El Bicho's Hive

A Collection of Reviews Covering the Worlds of Art and Entertainment alongside other Snobbish Ramblings.

Friday, December 19, 2003



THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING

Directed by Peter Jackson
Screenplay by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens & Peter Jackson
Based on the novel The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien

Was the bar set too high for me to enjoy this film?

Last year, I was a little let down by The Two Towers. Yes, I thought it was a very good film that was put together well, so much so that I bought the extended edition. I couldn’t think of anyone who could have done a better job directing. Unfortunately, I had read the novel two months prior to the film’s premiere and ended up being a tad disappointed with what didn’t make the adaptation. A good portion of the end of Frodo and Sam’s book had been cut. I also didn’t care for the change in Gimli’s character to that of comic relief, which he didn’t provide in The Fellowship of the Ring. When asked by others about TTT, I always stated that I needed to see The Return of the King first before making a final judgment.

I was startled and disappointed when I read on the Internet that Saruman was being cut from ROTK. He has a major part at the end of the book. It made no sense to lose that sequence which provided so much meaning to the entire trilogy. Petitions were circulating in cyberspace to get him reinstated. Plus, how would they explain what happened to him after the Ents destroyed Isengard?

All I heard were critics raving, raising my hopes. I tried to avoid seeing or hearing anything more about the movie, but that was like trying not to see Saddam’s dental exam and tick check.

I adjusted my work schedule for the entire week, which allowed me to leave early on Wednesday at 1:50pm, over five hours before the movie started. While I sat in the office, each tick of the clock caused my excitement to grow. My early departure earned me a good position in the 7:30 pm queue, about 50 people back in a theatre that holds 1,100, and as some people got behind me without making any inquires I got a few laughs by revealing to them that they were not in the queue for the 3:10 pm showing. Why would you get in line without asking what it was for? However, my joy quickly dissipated when at 45 minutes before we were let in, a section of the line just in front of me slowly swelled with the undedicated and the lazy. Like an oncologist I watched this tumor of latecomers slowly grow. The guy who was previously two places in front of me allowed his apartment complex to push me further back by at least 10 places. But I showed him by sneaking through a side door with Che Joe, my trusty sidekick, and as the front of the line crossed the threshold of the theatre we were getting prime seats dead center before that evil bum and his horde of knuckleheads were able to smell popcorn wafting out the front door.

With my expectation and anticipation building and after viewing the extended edition of TTT the night before, something had to give. I must confess that Peter Jackson pulled it off. I was satiated by this stellar achievement in filmmaking. All the adjectives and flowery words you’ve been both seeing and hearing are neither superlatives nor hyperbole. This is an amazing film on a very grand scale. The trilogy as a whole is a rare work of art, reaching such great heights of creativity that I might not see it matched in my lifetime. Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings does for movies what Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings does for books. It creates a wonderful, intelligent adventure that’s about bravery and goodness and doing the right thing.

The story picks up with Frodo, Sam and Gollum continuing on their way to Mount Doom to destroy the One Ring. Frodo is in a constant struggle with the ring and the power that it offers. Sam shows amazing bravery as he protects and assists Frodo. Gollum is too in love with his “Precioussss” to let it be destroyed, but Frodo’s compassion and the power of the ring, blind him to Gollum’s motives. The rest of the fellowship goes to the city of Gondor to battle Sauron’s army and Aragorn has to accept his position as King.

It takes 200 minutes to tell what's left of these stories. As the saying goes, it was "all killer, no filler," and most of the theatre patrons left wanting more. The movie holds together fine and has plenty of plot even with the Saruman part being cut out although it’s a very good sequence that we lose. Maybe we could have had some of that instead of dealing with Sam getting married and bypassed the end sequence with Bilbo sailing off with the elves. In retrospect, Peter made the right choice, so those geeks involved in the petition should try to find better uses of their time and energy such as arguing over who is going to come out the victor in the upcoming Alien vs. Predator movie.

Like most reviewers I usually write about the acting, writing and directing with occasional mentions of the cinematography and editing. All the above deserve great praise, but in this rare instance I would also like to mention the Producers, the Musicians, the Casting Department, the Production Design crew, the Art Direction crew, the Set Decoration crew, the Costumes Department, the Make-Up Department, the Production Managers, the Second Unit crew, the Art Department crew, the Special Effects crew, the Visual Effects crew, the Stunt people and every other crew member who had a hand in this project's creation. Stay through the credits and give these people their due. If there is an awards category that they are not nominated in, that speaks to the quality of the prize. I would also like to recognize author J.R.R. Tolkein for creating the trilogy. Without whom, none of this would have been possible.

I left out the Sound Department crew but they did a high quality job as well. I don’t know if it was just the theater I saw the film in or if I’m getting too old, maybe both, but some scenes were too loud, especially the shrieks of the fell beasts which the Nazguls flew around on.

Forget about awarding Peter solely for this film, he should get some type of uber award for the entire trilogy. To have worked as director, producer and co-writer on this project is an amazing feat. By bringing these works to the screen in the manner that he has, Peter has taken over the number one spot on the list of artists who have interpreted the work of Tolkein surpassing Robert Plant. I found it odd when I read that Peter’s next project is to remake King Kong, but now he has my complete trust and I’m sorry I doubted him. I can now state for the record that I enjoyed TTT very much.

These films should embarrass George Lucas into not even finishing his third installment of the train wreck known as Star Wars. The Wachowski brothers should buy up all the prints of The Matrix sequels and burn them before they are locked up by the movie police and sued for fraud in a global class action lawsuit.

I’m going to reread the novel and will attach an addendum soon.

[SPOILER]

This film is so well done that I can overlook the minor plot questions I had about why Aragorn doesn’t keep the army of the dead until after Sauron is defeated or why does Sauron's tower implode just because the One Ring gets destroyed or isn't it a little surprising that the entire fellowship makes it back in one piece with all that they endure, but happy endings can work and it certainly does here.

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