Age Of The Tale? Rush To Edit? – The Return Of The King works (SPOILERS)

by Dec 28, 2003Reviews

I am filled with a disdain for those who believe ROTK ought to receive “Best Picture” in any company… it does not deserve such. Indeed there is a palpable snobbery to anything sci-fi or fantasy in the land of theater which contributes to the snubbing of some of the greatest works of any time, but when pondering such for this tale one should not dispense them merely out of cause to redress some regrettable persistent balance. Accolades of that order ought to be reserved for those pieces which can be enjoyed unreservedly, which ROTK cannot be.

In the first movie we see grand battle scenes the likes of which had never before been shown. We see wonderfully choreographed fights between Orcs, Men, Hobbits, Wizards, and a Cave Troll – medieval versions of fine martial art accomplishments. The main characters all have important things to say, and those words often stick with us. Heroes & villains act in reasonable fashion to the prodding world about them. No plot line or story thread is left unresolved. And glimpses of epic battlefields are new to us – breathtaking vistas at the time never produced.

The Return Of The King, as great a film as it may be, is not like that. At times I wonder why the Custodian of Gondor Lord Denethor acts so nonsensically… it seems unreasonable; there are no trained events that explain his sudden descent into complete madness. We see a number of immense battle scenes, where numerous rushing figures hurtle towards other numerous rushing figures from the perspective of a moving ‘grand scope’ camera, and when they meet a furious intermingling occurs. There is little discernible actual *fighting*. We`ve seen this immense battle shot before, and in the culminatory chapter of the trilogy we expected more, at least at times. Perhaps one of the only memorable lines of dialogue in the entirety is Gimli`s absurdly humorous comment to Legolas after ‘the great downing’, “That still only counts as 1… .” As funny as it was, somehow this moviegoer thinks the most memorable quote from the climax of The Lord Of The Rings (“… the best of the trilogy…” ) should NOT be a joke. Perhaps an untrumpetted dearth in Tolkien`s original work? We are set up by the character of Gandalf for a Herculean defense of Minas Tirith and a climactic confrontation between the wizard and the Witch-King Of Angmar, and yet Gandalf does so very little you find yourself wondering where he went during the city`s defense scenes. Where IS Gandalf? The confrontation at the city`s gates, immortalized in art throughout our age since the creation of the books, does not happen. Likewise for Saruman, who played such a pivotal and *dramatic* role in the first two movies: the heroes – much to the utter surprise of this soul – actually achieve the base of Saruman`s tower, in which Saruman is supposedly trapped, and NEVER see him. Not a sniff. Saruman must have been too ashamed to come down from his room. Apparently the Saruman resolution filmed had some extremely powerful dialogue in it… ROTK could have used it. A waste of McKellan and Lee. A hole in continuity. Aragorn`s securing of the dead army seems a piecemeal snippet of movie that is inserted into the whole, something apart and unrelated to the story that suddenly gets drawn upon to solve a dilemma. Again, perhaps this is how Tolkien wrote things.

In any event, none of the above was evident in the first movie. ROTK was extremely enjoyable, but too many things seemed out of whack here. It felt like a movie at times rushed through editting – this said with certainty when compared to the tightness of the first movie.

I dislike passing such judgement over those who toil to deliver a thing as monumental as Tolkien`s trilogy, but judged by cinema sensibilities and by comparison to other classic epics (including this trilogy`s own originator) it is slightly less than. The Fellowship Of The Ring is the entry that still deserves to be recognized as a great achievement in theater, while its sequels stand proudly if not disappointingly in its shadows.


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