Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Return of the King

I saw Return of the King today thanks to some very generous support from a Wheaton alum. I won't give a full review, because I don't want to spoil things for people who have to wait until the middle of the month, but let me say that as a movie this one manage easily to top the other two. I could come up with all kind of picky criticisms (and I have some larger ones, as well), but on the whole this just blew me away--and I actually quite disliked Two Towers. The sheer spectacle, the visuals, the landscape, the special effects (seamlessly integrated)...

The audience was made up of jaded film critics and theater owners, and had only about 50 people in attendance. But spontaneous applause and cheering broke out three times and I myself got misty in more than one place. That might be the film just reminding me of the great scene in the novel, but I still give Jackson some props for getting the emotions right.

Ok, you probably want me to wear my Tolkien-critic hat: the treatment of Denethor is even worse than that of Faramir and shows that the critique of Tolkien for having 'black and white' characters is incredibly off the mark. Tolkien treats Denethor with great subtlety; Jackson does not -- it's over the top, in fact. The editing of the movie is odd: some things are very rushed, while we get image after image of catapults firing, many slow motion scenes, etc. On the other hand, no one is paying me 300 million dollars to have a deft hand in building tension, so perhaps there are reasons.

My critique about Middle-earth seeming too small is even more accurately applied to this movie, but it is already 3 hours and 15 minutes long, so I don't think more travelling scenes would have worked. At times I felt that the pace was breakneck and yet Jackson was leaving so much out, and I realized that it's probably impossible to do justice to LotR in less than, say, 24 hours of film.

Tomorrow I'll try to talk about why I think that the movies--whether you like or hate them -- really won't do much to Tolkien's legacy of work. But today, fresh out of the movie, I'll end with a few comments about it that hopefully won't spoil anything:

I said that I didn't think the scale of the battle of the Pelennor Fields being ten times larger than Helm's Deep would really make that much of a difference. I was really wrong.

Gimli's comic relief wasn't heavy-handed and worked in this film.

You've never seen such an amazing volcanic eruption.

And, finally, and most importantly to my students, I think:


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