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Bob Kruger
Posted on Wednesday, January 07, 2004 - 10:07 am:   

It's now up:

http://www.electricstory.com/reviews/rotk.asp

And for those who need reassurance: a snausage is just a doggy treat.

Bob
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MartinC
Posted on Wednesday, January 07, 2004 - 08:36 pm:   

So did you like The Return of the King? It's hard to tell.
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Lucius
Posted on Thursday, January 08, 2004 - 08:39 am:   

Not as much as the first film....But then, as the review states, I really think it's a mistake to look at LotR 3 as a movie...It's more like the LotR pageant. An opera. Normal critical criteria don't apply
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Cheryl
Posted on Thursday, January 08, 2004 - 02:45 pm:   

I can see the opera parallel, although once again I suspect that Tolkien would have been horrified. Opera hardly cares about suspension of disbelief.
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Lucius
Posted on Thursday, January 08, 2004 - 05:12 pm:   

Cheryl....Horrified? I don't know. He must have been aware of Wagner and I can't believe he wasn't extremely familiar with the story of The Rings of the Nibelung. The similarities between the two works go far beyond those mentioned in the review. I've heard that he loathed Wagner, but maybe that was because he was tired of hearing about the resonance between LotR and TRotN. In any case, the parallel I was drawing was one of structure, not subject matter, and I really do think that's how the filmic version comes over....
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Cheryl
Posted on Friday, January 09, 2004 - 09:36 am:   

Yeah, and it is structure that I am thinking of too. You go to an opera to be awed by the audio-visual experience, not to come away thinking "that was an interesting world that the writer created." Tolkien was fascinated by the process of creating secondary worlds, and I think he would be horrified to think of much of his work on that being put aside because all the audience wanted was an opera.

Having said that, Jackson's creative team did a wonderful job with the sets, costumes etc.. Far more than any stage opera could afford. But Jackson still appeared happy to sacrifice all their attempts at reality for spectacular action scenes.
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Lucius
Posted on Friday, January 09, 2004 - 05:34 pm:   

The set dressing was pretty spectacular througout -- I guess my only caveat to that would be that I thought some the interiors in the TRofK werem't up to stuff.

I almost certainly don't know as much about Tolkein as you, so I can't really speak to the man's attitudes about what he was proud of et al. But if you're right, and I'm sure you are, yeah, there weren't enough sharply written little scene in between the set pieces -- most of them were just puffery. Like that scene on the battlements between Legolas and Aragorn. If Jackson had kept it more real, had Aragorn ask to borrow some tobacco or whatever, engaged in chit-chat, things two people facing battle would have done to get their minds off things, it would have established Tolkein's world more firmly, given it a real gloss -- instead, he just laid in the line, There is a sleepless malice in the West, and that just didn't connect with much. It's like he felt he had to throw that stuff in wherever possible.
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Luís
Posted on Friday, January 09, 2004 - 08:26 pm:   

"Yeah, and it is structure that I am thinking of too. You go to an opera to be awed by the audio-visual experience . . ."

Is it that much different from Hollywood? Let's not forget this isn't a movie by J.R.R. Tolkien, this is a movie by Peter Jackson, and it's not at all unlikely that he drew inspiration from Wagner himself. Tolkien is too dead to object, although the parallels seem quite evident to me even in the books.

Anyway, except for the atrocious ending (endings?), I liked the movie well enough, and didn't mind the deviations from the original, unlike so many hardcore fans who took offence at them. The first film is still better, I think -- it was a v. hard book to adapt, and Peter Jackson pulled it off magnificently.

Best,
Luís
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Lucius
Posted on Saturday, January 10, 2004 - 06:49 am:   

Luis,

Yeah, that sounds like Hollywood, but even some Hollywood projects have more persuasive connective tissue than some of that in LotR 3. You say don't forget it's a PJ movie, not the book. Yeah. My problem was, he didn't make it enough of a PJ movie. He needed to do that in order to make it more of a Tolkein experience, but he seemed to think that he had to lay in a little highflown Tolkein dialogue every so often rather than fleshing out his own vision. Some of the things he added were fine, but a good bit of it seemed unneccessary padding. The whole thing about Aragorn and the wolves -- what was that? It had no purpose other than to amp the suspende and it didn't achieve that, because even people who had read the book knew Aragorn wasn't dead. It was a waste of screen time. I agree he did a hell of a job, but he could have done better qith just a little more thoughtful scripting. Like I said in the review, the only way to watch this is to get the three extended versions and go from there -- so any judgment is somewhat premature, but some of the problems I saw, I don't think will be resolved.
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Lucius
Posted on Saturday, January 10, 2004 - 06:54 am:   

Luis,

Yeah, that sounds like Hollywood, but even some Hollywood projects have more persuasive connective tissue than some of that in LotR 3. You say don't forget it's a PJ movie, not the book. Yeah. My problem was, he didn't make it enough of a PJ movie. He needed to do that in order to make it more of a Tolkein experience, but he seemed to think that he had to lay in a little highflown Tolkein dialogue every so often rather than fleshing out his own vision. Some of the things he added were fine, but a good bit of it seemed unneccessary padding. The whole thing about Aragorn and the wolves -- what was that? It had no purpose other than to amp the suspende and it didn't achieve that, because even people who had read the book knew Aragorn wasn't dead. It was a waste of screen time. I agree he did a hell of a job, but he could have done better qith just a little more thoughtful scripting. Like I said in the review, the only way to watch this is to get the three extended versions and go from there -- so any judgment is somewhat premature, but some of the problems I saw, I don't think will be resolved.
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Luís
Posted on Saturday, January 10, 2004 - 06:31 pm:   

"My problem was, he didn't make it enough of a PJ movie. He needed to do that in order to make it more of a Tolkein experience, but he seemed to think that he had to lay in a little highflown Tolkein dialogue every so often rather than fleshing out his own vision."

That's true. On the other hand, the third book is hard to adapt largely because it's so impersonal (as opposed to the first, which starts on a comparatively small scale with the Hobbits). TRotK carries a ponderous, historical atmosphere about it, so I wouldn't be surprised if the writers were torn between providing a relatively faithful adaptation or going their own way to bring the film to focus back on the characters. It looks like they tried to do both, and got mixed up. Maybe they felt that when History Was About To Be Made, then characters should have suitably elevated conversations among themselves, even if they were friends, not caring if verisimilitude would be hurt by it.

And Gimli, poor Gimli . . . Why did they dump all the comic relief on him? Why the need for comic relief *at all*? That was just annoying.

Having liked the first movie, I was more than a little disappointed by the trilogy as a whole, and The Two Towers in particular, which reeks of executive producer decisions. *Especially* that wolf thing. I can't imagine Peter Jackson having come up with that on his own -- if he has, then he disappointed me. It's the cheap trick that bothers me, not the deviation from the books. (I don't have the Two Towers DVD, so I don't know what he has to say in his defence in the commentary, assuming he says anything.)

Best,
Luís
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Luís
Posted on Saturday, January 10, 2004 - 06:40 pm:   

"On the other hand, the third book is hard to adapt largely because it's so impersonal (as opposed to the first, which starts on a comparatively small scale with the Hobbits). TRotK carries a ponderous, historical atmosphere about it . . ."

NB: In truth, the whole trilogy is ponderous, but RotK even more so. I don't care much for the books, personally, although I admire Tolkien's devotion to his creation, and all the care he put into it (the languages in particular).

Best,
Luís
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Lucius
Posted on Saturday, January 10, 2004 - 07:04 pm:   

I liked reading the books to my kid, and when I first read them at age 9, they were great.

The ponderousnes of the third film -- it had spaces available for good little scenes that would have made the film less ponderous -- PJ just didn't use them correctly, IMO...
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Nick Mamatas
Posted on Saturday, January 10, 2004 - 08:02 pm:   

And Gimli, poor Gimli . . . Why did they dump all the comic relief on him? Why the need for comic relief *at all*?

Merry and Pippin also carried some of the comic relief burden.

Lots of kids were in the audience when I saw the movies. I didn't much care for the dwarf-tossing lines but given the high-stress high-anxiety moments they came in, I can see how they would be crucial to keep young viewers from starting to cry and scream.
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Luís
Posted on Saturday, January 10, 2004 - 09:42 pm:   

Lucius: "It had spaces available for good little scenes that would have made the film less ponderous -- PJ just didn't use them correctly, IMO..."

Precisely. Like I was trying to say, maybe he was unsure if he should, and that indecision cost him a better movie.

Nick: "Lots of kids were in the audience when I saw the movies."

Ah, I don't know what rating it got in the US, but in here the "minimum" age for RotK was 12 (though that doesn't necessarily mean anything, I saw a couple of idiots take their 5- or 6-year old to watch Russell Mulcahy's RESSURECTION once, and of course it wasn't pretty).
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Cheryl
Posted on Sunday, January 11, 2004 - 08:17 am:   

Luis, from what I remember of the commentary the whole wolf thing began with Jackson desperately wanting to do wargs. They were a cgi project that he wanted slotting in somewhere. Originally they were going to attack Edoras, but that got scuppered by location costs so they just shot a bunch of scenes with Rohirrim waving swords around and gave it to WETA to fix up somehow.

The "Aragorn is dead" thing was very deliberate. Many of their scripting decisions seem to have been made on the assumption that the majority of the audience will not have read the book but do need suspense. The script team mentions being very disappointed that no one important dies in Two Towers so they figured they ought to fake a death.

Interesting that you guys hated the ending(s). I did too. But a friend of mine who is a Tolkien devotee thought that they were the best thing in the entire three movies.
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Robert Devereux
Posted on Sunday, January 11, 2004 - 08:35 am:   

In one interview with John Rhys-Davies, he mentioned he wanted to make Gimli into a more comedic character. PJ was happy to go along with that.

For the endings, I didn't see any problem with the number or length. I wonder how much of the dislike is based on typical Hollywood movies not having any epilog. The bad guys get killed and it ends, no wrap up, no consequences.

I thought all the endings were needed in order to complete the story. We needed the coronation of Aragorn to finish his story, we needed Sam's wedding to finish his story, and we needed Frodo's departure. I could have done without the singing though.
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Lucius
Posted on Sunday, January 11, 2004 - 08:35 am:   

"...Jackson desperately wanting to do wargs..."

A scary thought. :-)

You know, Cheryl, what I most hated about the endings was not their length, but their sappy exudation of treacle. I spoke to a friend, also a reveiwer, who declared that the ending of RotK was gayer than Angels in America, and in restrospect, I can see his point. That seemingly endless wet smile that Frodo bestows upon those on the dock seemed to relate to things we were not shown. The gay thing aside, it just didn't seem to have the right weight. In the book, all the pomp and overstatement of emotion led up to a nicely handled release point, when Sam says, Well, I'm back. But in the film this same overstatement inundated that final, simple line. Another instance, I believe, of Jackson being too faithful, not considering what would work best in filmic terms.

And yeah, the suspense bits were obvioulsy deliberate audience manipulations -- I can't unread the book, so I can't be certain they didn't work for those who did not read it, but I don't feel that they did.
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GabrielM
Posted on Sunday, January 11, 2004 - 10:46 am:   

Lucius, just wondering whether you read Alex Ross's recent piece in The New Yorker about Wagner - Tolkien - Jackson.
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Lucius
Posted on Sunday, January 11, 2004 - 11:05 am:   

Gabe, nope...but it's been longe a matter of dispute among Yolkein-heads as to the Wagner's influence on the trilogy. What did Ross have to say?

Robert,

I'm fine with epilogues and anything that;s different from a typical Hollywood film is generally fine with me. I simply didn't think they were managed well. I agree, to an extent, that they were necessary; but would have preferred a crisper take on the dock scene, especially....
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Nicholas Liu
Posted on Sunday, January 11, 2004 - 05:20 pm:   

You know what annoyed me the most about the trilogy? All that dream telephony. Apparently it's scarcely possible to so much as take a nap without receiving a visitation from a loved on, or at least a vision thereof. And it's all never really explained, much like the 'Arwen's life-force is now tied to the ring' bollocks.
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GabrielM
Posted on Sunday, January 11, 2004 - 08:48 pm:   

Not terribly original -- Ross underscores some of the resonance between the operas, the books, the movies.

http://www.newyorker.com/critics/atlarge/?031222crat_atlarge
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Lucius
Posted on Sunday, January 11, 2004 - 09:02 pm:   

Thanks, Gabe...

Boy, he sure likes Howard Shore more than me! I usually like Shore, especially his partnership with Ornette Coleman in The Naked Lunch, but I really loathed this score...
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lucius
Posted on Monday, January 12, 2004 - 06:45 am:   

Nicholas -- I must have missed that Arwen's life force thing, but agree about the dream stuff. Pretty pukey....
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Nicholas Liu
Posted on Monday, January 12, 2004 - 10:00 am:   

The life force thing surfaced during the conversation between Elrond and Aragorn when Elrond went to give him the sword. Ugh.
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Lucius
Posted on Monday, January 12, 2004 - 01:49 pm:   

Maybe I tuned it out... :-)
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ben peek
Posted on Monday, January 12, 2004 - 03:19 pm:   

i agree about the life force thing. i actually thought she'd given up the immortality thing in the first film, what with 'i choose a mortal life' bit and the little jewel...

i didn't mind the dwarf jokes. i was just pleased when hobbits weren't on screen. do you really need four hobbits? i think not.

the one thing that bothered me about the films, was the whole 'returning king' subplot was mostly absent from the theatre released films, but found in the extended version. i would've thought that was a pretty important subplot, considering the title of the third film...

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