Monday night I went out to New Jersey with fellow Toroids Jim Minz and Theresa Delucci plus Theresa’s guy Jeff. We stayed at Jim’s place, and next morning went off to see a marathon wide-screen showing of the extended versions of The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, followed by The Return of the King. Patrick, who had obligations elsewhere, joined us just before Helm’s Deep. Afterward we crashed at Jim’s house again, and came back this morning.
Initial report: It’s a swell movie. Grond is a spectacular siege engine. The charge of the Rohirrim at Pelennor Fields had an invisible caption under it that said It is more fun to be cavalry than infantry. Overall, the Pelennor Fields sequence actually manages to top the battle of Helm’s Deep, which I wouldn’t have bet on without seeing it. Denethor’s descent into madness is not as gradual as it might have been, but its full-scale version is satisfactorily disturbing. The Witch-King of Angmar looked just like the Witch-King of Angmar. Shelob was so scary I mostly couldn’t watch her. Minas Tirith is perfect. When we first saw the courtyard with the dead tree in it, I looked over at Patrick and saw he had both hands clapped over his mouth, so I judge it looked just like he’d always imagined. Oh, and Eowyn kicks ass.
As in the previous movies, Peter Jackson’s touch is surest when dealing with monsters and Anglo-Saxons.
Some Hollywood stuff snuck in, but there were also some brilliant additions. Call it even, or better than even. The second half of the book is way too rushed. I expect there’ll be a lot of restorations in the long version.
Give up now on the Shire getting scoured. It proves to be in near-pristine condition. This will upset some people more than others.
More when I think of it. I have a bunch of nitpicks, but I know myself for a history of material culture crank, so I’ll spare you. Few viewers are going to be bothered on a gut level by the sight of a pre-industrial society fielding an army whose cloaks are all the exact same shade.
Summary: I need to see it again. Several times. Soon.
Addenda: Kevin Maroney gave me this link. It’s accurate.
Patrick contributes this discreditably funny link. Note: the RotK review recommences after the digressive rant about The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Patrick also found a very interesting discussion of Tolkien’s intent and the films on Chad Engbers’ Locust Wind, and a very interesting response to it on Nate Bruinooge’s Polytropos.
Serious spoiler alert: Karadin, who’s either got a phenomenal memory or was taking notes throughout the movie, has posted a scene-by-scene description of The Return of the King.