|Faramir-Eowyn scenes that are thankfully|
|included in the extended version|
Here, finally, is my review of The Return of the King, the extended version. I have reviewed the extended versions of both The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers (I actually started these reviews in 2007--hence, the "finally".)
I put off watching the extended version of The Return of the King because I remembered the movie as fight scenes, more fight scenes, even more fight scenes, fight fight fight fight scenes. Some dialog.
And although I am a devotee of action movies from The Fugitive to The Avengers, I get bored after a couple of fight scenes, especially if a single scene doesn't end after about 2 minutes. (I really don't care how many people an Oliphant tramples--my reaction isn't disgust; just lack of interest.)
There is a lot of fighting in the extended version of The Return of the King. However, the extended version fills in a number of gaps, especially regarding Faramir and Eowyn. Unlike the extended version of Fellowship, which simply provides more information, and the extended version of The Two Towers, which gets downright confusing, the extended version of The Return of the King flows quite nicely between character interactions/dialog and battle sequences.
The one major hiccup in this flow is, surprisingly, Sam, Frodo, and Gollum. In the release-to-theater version, their scenes balance very neatly with all the other scenes. In the extended version, however, Sam, Frodo, and Gollum practically disappear from the first half of the movie (while taking over the second half; yes, I know, Jackson is following the actual chronology of the book--which just proves that he cut the release-to-theater version very well).
Although this unevenness surprised me, it did help explain The Hobbit!
|Richard Armitage as Thorin|
|Martin Freeman as Bilbo|
This is comparative, of course. It isn't that Jackson doesn't do the hobbits justice--in LOTR, every scene with Sam, Frodo, and Gollum is lovingly and skillfully done; it's just that the king matters slightly more.
And, of course, The Return of the King really is Aragorn's movie: the return of this particular king and what that means to Middle-Earth and to Minis Tirith specifically.
At this point, I have to comment on a common criticism of Tolkien's work--that his evil is too blatantly evil: all the orcs are ugly; Sauron is just a big evil eye, etc. This criticism is sort of true, but I think Tolkien deserves major kudos for his profoundly ambiguous, disturbed, multi-layered, and difficult to categorize characters, such as Denethor (steward of Gondor). Denethor's mixture of despair, pride, vainglory, pain, plus corrupted courage and love makes him one of Tolkien's most memorable creations.
There are also characters like Theoden, Faramir, and Eowyn. These characters are lightly sketched (Tolkien was more interested in his world and its history/languages than even in his action sequences) yet still uniquely motivated and personalized. Not many world fantasy writers can say the same of their characters.
|Frodo at Grey Havens|
I was glad I watched the movie again even though it is quite sad. Here's the thing about Jackson: he knows how to deliver high heroic moments that clutch at your heart. I sobbed like a baby during, oh, the last twenty minutes (here's the other thing about Jackson: he gives you about five endings). But--and I say this as someone who hates, um, particular kinds of endings--it is the perfect ending. By keeping it, Jackson's respect for Tolkien's vision comes through.
In the end, it's that respect I appreciate most.