Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Return of Return of the King

Saw this a second time with a friend I'll call M and with BH. The second time I felt it was much better, and actually quicker. Some random disjointed thoughts, and a more substantive, and final, post hopefully comming in the next few days.

BH and I got into a nice discussion in the car on the way back from the film comparing Thomas Covenant to Middle Earth. While I think there's no comparison, many friends are big Covenant fans, and it's a worthwhile comparison. Donaldson does himself a disservice by using many derivative trappings of Tolkien, in particular, the ring. BH pointed out yet another element that Donaldson borrows from Tolkien... revelstone is a pseudo Minas Tirith. Philosophically, Donaldson and Tolkien are not on miles apart, but comming at storytelling with radically differing agendas, and I'm not going into that, though I would suggest that BH might take it up.

But one of the things that distinguishes Tolkien from other Fantasy writers is the completeness of his world. The wonderfully detailed history of his world. Prior to reading LOTR, I remember as a kid looking at the fold out maps in the back of my parents copy and fixating on "here of old was the Witch Kingdom of Angmar" and thinking that was so freaking cool. In the back of my mind, I wondered about that kingdom, it's history etc. Sure enough, there between the lines of the text, and in the appendices, it lies. The Witch King is none other than our dear friend, King of the Nazgul, and Angmar has a very relevant history that ties in not only to Aragorn's ancestry, but also the Barrow Wights from FOTR, unfortunately (but I'd agree necessarily) deleted from the film. And there are dozens of examples throughout Tolkien's world. Jackson has wonderfully preserved this feeling IMHO.

And as for the multiple codas, I think Jackson did his film a disservice. The audience in both viewings seemed to think the movie had ended several times, and perhaps through quicker cuts rather than fading out, waiting several seconds, and fading back in, Jackson could have not jerked the audience around so much.

All in all, anything that can make "The Ten Commandments" look like a nice little flick has accomplished something. And I don't think that anything ever put on film comes even close to ROTK in terms of scale. Another visual example of that struck home this time... the great battering ram, Grond, manned by the forces of Mordor. Wow, that looked amazing. when the flaming head of the battering ram smashes through the gates of Minas Tirith, it's one of those moments that's just visual poetry.

- I'll agree with my friend M that Frodo shouldn't have been smiling when he gets on the ship at the end.

- The orc I'll call "Tumor-head"... if you've seen the movie you'll know what I'm talking about... yuck. Nice touch.

- I'm not satisfied with Jackson's take on Denethor, though I'll reserve judgement until I see the extended version.

- I would have liked to have seen Saruman on screen... in retrospect, I think Jackson should have resolved Saruman at the end of Two Towers.

- Billy Boyd... Pippin... really stood out in my mind. Wonderful performance.

- I was grateful to see that Jackson included the ring on Gandalf's finger at the end of the film.

- Sam should have been in Bag End in the final scene. Oh well.

- Rosie is hot. I'll have to look her up on IMDB and see what else she's been in.

- Although I'd agree that Jackson gets swept up in the glee of battle to the point where BH mentioned he felt the urge to pick up a sword and decapitate something, I think the movie is still eloquently anti-war at points... but anti war from a "sometimes you just gotta do it" vantage point.

- The death of the Witch King of Angmar rocks.

As BH says, all minor quibbles. Amazing film. I think time will judge his LOTR as one unparalleled work, and view the longer DVD editions as THE definitive Jackson take on Middle Earth.

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