Carla and I went to see LotR: RotK Friday. I've read a lot of reviews raving about the movie and I have to agree that I enjoyed it quite a bit. Still, I have some complaints....
I guess not having read the book, I should have enjoyed the movie even more. That is the way these things usually work, isn't it? However it didn't work for me. It was fun and beautiful to watch but the whole time I kept thinking the same thing I thought the whole time I read Fellowship and Two Towers (the 2 Tolkein books I did read before giving up), "Boy this guy really needs an editor."
The reason I loved the theatrical release of the first movie was how it moved along at a good clip. There was never a time in Fellowship where I felt like "that scene could have been left out." For RotK, I felt like I was watching the extended version of Fellowship. There were plenty of scenes that were nice and probably made a lot of the hard-core Tolkein fans happy, but were not important to the plot and just slowed down the pace of the movie.
((Once again, I warn you... SPOILERS! You can't say I didn't warn you.))
Pippin and Denethor - While the huge war is waged outside and Frodo and Sam continue to make their way through Mordor, we are treated to scenes of Pippin fighting to stop Denethor, the Steward King, from burning his son, Faramir alive. Yeah, it was emotional and showed how Denethor was going insane, but we already had our emotions invested in several other characters at the time and were waiting to see what happened in the big battle and what happened to Sam and Frodo. Personally, I barey cared about Pippin and didn't care at all about the fate of Denethor and Faramir as they were just background characters. Nothing in the last two movies had given me any reason to care about the fate of either of Boromir's relatives....and hundreds of people were dying outside while the fate of Middle Earth was at stake. Faramir just wasn't that important. Why should I care about him more than all the soldiers who wer ebeing slaughtered by Orcs outside? Because he's nobility (sort of)? This would have been a cool scene for the extended version but not when I can't pause the movie.
Like many people, I thought the multiple endings was annoying as hell. I know he was trying to be loyal to the book but I think that's another issue of being cool for the hard-core fans while ruining the pacing of the movie. When Frodo wakes up to see the surviving Fellowhsip members, the movie could have ended there. We got the idea. We know that Aragorn will take his place as King of Gondor and Arwyn will join him. We know the Hobbits will return to the Shire and its ale. This would have been great extra extended-edition footage as well but the movie had already hit it's climax 20 minutes before the movie was over. Bad pacing.
One last complaint: Gimli still gets short-changed. In three movies the only scene were we the Dwarf be really effective was the fight on the bridge of Helm's Deep. Other than that, we never see him be anywhere near as effective as Aragorn or Legolas and the only reason we can see that they keep the Dwarf along was comedy relief. Hopefully, the Dwarves will regain some honor when Jackson makes The Hobbit, but I'm not holding my breath.
On the up-side....well......there's a lot of them. I loved every scene with Sam, Frodo and Gollum/Smeagle. The interaction between the characters and the bravery of Sam facing the spider were extremely cool. Legolas and Gimli had some great interactions. The costumes and sets were fantastic. The special effects were amazing, particularly during the attack on Minas Turith.
The best part of the movie for me was watching the eye crumble to the ground at the end of the movie. Carla and I had just caught the end of the last episode of Buffy Season 3 "Graduation Day" befor leaving for the theater, so as the eye looked frantically around I heard Sauron's last words as voiced by the late Sunnydale Mayor, Richard Wilkins III. "Well.....gosh." I sat there chuckling while Carla thought I was crazy. It's just that the eye...well....it was looking a little pathetic as it crumbled. It managed to be so intimdating for most of three movies in that last moment it was looking around....helpless.
Anyways, it was still a hell of a lot better than than most fantasy movies that preceded the trilogy, (I still like Excalibur the best....) and was a worthy addition to the trilogy. I liked it better than Two Towers, but in my mind Fellowship was much better. That's just me. I know there are a lot of people who thought the movie would have been much better if the movie spent 30 minutes or so with Frodo and the game having tea with Tom Bombadil. I like my movies to move along a little faster. This one didn't have any Tom Bombadil tea parties but it still could have used some editing.
Carla and I will be going to see it again sometime soon. I'll be interested to see if all the extra scenes are easier or tougher to sit through the second time. I know some movies I come to appreciate the little character building scenes on repeated viewings as I see more importance in them.....or make my self believe they are more important than they are. Other movies, I find them even more boring because I've already seen these scenes and already know that it does't build to anything important.
One last comment: I've read several people write recently that one of the flaws of the original Battlestar Galactica TV series was that all of the characters were either really good or really bad. Apollo was your ultimate clean-cut hero while his father, Adama, was like some Moses figure. The villians, the Cylons had no visible motivation besides "they're the bad guys." One of the guys I know who routinely complains about these kinds of "two-dimensional" characters is also a huge fan of the Lord of the Rings. How is the Lord of the Rings any different? Almost all of the characters are either really righteous or really evil. Did Sauron have some deep motivation? Did we ever understand why the Orcs wanted to help Sauron destroy humanity? Does Aragorn ever think about taking the ring from Frodo? The only main character who wasn't some "Percy Pureheart" in the Fellowship was Boromir and he dies pretty early in.
I'm not saying that having the "Percy Purehearts" is bad or unrealistic. I've argued time and again that Superman had a completely believable personality. I just don't understand why people who complain about the Apollos and Supermans of the fiction world, can say that Lord of the Rings has better characters. I like heroes that are really heroic and (perhaps because I'm an optomist) I believe that people really can be that good.
As for the completely evil characters, I don't find them realistic.....but I enjoy them still. If we are to root for the heroes, we need to have some realy dastardly villians. If it ends up that the villian has a good reason for his evil it becomes a little harder to take joy as they look frantically around and say " well....gosh!"