Sunday, December 21, 2003

Finally, Return of the King

We went to see Trilogy Tuesday last week, seeing two extended edition LOTR movies followed by the premiere of ROTK.

Line for Trilogy Tuesday in Pittsburgh, About 10:15 am

Line for Trilogy Tuesday in Pittsburgh

There were already about 200 people in line before we got there, so we wound up on the floor but in the center. While, at first we hated the seats, they turned out to be fortuitous. Before the movie started, we realized the folks sitting in front of us were people we'd known back in college, from the old Western Pennsylvania Science Fiction Association (WPSFA)

Lori and Tom Lane

Lori and Tom Lane

It was neat to catch up with them after all this time.

Back to the movies, the extended editions both looked phenomenal on the big screen.

The Audience Just Before The Return of the King

The Audience Just Before The Return of the King (remember, just about everyone in there had been in the theater for over 10 hours...)

But, after a long day of movie watching, my brain was completely fried by the time ROTK finally started at just after 10. While the movie looked absolutely phenomenal, I was having a terrible time related to the characters. And the movie seemed structurally very off. So I got a little snarky in my online comments on the movie.


I did go see the movie again at a time when I'd had a little more sleep and hadn't been watching movies all day. That made an enormous difference. Instead of focusing on the problems (which exist but are fairly small by comparison), I got even more caught up by the sheer audaciousness of the undertaking. Minis Tirith is one of the most remarkable combinations of set/bigature/special effect that I have ever seen. The Nazgul attacking Minis Tirith have a huge "gosh wow" factor, reminiscent of the asteroid sequence from The Empire Strikes Back or the scene of the Mother Ship flying over Devil's Tower in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. We have been watching a classic unfold over the last two years.

Despite the spectacle, the human story is rarely overshadowed. The whole cast (except for John Noble as Denethor, but the problems with Denethor weren't all his fault) give one of the finest ensemble performances ever. Ian McKellan, Billy Boyd, Viggo Mortenson, Sean Astin and Elijah Wood deserve special commendation as "first among equals," but no one really steals the show. The movies would not have worked had the casting not been as perfect as the special effects.
It's instructive to go back into the casting archives in TheOneRing.Net and the casting discussions in AintItCoolNews to read some of the jaw-dropping rumors that went around. Keanu Reeves as Aragorn? Uma Thurman as Eowyn? The mind boggles.

There are a few continuity and editing problems in the movie. The whole Pyre of Denethor sequence is just badly handled, and the cuts between Eowyn and the Witch King confrontation and the arrival of Aragorn and company are very distracting. And the endings could have been shortened slightly. Still, the movies are just a phenomenal achievement, and I'm delighted that Peter Jackson et. al. have pulled it off.