I just came out from seeing The Return of the King, and these are my initial thoughts:
DENETHOR, his madness and at the same time strange charisma was excellently conveyed. Great casting: John Noble pulled it off with an amazing intensity. The scene where Denethor is dining while Faramir is ridig out to meet his death was perhaps the best one in the entire film. Thrilling.
THE CHARGE OF THE ROHIRRIM was wonderful – indeed, I find the films to be extremely successful in all matters concerning Rohan. The scene where the riders charge down the slope towards Minas Tirith was the only battle scene that really gave me goosebumps. Spectacular.
SAM AND PIPPIN both exceeded my expectations. I have until now been quite sceptical of Sam, often finding him too much the “naively good, chubby buddy”. Astin also has struck me as a quite stereotypical example of casting. Here, however, he mobilised some desperate strength and was most convincing. Pippin, who has mostly been a comical relief so far, also finally managed to establish himself as a character to be reckoned with. The look upon his face as he manages to pull Faramir from the pyre is very impressive.
EOWYN had some beautiful scenes with Théoden, and I love how helplessly infatuated she looks when she is with Aragorn. She came off as both strong and vulnerable, although I would have loved to see more of her.
GANDALF was, although underused, a bearing presence here. The changing nuances of Ian McKellen’s face never cease to impress me, nor does his authority that allows him to completely dominate the screen at any time.
And of course, altogether the film ROCKS.
ARAGORN’S CROWNING CEREMONY was just to tacky for my taste. The crown looked cheap and his speech just reminded me of Jack Nicholson’s famous “Can’t we all just get along” from Mars Attacks. The music too. I mean, me and my friend both love this story, and we both exchanged glances at this point saying: “Okay. Slow down, now. Slooooow down”. Well, they didn’t.
Sadly, ALL THINGS CONCERNING THE ELVES also struck me as tacky and far too new-age’ish. I dislike that the playful, vibrant elves from the novel has been turned into these dull, tall, humourless creatures. Moreover, the pictures from the Grey Havens looked like something I would want for my 10th birthday that would have cost about thirty pounds at the local toy shop. This was very disappointing to me, as I have always pictured them very vividly and, well, in a way much more ancient and solid than this plastic-fantastic scenario. And of course they had to throw in a sunset. In spite of this, I hasten to add, I think the Grey Havens were an excellent place to conclude the story.
Of course, this also means that ARWEN remains the dullest movie heroine in memory, and I still regard her as little more than a trophy wife.
THE HARADRIM. I don’t believe this. How can they use so many non-western, characteristic oriental garments and symbols for this force of evil? Also, the ships carrying the pirates looked distinctly Asian. What they are saying is basically that the enemy’s soldiers have one or more out of the following qualities: Ugly, stupid, cowardly, Oriental. This borders on to racism and it is a great flaw of the film. It was visible already in The Two Towers but impossible to disregard here. Some alarm bells should have rung long, long ago.
FARAMIR still bothers me. He comes across as too much of a victim, driven chiefly by his issues with his father. They might have managed to save him had they displayed his thoughtfulness, his bookly, “intellectual” nature and his strong relationship with Gandalf, but they don’t.
“FEED ON HIS FLESH”. Don’t make me laugh.
Neither – nor
THE BATTLE SCENES are nice, exciting and do not feel as if they are too long. I was afraid that I would have to watch Legolas kill oliphaunts for half an hour, but fortunately, they cut them at the right moment. But I still think they take up too much time. We never learn what happened to Saruman, Eowyn or Faramir. Although we knew this in advance, it is a most striking absence. Also, I missed the scene that we know exist where Merry offers king Theoden his service. All in all, there was just too little character development and interaction here. I realise they have a lot to include in these scarce 3 1/2 hours, but then they should have organised the division of the material between the Two Towers and the Return of the King differently. As it is, the viewer is much too dependent on remembering the characters from, well, mostly from the first film, actually, and having kept their interest in them intact for two years. Gimli and Legolas are poignant examples. In Return of the King, they are hardly noticeable – they don’t really do or say anything to make themselves memorable or interesting.
I am sorry to say this, but although I loved my hours inside the cinematic darkness watching The Return of the King, I actually find it the weakest of the trilogy. There is too little emphasis on the characters to make me genuinely moved when something happens to them, and the switching between the storylines also seemed somewhat clumsily executed at times. I am still of the opinion that it is a good film, but too flawed to reach greatness. Much may be redeemed, however, by the release of the extended edition. Can’t wait!