TTT was all “cover” with no “book” inside.
I saw FotR seventeen times (five times in theaters). I still almost weep during the last fight scene when each member of the Fellowship sacrifices himself to help protect Frodo and the ring. Boromir’s death scene gets me every time. “…my brother, my captain… my king…”
The Two Towers had a different effect on me. During the movie I literally almost fell asleep at one point… I left the theater feeling disappointed and confused. I almost hated MYSELF for not enjoying the film. TTT got sooooo many good reviews. On the surface it certainly SEEMED to have all the basic parts of a good flick: the music, characters that are loved, the CGI, the grand spectacle of it all…. Yes, it definitely has a nice, sparkly COVER… but where were the gutts of the story? Where was the book?
It took me a few hours (and a nap) to figure out what was wrong. Basically: Peter Jackson and company failed to follow their own advice from the first movie… Here are three pieces of advice that they ignored, to the detriment of TTT. These are paraphrased from commentary found on the Extended Edition DVD of FotR:
(1) “We had to get the film to fit into three hours, so we began by cutting anything that did not advance the plot of the story.”
In TTT there are some scenes that really needed to be cut because they DON’T advance the story in any way. For example: Arwen/Aragorn dream sequence… and Aragorn’s “fall to his death” plot divergence, which failed on so many levels.
As a result the rest of TTT suffered. Much of it seemed “chopped”. Many scenes really should have been expanded upon. Even when there were wondrous snippets of film-making, we are whisked away before allowing time to absorb it.
(2) “We wanted the world to seem real. Like history.”
TTT diverged from this greatly, especially during fight scenes. Some of these examples may seem like nit-picking, but the complete lunacy really ruined the integrity of the combat sequences. Horses charging full-speed into braced pikes. Gimli and Aragorn surviving a fifteen foot jump onto a ramp full of hundreds of live orcs. Two explosive devices that looked suspiciously like naval mines, lit by an Olympic torch-bearer.
Then there was Legolas. In FotR he was sublime to watch. Everything he did had purpose. Ran up a tensioned chain to stick some arrows in a Troll’s head. Shot two arrows at once. Stabbed oncoming orcs with a hand-held arrow. Took out a couple of long-distance orc archers while the party fled from the Balrog. In contrast, Legolas of TTT perform a series of unbelievable stunts that served nothing other than to waste energy and look ridiculous, bringing unwanted attention to special effects. He swings up on a horse using a crazy wrap-around maneuver. He does the typical no-look, backhand punch that is designed to bring laughs. He rides down a staircase on a shield for no reason… then somehow kicks the shield out at the bottom to make it fly into an orc’s chest??
(3) “This is Tolkien’s story. We do not want to put any of our own baggage into it.”
I will not list all of the differences between the book and the movie here. I would like to point out that it was said, on the FotR DVD, that “There were numerous times when we tried to diverge from the book, only to find that Tolkien’s original version actually worked better.” I am not exactly a purist, but PJ needs to consider any detraction from the original novel carefully. One example was the trip to Osgiliath by the ring-bearer, and Frodo’s subsequent confrontation with a ringwrath. Indeed, if Sauron were to become aware of the ring’s presence at Osgiliath the entire plot of the third film would have to change to such a degree as to no longer be called “Lord Of The Rings.”