Friday, December 19, 2003

More on ROTK Part 1

As promised, now that I've had a couple of nights to catch up on my sleep and to digest Return of the King, I thought I'd come back and write a little about it. The requisite life-update: Liz and I went shopping for an evening dress for her last night (for my Christmas surprise, hehe) and the insurance company is going to give us a nice amount towards the car, which will allow us to pay off the loan from the old one and put a nice down payment on a new one. Of course this all means that I won't be getting my TV or DVD player anytime soon, but Liz is going to love her Christmas present, so it's all good. That will be enough for me this holiday season.

OK, so the movie. I thought ROTK was nothing short of incredible. The Pellenor Fields battle basically rewrote the book on what you can do with a large-scale battle in a film. I'll keep this spoiler-free, but to see more than a hundred thousand individuals fighting at the same time is something that will take your breath away. This is a movie best seen on the big screen. The sound was amazing - I literally sat with my mouth open, watching. The rest of the film was good, too, although it felt as if they cut quite a bit out (they did), so I'm expecting that the extended DVD version will add about an hour back in, including Saruman's death scene and the Faramir - Eowyn relationship. In the book, the battle with Shelob was over too quickly - here, it is almost symbolic of one of the main struggles in the film.

It seems like the overarching theme of these films is that the characters are always divided between two or more selves. Frodo tries to give in to the Ring, or ignore it. Smeagol / Gollum are the most obvious, with the "split personality" shots. Faramir is the good son and the good soldier. Aragorn is the reluctant ranger and the good king. Gimli and Legolas are basically the same character that reconciles his/their differences by the end. And Pippin and Merry walk the line of responsibility.

The main complaints I've seen about Return of the King - indeed, any of the Lord of the Rings movies - is that they screwed around with continuity, or didn't adhere to the letter of the books. Translating a book to film is a bit like translating a book from French to English - you're not going to get every word right, you're going to put some of your own interpretation into it, and the spirit is more important than the letter. The average fanboy doesn't understand this concept, but don't let that discourage you from seeing these films: they capture Tolkien's spirit perfectly, and will go down in history as some of the finest films ever made.

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