No doubt millions of nerds are writing about seeing the Return of the King at this very moment. If you don’t want to hear another thing about it, stop reading now. I am about to activate this fully armed and operational Tolkien Goob.
Like many gamers of my generation, I grew up on the Lord of the Rings. When I was young I always hoped I’d get to be the guy to bring it to the screen. I rate the chances of that happening now as unlikely at best! However, I am pretty happy with the Return of the King. It hit all the high notes, unveiled the most stunning visuals of the whole trilogy, and generally got the spirit of the book right. The big battles were very impressive, the oliphaunts were awesome, and Eowyn’s duel with the Witch King was tre cool. I do, of course, have a few comments. Here we go:
1) Why are the orcs the only ones who know how to use a damn bow? It bugged me in the Two Towers when the Rohirrim just let the huge orc horde march up to the walls. Similarly here, we have Faramir’s rangers letting the orcs land in Osgiliath without firing a shot. Then the Gondorians let siege towers and orcs get real close before they start shooting. Conversely, the orcs decimate Faramir’s cavalry and then kill a bunch of the Rohirrim as well. Legolas needs to school the Free Peoples!
2) I think the book did a better job dramatizing the arrival of Aragorn. In the book, after Theoden is slain, Eomer and his men have been surrounded and are prepared to give their lives after taking piles of orcs with them. They chant “Death, death, death!” Then the black sails of the Corsairs are spotted and hearts sink. It’s only when Arwen’s banner is unfurled that the Free People’s realize that Aragorn has shown up to kick ass and take names. The movie stumbled with this a bit and didn’t play the moment for what it was worth. What’s funny is, they add all this stuff for Arwen that wasn’t in the books and then cut the one thing she actually did do–give Aragorn that standard.
3) No Mouth of Sauron!? I know the movie already had a lot of characters. I know that only people like me even wanted to see guys like Elfhelm and Imrahil show up onscreen. But you gotta have the Mouth! He’s only in one scene in the book, but he’s so coolly evil that he makes a larger impression.
4) While it was nice to see Theoden acting like a king in this movie (since he more or less whined his way through Two Towers), I wish the charge of the Rohirrim captured the book a bit better. I totally understand cutting Ghan-buri-Ghan. There’s no real time to develop him or the Wild Men of the Woods in an already long movie, but I think they still could have shown a surprise attack by the Rohirrim from an unexpected quarter. As it was, they line up on a hill and the orcs literally turn to face them with readied weapons.
5) They sure do make shoddy castles in Middle Earth. One catapult stone and down goes several storeys! OK, so I’m mostly kidding. I did love the depiction of Minas Tirith though. Really well conceived, though its design sure does make it hard for minis gamers to recreate the battle.
6) Pippin didn’t get to kill his troll. A small thing I know, but surely there was a chance in the Battle at the Black Gate for Pippin’s hour of glory. He had to keep up with Merry, after all. I thought the whole sequence with Aragorn and the troll was leading up to Pippin getting medieval, but no.
7) Thankfully, Gimli was much less stupid on this installment. He did have a few one-liners, but at least he wasn’t getting tossed or pinned under worgs.
8) I’ve thought since the first movie that the Eye of Sauron was way too obvious. I never really imagined it as a huge neon eye in the middle of Mordor. That was magnified to a ludicrous degree in this installment. I didn’t need to see the Eye acting as a giant spotlight across Mordor to get the idea that Sauron was looking for the ring. Or to see it literally swing away to know that the battle at the Black Gate was having the desired effect.
That’s about it for my nitpicks. Really not too bad considering. As I said above, I really enjoyed the film. I’m now wondering what’s going to show up on the deluxe DVD. Cirith Ungol got short shrifted (though again I totally understand why), so maybe they’ll have some more scenes of Frodo in the tower. I doubt they bothered to film the Houses of Healing, since that would bring the movie to a screaming halt as it moves to the climax. I know the Scouring of the Shire wasn’t filmed, which I still think is too bad. The whole point of that sequence is to bring the War of the Ring home for the hobbits. It’s not just far off lands that were affected, but their quaint little homes as well.
Ah well, I’ll just have to wait another damn year to find out.