Tuesday, December 30, 2003

"Return of the King"-- movie, not Elvis

I'll try to keep this (relatively) brief, since the Air Marshal can provide much more substantive commentary on this remarkable movie than I can. Some fragmentary impressions of the last chapter of Peter Jackson's magnum opus:

My ass hurt through the final 90 minutes, but the flick was compelling.

The story contains lots of falling humans and orcs, many of whom are deliberately dropped from heights by flying beasts of ill will. This rates a "cool" in my book.

FUCK YOU! REAL MEN DO CRY! Look on the screen and there's proof... every other freakin' scene.

Orc battle cry: "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but humongous, catapulted chunks of Minas Tirith erase me!"

Andy Serkis better win SOMEthing, goddammit. Gollum is riveting. Hell, award the team that CGI'ed Serkis as well; they should all win together.

Whoever joked that Sauron's Eye looks like a flaming vagina... was on to something. If a vagina ever became spontaneously self-aware, that's what it would look like.

Coolest scene for my money [NB: I didn't pay for my own ticket; the Air Marshal footed the bill]: Legolas leaping onto an oliphaunt and wreaking havoc.

When Abraham was about to sacrifice his son, God distracted him with a ram. When Denethor tried to immolate himself and his boy Faramir, he got his ass kicked by an angry wizard in a decidedly un-magical manner.

Sweeping battle scenes; very Kurosawa, but without the actual gore.

I was warned that this film had about five distinct endings. The warning was based in fact.

The army of the dead, while cool, just doesn't hold a candle to a Balrog.

I'm trying to imagine what the LOTR series would have looked like if Paul Verhoeven had been in charge instead of Peter Jackson. Given Verhoeven's gore-encrusted reputation as the Brian DePalma of science fiction, I suspect we'd've seen way more exposed and mangled brain matter, blood-squirting amputations, and Liv Tyler's breasts.

There isn't a single scene in which someone takes a dump, despite several scenes involving eating.

When Frodo gets turned into hobbit dim sum by Shelob, and then Sam comes along and removes the webbing that covers Frodo's face, I was reminded of that scene in "Conan the Barbarian" where the wizard (played by Mako) has wrapped Arnold up like a mummy, leaving his face exposed.

During viewing, the Air Marshal noted that the thump-thumping arrival of the oliphaunts (a.k.a. Mumakils) is reminiscent of the arrival of the Imperial walkers in "The Empire Strikes Back."

I'm not usually into blondes, but fair-haired Eowyn of the golden tresses got my penis-vote when she stabbed the Witch King through the face and made him deflate. Poor Eowyn didn't haven't a tenth the ass-kicking opportunities that Trinity did in the Matrix series, but skewing Tolkien's decidedly un-PC tale as a concession to modern sensibilities would have been detrimental to the story. Besides, with so many "fair men" (Frodo, Pippin, Legolas...) running around in this movie, I think there was enough on-screen estrogen to please the female viewership. I know why the caged bird bumps and grinds.

Gimli gets all the good laugh lines, as well he should. He's lucky to be a dwarf in Middle Earth: in the Maximum Leader's world, he'd be chained to a dank cave wall and thrashed by some dude wearing lipstick and a Madonna cone bra while Nine Inch Nails blared at 200 decibels.

The actor who played Denethor reminded me a little too strongly of a young(er) Vincent Price.

It was disappointing not to see Saruman AT ALL in this film.

I was hoping for a scarier Shelob, but Peter Jackson's rendition of her isn't bad. She's a meaner version of the Bugs from "Starship Troopers."

In all, "Return of the King" was le grand spectacle, truly amazing in its scale and adorned with some gorgeous visuals. If you try to compare it to its distant cousins in sci-fi, like the Matrix series and the Star Wars trilogies, LOTR comes out on top in terms of acting quality, and certainly the script's textual pedigree is unimpeachable-- this is Tolkien, for God's sakes.

The movie also had its share of aesthetic and dramatic problems, not least of which was the awkward (but perhaps unavoidable) structure of the multiple codas. As in the other films, the special effects weren't always consistent in quality, though I suspect that Jackson's team had more time to tweak ROTK before its release this year-- it's a smoother-looking film overall. Also, I didn't end up teary-eyed, though I heard plenty of sniffles in the dark from the hardcore Weep Brigade.

[NB: When Frodo threw his arms around Scarecrow and shouted, "I'll miss you most of all!", that's when I almost lost it. But otherwise, I wasn't engaged deeply enough to cry a river. Very few movies or plays produce that reaction in me. "Joy Luck Club" is one such flick (for obvious ethnic reasons: my parents and I have lived some of those stories), and Margaret Edson's incredible play "W;t" is another.]

The above are minor quibbles, of course. In all, I felt that time passed quickly: there wasn't a single boring moment, and ROTK takes its place as a fitting capstone to Jackson's magnum opus. If you haven't seen it yet, I recommend that you do.


No comments: