Confessions of a First Nighter - My ROTK Review
I hadn't gone in with unreal expectations. True, we have all waited a long time but I didn't think that I had let anticipation overwhelm me. I thought I had stayed pretty cool and composed. I was prepared for the fact that there would be cuts and was prepared to live with that. I didn't shed bucketloads of tears, for which I was extremely grateful, and though I found the ending moving, I felt the book was more profound.
I think that the sheer enormity of what was portrayed on screen had left me feeling numb.
Almost twenty four hours later, I have begun to make sense of the experience, have had a chance to assmilate it, and to evaluate it. My opinion now is that it was indeed amazing, although there were some omissions which I hope to see in the EE next year, (groan . . another year to wait!)
What did I like?
I was really pleased to see that Frodo and Sam's thread of the story was left generally intact - as PJ said their experiences are the mainspring of the story. I thought Elijah Wood and Sean Astin were brilliant. The strength of their relationship was left in no doubt and the emotion was honest and powerful, not cheesy or sentimental. The physical effort for Frodo to bear the burden of the ring and his mental inner struggle on the edge of the chasm in Mt Doom was superbly portrayed.
Gollum took my breath away. A finely tuned mixture of malevolence and pitiful childishness. Andy Serkis's performance is worthy of an Oscar in my humble opinion. The audience couldn't help enjoying his petty spite against Sam in his campaign to turn Frodo against Sam. That was the strength of the performance. Smeagol was a human being clearly fallen from grace, whose submission to evil was not entirely complete, and who from time to time, displayed all too human traits demanding the audience's pity; a reminder of our own vulnerability.
The whole Shelob/Cirith Ungol episode was excellent and I would have liked to see more of that and less of Legolas climbing up oliphaunts. (Ihope there will be more in the EE edition)
Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) was, as usual, absolutely brilliant. He has managed the transformation from scruffy Dunedain ranger to Henry V at the battle of Agincourt splendidly and with quiet sureness of touch.
It's just a shame that some of the other major characters from the first two films had so little to do and their stories were little more than fleeting sub-plots. Please, please, please let them have more air-time in the EE edition.
One of the best scenes in the film was of Denethor stuffing down his lunch while Pippin sang (beautifully done by Billy Boyd) his poignant song and Faramir rode out to a pointless and wasteful display of courage and valour, goaded by his father's childish jibe. I would have liked to have seen the Houses of Healing and Faramir's and Eowyn's growing love for each other but I can understand its omission.
I did think Legolas and Gimli were rather wasted. Legolas in particular didn't have much to do and I suppose the oliphaunt scene was there to remind us of his and Gimli's competition and his elven prowess. Gimli at least was able to contribute a few humorous lines.
I'm still not quite sure about Theoden. I'm not sure I agree with the Hamlet like character full of self-doubt. In the books Theoden is a much more vital character and more loveable. I could quite understand why Merry offered him his service in the book, but wasn't quite so sure why he would in the film. Bernard Hill played him superbly, though.
I would also have liked to have seen more of Eowyn. She makes some pretty powerful pleas to Aragorn and Theoden to be allowed to go to war and fight as a warrior in her own right, but that was missing in the film. I also would have preferred it if her anonymity had been respected in the film, as Tolkien does in the book, when she takes up arms, calling herself Dernhelm, and Merry does not realise who she is until the combat with the Witch King. I know we would have all known anyway but it adds to the atmosphere.
Well, those are my first impressions, for what they are worth. Obviously I will need to go and see the film again, several times in fact, just to take in all it has to offer and have the privilege and opportunity to change my mind about my first impressions.
The scenery, special effects and costumes were gorgeous, breath taking and fantastic, as we have come to expect.