The Return of the King – Review by a book reader

by Jan 2, 2004Reviews

First a few words about my background. I have read the books several times. I think the first two movies great, and accept that changes have to be made (though I am unhappy about the changes to Theoden in TT). I am not capable of ignoring my knowledge of the books and seeing the movies as an independant story. So those who have not read the books might have very differrent views on RotK.

I had very great expectations. Parts one and two are great, and Jackson called part three the best. I was especially looking forward to the end. It has long been known that Scouring is out. It is such an essential part of the story. If you just take it out, all of the war takes place far away. The Shire does not feel it at all. Our heroes return to an unchanged Shire, where they pick up their lives where they left off. jackson could not have such a lame ending in mind. He must replace Scouring with something else, and fom what I have seen, it will be something good. I was looking forward to that something like a little kid to Xmas.

And what was it? Nothing. Our heroes simply return to a Shire that has not noticed that anything untoward had happened. And a very lame ending it was indeed.

I suppose this is just my unreasonable expectations. After all, I did know that Jackson never really liked Scouring, so I should have been warned that he would prefer that the characters just return to an unmolested home. Unfortunately that ending is not all that I found disappointing.

Maybe those who do not know the Theoden of the books are not offended by the poor excuse for a king shown in TT, but you don’t need the books to find the interactions between Denethor and Gandalf utterly unbelievable. Here we have the undisputed leader of the most powerful nation of humans on Earth. ThinkRoosevelt after Pearl Harbour. Along comes a foreign visitor. It is difficult to find someone to cast as Gandalf. Someone with great moral authority, and obviously the best interests of humanity (but not necessarily the US) at heart. Ghandi is too closely associated with India; maybe Albert Sweitzer. Or Mother Theresa in a more modern setting (Mandela being too closely associated with a specific country). This guest finds that Roosevelt is not aggressive and effective enough. What does he do? Hits him with his staff and orders the US millitary around! And what do the soldiers do? Hop to obey! Not likely.

There are also deviations from the book where the book is just a better story. I am not against changes. For example, the Dead appearing at the battle of Pelennor itself is substantial deviation. But it is obviously necessary. You can’t take the time to show the battle of Pelargir, and you can’t leave the Dead with nothing to do, so they have to come to Pelennor. (But you must then change the Witch King’s line “No living man may hinder me”. Otherwise what is the problem? We have an army of dead men available.)

But the dreadful movie cliche with the hero dangling over the chasm detracts from the great climax. The story in the book is so much better. Besides, who seriously thinks Frodo is going to fall? He has already been “killed” twice and survived.

And the Choices of Master Samwise, one of the most memorable chapters of the book, is all but gone. Sam agonizing over whether to take on the quest himself is the most emotional scene in the entire book. I think leaving it out is a great mistake.

Is there nothing good about this movie? Yes, much. The attention to details is as impressive as ever. The great hall of the Citadel of Minas Tirith is right on, for example. The acting is flawless. Time flies. I was surprised by the intermission. Was that really an hour and 40 minutes? It was.

It is just that the first two installments led me to expect so much more.


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