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Return of the King, second viewing

We went to the 11:50 showing of Return of the King today—which was packed, a week and a half after it opened in one of four theaters, I don't think they'll have any trouble making back their money on this one. (Initial thoughts are in this post.)

I did like it better this time: I wasn't on the edge of my seat to see what they would leave out or screw up, I was on the edge of my seat because the movie was tense and exciting. I don't think this will ever be a comfort movie for me, because it's tiring; we weren't even halfway through and I was already exhausted. Interestingly, the slow-mo scene with the Fellowship coming into Frodo's room didn't seem as long, indeed the ending as a whole didn't.

I was thinking about whether the tone of the ending is consistent with the books. I think I agree with Melymbrosia that the feeling is off, and there was a particular scene that made me think so: when the Ring is destroyed, Frodo says that he can see the Shire again. (Which I think is not canonical, but I don't want to check because I'm waiting on re-reading the books.) When he later says that the Shire was saved, but not for him—well, I find it jarring. All we get in the interval is looking happy at Sam and Rosie's wedding, a bit of looking lonely in Bag End (and cheesy voiceover, again), and then saying that his shoulder wound has never healed. I don't think that's enough to overcome the happy restoration in the lava field. If he'd said that he still couldn't see the Shire, I would have liked it better. I don't hate the ending as it stands, but I don't think it's quite right.

[Edited 12/29/2003: Several comments have remarked on this, and obviously I wasn't clear enough. I understand that Frodo, in the lava field, is saying that his memories have returned. What I'm saying is that this sequence of events doesn't build up, emotionally, to this conclusion for me:

  1. Frodo's memories of the Shire are taken away by the effects of the Ring.
  2. The Ring is destroyed.
  3. Frodo's memories are restored.
  4. Frodo and the other hobbits go home.
  5. There's a collective "what now" moment at the Green Dragon.
  6. Frodo looks happy at the wedding.
  7. Frodo looks lonely at Bag End.
  8. Frodo says in cheesy voiceover that he just wants to go back and can't.
  9. Frodo says that it's four years since Weathertop and his shoulder wound has never healed.
  10. Frodo goes to the Grey Havens and says "We saved the Shire, but not for me."

In other words: he's got the joy of the Shire back in memory, and what we see on screen doesn't seem like enough to show that the physical reality is so different or overwhelmed by pain and loss that he needs to leave.

Compare the books:

  1. There is a conversation about not being able to remember nature, pre-Ring-destruction.
  2. I don't remember if Frodo gets that back after the Ring is destroyed. (I want to say no, but I'm not sure.)
  3. The Scouring shows that violent death and corruption has touched and changed even the Shire, which noticeably saddens Frodo.
  4. Sam notices that Frodo is withdrawn from the community over time, gives up the office of (Deputy?) Mayor, isn't recognized for his accomplishments, hardly socializes.
  5. Frodo is sick twice a year, on the anniversary of Weathertop and the anniversary of the Ring's destruction.

That's a lot more—granted a lot of it is internal, which is harder to show. Which is why I think it would have worked better if Frodo didn't say, in the movie, that he had the memory of the Shire back, because it makes his journey to leaving much shorter.

End long edit. ]

(Also, I noticed the scale doubles of the Hobbits a lot in this movie, maybe because I was watching too much making-of DVDs. They're quite noticeable in the ending, and also when Pippin is at the balcony in Minas Tirith.)

People have nitpicked the battle scenes. I decided, watching the Pelennor Fields, that I just don't care. Don't. Cavalry charges don't keep momentum like that? Don't care. Can't take down multi-story elephants that easily? Don't care. Catapults shouldn't do that much damage? Don't care. I just don't.

(Teresa Nielsen Hayden, as always, nails it: "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." Much more and many, many, comments at the Making Light thread.)

The Rohirrim's preparation for charging still got to me, the emotional reverses kept me on the edge of my seat, I still went "guh" when Aragorn lowered his shoulder and charged at the orcs . . . yeah. Don't care, not in the least.

Apropos of the Pelennor Fields, I said somewhere that I wasn't sure if the chronology worked out for everyone to arrive at the same time. I think it can, and probably the easiest way to get the extra days in the Gondor thread is to have a day or two between the big green beacon and the invasion of Osiligath (which is entirely likely, just not explicit). A simple line like "The beacons were lit five days ago, and Rohan has not come—they have forsaken us!" would have made me feel a lot better, but I doubt that most people were bothered by this.

Minor points:

  • I don't think I mentioned, last post, how creepy and amazing I found the Minas Morgul sequence.
  • Shelob—fast and skittering and smart—as much personality as the cave troll, but much more malevolent.
  • I love that Gandalf's white cloak is all grimy 'round the edges when he arrives at Gondor.

There was more I wanted to comment on, but like I said, it's an exhausting movie and it's all run together. Here are some links I collected, and then I'm going to bed:

  • A nice article about trilogy Tuesday from the New York Times, unfortunately now disappeared into a pay archive:

    At one point in the movie's epic final battle scene, a couple enter the theater: attractive, well dressed. Where have they come from? They peer around for seats; seeing there are none, they sit down in the aisle beside me and whisper.

    I find that I want to kill them. It is not so much their noise, which is minimal. It is that this audience has shared this room for, lo, these 14 hours, and these people are not of our "Ring" fellowship. They have violated a sacred space. My homicidal vibes must reach them. They slink back to the impure real world.

    [ETA: a slight amount of that article's content is also in this Slate article (about halfway down).]

  • coffeeandink has collected links to many comments.
  • A condensed parody version by mollyringwraith (also a Two Towers version).
  • An amusing Strategies for Saving the Tolkien Purist from silveraspen

[Edited 12/29/2003 to clarify the thing that several people commented on.]

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texas_tiger

2003-12-29 02:13 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yes, it was, and the whole biting into fish thing was puke worthy.

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