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Dr John Hawkins

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Return of the King

Posted on 2004/01/07 09:50:56 (January 2004).

Last night Chie very kindly agreed to go along with me to the cinema and watch the last film in the Lord of the Rings trilogy; Return of the King. She'd slept through significant parts of the first two films, and this was seeming to be the longest of them all. Amazingly, she didn't seem to sleep at all, although whether or not she actually enjoyed it I'm not too sure.
If anything I was a tiny bit disappointed. I don't think there was anything wrong with the film, I couldn't suggest any way to improve it at all, but I didn't enjoy it as much as the other two. I think there could be a number of factors. Knowing it's the last film probably had a negative effect for me. I've had a long running love affair with these books for a significant portion of my life, and the films have really brought the stories to life again. So I guess watching the last film is a bit depressing because I knew it was coming to an end. Probably also I can remember more of the plot from the last book than the other two books, so as every part of the plot happened I was already thinking about the next bit. I guess the last book hinges more on tension than the other two. There's lots of will they make it or not moments. So obviously, by the third or fourth pass of reading / watching the story you end up knowing exactly what's going to happen and just thinking (a la Monty Python and the Holy Grail) "Get on with it!".
In addition, there was a long (but admittedly necessary) section of winding down at the end of the film. In a similar vein the first film has a lot of winding up at the start, introducing the characters and so on.
The more I think about it, the more I think, perhaps unusually, that the second book/film, The Two Towers, is actually my favourite. It begins powerfully, and ends powerfully, and I found the film to be utterly engrossing the whole way through. It had some amazing sets - Edoras and Helm's Deep. Not to take anything away from the sets in Return of The King, they were all pretty great too, but perhaps by that point we'd all just got used to it.
To sum up, that feeling of magic I used to get from reading the books when I was younger was there again when I watched all three films to some extent, but I felt particularly immersed in the second one.

Comment 1

I enjoyed the second one more too. The end for ROTK blew goats. If there was one more stare between Sam and Frodo, I would have vomitted over the row in front.

I haven't read the books but have been totally enthrawlled by the whole series and thoroughly loved the entire experience.

I shall get the DVDs and try to watch the extended versions all in one day - if you fancy it? Beer and chillisaucesalad and everyfin'?

Posted by Rob Lang at 2004/01/07 13:49:22.

Comment 2

Thirded on the ending... far far too long. And what's with all the fades? there were at least two fades to black and one fade to white, and at each you thought "Ah. That's the end", only to have another section of slow paced windup to follow...

I'm not sure which I enjoyed more, it's definately either 2 or 3. the two towers was very good, but then again some of the battle scenes in return of the king were amazing. I could even ignore the engineer within shouting "But trebuchets just can't work like that ;)"


Posted by Byrn at 2004/01/07 18:21:32.

Comment 3

It sounds like we're all pretty much in agreement then... Overall, I thought the whole experience of the three films was really amazing, and I feel like I owe a personal thank you to that Peter Jackson chappie. What small niggles I do have I can forgive him for - him and the rest of the crew were trying to tread a very fine line between remaining faithful to the books, and making an exciting set of films which people who know nothing about the books will still enjoy. It can't have been easy.

As for the fight scenes though, I think I preferred the ones in The Two Towers. Return of The King was really overrun with battles, and I was already feeling combat fatigue by about half way through.

Tolkien battles seem to mostly hinge on the same principle; the chips are down, but look, on the horizon it's that legion of valiant soldiers / cavalrymen / elves / eagles / dead men of dunharrow / gandalf and his mates / etc that were a bit cagey about whether or not they'd turn up, but in the end it turned out they didn't have to go round to their aunt's for tea, so they could make it after all. So in some ways they mostly lack tension on-screen because you know help is just around the corner.

In The Two Towers though, the battle at helms deep was really wonderfully atmospheric, in my opinion, and although you knew they were going to make it in the end, it did feel really dismal and hopeless in the interim.

The other great thing about The Two Towers is the beginning. I really love the way Gandalf and the Balrog just thundered onto the screen right at the start, having that really major fight. Personally, I find Gandalf a bit frustrating at times - in a lot of the battles he just doesn't do very much. In fact, he even resorts to hitting the bad guys with his staff from time to time. What sort of a wizard is this? He's supposed to be Maiar in fact, so he's a kind of demi-god. Maybe there's some rationale about him feeling it would be wrong to interfere too much in the ways of men. Or perhaps it's more a narrative thing - I guess you'd lose a bit of tension if, when all the orcs and trolls and what have you, lined up outside the castle walls, then Gandalf just turned the lot of them into ants and ran round stamping on the little bastards.

The scene with the balrog is great because Gandalf loses all his restraint and just goes for it. Probably because he realises this brute has a serious chance of doing him an injustice. It's Maiar versus Maiar, Middle Earth warfare old school style.

Also, I loved the ents going to trash Isengard, again, Maiar versus Maiar. You can imagine Saruman looking out of his bedroom window one morning and seeing a load of great big bastard walking trees coming and smashing everything up. And he'd told Gandalf to lay off the weed! (This isn't a metaphor, he actually did).

Perhaps this is the thing, the third film is supposed to signify the ancients handing over the reins for Middle Earth to men. So it's largely the piddly little people fighting, rather than the numerous clashes of titans that were occurring in The Two Towers. It's all about little people overcoming monstrous obstacles. Aragorn, a complete nobody, becomes king of seemingly just about everything. A woman and a hobbit do in the lord of the Nazgul. The other two hobbits finish off Sauron. Maybe this is the point, it wouldn't be an epic struggle of men if whenever the shit was about to hit the fan, Gandalf waltzed in and wasted everybody.

Occasionally, it is great to see the little people triumph. I actually quite enjoyed Sam's scenes. In the end, it's really Sam who is the hero in many ways more than Frodo. He's the one who keeps getting Frodo out of trouble, whilst all Frodo does is whine a lot and fall over. Sam took on Shelob, again Maiar, all by himself, which was pretty hardcore if you think about it. Frodo just panicked and buggered off. Sam ran right into that tower near the end, slaughtering everything in his path (a bit reminiscent of Sir Lancelot in Monty Python and the Holy Grail) to go and save Frodo. Sam maintained the resolve about destroying the ring when Frodo was umming and arrring at the end.

Legolas was really great to watch in all three films - particularly when he starts jumping about and comitting really artistic mass slaughter. He almost flies - it's a bit Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. It was a bit of a shame they turned Gimli into the one-liner role, but thinking back he didn't really play such a major part in the books either.

Despite the enjoyable scenes for "the little people" particularly prevalent in Return of The King, I still feel like The Two Towers is a lot more powerful, and it remains my favourite.

Posted by John at 2004/01/08 13:41:47.

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