch. You wouldn't, however, charge the elephants -- you'd use the speed and mobility of the light cavalry to harass them from the rear. As Legolas showed, subtlety wins over them, not brute force. This is not just Dad having his usual suspension of disbelief issues -- I'm happy to suspend disbelief and have the dead walking, Mordor drowning in lava, and everything else -- but I don't see a dramatic necessity for being stupid with real technology -- you simply wouldn't build castle walls that could be knocked down by the first shot from an existing weapon.

I also missed the whole scouring of the Shire at the end -- the movie seems to believe that the Shire managed to go through these difficult times with absolutely no changes - the book did it much better. Also disappointing was the Merry/Pippin comedy team. While the book shows them as a little impulsive, they were never the low comedy they become in the movie.

So, I will be surprised if it does much at the Oscars, except for the ancillary awards. Certainly none of the acting awards; while Elijah Wood did a creditable job, I can't see the Academy giving Best Actor to a Hobbit, and none of the other people deserve it.

All I'll say in response to Dad's points on the technology of warfare is: Drama is more important than accuracy. I will agree that the scouring of the Shire would have been good to include, but once you add that, you're increasing the length of the film to four hours, and that's too long. Plus, people who haven't read the books are expecting the movie to end promptly after the ring is destroyed. All the complaints about the multiple endings are proof it's already too long for restless viewers who haven't read the books. Remember, the films have to be entertaining movies first, and faithful adaptations second.

On the Merry/Pippin issue, I thought the scene on the toppled wall of Isengard, with the silly welcomes, and Gimli's ire, was right on target. I remember laughing out loud at that passage in the book- all that running in Two Towers, all for nothing!