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Movies: Return of the King

I was a little apprehensive about The Return of the King. I mean, I knew it would be great -- it was, after all, filmed concurrently with the other films, with the same cast and director and source material. But Peter Jackson was passed over for the "Best Director" award in the last two Academy Awards ceremonies, and I was worried that, if the final installment was not as over-the-top great as the first and second, he might not get his due.

I needn't have feared; The Return of the King lives up to the astounding precedent set by The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, and Jackson will almost certainly get his statuette.

And yet, I couldn't help but be ever-so-slightly disappointed. Don't get me wrong, I thought it was fantastic -- my favorite movie of the year, even. But after investing so much time into watching and rewatching the first two films, I wanted a Big Finish, I wanted the last movie to be even grander and more sublime. But, honestly, how could it? With the characters and cinematography showcased in Fellowship, the war scenes and the eerily realist Gollum on display in Two Towers, Return was left with little new ground to break. And I knew that, even before entering the cinema. But, still. When RotK failed to exceed the films before it, a little voice inside of me kinda went "darn."

My enjoyment of the film was also vaguely sullied by the fact that I didn't rewatch The Two Towers before going to see RotK. I had honestly intended to do so in the weeks before the premiere, but I never got around to it. Consequentially, I spent much of the first hour of the film trying to remember all that had happened before. As with TTT, Return gives viewers no "Previous On Lord Of The Rings" recap --which, frankly, is how it should be -- so those who didn't refresh their memories before heading into the theaters may have found their transcendental viewing-experience occasionally interrupted by thoughts of "wait -- who's that guy, again?" So if you're the one guy in America who hasn't seen RotK yet (Brent Wilson of Gerbil Junction, Iowa,) and you happen to be reading this, take my advice: rewatch the first two films now.

(Return of the King also contains the only deviation from the books that I object to -- a matter, for the sake of Mr. Wilson, I will discuss in the comments, so as to keep spoilers off this page.)

Well, enough carping -- Jackson gives me three of the greatest movies I've ever seen and all I can do is bitch. Seriously: Return of the King is, like its predecessors, a wondrous and enthralling experience. Even at three-and-a-half-hours I never felt it to be overlong or ponderous, and at times I found myself marveling that such a lengthy film could move at a breakneck pace. And, having read the book, I knew how things wrapped up, so I had no objection to the plethora of endings.

The Fellowship Of The Ring will always be my favorite of the three, simply because I vividly remember the moment when amazement washed over me halfway through the film as i realized they weren't going to screw it up after all. And then Two Towers came along and somehow managed to be every bit as good. Return of the King didn't exceed my expectations, per se, but it was every bit as good as I'd hoped. And taken as a whole, the Lord of the Rings trilogy is surely one of the finest achievements in the history of cinema. Jackson deserves ever single award he is bound to receive.

Note: The comments are not spoiler-free.

Posted on January 08, 2004 to Movies


Great flick. I agree.

Now spill those spoilers, man.

Posted by: Yet another goddamn Matt on January 9, 2004 10:36 PM

I have been a steadfast defender of the Lord of the Rings films against complains about the assorted deviations from the books. You need look no farther than the Harry Potter movies to see what happens when a director slavishly adheres to the written text: you wind up with a film that spends too much time staying faithful to the original and not enough on entertaining.

So I didn't mind Aragorn's extended romance with Arwen. I didn't mind Faramir getting turned into a bad guy. I didn't mind Merry and Pippi and Gimili as comic relief. Well, actually, that last one bugged the hell out of me. But still! I was willing to overlook it!

But I actually think Jackson blew one part of The Return of the King -- and not just "a part," but "the part" -- the scene everyone had been waiting to see: Frodo's attempt to throw the One Ring into the crack of doom.

As I recall it from the book (and I really should have looked this up before writing, but whatever), here's how it plays out. Frodo tries to destroy the ring and realizes that he is unable to do it. But then, out of nowhere, Gollum attacks, bowls Frodo over, bites off his finger, seizes the ring, and tumbles into the Crack of doom. One moment the reader thinks all is lost; the next he suddenly realizes what Gandalf meant when he said, "my heart tells me that Gollum has some part to play yet, for good or ill before this is over."

But, in my opinion, Jackson blew the "twist ending" by introducing an entirely unnecessary and lengthy "scuffle" into the scene, and then capping it off with a literal cliffhanger. In doing so, I feel that he focused all of the attention onto Frodo, and not where it belonged: on Gollum, the only creature in all of Middle Earth who could destroy the One Ring, albeit only through his greed and corruption. And this after devoting the opening scenes to Smeagol!

I have defended the other alterations on the basis that Jackson was making a movie, and certain elements (the Aragorn / Arwin romance, for instance) make for good moviemaking. But I honestly feel that this was one scene in where Jackson should have skipped the theatrics and stuck to the story. Tolkien got it right the first time.

Posted by: Matthew on January 9, 2004 10:39 PM


Your description ("Frodo tries to destroy the ring and realizes that he is unable to do it. But then, out of nowhere, Gollum attacks, bowls Frodo over, bites off his finger, seizes the ring, and tumbles into the Crack of doom.") strikes me as a pretty good explanation of what DOES happen in the movie so I'm at a loss as to what your objection is. The nearest I can determine is that you seem to think that Frodo and Gollum do not fight in the book. This is simply not true and I quote:

"Gollum on the edge of the abyss was fighting like a mad thing with an unseen foe. To and fro he swayed, now so near the brink that almost he tumbled in, now dragging back, falling to the ground, rising, and falling again. And all the while he hissed but spoke no words."

Are you bothered that (in the movie) Frodo attacks Gollum after losing his finger (sending both over the cliff) instead of simply having Gollum slip and fall (as in the book)? If so, this seems like a VERY minor alteration and I'm a little shocked that it would bother you so.

Personally, I found the scene to be very close to what I was hoping for. In fact, I was nervous throughout my initial viewing as to how it would be handled. To my mind the absolutely essential, must-not-be-altered moment was Frodo stating "The Ring is mine!" On this point I think Mr. Jackson did a wonderful job and DID "stick to the story".

Posted by: Greg on January 10, 2004 12:32 AM

I was hoping there would be a shot from Frodo's POV while invisible, with Gollum on top of him, Sam lying on the walkway, and The Eye of Sauron, looking at the three of them, completely dialated as it realizes too late that the ring is on the edge of the chasm, and it would be saying in the Black Speech something like "What the f--?"

Other than that, what a great film.

I'll need to see it four or five more times in the theater before I decide if it was the best of the three.

Posted by: Andy on January 10, 2004 1:25 AM

Are you upset that the scuffle lasted too long in the movie? Because that's the only real difference that I can tell (after having re-read that 'scene' in the book). Maybe I need to go back and watch the movie again, but I thought Jackson did an excellent job at framing that part of the story.

I remember when I read this part, and the brilliant surprise that it brought in me:

"'I have come,' he said. 'But I do not choose now to do what I came to do. I will not do this deed. The Ring is mine!' And suddenly, as he set it on his finger, he vanished from Sam's sight. Sam gasped, but he had no chance to cry out, for at that moment many things happened."

Then Gollum hits Sam over the head and attacks the invisible foe.

So, in the book, as in the movie, it was a *choice* not to destroy the ring, and not necessarily an inability to do so. I think that's pretty true to the story.

Posted by: Bert on January 10, 2004 2:57 AM

I love Return Of The King. I wasn't actually a fan of LOTR at first, but decided to give it a try and ended up watching all 3 movies in a short time span. And I love it!

Though I think scenes of Frodo and Sam are a bit boring, I prefer the battling scenes. (*_*)

Posted by: Yat on January 10, 2004 4:39 AM

I think Ebert said it best, "That it falls a little shy of greatness is perhaps inevitable. The story is just a little too silly to carry the emotional weight of a masterpiece."

Posted by: Andy on January 10, 2004 5:09 AM

I too have tried to keep my nitpicking to a minimum. After all, to do the story faithfully we would have needed 7 full 4 hour movies (7 not 6, as The Hobbit would have come first)

I was seriously worried after seeing FOTR by rumors of Arwen Warrior Princess being the one to kill The Witch King , but those fears were allayed after Two Towers.

I refuse to pick a favorite movie, because I see LOTR as one movie told in three installments, just as the novel was not a true trilogy but one story published in three installments. The Prof. originaly intended LOTR to be published as one large volume, but reluctantly caved in to publisher demands.

My biggest lingering nitpick is what I call The Buffooning of Gimli, most notable in Two Towers. In the books Gimli is every bit Legolas' equal, it is their mismatched strengths that make the relationship so rich! I did love his one liners in ROTK, though!

Hard choices were made for all three installments due to both the constraints of time and the resultant creative demands of adaptation; a movie must stand alone, end of story!

I reserve final judgement on omissions until the real version of ROTK comes out in November; rumor currently holds the extended version as having an hour fifteen minutes of additional material, but we'll leave that to steer away from spoiler-type rumors.

The 2 biggest complaints I've heard are at odds with one another.

1) The ending is too long (by folks who haven't read the books)
Ok, it is not a quick hollywood action ending, it is a character development ending. Deal with it!

2) Where is the Raizing of The Shire?
Come on, to do justice to the Tolkein ending we would have needed an additional hour and a half of material past the ring getting slagged. Sorry, I'd rather this ending then a rushed attempt to do the book ending.

No, I seriously doubt we'll see it in the extended version either, as this would not be an extended scene but a substantially altered ending that would need much alteration in the movie's main body as well. Let's save it for the book, shall we?

Anyway, damn! I didn't mean to go on so long, but ROTK gets an enthusiastic thumbs up from this Tolkein fan. Now let's see what Mr. Jackson does with King Kong!!!

P.S. I've been dragging my feet on an extended review as well, I'll have to save some of these comments for my own rant, hee hee!

Posted by: mr. grooism on January 10, 2004 8:21 AM

I agree that the "twist" of Gollum assisting in the ring's destruction is undermined by the cliffhanger/focus on Frodo. However, I simulataneously appreciate the nuance that the ring is seen to preserve itself from the fires until the moment that Frodo rejects it by reaching out to Sam. I found this touching enough to balance out the "loss" of the original "deus-ex-golluma" ending.

What I did dislike (though this is really a nit-pick) in that scene was the choreography of the wrestling between inviso-Frodo and Gollum - I think it would have played out far more dramatically/dynamically for Gollum to have been moving all around Frodo, instead of essentially holding onto his back (note that I have no knowledge of the intricacies of wrestling, I'm simply going on what could've looked better to untrained eyes).

Posted by: JDBO on January 10, 2004 8:49 AM

I've read Defective Yeti for some time now, and have enjoyed your writing style, Matt. But your review and the comments about the scene at the precipice of Mt. Doom make me question a whole lot about you.

First, how could anyone not view the battle scenes of ROTK as being anything less than a quantum leap beyond those of the first two movies? They are richer, more complex, more continuous even than the Helm's Deep set piece of TTT. In the New Yorker review, Legolas's climb up the "Olephant" and dispatching of its orcs was cited as the best scene in action movie history. Everything anyone could want in an over-the-top incarnation of a book (ROTK) was there.

You say you read the books? If so, how could you forget who people are when ROTK began? That's hard to understand. I'm not a Tolkein nut having only read them through once last year, but even I, with what my wife describes as limited memory skills, knew who was who.

Second, and Greg has pointed this out quite well, the scene with Gollum at Mt. Doom was quite faithful to the book and was pretty much as I imagined it would be in the movie version.

Perhaps you're really just a critic after all (I had thought something higher and better) and like all critics, just need to snipe about things. It's a bitter way to live, and I hope it's just an abberant pause. I thought you were different, and kind of I'm disappointed in you. I'm sure, however, that this won't ruin your day.

Posted by: Arjuna58 on January 10, 2004 8:51 AM

I hated the way Gimli was turned into a buffoon as well, but the scene that irked the Tolkien purist in me the most occurred on the stairway to Cirith Ungol when Frodo tells Sam to leave and he does. I thought this was completely out of character for Sam, Frodo's most loyal companion, who's willing to follow him to death and who promised the Gaffer he wouldn't lose him. On the other hand, maybe I'm being too nit-picky, but I just don't even see that scene as necessary to the movie.

Posted by: Krista on January 10, 2004 9:01 AM

The only thing that was missing was Saruman's death. I don't mind that they omitted the trashing of the shire, but Saruman's death should have been a must. That's the whole reason why Gandalf didn't let Theoden kill the viper dude.

Posted by: panajane on January 10, 2004 9:12 AM

As for moi, I abslutely loved Frodo and Gollum's little scuffle at the Crack of Doom. I thought that to have it end exactly as in the book -- with Gollum slipping and falling in -- would have come across as too sudden and slightly slapsticky on stage.

As for the one part I have a gripe about? Denethor. Taking a flaming half-ganer off of the Tower of Ecthelion. As Sideshow Bob would say, "Oh, really now, that IS too much!"

Posted by: Edgeling on January 10, 2004 9:12 AM

I thought it was odd that in the film it appears that Gandalf and Shadowfax kick Denethor into the pyre, when in the book he hurls himself onto it. That changed the dynamic entirely.

Posted by: booger on January 10, 2004 9:16 AM

Hey Matthew, long time reader, first time commentor.

As an infidel non-book-reader (because Tolkien's language puts me immediately in a coma, despite nearly 20 years of my best efforts) I went into the film not entirely knowing what to expect. All right, it's called The Return of the King, so we know Aragorn doesn't kack it, beyond that I really didn't know what was going to happen, I had no far-flung expectations, and so I'm satisfied with what did happen. And I honestly don't think that makes me a bad fan or a lesser fan of the film(s) - what's wrong with a well-acted, well-written and engaging story which the same points as the books, even if it does deviate now and then from the original text? As Brad Dourif (Wormtongue in TTT) rightfully pointed out, in the end it's about what reaches the audience, what touches the audience and gets inside their hearts and heads.

I agree with Grooism in saying that it's really a single film, and I have every intention, come November, of being one of the psychos to sit down with my FOTR EE and my TTT EE and my brandy new ROTK EE and spend 12 hours watching it properly.

Last thing I want to say, and I really have no idea if there's been any talk about this at all, I'm just soapboxing, is just that in ROTK Billy Boyd (Pippin) gave, in my opinion, the best performance of all the actors in all three films. Someone who'd only vaguely registered in my consciousness through the first two films managed to keep me completely riveted for every single moment he was on screen in ROTK. I'm sure I'm a minority opinion, but I do feel that out of all the performances in the film, Billy Boyd's was the one that was really Oscar-calibre.

Just my slightly-more-than 2 cents.

Posted by: Cee on January 10, 2004 9:41 AM

FYI, the Saruman scene is supposed to be in the extended version. Christopher Lee was pretty upset that it was cut, as were many fans.

On the other hand, after 3+ hours I was really ready for an intermission out of biological need, and people in our theater were walking out after the third "ending", so I can certainly see where Jackson et al were justified in cutting where they could. But that's the scene I'll jump to first on the DVD.

Posted by: Stella on January 10, 2004 10:05 AM

Holy smokes. I think the only other post I have written than received such an immediate, voluminous and impassion response was my screed against people who stand of escalators instead of walking.

Let me reiterate that I didn't reread the "scuffle scene" in the book before writing the above (which was probably stupid, as I admitted in the post, but longtime readers of this blog well know the depths of my slackerliness), so I freely admit that I could be way off base, here. But let me respond to some of these comments all the same.

Are you bothered that (in the movie) Frodo attacks Gollum after losing his finger (sending both over the cliff) instead of simply having Gollum slip and fall (as in the book)? If so, this seems like a VERY minor alteration and I'm a little shocked that it would bother you so.

My main objection was simply that the fight went on too long. In the books, as I recall, the end is very sudden: they're on the brink, Gollum comes of of nowhere, there is a brief skirmish, Gollum gets the ring and then slips into the abyss; in the movie it turned into a full-fledged brawl. With so much of the rest of the movie devoted to fighting, it just seemed to unnecessarily dilute the real action of the scene.

But -- and this is clearly something I failed to convey in my remarks -- I (a) know it is a very minor alteration, and (b) it didn't bother me that much. I was mentioning it more as a philosophical point, as the one part in the entire trilogy where I found myself thinking: "this got movie-ized a little wee bit much." That's all.

Update: I just reread my review and see that I referred to the scuffle scene as "only deviation from the books that I seriously object to." That "seriously" is hyperbole and I have deleted it.

I thought that to have it end exactly as in the book -- with Gollum slipping and falling in -- would have come across as too sudden and slightly slapsticky on stage.

It was the suddenness that I appreciated in the book. But, who knows -- if they had done it that way, I might me here carping about how they didn't change it. Monday Morning Quarterbacking is entirely too easy.

You say you read the books? If so, how could you forget who people are when ROTK began? That's hard to understand. I'm not a Tolkein nut having only read them through once last year, but even I, with what my wife describes as limited memory skills, knew who was who.

Well, I last read them 10 years ago, so cut me some slack. And I didn't really have trouble remember who was who, but, having not rewatched TTT just before RotK, it did take me a spell to "get back into" the story. But as I think I've made clear, I blame no one but myself for that.

Your review and the comments about the scene at the precipice of Mt. Doom make me question a whole lot about you.

Okay, now that's just silly.

Posted by: Matthew Baldwin on January 10, 2004 11:02 AM

Another long-time reader, first time commenter here, and I am completely on your side about Mt. Doom, except that it may have bothered me more than it bothered you. In the book, it was Gollum's frenetic celebrating that he had regained the Ring that caused him to tumble off the edge, not a protracted Frodo vs. Gollum scuffle. It may seem like a subtle point, but the scene is so essential to understanding Tolkien that it is important to get it right--Gollum's own lust for the Ring was the direct cause of its destruction, with no need for intervention from Frodo. As played out on screen, one gets the strong impression that had not Frodo heroic roused himself and attacked Gollum, the Ring would have been preserved. Instead of being completely overcome at the pivotal moment, Jackson transforms Frodo into a momentary failure who then helps save the day.

Thus, Frodo becomes hero rather than, as I think Tolkien intended, the unseen hand of a higher power, the one who had meant for Frodo to have the Ring all along, and had providentially arranged for Gollum to be present at the climax, so that even his Ring-lust would serve the purpose of its destruction.

It's the moment in the story where Tolkien's Catholic theology comes through most clearly--weak, sin-prone mortals unable to willingly resist temptation, are spared in spite of themselves. Jackson's inability to empathize with Tolkien's Christian sensibility enabled him to "movie-ize," as you say, Frodo into a more convential hero.

Posted by: MelancholyPlatypus on January 10, 2004 11:27 AM

Damn. I wish I'd said it that well.

Posted by: Matthew Baldwin on January 10, 2004 11:33 AM

Matthew. You, sir, are simply an unforgiveable ignoramus for allowing such drivel to be uttered in a description of the Greatest Movies Of All. Time. People like you make the internet a dangerous place for children. You should be stepped on by an Oliphaunt, or perhaps have your soul stolen by the Nazgul!!!

No, just kidding, I agree with your thesis that the last movie failed to take the series to another level. I do think it was probably the best of the three over all, though. Just not a revelation. But what can we really ask for? It was all shot at the same time, so it's not like Jackson would be a better or worse director for any of the three. Same with acting, cinematography, et cetera.

But for the record, the biggest, most annoying departure from the books was in TTT, when they made the elves come back to save the humans at Helm's Deep. Jackson totally changed that from what it was in the books, and in doing so changed one of the big themes, and I still cannot figure out why he did it.

Posted by: Adam on January 10, 2004 1:27 PM

As played out on screen, one gets the strong impression that had not Frodo heroic roused himself and attacked Gollum, the Ring would have been preserved. Instead of being completely overcome at the pivotal moment, Jackson transforms Frodo into a momentary failure who then helps save the day.

Hmmm, that's a different reading of Frodo's attack than what I had. I did not think that Frodo attacked Gollum in any sort of heroic, "the ring must be destroyed" manner. Rather, he attacked Gollum in the same way that Gollum attacked him - he wanted the ring for himself. He wanted his precious and could not bear anyone else wielding it. As such, the scene maintains (for me) the fact that Frodo DID ultimately succumb to its power and it was NOT a "momentary lapse". I thought this point was very nicely made (in the film) when Frodo states "It's gone". Elijah Wood manages to say that line with exactly the right amount of melancholy. At first it seems that he's simply stating that they've accomplished their task but you then realize that he's saying it with sadness and dread. He is, to some degree, despondent that the ring is gone.

Posted by: Greg on January 10, 2004 2:48 PM

Ah, so it was the Gollum fight that bugged you. To be honest, that bugged me too. That was the one moment out of the whole book that I wanted purity for, so all the alterations seemed meaningless and took away from my enjoyment. However, I never made the connection between Frodo turning to Sam and the ring being destroyed, and I have to admit that that does add meaning for me.

And as for the elves... I loved the fact that they showed up at Helm's Deep. Now, part of the reason for what I see as their necessity comes from how Jackson told the story beforehand. Jackson did everything he could to emphasize that the humans were as ill-prepared and outnumbered as they could possibly be. After all the time spent on how dire their situation was, it would've stretched my credulity a lot to believe that the battle could've lasted longer than five minutes. Bringing elves in brought the scales closer to balance - enough to justify the prolonged fight that occurred.

Also, as a big Silmarillion fan, I was very very happy to see elves go badass. Their march onto the screen and the music that accompanied it were perfect. Sure, we saw elves in the opening melee of FotR, and Legolas is damn good at what he does, but there's so much lofty, airy serenity in the Rivendell and Lothlorien scenes that it's easy to forget that elves also know how to make war. The dudes fought Balrogs back in the day.

In fact, if I do have one complaint about their presence at Helm's Deep, it's that they weren't badass enough, when the fight actually happened.

But anyway. Great movies. Especially RotK. The Billy Boyd singing scene alone is worth the price of admission.

Posted by: Yet another goddamn Matt on January 10, 2004 3:06 PM

i preferred The Two Towers. shoot me. not to say that the trilogy in itself is not a masterpiece, i just preferred the battle scenes in TTT, they were amazing. the scouring part missing bugged me, but i am not a purist at heart on the matter, so, whatever.

i agree with YAGM, the song that Pippen sang was heartbreaking and stood out above anything i saw in all three movies as THE moment i felt truly lost within the story. and i had read and loved the books many times over the years. the song was matched magnificently to the scene. to have even one moment in a movie like this is what they should strive for in hollywood et al, but jackson achieved many others as well.

and when was faramir made a bad guy? (someone posted that he was) i did not take that feeling away at all.

Posted by: lisa on January 10, 2004 4:10 PM

In TTT Faramir seemed to come across as a bad guy when he took Frodo and Sam back to Gondor once he found that they had the One Ring. In the book, Faramir realized that his brother had done the wrong thing by trying to take the Ring from Frodo and he let the two hobbits and Gollum continue their way to Mordor.

In other words, I completely agree with the whole Gollum/Frodo fight scene lasting too long.

Posted by: Jill on January 10, 2004 6:11 PM

Jill nailed it. The WORST part of the three-movie set was the turning of Faramir into a bad guy. The line he utters in TTT, "well Mr. BAggins, I think we both understand each other a little beter now", or somesuch was just a "huh?" moment. Nothing that had transpired would have led Frodo to know anything more about Faramir, and all Faramir MAY have seen was either him offering the Ring to the Nazgul, or him about to slit open Sam. Not sure either of those would have changed his mind. Someone once said that TTT would have been boring, (as a film apart from the others), without some kind of dramatic tension in the Sam/Frodo story. I thought it sucked.

Oh yeah, the "Go home, Sam", was the 2nd wort bit in all three movies.

But yes, they all rock.

Posted by: Windopaene on January 10, 2004 7:12 PM

Does anyone else think the whole shelob thing deviated from the book? although i havent gone back to the books, i felt weird abou the whole thing, especially the relationship between frodo and sam. frodo never told sam to go. frodo ended up getting stabbed by shelob, then sam thought he was dead so PUT ON the ring and then later went and saved frodo after overhearing the orcs. in the movie frodo tells sam to go home but sam knows he needs to helo frodo...can anyone help me out?

Posted by: livie on January 10, 2004 7:33 PM

dude, i really should have spellchecked.

Posted by: livie on January 10, 2004 7:38 PM

dude, step back off of Iowa!


Posted by: Sean on January 10, 2004 7:53 PM

Great discussion (with the exception of the one unwarranted attack against yeti-san. I hope Arjuna realized how uncalled for the nasty tone was).

I think Sean and Billy both deserve Best Supporting Oscar nominations, but I'll be surprised if Billy gets one. Pippin's song SOARED with the Spirit of Tolkein!!!

Although I wished Saruman was dealt with in the theatrical version, I never gave it a second thought as I figured we'd see everything in the extended (as I said earlier, the REAL version, hee hee)

Of course Shelob played out differently, but I was ok with it. Sam turning back was definitely out of character book-wise, but it worked for the film, and i try to keep that in mind. Besides, he got better!!!

I was also fine with the nastier Faramir, he was actually in character the whole time, it was just intensified for the movie. Yeah, his reversal was a bit pat, but I forgive much in these movies because I love so much of it! Remember, he was being seduced by The Ring, as was his brother and other characters before and after, and he started to succumb - just like the book - but shook it off and "showed his quality" when he saw the Nazgul almost get the ring. So he was more noble in the book, but the external shock of seeing the Ringwraith which helped him fight the Ring's Influence worked visually for the movie. Either way, his strength of character ultimately allowed him to defeat the corrupting power of the ring and let Frodo go.

I originally hated the addition of Elves to Helm's Dep, as I thought it detracted from the heroism of the Rohirrim. Over time I came to accept it. I actually was wondering if Jackson would give the Dwarves equal time and perhaps have an army of Dwarves from The Lonely Mountain and Men of Dale show up, hee hee.

There is a lot that I wish we could have seen in the battle of Pelennor Fields, such as other armies of humans fighting on both sides, but I understand why it needed to be simplified. I especially missed the Ranfers of the North coming to Aragorn's side, but again, I understood. You just can't include everything.

I love the Legolas Oliphant battle even though the effects were a bit shoddy. I do wish the Oliphants were scaled down somewhat, they were waaaaay too massive (AT-AT walkers anyone?), but that's just another nitpick. I could do the nitpick dance (close cousin of the wedgie dance) for hours, but I'll stop here. The movie was just too awe-inpiring to pick apart!

Posted by: mr. grooism on January 10, 2004 9:50 PM

...it's just that I felt that Tom Cruise's character didn't have the emotional depth that he did in the book....

wait, am I in the right forum? Who's Legolas? Is he a samurai?

Posted by: Squidocto on January 10, 2004 10:44 PM

BTW, if the Douglas Kenny and the Harvard Lampoon alumni aren't right now working on ome sort of movie version of Bored of the Rings, featuring our pals Frito, Dildo, GoodGulf and Legolam, they are sooooo missing the boat!

Posted by: mr. grooism on January 11, 2004 12:31 AM

what's Lord of the Rings?

Posted by: bob on January 11, 2004 2:55 AM

So it's got to be a lovefest to be acceptable?

Posted by: Arjuna58 on January 11, 2004 12:39 PM

In regard to the oliphaunts, when reading the books I had always taken them to be just plain old elephants. When I saw what they had become in the movies, I was briefly disheartened, but on reflection I figured that given the scale of the cave trolls, they were probably about right. You really wouldn't want a single troll to be able to swing an oliphaunt around its head.
What really got to me was the lack of a razed Hobbiton. Even moreso because I know that they filmed the scene in its entirety (Suffice to say that after building the whole village the set creators were Not happy to see it burned to the ground).
I felt that the ending as it was softened the blow far too much. It appeared that the rest of the hobbits were oblivious to all that had happened, when Tolkien had engineered a total world conflict.
For some to escape any hardship somewhat lessens the importance of what had been accomplished by the fellowship.

Posted by: killifish on January 11, 2004 4:40 PM

..."Even moreso because I know that they filmed the scene in its entirety"...

FYI, the filmmakers declared their intent to skip "Scouring of the Shire" sequence at least since they began filming. Therefore, it was never filmed (outside of the few short takes used in the "Mirror of Galadriel" sequence, which the filmmakers have described as a fan-oriented reference to the "Scouring").

BTW, the de-Hobittionification of the Hobbiton sets was due to the fact that these were built on a farmer's land, and he wanted it back once the filmmaker's lease expired. this is very typical of movie productions.

That said, I also would have enjoyed the inclusion of the "Scouring" (though I'm sure my bladder disagrees).

Posted by: JDBO on January 11, 2004 5:12 PM

Faramir's sudden change of heart always puzzled me -- until i saw TTT about five times. What i think is... see, Faramir's intention was to bring the Ring to his father, and that Denethor would use it to save Minas Tirith. However, upon learning that the Ring turned his normally valiant brother into a would-be murderer, and seeing it's wicked influence over Frodo -- he probably figured out that the Ring would only be trouble for his homeland... especially if his stinker father claimed it.. and that he ought to let Frodo try to destroy it. Yeah....

I guess still it was a bit pat. It does seem to make way more sense in the extended TTT, though.

Posted by: edgeling on January 11, 2004 5:19 PM

Everything I've read up to now indicated that the Scouring of the Shire was never filmed. Granted, this is mostly in the form of reviewers mentioning the SotS and then parenthetically adding "(which was never filmed)," so I could be wrong. But still - you're the first person I've seen saying it was done.

And, while I understand exactly what you mean about the thematic importance of the SotS, I personally am glad it wasn't in the movie. After three-plus hours of mind-blowing cinema, it was definitely time for conclusions. Making viewers sit through the SotS mini-story would've just been too much.

Moreover, I think its absence, while taking a certain message away from the story, also throws an existing message into even sharper clarity: Frodo couldn't truly go back home again no matter what shape home was in when he returned. If the Shire had been ruined and rebuilt, then Frodo's alienation could've been pegged at least partly on that. But in Jackson's portrayal, there's absolutely no doubt that it was the changes within Frodo that made the Shire unsuitable for him.

Posted by: Yet another goddamn Matt on January 11, 2004 5:21 PM

Also, I didn't mind Faramir's apparent change of heart, since I never saw him as being dead-set on taking the ring in the first place. Even if he didn't vocalize it as such, I thought he was of two minds from the get-go, and taking the hobbits on his march to Osgiliath was basically a way of delaying his final decision. Being the commander, though, he couldn't admit his indecision along the way.

Also, he knew that the ring was supposedly a corruptor, but he also knew what its power promised, and keeping the hobbits with him for a while was a great way of observing its effects at work. Osgiliath was the last place he had the opportunity of making a judgement, since there was nothing between it and Minas Tirith. And while he was at that last stop, he was also conveniently shown just how dangerous the ring could be, so his true decision finally came down there.

Is how I see it. Also, [TANGENT ALERT] the Osgiliath scene gave a strong conclusion to the Frodo subplot that Shelob really wouldn't have. When it came down to it, Shelob was just one more obstacle to get past, whereas the Osgiliath scene really drove home the influence of the ring over Frodo - and nicely foreshadowed the Mount Doom finale. Also, Shelob's presence in RotK nicely fleshed out the hobbits' half of that story. And it gave Gollum more fun screen-time as a scheming bastard, which allowed TTT to focus exclusively on his almost-redemption.

Posted by: Yet another goddamn Matt on January 11, 2004 5:58 PM

Also... I say "also" a lot.

Posted by: Yet another goddamn Matt on January 11, 2004 5:58 PM

i loved the first "rings" movie; thought the second lagged a bit; thought the third was an improvement over the second but not as good as the first. i kept thinking: "come on already, let's wrap it up!" for time invested vs. enjoyment received, "paycheck" was a better movie.

Posted by: McDuck on January 11, 2004 6:11 PM

1. Faramir: I was inclined to dislike the TTT Faramir, but, particularly if you watch TTT Extended, the whole Denethor/Boromir/Faramir dynamic comes out a lot more clearly -- and comes to its tragic fruition in RotK.

2. Gollum vs. Frodo: FIGHT! No, but really, I think having Frodo and Gollum fight again some more over who's going to hold onto the Ring works a lot better than having Gollum basically slip while he's dancing about in joy. Talk about a convenient ending ...

(I loved the transcendent joy on Gollum's face as he falls down into the lava, oblivous to all but his now possession of his Precious. )

My biggest objection to RotK -- Denethor comes off not only as a paranoid nut, but an ineffectual paranoid nut -- refusing to call for help, having failed to muster up the armies of Gondor, etc. The treatment of Denethor, from being clubbed down by Gandalf to his final high dive, is the most annoying contrast to his portrayal in the books.

But I am, perhaps, far too geeky a fanboy to have my opinion count ... :-)

Posted by: *** Dave on January 11, 2004 8:30 PM

"I felt that the ending as it was softened the blow far too much. It appeared that the rest of the hobbits were oblivious to all that had happened, when Tolkien had engineered a total world conflict."

The hobbits that stayed in the Shire had no comprehension of the world in the books either. That's when I stopped liking them, at the end of it all, when they proved themselves incapable of imagining that Frodo might have done anything worthwhile, and that Sam had ever done anything more important than be their mayor. They're not the sort of people that like to see the world clearly. I'd almost rather have them be completely oblivious to everything than to think that their own little battle decided the fate of the world.

And I liked the movie, overall. I agree that it would have been better if Gollum had just fallen over in his joy, but I don't feel that strongly about it. I loved that Sam was made into the hero of this one. Him and Eowyn too, I believe. And the death of King Theoden is the
one scene that I dare to think Peter Jackson made better than it was in the book.

My biggest problem with the movies is how the Ents were made to seem less powerful and wise and independent in their thinking. Capable of making their own decisions about hobbits and invansions. But nevermind.

Posted by: yensen on January 11, 2004 8:59 PM

That should have been incapable. They were made incapable.

Posted by: Anonymous on January 11, 2004 9:02 PM

I've found with all three movies that for me, it takes a second viewing to fully grasp the pacing and format of the picture. I thought the fight between Frodo and Gollum was a bit protracted the first time I saw the film but on second viewing it did not come off that way.

I did not see Frodo's attempt to fight Gollum for the Ring as a return to good - he wanted it for himself. I don't think he started his break from the Ring's power until he grasped for Sam's hand and thanks much to the poster above who helped me see that it was at exactly that point that the ring dissolved into the lava.

So, I'd recommend a second viewing - heck, I didn't even notice all the Ents messing around Isengard the first time.

I've also found the pacing improved in each Extended Version so I'm expecting the same of RotK...thekeez

Posted by: Jeff Keezel on January 12, 2004 6:09 AM

I've not read the books although I did basically know the plot before I saw the movies. But I have one question regarding Mt. Doom. I thought they were going to have to climb all the way to the top of Mt. Doom, but then all of the sudden: how convenient, here is this nice tunnel complete with a walkway right up to the edge of the lava so anyone who wants can waltz right out to the edge and drop anything they want to destroy into the river of lava, like oh um, maybe the One Ring?

I mean seriously, what other purpose did having that walkway there serve? Why was it built?

By the way, my favorite line in ROTK was probably: "I am no man!"

Posted by: Martin Alak on January 12, 2004 8:39 AM

In response to Martin's comment above, it was my understanding that this tunnel was the very same one Sauron created when he originally forged the One Ring - and I guess someone will verify this by some excerpt from the book.

Posted by: Brian on January 12, 2004 10:13 AM

Just wanted to say, I was really disappointed that we didn't get to see the final scene from the points of view of Frodo and Gollum while each was wearing the ring. That altered world blew me away in the first movie and I wished we'd gotten back to it. I also regret that Jackson cut out Sam using the ring and being able to give it up. I think that was essential.

Posted by: Michele on January 12, 2004 11:17 AM

I also loved the movies even though they are *really* different from the books.

Among the nits in ROTK that I pick are:

I did not like Frodo ending up hanging off the cliff - I do think it would've been better to have Gollum tumble off as he's gloating, as in the book.

I thought the transformation of Eowyn from the ice-maiden in the book to the down home cutie in the movie was unnecessary and, well, just plain wrong.

The strategizing scene where Gandalf says that Sauron won't be fooled by Aragorn's idea to have Gondorian soldiers marching to Mordor is more than wrong - it's evil! In the book, Gandalf promotes the idea, pointing out that Sauron can't imagine that anyone would ever try to destroy the ring.

I thought that Aragorn's healing of Eowyn, Faramir, and Merry would've fit in the movie - think of the excitement it would've added as the townspeople discovered that the king has returned!

I thought the lack of horses for Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas as they travel the path of the dead was stupid and unnecessary.

Good changes:

There were many, but I thought the lighting of the beacons was a really neat sequence. Gandalf telling Pippin to just not say anything was funny. The reforging and delivery of Narsil to Aragorn in ROTK (rather than in FOTR as in the book) worked ok for me.

I could go on and on, but in my opinion the BEST change from the book was Sam, weeping at Mt. Doom as the lava surrounded him, weeping about Rosie - "she wore ribbons in her hair." I thought that was inspired.

Posted by: Jasper on January 12, 2004 11:54 AM

My favourite change was the inclusion of Voltron.

Posted by: palinode on January 12, 2004 12:56 PM

Imagine a Mumakil-Voltron. I know that Voltron is good and the Mumakil are evil, but surely something could be worked out. Personally, I'd compromise a lot in order to get a gigantic robot made of mechanical Mumakil going on.

Posted by: palinode on January 12, 2004 1:00 PM

I think the reason i didn't like movie three was the unbalance of drama vs. fighting in the three movies. and this plays into why its a better single movie then three parts--> we spend so much time having aragorn worry about becoming his ancestor (oh, i can't destroy the ring, my blood won't let me, i will fail) in movie one, and then in movie three, he ups and becomes the king to kick ass. movie two we see him do whats right, lead men, fight the good fight, yadda yadaa yadda. so its a nice character development for him i think over the course of three movies. its not just boom, hes the guy that is the king and kicks ass. he changes who he thinks he is and evolves internally for himself. so, by splitting things like that up into drama/internal-conflict (goes to movie one) and fighting/external-conflict (goes to movie three) and we'll connect them with a little of both (into movie two)-...by splitting things up like that, it makes each "movie" have to stand on its own as the 1) character-based 3) fighting finale and 2) joining/empire-strikes back type film. which i think hurts movie three. it was boring. not so much as watching tennis, but it had nothing on 1 and 2. the battle scenese sure did a lot but can you consume that much? helm's deep seems better to me.

in the third movie there was a problem of scale. so we need to fight the badguys' huge army. we can't do that, we dont have enough men
then what follows is the most amazing defensive city that you can't imagine what force would bring it down is attacked by a force that, well, yup, that would bring that city down. now the good guys with the horses are gonna attack, but how could they break the lines of that many bad guys? oh, yup, ok, thats enough horses, wow! ok, what could the bad guys do against all those good guys? i mean that was a lot of bad guys that just got the crapped kicked out of them. oh wow, ya, that many olephants would do it..wow! wow! ok, what could stop all those bad guys? oh wow! thats a lot of dead army! wow! its not a wow at that point though, its a 'hummph'.

and whats up with the dead people effect? was that just a wind-particle effect they used colored green? that was miserable. up close the dead king looked neat, but attacking the people they looked little better then a particle wind.

i thought the discussion here on the end of the volcano was good. but having gollum just fall in seems kinda weak to me. maybe it worked in the book, i dont know. i am sure i would have thought in the movie that it was rather weak. and the philosophical point about allowing the ring (and the desires it creates/exists-as) to destroy itself also seems rather weak. so, it was really in the ring itself not to survive? seems a bit preachy to me. its no real story about gollum's greed for the ring then destroying it... either with the fight or without we get that the greed and conflict broughta bout by the ring destorys it..got that, but by allowing an intercessor's conflict help out complicates it just a bit more to seem entertaining philosophically speaking. w/o that then its just a sunday sermon, thanks, but no.

as for that olephant/legolas seen. you guys thought that was great?! luke vs at-at was way better. the cgi-flipping that legolas had to do didn't have much weight to them itseemed to me. compare that with the cool horsemount in the second movie and i feel the horsemount was much more realistic. i felt his weight flipping around. witht he olephant mounting, all i saw was a ninja teleporting around. persoal perception i'm sure matters on that call.

Posted by: araboth on January 12, 2004 3:25 PM

You know, it sure would be nice if people who wish to post long, drawn out opinions and commentaries would run their long, drawn out essays through a spell-checker first.

Posted by: Pedantic Missfit on January 12, 2004 7:51 PM

I really didn't like the scuffle at the destruction of the ring, *even* if you read it more or less that way. My main reason is that the huge cliche it instantiates totally drains the moral grandeur from the event. Going over the cliff only to (surprise!) appear later, hanging on? Friend shouting "Grab my hand!"?? Having the time for seemingly leisurely reflection on whether to attempt the hand-grab??? Puh-leeze. The scene should have been played with Frodo's pride coming over him in a rush, and suddenly (to us and him), being stripped from him with the ring, in a moment of sudden pain, humility, and relief.

The films were great, but the action-flick cliches hurt the latter two quite a bit for me. How many times do we see a hero seemingly helpless before a villain, only to be saved suddenly by an ally from behind? It felt like about 10 in ROTK alone. The battles would have been even greater without that junk.

Posted by: J on January 12, 2004 8:59 PM

You know, it sure would be nice if people who wish to post long, drawn out opinions and commentaries would run their long, drawn out essays through a spell-checker first.

"Drawn-out" is hyphenated. Just, you know, FYI.

Posted by: Matthew on January 12, 2004 9:23 PM

Well, I'm gonna ignore the preceding conversation as it confuses me. Although not entirely: I totally agree with Adam's opinion that sending a troupe of Ninja-Elves (tm) to Helm's Deep in TTT was, uh, surprising. It violates one of the big themes of the book ("The time of the elves is done, the alliances of old are broken, this is the time of mankind") -- and I simply don't understand why. It would have been easy to aviod and doesn't add drama.

Posted by: Gunnar on January 13, 2004 5:08 AM

Frodo grappling with Gollum for the ring was just lame. When he went over the edge and he & Sam had the subsequent "Grab my hand/don't let go" sequence, I felt like I was watching Murtaugh and Riggs in Lethal Weapon. Bad choice.

I also didn't like the film's interpretation of Eowyn. She was far, *far* more kickass in the books - much more Princess Leia and less Princess Barbie - and while I thought her trembling fear was appropriate in confronting the Witch King, it would have been much more meaningful to me if she'd been presented as a kickass warrior from her first scene. Instead, she seemed much more like a scared girly-girl, a wilting flower on a cross-dressing suicide mission. Another bad decision.

I could have done with far fewer Sweeping Shots of EpicBattle! and more scenes of Faramir/Eomer/Merry. Hell, even some shots of them fighting would've been nice.

I miss the SotS - it's one of my favorite parts of RotK - but I can understand its omission. I think they should have insisted on filming it somehow, though, and putting it in the extended version.

That said, I thought the film rocked in many ways and made me cry, but I think that was much more because of my emotional investment in the books, and less so because the film interpretation was so unbelievably good.

Posted by: whiteotter on January 13, 2004 9:23 AM

"Drawn-out" is hyphenated. Just, you know, FYI.

i spit my soda when i read that

Posted by: lisa on January 13, 2004 2:17 PM

Was anyone else bothered by the fact that Gollum survived for a few seconds in molten lava? He would have certainly incinerated far before he hit the surface. Furthermore, it bothered me that Legolas could climb up arrows, arrows!, that supported his weight while attacking the olephaunt. And one more, what the hell was he standing on while shooting his arrows from the beast's rump? I'm not saying these are valid worries, I just wonder if I'm alone in thinking these things.

Yes, I know it's a movie.

I thought the post about spell-checking a drawn out (sic) post was a joke since the name was Pedantic "Missfit" (sic).

Posted by: PC on January 14, 2004 11:55 PM

Legolas was an elf. He could also walk on unpacked snow ala FotR. Elves are different, weight-wise.

Posted by: Anonymous on January 17, 2004 12:43 AM

Okay, one last comment, honest:

I figured out what really irked me about the prolonged Crack o' Doom sequence. It's not the fighting, so much as the hanging-off-the-edge. Because the fighting can be thought of as just the lust for the Ring at work, but the cliffhanging was undeniably heroic: Sam was being his usual loyal self, and Frodo had to finally turn away from the Ring and give one last push for life. As has been pointed out, in fact, it's possible to view Frodo's turning-away as being a catalyst for the Ring's final destruction.

But what I loved so much about the Tolkien ending was that there wasn't an inch of heroism at the last. For all the Herculean effort that went into getting the Ring there, it was only the self-destructiveness of evil and maybe the hand of Eru that won out inside the cave. That pure moment of anti-humanism, then, was spoiled by the addition of not just a heroic act, but a Hollywood super-cheese heroic act.

You know, I'm really curious now - in the history of people falling off cliffs, how many have actually been able to grab onto the side, just within arm's reach?

Posted by: Yet another goddamn Matt on January 19, 2004 1:10 AM

Let me just say that Gollum should have basically evaporated well before he hit the lava. That bothered me.

Posted by: John on January 19, 2004 11:48 AM

I guess I'm joining this way late. I just wanted to say that reading all this confirms for me that my boyfriend's right and I am a hopeless dork. Much has been made of the elves coming to helm's deep and whether that sucked or not, but nobody has really assessed the real price of that: By pointlessly sending Eomer away (with about 100 men in the first scene, which magically becomes 2000 when he appears at the end of TTT to save them) in the beginning of the movie (instead of imprisoning him), they effectively remove my favorite character from the movie. In TTT, Eomer is a fabulous character, providing a great insight into these "men" that we hear about so much in the movie and yet seldom see. Uneducated, ignorant, but valiant and good-hearted, he is an excellent parallel to Aragorn-- another man stepping up to fill the role set for him by his ancestors. He is on a different scale than Aragorn but their macho camaraderie at Helm's Deep adds a missing human element to the battle, and his antagonism with Gimli that is resolved when Gimli saves his life at the causeway in Helm's Deep, and the banter about learning the praise of a fair lady under the loving strokes of a dwarf's axe... Even the scene in the Houses of Healing where Aragorn diagnoses what's wrong with Eowyn, and Eomer sits absolutely dumbfounded realizing that he has never once really actually understood his sister in all their years of life... They make much of Theoden and Eowyn's relationship, but there's never any relationship between the siblings. Because Eomer doesn't make a full character. maybe it was union rules or something, like he couldn't have more than four lines and three closeups...
They replace that with a disturbingly mincing Haldir in armor and some mugging around with Gimli, and nobody else feels massively let down by it? Eomer gets about two lines in the movies, and some screaming and improbable Oliphant-bashing (look, now he's got a magic spear, oh look, now he's an archer), and by the time you get to the coronation scene in RoTK you've forgotten who the shouldery guy in the wig is. They don't even explain that he's Theoden's heir, so what he's doing there isn't even made clear to non-fangirl-geeks.

All this just proves that we all have our own axes to grind and really, those of us who are book-geeks are best-off if we consider the movies as a lovely visual aid to our appreciation of the stories. Seriously, the movies did help me to uncover a great number of themes that existed in the books, that I had skimmed over in my hundreds of rereadings. Bilbo's tearful apology to Frodo in FoTR makes me cry every time I see it. And I have to say that the casting and indeed, all the characterizations and visuals were absolutely spot-on and inspiring. Except that they made the Elves so gay that they felt obligated to show them kicking ass to prove that they weren't really that mincing and light-loafered. And had to sacrifice the Third Marshal of the Mark to do it. Grmmmble.

sadly, the movies have also served to expose to me just what a tremendous dork I am. :) I hadn't really known this was all lurking deep inside me until people started discussing it... and I realized I CARED. Tragic.

Posted by: Bridget Kelly on March 3, 2004 5:59 AM