K. (infinitemonkeys) wrote,

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The Return of the King

I was off work today, so after getting up at 5am to drive back to London -- which took five and a half miserable hours, curse it -- I thought I would go and see RotK at the first possible showing, though I decided against heading into central London.

Instead, I went to the local cinema. This was a dreadful error as they were clearly doing a special showing for UTTER ARSEHOLES WHO NEED A GOOD KICKING.

They talked, they shuffled, they laughed at the tender bits, they left early. I swear to God that if thought alone could inflict a sudden case of *death*, Stratford Picturehouse would have been like the cinema in Pine Bluff Variant

The annoying gang of sniggering teenage losers and their pram-faced girlfriends across the cinema did at least leave after the battle scenes. Presumably they were only there because their headmaster had confiscated the glue, because they certainly weren't there to watch the film.

The man behind me, alas, stayed the whole time, shuffling in his seat, putting his be-Reeboked feet on the back of the seat next to me, and generally rustling in his nasty jacket. His "I'm such a waste of atoms that I have to buy a made-in-China, tacky, plasticky thing with Nike on the front of it so I'm a walking billboard for a tosspot evil multinational, for 70 quid even though it probably cost a fiver to make" jacket.

I wanted to turn around and smack him, or at least yell, " Get your feet away from my ear, stop tutting every time Sam and Frodo hug, and next time, wear less noisy clothing, you twat".

I am going back tomorrow to see it in the big screen in Leicester Square before work, where I feel certain that the uber-expensive ticket prices will keep away the microcephalic.

A couple of non-spoilery things about the film. The last time I saw this many men crying, Mordor Germany had just beaten England on penalties in the semi-final of Euro 96.

And it's nice that a condition of ascending to the throne of Gondor seems to be washing your hair.

Let's get this out of the way first: I haven't read the books. Got 400 pages in when I was about 12 and got distracted by something shiny, I think, so all of this is from the perspective of someone who knows the books exist and has heard a fair bit about them from others, but is basically working blind.

I can't recall the last time I had so looked forward to a film; not since my teens, I should imagine. And in the main, Return of the King did not disappoint at all. It's much more emotional than The Two Towers and more repetitive in the way it cuts from battle to ring-bearers to battle again.

I adored it but I'd like to get a couple of the negative remarks out of the way first.

It felt choppier and less finished than the others, and one could tell that chunks of the story had been lopped out -- not that the tale they told was particularly incoherent, just that there must be more to it, that explained how Person A got to Place B. Gandalf, in his new role as Staff-Wielding Exposition Guy, had to talk a little too much and still events happened seemingly from nowhere. (Look! A Sudden case of eagles! Out of Exposition Guy's Ass!)

They spent time on some reaction shots that I think could better have been used on other scenes, and couldn't they just have left Arwen out of it? Pretty as Liv Tyler is, I am tired of her damp-eyed stare after The Two Towers, and if they'd just hired a bit-part actress, they wouldn't have had to find her things to do in a film that was already packed to the gills.

Also, a couple of the effects shots were less impressive than in previous films; they looked computer-animated, whereas before almost all of them were mesmerisingly real. I hope that in between picking up his well-deserved Oscar and releasing a five-disc extended cut, Jackson has time to tidy them up.

However, that's not to take away from the vast majority of the effects shots, which were stunning. Minas Tirith looked real to me, though it seemed a bit too undamaged at the end, and I loved the shots of the dead and the way they moved. I think they're the most risky shots -- you either buy green dust ascending Minas Tirith or you don't -- but they worked for me.

Shelob was a nightmare brought to life. Arachnophobics will have to hide in their popcorn because Peter Jackson has got how it's the speed and the legs that freak people out. The combination of running like buggery then standing stock-still. The animation guys get that -- and then add mummified corpses and glue-like webs. (The sadists The hairs are raising on my arms just thinking about it.)

Gollum, again, was utterly real. Creating a digital character and making him menacing, pathetic and capable of arousing sympathy is no mean feat. The fight at the beginning between Smeagol and Deagol, described by Serkis as a playground fight grown suddenly deadly, set the scene wonderfully economically, showing the power of the ring and why it was so necessary that Sam and Frodo trek into hell to destroy it.

Wouldn't it be a kick, come Oscar time, if the best supporting actor goes to WETA Digital and Andy Serkis? Alas, I don't think the Academy is young enough or appreciative enough of fantasy to realise what an astonishing creation Gollum is.

Someone who is in with a shout is Sean Astin, whose star has quietly shone brighter and brighter over the course of the three movies, building to his finest hour in the third of the trilogy. Astin may be irritating on the DVD commentaries with his grab-bag scholarship and habit of talking over people with more interesting things to say, but he's done a wonderful job in this trilogy.

It's hard to play the stalwart, slightly dull, honest character in a group which contains lively spirits like Pippin and Merry and the ethereal Frodo, but Astin makes Sam's goodness, bravery and modesty profoundly attractive. Frodo may be the ringbearer, the one strong enough to carry the burden but Sam's the heart of the Fellowship and Astin is the heart of the film.*

Another character allowed the chance to step centre-stage in this final film is Pippin. The fool of a Took comes good in the end and Billy Boyd really made the most of his opportunity. His determination to fight, particularly after his encounter with the Giant Marble O' Doom showed him just what he had to be afraid of, was very moving and you could see the terror etched on Billy Boyd's ashen face.

Pippin's song for mad Denethor was incredibly powerful, contrasting as it did with the steward's greed and seeming indifference to the fate of the men he sent out to die. His desperate bravery in saving Gandalf, and then Faramir from the flames made me love him even more, as did his expression when he found Merry on the battlefield.

Merry, in contrast, felt short-changed. I am sure there must be a story for Merry in the book but it barely surfaced here. That's a shame because Dominic Monaghan is, despite the *disastrous* blond-streaks-and-Hair-by-Flymo barnet he's been sporting at premieres the world over, an actor with both talent and presence. (seriously, Dom, which cruel bastard lets you go out looking like that?) When Merry did reach the battlefield, his courage and quick-thinking were a joy to watch

As usual, Bernard Hill made me cry. Theoden made me cry in The Two Towers as well, and twice during the extended DVD, so I suppose it was inevitable. There's a hard-nosed grace about Bernard Hill in everything he does. He manages to make Theoden multi-layered, despite comparatively few scenes.

Finally, we have to praise Elijah Wood. He's such a young actor and Frodo is an intensely complicated character to play because throughout the course of the journey, the ring is trying to turn him away from the right path, stealing away his soul. Wood has to show that inner conflict and have Frodo remain a character that people identify with and he manages it very well.

And now I am going to stop, because if I keep going on about the trilogy and the end, and Legolas and Gimli, and Elrond and Eomer and Eowyn, we would be here all night.

It's lucky I have the extended DVD to look forward to, otherwise I might feel a little bereft at the thought that this marvellous story is actually over.


(*Ever since I watched the DVDs, I've been intrigued by the idea of Sam as Frodo's batman, a relationship which has mostly disappeared in these days of supposed equality. Frodo, the officer, carrying the ring, Sam, his faithful servant (though it wasn't quite so simple a relationship as that word implies), carrying Frodo. I don't want to dump myself in the 'theirloveissopure' camp in every case, but I find slashing Sam and Frodo to be an unwelcome simplification. I hate the idea that our society constantly reduces a whole spectrum of love to relationships which are binary and sexual in nature, and I think it has profound and disastrous effects for young boys. There's a post in that somewhere. )
Tags: movies

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