Yes, FOTR was probably better. But having just come back from my first viewing of film which was Friday at the 10:15pm showing , I feel like I felt similar to how I felt after I watched FOTR last year. My feeling was it was good, probably very good, despite some critical, though very small parts which were too Hollywood-ized(there should only have been the one future death of Aragorn and Arwen scene), and made empty.
About the plotline switching. It remined me of “Attack of the Clones” when the movie seemed to abruptly switch from a scene we wanted to continue on with. Each scene needed more time to play out. It should have been more like “Superman II” when the scene changes to another set of characters takes place after 10 or 15 minutes, instead of 5 minutes. It’s like when we get to the Obi-wan at Camino storyline split in bits similar to the splitting of the Helm’s Deep battle scene which should have been more continuous.
I agree more was compromised this time to today’s Hollywood formulas of evoking audience reaction, but still most parts played true to spirit to the story and the book, very effectively in my opinion. I feel PJ did more extrapolation this time, but still the source ideas came from the book more or less.
For example, Faramir, while maybe more mean-hearted than in the book, was definitely suspicious in the text and made Frodo and Sam go through a few hoops before he let them go, and yes, he did lead them on for quite a few miles towards Osgiliath. In Jackson’s version ,he finds out about the ring much sooner which I agree I didn’t like, but in the book he also does suspect it, and >after< going through his inner struggle (i.e., resisting the ring like everyone has to do) and getting to know Frodo's character, he does let them go.
Eowyn was, I agree, quite fetching. Heard Mirando Otto had just gone through a relationship breakup before filming the movie. Could be some of her mood showed through and we could sense some of that in what someone earlier said was “mysteriously sexy.” She did a great job.
Gandalf and the Balrog was just excellent. It was the best we could ever hope to see actualized on film today. Like Gandalf’s “oneness” with the universe itself as well (i.e., the Valar and Eru(God)).
Exorcism of Theoden. I had no problem. I saw it as magic and spellbreaking by Gandalf rather than posession and exorcism. Communication spells could take continued concentration and Saruman could have used his palantir’s powers to keep connected as palantiri in the past could communicate emotions and thoughts as well. Again, PJ’s version was still based on elements from the book.
About Gandalf leading the charge through the pike front. Other studies on Tolkien I’ve read found Gandalf the White practically invulnerable to most weapons since he is like others have said, practically an avenging angel of the Valar at this point. And yes, he’s now a Maiar permitted to intervene. He even makes a little speech before charging why it was blessed to do so; i.e., the Valar were pleased with Theoden’s final charge of faith. I like how PJ built up this holy intervention with Theoden saying how could any man or mortal races help them now. Though I think the holy rays blasting the orcs scene could have been longer. But I guess less is more when you depict godlike powers leaving the rest to the imagination which I think PJ is right to show restraint here in the end.
Concerning the characters, in general, every line and facet shown was based on something in the book. However, PJ has chosen to focus arbitrarily on certain characters more than others. Gollums’ schizophrenic lines are all from the book but placed at different times and scenes according to PJ’s vision. But I agree some of it didn’t work too well this time and the timing of the lines seemed to be guided to control audience reaction and at the same time, still try to be faithful to the book. But I feel use of lines of the book with audience-guiding intent still can’t help but come across as manipulative and in the end similar along the lines of Hollywoodized gimicks audiences have had to endure in the past 15 years or so in overhyped movies. Jackson is trying for both, devotion to the book and studio-driven audience pandering. I suspect he’s doing this to compromise in the least visible way with this method of emphasizing these lines at “opportune” moments. But we still feel the use of these box-office driven, actor-showcasing tools, unfortunately. I agree there’s too much of the bantering from the books between Frodo and Sam used at the very end,. Maybe PJ tried to do it differently from the ending of the first movie after listening to reactions on the ending last year.
Concerning the special effects, we got to see everything amazing we wanted of Tolkien’s world. Sure, the Ents and Wargs weren’t perfect but we got to see the animal viciousness of the Wargs and the frustrating slow thinking of the Ents, all true to the spirit of the books.
Music was great. The Rohan themes involving a lot of strings and orchestral sounds, worked very well though maybe not as memorable as the Fellowship main theme. The battle music was superbly epic. Almost felt like the First or Second Age again. You can just imagine its the Valar or the Maiar singing in the bombastic choral music. The singer’s modern scratchy pop tone after the movie of Gollum’s song, I thought was a mistake, and maybe a sellout. Should have been more Enya or another historical-toned singer.
Overall, I still think PJ did his best, especially with all the pressures on him this time with all the people and studio depending on him. There was so much crammed in the 3 hours. It was like seeing the book unfold on the screen but not enough time to do so with so much we know about the book coming to life. I’m very satisfied and the film is magnificent and in my opinion is one of the year’s best and probably in the last ten years as well along with FOTR.