Thursday I saw Return of the King. I'm not quite sure why various people were gushing so about it. It's good, yes. But it isn't the strongest of the three movies. It's a tough book to do. A lot happens in it. I think I broadly agree with some of the cuts that were done. There are some inexcrably long passages dealing with Frodo and Sam making their way across Mordor in the book that were left out of the movie, for example. I already knew that Saruman would not have any screen time in the theatre version. This also means that the entire sequence of Frodo's return to the Shire is missing; I hope it appears in the extended DVD release. For me, it's a very important phase in the book for the hobbits to return home and realise that they're not the same, and neither is the Shire. Important, but not vital. The movie does okay without it.
More annoying is what happens to the new Arwen/Elrond/Aragorn subplot. In Two Towers, I was actually hopeful it would be properly done to solidify Arwen and make Elrond and Aragorn more substantial (and help illustrate Aragorn's internal struggle). Seeing Elrond cheapened the way he was in RotK in this subplot was worthy of a cringe. Elrond is Not Like That. Still, most of those bits were mercifully short.
The other character with a significant betrayl of portrayl was Sam. Very fortunately, it was constrained to two short sequences which are largely ignored in the rest of the movie (which actually makes me question why they did it that way to begin with). One of Sam's key attributes is his steadfastness; not even the Ring should sway that.
So far, these issues are minor. I liked the movie quite a lot; it was an appropriate final piece.
The denoument almost turned it, though. Instead of showing the changes in the Shire and the changes in the hobbits (other than the montage of wedding shots), we're treated to what seems like 15 minutes of the final departures. This is something that Tolkien didn't say much about in the book; it's mostly Jackson at work here. He uses emotional hammers on you until you're almost glad to see them go. Cloyingly saccharinly sweet.
But even that's okay, because there's actually a point you can stop playback of the DVD (eventually) and consider that the ending without the extras.
The effects are great (except for the Dead). The battle scenes are intense. Most of the actors do wonderful jobs. The only other niggle is that we never get a sense of Gondor established in quite the same (excellent) way that we do with Rohan in Two Towers. It's a rather small thing indeed.
I still enjoyed.
And now, I'm off to the homeworld for a few days for various celebrations. I should be online, though, so... :)
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