return of the king or return of the suck?
posted: 12.08.03

beware. many parenthetical phrases within. (no shit. :)

if you avoid spoilers, then DON'T READ THIS REVIEW.

please forgive any typos. i slapped this puppy together quick, sho nuff!

please don't e-mail me to ask specific questions about the movie. this review / synopsis is the only commentary i'll be making on it. don't worry, it's not the end of the world. :) you'll get to see it soon!

if you only want to know about how hot legolas is in rotk (err, you know, details about his scenes :sheepish grin:), as well as the other male elves in the movie, scroll to the bottom of this page. :)



alrighty then! i saw rotk at the kcet screening in palm springs, ca on november 5th. it started about an hour late because, according to a kcet employee, new line's security goons were stuck in traffic and they had to be in place before the audience could be let into the building. she also mentioned that the movie was already spooled up and ready to go inside the theater, which made me formulate a wicked scheme to sneak in, steal the movie and hold it ransom since no one was there to guard it properly. new line's security isn't very secure, apparently. :) anyway, said goons arrived at long last, we shuffled in like orcs to the slaughter after being checked thoroughly for recording devices (i unwisely ventured into the lobby twice after finding a seat and got scanned again both times. perhaps it was really just a deterrent put in place to stop people who decide to use the bathroom or get popcorn after the start of the movie. :) and then ian mckellen (his usual bubbly, flamboyant self, decked out in some fabulous leather pants) received some silly, made-up award to get him to show up (just kidding. hell, that could be true. i dunno. :) and did an interview for kcet which involved a murder attempt (well, ok, his chair started falling apart, so he swapped with the interviewer guy because, according to the interviewer, "nobody cares if something happens to me") and a free performance of shakespeare (including the uber-famous "all the world's a stage" soliloquy from as you like it) that earned him one of many standing ovations that night.

special message to sir ian if he ever happens by here (which he might since he has a bit of a ribald sense of humor, whereas i have no idea what the word "ribald" actually means, which is precisely why i use it :)... BLESS YOU for encouraging the use of more dialogue taken directly from the book. i fear that the writers would have included none of it without your intervention.

a big problem i have with all three movies is that the screenwriters make awful, often far too modern-sounding shit up instead of using perfectly good material straight from the book. tolkien was a better writer than you turkeys will ever be, so get past the egofest and let the story tell itself. "nervous system?" "NERVOUS SYSTEM?!?" oh yes, i'm perfectly certain that they not only used that phrase in middle-earth, but that backward-assed dwarves like gimli knew all about medical science for no apparent reason.

anyway, time for a brief synopsis of my opinions of the lotr movies so far, placed here just to annoy you for no good reason before we get to the good stuff. :)

fotr
the first time i saw it, i cried all the way through the film. you never woulda taken me for a weeper, huh? :) whenever i feel a very strong emotion, that's my reaction. to a certain extent, i was in awe simply because it got made at all and looked so darn good to boot. of course, weathertop made me want to kill pj with my bare hands (the "slashing and screaming," as tolkien would have called it, was dumb as all get out), not to mention that ridiculous "arwen as a thinly-veiled xenaesque mary sue" crap (aragorn fighting off ringwraiths by himself is bad enough, but ARWEN challenging them? bwahaha!) and general frodo emasculation, (one of my favorite lines from fotr is "you shall have neither the ring nor me," but pj's wimpy-assed frodo would never be quite so brave), but i still loved the movie because its strengths greatly outweighed its weaknesses in my eyes. i saw it 42 times, if that helps drive the point home. that's over five days spent watching that movie. shriek. :)

t2t
i DID NOT see this movie 42 times. not even half that many times. although i am not a tolkien purist, at times during t2t, i wondered if i was watching tolkien at all. perhaps a fanfic of an alternate version of lotr, but definitely not tolkien. i admit that i did cry when gandalf revealed himself to the three hunters in fangorn, and at the cleansing of isengard and the charge of the rohirrim at helm's deep, but that was it. gollum was brilliant, grima was better than i expected (thanks mostly to a lot of direct quoting from the books, naturally), eowyn was ok (i was worried after seeing how shitty liv tyler was as arwench), and legolas was totally freakin' hot, but it takes more than that to make it a good movie. like *more* of legolas looking totally freakin' hot. (ok, ok, ok. you get the point though. :) i wasn't the only critic in town... there were people all around me walking out of the theater saying things like "i didn't understand the plotline at all" and "i couldn't follow the story" and "why was aragorn french kissing a horse?" ;) the bottom line is that if pj had stuck to the storyline in the books to begin with, this movie wouldn't have had plot holes you could ride a mumak through. when in doubt, FOLLOW THE BOOKS. they'll never lead you astray, unlike a few very naughty, horny elves i know.

aside: i do wish the pointless warg attack in t2t had been in fotr instead of the crebain. i know a lot of moviegoers must have thought the fellowship a bit silly hiding under bushes so birds wouldn't crap on their heads. :)

rotk
well, here we go. overall, i enjoyed this movie much more than t2t. even though it was longer than the other two movies, it seemed to go by much quicker than either of them to me. i simply teared up more than i outright wept, but after pj mutilated t2t, i honestly didn't expect much from rotk at all. strangely enough, however, scenes i thought would move me emotionally (grey havens, for example) did not, and scenes i wasn't particularly excited about (the ride of the rohirrim) brought me to tears. scenes that i had great expectations for (eowyn vs witch-king) fell flat, while others i didn't care all that much about going in (witch-king's departure from minas morgul) were very powerful, impressive stuff. it was confusing and odd to me, i guess, but not always in a bad way. :) the worst part about seeing the movie is that i don't get to see it again until december 17th! wah! :)

let's get to the details, shall we? i'll use the book chapters as reference points for scenes, but i'm sure i'll drift into related chapters from time to time since there is intercutting between different scenes in different places all over the movie.



smeagol / deagol prologue: although this whole thing plays out fine, i have to question why the voice of saruman was cut and this was added. all we're getting is background on gollum, and it's not really necessary. i wouldn't have missed it and they could have just put it on the dvd later. that aside, andy serkis finally gets to shine as himself instead of as a latex suit with laryngitis, and i think maybe the kid has a future! ;) even though he won't win an oscar for gollum, i'm certain that he'll have plenty of chances in the future based on his performance here. the only thing i didn't like about this part is that both the fish and deagol in the underwater sequence looked horribly fake. i hated sam's underwater scene in fotr for the same reason, and the fx haven't improved at all since then. (i didn't mind the shot of frodo underwater in the dead marshes since it was supposed to be weird and unreal-looking anyway.) is it really that hard to shoot a scene underwater, people? give it some thought before ruining another perfectly convincing scene next time, will you?

the road to isengard / flotsam and jetsam: mostly saved for the extended dvd, apparently. basically, the helm's deep crew shows up at isengard to find merry and pippin tokin' some fine weed and treebeard makes a brief appearance to say he's been keeping an eye on things for them. pippin spies the palantir in the water and gandalf snatches it from him, but you can tell that pippin's curiosity will get the better of him later. this part is over almost as quickly as it begins.

there is no voice of saruman. i think most people knew about this going in, but it still annoyed me. i guess pj thinks moviegoers are too dumb to remember to care about what happens to dracula, i mean saruman. :) gimli does get in a nice dig at the woolly-footed truants who led them on a fine hunt. :)

after leaving isengard, they all head back to edoras for a drunken victory party. this is where gandalf and aragorn have their little talk about whether frodo's dead or alive. eowyn approaches aragorn with a cup (a picture of this scene from a magazine has been making the rounds lately), which he does drink from, and eowyn looks so happy that you really hate knowing that she's going to have her heart ripped out by the guy in the end. ;) theoden tells her he's happy for her, which makes it that much worse.

pippin looks into the palantir during the same time that aragorn's talking to a hooded legolas on the front steps of the golden hall. the crafty little hobbit steals it from gandalf while he's sleeping (with his eyes open, btw -- well, he is a maia, after all) and replaces it with a water pitcher as merry tries to convince him to stop. it was weird that when pippin's holding the palantir, freaking out and apparently in great (psychological) pain, all merry does is sit on his bed and say "pippin!" over and over again rather than trying to help him. i'm glad he didn't just sit on the battlefield saying "eowyn!" during her confrontation with the witch-king. :) anyway, aragorn and legolas run in, and aragorn kind of fumbles with the palantir for a moment before gandalf takes control of the situation. gandalf questions pippin about what he saw and then leaves with him on shadowfax for minas tirith to (hopefully) keep the silly hobbit out of trouble. :) he and merry definitely share a bit of separation anxiety here.

journey to the cross-roads: you know that bitchin' picture of the statue at the cross-roads you've seen in the magazines? well, it's not in the movie. sorry. we basically head straight to the stairs of cirith ungol and get right to business.

the stairs of cirith ungol: my calves hurt just thinking about it. :) there was some bullshit that went on in the movie at this point (more on that in a sec), but it looked great, and the "sneaking" scene is IN! yes! oh, and sam beats the crap outta gollum here, as well he should. there's more of that to come (yee haw!).

purists beware: frodo tells sam to fuck off here thanks to a little lembas treachery on gollum's behalf. it's a good thing sam didn't obey his master for once or poor mr frodo would have been totally fucked! :) basically, gollum sprinkles lembas (nasty elf bread!) crumbs on sam, then tosses the remains off the cliff to make frodo think sam's scarfing all the food down himself. he also convinces frodo that sam wants the ring for himself. frodo actually believes gollum (that silly ring must be awfully powerful!) and tells sam to go home. sam sits down and has a good cry, but then, while descending the stairs of cirith ungol on his way out of dodge, he finds the lembas that tricksy gollum tossed and gets REALLY pissed off and heads back up again. ouch, my calves are hurting again. :) yeah, this was as unnecessary as it sounds, but the scenes are actually pretty well done and didn't piss me off as much as they could have if they were too cheesy or cornball.

in general, gollum is pretty much a total asshole in rotk and received no pity from the audience at all. trust me, you'll be happy to see him sink into the lava, my precious. :)

minas morgul gets a special mention here because, although i shed no tears during this scene, it was an unexpected highlight for me. gandalf gives a bit of background on the witch-king while talking to pippin in minas tirith (and, much to my surprise, gandalf calls amon sul "weathertop" -- i was surprised because no one called it that in fotr), and we see the freaky, evil, old bastard himself getting ready to go kick some good guy ass and scaring the living shit out of frodo, sam and gollum as he does so. if you see this movie in a theater with a quality sound system, be prepared to cover your ears because this part is LOUD, but also very effective. you really get a sense of how powerful he is and how amazing it is that eowyn (with merry's very necessary help) is going to be the person who kicks his ass back to the abyss.

shelob's lair: and what a bitchin' bitch her ladyship is! she looked great (she's NOT small, don't worry, no matter what the trailer made you think), she moved like lightning, and was just as clever a girl as in the book. :) arachnophobes beware; you'll have nightmares about her for untold years after you see this movie. there is one scene in particular, where she sneaks up on frodo to finally sting him at last, that will have you hanging onto the edge of your seat by your fingernails. there was a collective squirm and lots of squealing in the theater during that one. leave it to a horror director to get the most horrific part of the movie right. here's how it goes: gollum convinces frodo to enter the tunnel (but not before frodo hesitates and complains about the smell), then gollum leaves him alone and frodo wanders a bit until he fumbles around in some webbing and figures out that maybe he should get the fuck out of there, and quick. shelob goes on the attack, frodo uses the phial on her and runs away, but eventually gets caught pretty solidly in more webbing. as shelob approaches, gollum pops in to narrate (seriously! it's good though :), but frodo manages to escape using sting to cut his way out (yes! by elbereth!). then (after leaving both sting and the phial behind -- bad idea), he runs out of the tunnel onto the stairs once more and he and gollum beat the shit out of each other for awhile. gollum falls off a cliff (making the audience presume he's dead, i suppose) and frodo collapses. galadriel appears to him (how convenient!) and gives him a pep talk. he then finds the strength to continue and gets up, determined to continue on towards his ultimate fate, and that's when the big, hairy bitch pulls her sneak attack. (i've always wanted to see elijah foaming at the mouth!) then sam shows up (with phial and sting in hand, praise iluvatar -- the audience went absolutely wild at this point), shouts something like "get away from him, you filth!" and does a fantastic job of kicking shelob's fat ass in a fight that's much longer and wilder than the book.

the choices of master samwise: it's here and poignant (and yes, the "don't go where i can't follow" line made it in), but it's also much shorter than the book. he does think frodo's dead, but we don't see him take the ring, and therefore, he doesn't put it on, become invisible and listen to the orcs talking, etc. instead, he simply hears orcs coming and hides behind a rock as they discuss frodo's condition (that he's not dead) and shelob. pj backed himself into a corner where the ring's concerned and they couldn't have sam wear it without consequences far more dire than in the book, but i was kind of looking forward to him imagining mordor as a garden. :)

the tower of cirith ungol: no naked frodo, only shirtless. pout. :) no invisible gate. pout. no reference to sam as the elf-warrior. pout. (only an orc could mistake sam for an elf.) otherwise, it was pretty well done. sam gets to kick some orc ass (and, much to my geeky joy, he says things like "for the shire!" and "for my old gaffer!" as he slays) and has a nice moment with frodo there as well (though very little of the dialogue from the book is preserved) before they head off for mt doom once more.

ok, so, basically, sam just does a lot of killin' in this movie. he's like the terminator of middle-earth who says "well, i'm back" instead of "i'll be back." seriously, sam has always been my favorite character in lotr -- a true friend and hero -- and i think sean astin really does him proud in rotk.

minas tirith: everything about the city looked great. it looked weird to me in the trailer, so that was a relief. :) the only problem i had with it at all is that the pelennor fields didn't appear to have a wall around them, but that's a pretty geeky and minor complaint, so i think we can all live with that one. i didn't expect to see the lighting of the beacons (instigated by that eternal troublemaker, peregrin took, who was only following orders given by that other eternal troublemaker, gandalf :), but that gave barrie osborne a chance to show off more helicopter shots of pretty scenery. ;) one thing that was cool for geeks but made no sense in the context of the movies is that everyone in minas tirith called gandalf "mithrandir." viewers who aren't book-savvy were probably like wtf? lol

there is a great deal of tension between gandalf and denethor, moreso than the book, i think, and it's pretty obvious that denethor is not exactly firing on all cylinders. ;) there is a boromir flashback here and pippin does pledge his service to gondor. pippin and gandalf make quite a fun odd couple and have a humorous moment together here and there as well. in case you were wondering, beregond and bergil do not make an appearance, nor does any other minor gondorian character.

faramir redeems himself somewhat from his evil twin behavior in t2t, mostly thanks to the good look we get at his total dickhead of a father. ;) denethor tells faramir that he wished faramir had died instead of boromir, so the audience rallied to his side from that point on and really felt sorry for the poor fella.

in case you didn't know, there are no denethor / palantir scenes. oh, come on, now! give it up for feanor! :) seriously, wtf? the only purpose of the orthanc palantir in the movie was for pippin to look into it, apparently, so, why bother with it at all? i don't think there needed to be more of a reason for sauron to wage war on minas tirith in the movie. it does lie at the very doorstep of mordor, after all, so general audiences would have accepted it without question. denethor was portrayed as crazy and hopeless enough from his grief over boromir and disappointment over faramir that it wasn't necessary to introduce sauron's direct influence on him. yeah, it's weird that this stuff was cut out, but surprisingly enough, i don't think it was necessary for the storyline to work, at least for moviegoers who don't know the books, and i'd rather have ANY scene cut out rather than changed altogether.

there is a brief gandalf / nazgul confrontation in here, when he races out on shadowfax across the fields to rescue faramir and his men from a menacing fell beast aerial attack. yes, i did shed a tear or two. :) he was the white wizard in full ass-kicking mode with his nifty white stick all aglow! :) unfortunately (and i know some people will want to murder pj for this), gandalf's confrontation at the gate with the witch-king is not in the movie. maybe he thought it would diminish eowyn's confrontation with him later, or maybe it was filmed and simply not included. i don't know, but it isn't here. oh well.

the passing of the grey company / the muster of rohan: no such luck, scruffy ranger and elladan / elrohir fans. :( elrond shows up with anduril at the rohirric encampment and tells aragorn to take the paths of the dead. at no time in the film is merry shown pledging himself to theoden, although it was apparently shot. i also just remembered that the scene of aragorn comforting eowyn in the golden hall was not included either. as i mentioned before, most of the palantir scenes, including the one with aragorn revealing himself to sauron, aren't in the theatrical release. perhaps all of these will show up on the dvd. anyway, much to my dismay, legolas does not get the opportunity to call merry "master sluggard" at any point. pout. :)

in the scene where elrond shows up and finally hands over anduril to aragorn, there is a little bit of elvish spoken between them, but no subtitles were provided. aragorn dumps eowyn once and for all before he takes off into the haunted mountain. he's as gentle yet straightforward as he can be (he utters a variation on that "in me she loves only a shadow and a thought" line from the houses of healing chapter), but she does shed a few tears. there's a funny bit in here when she helps merry into some armor, then eomer sees him and tells eowyn not to encourage him. ;) eowyn gets pissy with him (defensive because you're supposed to stay behind and tend the homefires, honey?) and eomer cracks another joke about merry's arms not being long enough to fight properly. ;) i wish they'd given karl urban some more lines like that. i'd rather hear his sarcasm than gimli's idiotic banter. (there's NO dwarf tossing joke in rotk though, believe it or not, thank eru!) anyway, eowyn and merry both suit up (though the pseudonym "dernhelm" is never used) and ride off to war together, against theoden's wishes.

the paths of the dead: although this is a bit different from the book (legolas apparently forgot that he has an elvish way with all good beasts, so their horses flee, and then aragorn crosses swords briefly with the king of the dead to prove that he is indeed isildur's heir), it looks pretty close to how i imagined it visually, and the fx in regards to the dead army are great. they're kind of part ghost, part zombie, part skeleton, and not all that different from the cursed pirates in pirates of the caribbean, except that it's very clear that they are ghosts and not ray harryhausen type skeletons running around. the fx of them infiltrating minas tirith to destroy the bad guys didn't look as good, unfortunately, because it was a long shot and they basically came across as a big, green blob. :) the taking of the ships is not shown (although the pirates are shown briefly earlier on -- i think pj's cameo is in this shot), but when they glide into minas tirith, the orcs assume there are pirates aboard, so they're a little surprised when aragorn leads a bunch of dead guys onto the pelennor to kick their asses. :) the picture of legolas with his hand on a kneeling aragorn's shoulder from the official site is not in the movie, so i assume that's another extended edition dvd treat to come. gimli gets a couple of good lines from the book in here, such as "here is a thing unheard of! an elf will go underground and a dwarf dare not!" and i also seem to remember him saying, "my blood runs chill." legolas gives some background on the place as they ride closer, before the horses bolt.

the ride of the rohirrim: not much to speak of since ghan-buri-ghan was cut (that's ok; he can keep tom bombadil company :) but their charge at the pelennor fields made me weep like the baby i am. ;) it was beautifully done and although they never "sang as they slew," the joy of battle was certainly upon them, and i don't blame the orcs one bit for freaking out at the last minute after seeing how determined the riders were, against all odds, and wanting to get the fuck outta there. :)

the siege of gondor / the battle of the pelennor fields: helm's deep was as boring as listening to bilbo snore compared to the battle scenes in this movie. all hail massive. the long shots gave a good idea of the full scope of the attacks, and the swooping camera shots (following the fell beasts, for example) and almost "combat photography" style of following the action (think "saving private ryan") showed the chaos, intensity, violence and desperation of what real war must be like. orcs, trolls (some playing drums! who knew they were musically talented!), wargs, mumakil, and some rhinoceros-looking thingys :) all made guest appearances, but one of my favorite parts was grond; it looked just as i pictured it, and the orc chant that accompanied its arrival sounded appropriately ominous. and, yes, the catapulted heads were included, much to my evil glee! :) gandalf gets to kick some serious ass with both sword and staff when the city's defenses are breached, but as i mentioned previously, he does not have his classic confrontation with the witch-king that's in the book.

i must give props to the oliphaunts here. may the valar turn them aside, indeed! they are very well done and they come across as the daunting and formidable force i was hoping they'd be in a real battle situation. they're kinda like tanks with tusks, or, perhaps more accurately, star wars' imperial walkers with tusks! :) lots of stomping and skewering of good guys and their horses here, but nothing too gory or lingered upon by the camera, don't worry. they aren't invulnerable fortresses, however, as both legolas (directly) and eomer (indirectly, when he spears a mumak commander and causes a chain reaction) manage to take them down single-handedly. :) (you can read about legolas' exploits at the end of this review if you really want to know more.) in general, our heroes do look quite frightened at the prospect of fighting them at first though, as well they should. i know i'd be pissing my pants!

eowyn / witch-king confrontation: i doubt many people will agree with me on this, but pj ruined what could have been a magnificent scene. i should have balled my eyes out at this. i didn't. they "blockbusterized" it. in other words, they simplified it to the point where lobotomized mental patients could enjoy it just like they might enjoy, oh, let's say a scene out of the movie "titanic." you know, people like ben affleck. :) it absolutely disgusts me that the animated rotk movie (which pj ripped off in his version, believe it or not -- if you've seen the animated version, you'll be able to pick out the parts i'm talking about when you see pj's version) portrayed the scene better than pj did. there's no excuse for screwing this up. almost none of the dialogue from the book is preserved, i assume because they think moviegoers wouldn't understand it. somehow, it's ok for grima to use words like "lathspell" and theoden to use words like "leechcraft" yet eowyn's "dwimmerlaik" is apparently off-limits. ridiculous. this is a scene that should have been done as close to the book as gandalf's confrontation with the balrog on the bridge of khazad-dum for proper impact, period. no villain has had creepier lines in all of literary history than the witch-king does when he taunts eowyn ("come not between the nazgul and his prey! or he will not slay thee in turn. he will bear thee away to the houses of lamentation, beyond all darkness, where thy flesh shall be devoured, and thy shrivelled mind be left naked to the lidless eye."), but the only line preserved from the book was the very first one. they also reduced eowyn's lines from their original beauty to "i will kill you if you touch him!" and "i am no man!" doesn't have quite the same impact, does it? honestly, i had no problem with how the witch-king looked (and his mace is something else -- i found myself quite illogically ducking it in my theater seat! lol), or how eowyn looked, or how she and merry stabbed him (although he did kind of look like he deflated after eowyn had dealt the final blow), and i don't need word-by-word dialogue from the book 100% of the time to be happy, but the fact that they screwed up the very rich dialogue that tolkien provided for them here just absolutely destroyed this scene for me. another thing that didn't help was that they intercut this scene with the arrival of the pirate ships, effectively cutting off all of the emotional impact the scene would have had if it was continuous all the way through to the witch-king's demise instead. i had the same problem with the storming of isengard in t2t; the ents take off to kick ass, and i'm in tears and ready to bask in their magnificent destruction only to get another storyline stuck right in the middle there. very bad timing. the ships' arrival wasn't as important as eowyn's shining moment and could easily have waited until afterwards, for eru's sake.

theoden's death was reasonably close to the book and bernard hill redeemed himself to me somewhat in rotk. i disliked his weak portrayal of the king in t2t and absolutely hated that oprah-esque and way-too-modern "no parent should bury their child" line that he apparently made up himself -- he should stick to acting and skip the scriptwriting. :) anyway, he rallies the troops nicely before their charge to the pelennor and even gets to utter that "my body is broken ... i go to my fathers" line to eowyn (instead of merry, because him dying in her arms is more poignant, i assume) after the fell beast puts a big smackdown on snowmane. unfortunately, he also utters one of the worst lines in the movie as well. just before he dies in eowyn's arms, she says that he's not going to die because she's going to save him, and he responds with an echo of darth vader's parting line to luke skywalker, "you already have." i half expected gandalf to morph into obi-wan at that point. ;)

finally, there was no funeral for theoden or explanation of what will happen to rohan now that their king is dead, but, hey, what's a few loose ends when you've already fucked things up beyond recognition, right, pj? ;) there is also no scene of eomer finding eowyn on the battlefield afterwards (there was a shot in the trailer of this) and crying, "death take us all!" but let's hope that makes the cut on the dvd.

the pyre of denethor: (i'll use this opportunity for general character commentary as well) denethor is well played overall, although the scene of him eating (this is pretty early on in the movie) with the social skills of an orc was ridiculous. the guy's crazy, but that doesn't make him a slob. i don't remember tolkien saying that the guy wore a bib because he couldn't feed himself properly. :) that scene's very significant emotional impact (pippin sings for denethor as he chows down while faramir charges to osgiliath on what can only be described as a suicide mission) was diminished for me because of denethor's bizarre eating habits. i think the scene would have played better if he'd exhibited superb and stoic table manners (a la hannibal lechter; a more subtle and intelligent kind of crazy, if you will) juxtaposed against the futility of faramir's desperate charge. anyway, he is played a little obnoxiously from time to time, but i didn't cringe, so it wasn't too bad. one time, when denethor goes off on a rant, gandalf puts his lights out with his staff, for which the audience was very grateful. ;) denethor does get a good number of lines from the book, including that "we will burn like heathen kings before ever a ship sailed hither from the west" bit, so purists should be pleased with that part of his performance if nothing else. after he's on fire (pippin pulls faramir from the pyre just in time), he runs out of the tomb screaming and jumps off the edge of the courtyard, which was just a little too over the top for my tastes. anyway, after pippin finishes singing, while denethor is still slopping food into his mouth, the poor little hobbit has a breakdown that will tug at your heartstrings quite nicely, i think. :(

and, hello, billy boyd can sing! :) i wish he'd sung "into the west" instead of annie "subtly? what's that?" lennox. actually, i wish jon anderson of yes had sung "into the west" because if anyone's an elf, it's him, plus, he wanted to do a song for the trilogy and he has a much better range than annie lennox. ok, he's got a much better range than most of the planet, but he's in a dorky prog band, so what's a poor guy to do? consequently, if jon was out, billy shoulda been in. hey, at least liv tyler didn't sing the damn song. ;)

the houses of healing: completely excised from the movie, and, therefore, there is no reference to eowyn and faramir's romance or marriage. this pissed me off, partially because at aragorn's coronation, they show the two of them standing together and exchanging knowing glances, yet there's no explanation of why they even know each other at this point. the extended edition dvd better make up for this slight, and how.

the last debate: oh, how i wish they had put in legolas and gimli prancing about the streets of minas tirith while the townsfolk stared. :) no such luck. pout. anyway, no imrahil and no in-depth discussion of how they came by the ships, but they do have a meeting in the hall (the scene where gimli takes over as the steward of gondor, plopping down to smoke weed on denethor's throne ;) to discuss strategy.

the black gate opens: ... but no mouth of sauron comes out of it. :( this scene should have been included because the remainder of the scenes at the black gate seemed awkward and nearly pointless without him there. and what the hell with the good guys allowing the bad guys to completely encircle them? aragorn might turn out to be a goodly king, but he's a lousy strategist. :) at least they didn't have sauron come out in that wicked armor of his and take on aragorn in hand-to-hand combat, as was rumored and infuriated a lot of purists. aragorn gives a good pep talk to the troops before battle, and there is also a nice moment right before they attack where he turns to his allies and says (with tears in his eyes) "for frodo." oh, and in case you're wondering, radagast the moth :) makes another special appearance to herald the mighty windlords, and pippin gets to shout "the eagles are coming!"

the land of shadow: there's no marching with the orcs for frodo and sam in the theatrical cut, although they do wear the armor after sam rescues frodo from the tower (which elicited a chuckle from the audience), so i'm assuming this will be included in the extended edition dvd.

there's something unintentionally amusing in mordor: sauron's silly-willy searchlight! ok, whose fucking idea was this? did the eyeball get an upgrade? how could they not tell when they looked at these scenes that it was cheesy and stupid? i found myself humming ac/dc's "jailbreak" in my head while frodo and sam were trying to dodge sauron's mighty searchlight of evil. (actually, this is another scene ripped directly from the animated rotk. who knew that movie had anything worth ripping off in it? :) i think i would have preferred that sauron be in some sort of physical form (remember, in the chapter "the black gate is closed," gollum says "he has only four [fingers] on the black hand, but they are enough" and "he will come out of the black gate one day, one day soon," so it's logical to assume that sauron had some kind of body) rather than see the lidless eye, which is supposed to be unbearably frightening, turned into a cheap, car dealership sale beacon. the movie shouldn't win best picture based on this alone. (alright, alright, i take that back. if a beautiful mind can win best picture, rotk certainly can!)

mount doom: holy jesus, the hobbits look like shit warmed over by the time they get there! lol sam does declare that "i can't carry it, but i can carry you" line and totes frodo up the mountain some of the way. i'd be willing to bet that you cry at this part. it's hard not to. :) gollum attacks them on the slopes (though he's not shown the mercy you see in the book) and all the stuff involving him between that scene and the bitter end is quite appropriately violent and vicious. don't worry, there's no wimping out here. frodo does claim the ring as his own and puts it on his finger, only to have gollum wrestle him for it (ok, so this looked a bit cheesy since frodo's invisible and gollum looks like he's just floating around in mid-air) and bite his finger off. the look of rapture on gollum's face when he finally gets his precious back is priceless. in a departure from the book, however (which didn't bother me), frodo attacks gollum again, post-finger-biting, and wrestles him for the ring. they both fall over the edge of the cliff and while gollum promptly falls and sinks into the molten pit still clutching his prized possession, frodo manages to hold on long enough for sam to run over and rescue him. very dramatic, very exciting, and i think even purists won't find much to complain about here. of course, it wouldn't be rotk at all if frodo didn't utter his "i am glad you are here with me. here at the end of all things" line. not to worry; it's in there. have your hankey ready. :) for those of you who didn't like that frodo and sam were so estranged in earlier parts of the movie, as well as t2t, you'll be pleased to know that they are much more affectionate with each other towards the end, as it should be.

the field of cormallen: the destruction of sauron's domain! whoo hoo! this is what we've been waiting several hours for with a sore backside, right? lol mt doom goes all apeshit, barad-dur collapses like a house of cards, and a giant crevasse opens to gobble up the bad guys. super! :) i was kind of hoping that the lidless eye would start shorting out as the top of the tower fell over, but no such luck. ;) i was more impressed with the battle scenes at minas tirith than this, actually, but it is very well done nonetheless. there's a huge shockwave, similar to the one in fotr when the ring was cut from sauron's hand in the last alliance scene, and there is no question that both the ring and its evil master are both completely destroyed. our heroes at the gate are plainly worried, however, that sam and frodo didn't make it out of the volcano alive.

special commentary on the eagles: i'm a bit of a fanatic about birds of prey, and i was very impressed with not only how much better the eagles looked in rotk as compared to gwaihir in fotr, but the fact that the fx team obviously studied footage of eagles' aerial acrobatics (the "twirling" they did in fighting the fell beasts) and their surprisingly gentle behavior around their eggs and hatchlings (picking up an unconscious frodo and sam so gently in those formidable talons that they barely stirred) to get their brief but crucial appearance just right. this part wrung a good, solid cry out of me alright, and i'll bet it does every time i see the movie. :) as far as i'm concerned, this is one scene that pj got absolutely, perfectly right on the money, and i personally would see the movie again based on their appearance alone.

at minas tirith, after the eagle rescue, frodo wakes up in bed (it's very similar to the rivendell scene in fotr) to see gandalf in the room with him and is overjoyed to see him very much alive. they start laughing, and then merry and pippin run in and jump on frodo's bed to hug him, so more laughter ensues. (it almost seems maniacal to me in a way. :) shortly thereafter, gimli walks in, then legolas, and then, aragorn. it's nice to see them all looking so happy for once. ;) last, but not least, sam walks in and he and frodo share one of those "we've been through hell together and will always have a bond that no one else could ever understand" meaningful looks, and they seem very relieved for it all to be over. it was good to see the fellowship reunited like that, but at the same time, i started wondering when frodo was going to pull a dorothy and say, "i had this dream... and you were there... and you were there... and you were there, too, sam!" ;)

the steward and the king: not much of this made it in there (as i said, i really missed the faramir / eowyn romance, so i hope it's well-established on the dvd), but at aragorn's coronation, he sings in elvish! rock! :) gandalf puts the crown upon his head, but it's gimli who presents the crown to gandalf, not frodo. (he is standing with the other hobbits). speaking of which, the hobbits REALLY get their chance to shine in this movie and show what strong stuff they are made of. when our four hairy-footed heroes bow to aragorn after he is crowned king, he says something like "my friends, you bow to no one" and instead, bows to them himself, and then all of minas tirith follows, eliciting quite a stream of tears from moi. :)

many partings and homeward bound: not much of this was included either, unfortunately. aragorn's coronation faded directly into the scene of the hobbits returning to the shire.

the scouring of the shire: it's IN!!!!! just kidding. :) it was never part of pj's plan to include this, and i'm sorry to say that he didn't have a change of heart at the 11th hour. the hobbits do have some cute moments back home. when they come into town in their foreign finery, the same grumpy hobbit who gave gandalf the evil eye at the beginning of fotr now gives them the same disgusted once-over. :) another is at the green dragon inn, where they seem to have trouble fitting back in, but then sam sees rosie, gets up his courage and marches on over to her, and the next thing we see is their wedding! :) pippin catches the bouquet and the hobbit lass beside him gives him an expectant look. ;)

the grey havens: adequately done, but what really got me about this scene was dominic / merry. i dare you to watch him and not cry! :) he looks really upset (beyond acting), and it was really him, not the scene itself, that drew tears from me here. the havens are lovely (and cirdan from the prologue of fotr does make an appearance, albeit only in the background), but somehow, not as grand and magnificent as i'd pictured them in my mind. and wtf was celeborn doing leaving with galadriel? doesn't he have to run imladris or something since elrond's going on holiday? ;) bilbo shows up again here, looking very much like the oldest hobbit on record, and does ask frodo where the ring is, to which frodo replies, "i lost it" and bilbo admits, "i should have liked to see it again." a creepy and sad moment for certain (and from the book, which was nice). you really do get the sense that they are "damaged" people due to the burden they've carried. purists will be happy to know that gandalf does utter the famous "i will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil" line (while very visibly wearing the ring of fire, i might add) and that frodo makes clear to sam that "[the shire] has been saved, but not for me" and that sam "cannot always be torn in two,", etc. those are nice moments, for purists and fans of only the movies alike. we also get to see sam and rosie's children when sam utters the final line, "well, i'm back," but they aren't living at bag end. (i guess they thought it would have been too confusing to have sam, rosie and their kids living with frodo.) i have to admit that i was very disappointed not to see even a glimpse of valinor because that scene alone would have been worth the price of admission for me.

after the grey havens, there was no epilogue whatsoever. i seem to remember pj saying rotk would likely end with another voice-over from galadriel to tidy things up. it's not here. i would like to have seen some sort of summarized wrap-up of the many threads in the lives of these characters who we've come to care about so much. again, perhaps the dvd will shed more light on what happened to all of our heroes after they saved the world. :)

is that it?!? omg, i think it is! :) i hate to break it to you, but i'm not actually finished yet. :)

whiny complaints like the bitch that i am:

in general, there was not enough dialogue from the book, but that's been a complaint of mine with all three movies. including tolkien's own words more often would have been the second best way (besides actually making the movie exactly like the book) to win over the purists, so a pox on pj's hobbit hole for not trying to incorporate more of the book while still putting his own personal stamp on it.

it's rarely dark enough when it should be. hello, it's the end of the world, right? it's about to be consumed by evil? if pj didn't want a "dawnless day," that's ok by me, but he could have at least tried to keep the light levels consistent, particularly in mordor. he didn't seem to have too much trouble making scenes dark enough when required in the other movies, so this i don't get at all.

another big gripe of mine (and this is really just personal preference more than a true problem) is the intercutting of scenes. there's just too much switching back and forth between storylines at crucial moments for my tastes, so much so that the emotional impact of both of the scenes are significantly diminished. one obvious example that really bugged me which i mentioned previously is when pj cuts away from eowyn's confrontation with the witch-king to show the arrival of the ships. there are plenty of others, but i don't think there's any need to delve into this further here.

and the biggest-ass gripe of all:

notice that i haven't mentioned the arwen / elrond / aragorn subplot yet. that's because it doesn't even deserve the dignity of a mention, but i guess i have to now that i've brought it up, huh? ;) you know, i didn't really mind hugo weaving as agent elrond in fotr, but he's done nothing but get on my last nerve since then with his pissy attitude towards both his daughter and his foster-son. forget how numenor's pride and dignity were forgotten; how about your own? i'm actually beginning to dislike his elrond more than liv's arwen, if that's humanly possible. :) anyway, this entire mess should have been deep-sixed. if the writers had treated arwen with the respect she deserved from the get-go, we wouldn't have to sit through this made-up garbage now.

in short, the elven soap opera of wagnerian proportions slouches towards a crescendo in rotk, with arwen having a vision of her possible future son with (a much older, grey-haired) aragorn (for no apparent reason -- i guess she's just bored on her trip to the grey havens and sees into the future to amuse herself) and then storming back to rivendell to confront daddy elfkins for hiding this important information from her. how exactly he could hide this and yet she could see it in a vision herself is never explained, of course. arwen uses this emotional ammo to talk elrond into giving aragorn the sword (which he should have done a long time ago anyway -- at least we get to see its reforging at last!) and then, thankfully, she disappears again until aragorn's coronation at the end of the movie. whew. we dodged a bullet on that one, folks. ;) strangely enough, however, she manages to sneak into minas tirith without aragorn knowing and then pops out from behind a banner (let's hope it's the one in the books that she was supposed to make for him) to surprise him. then, quite predictably (after all, this is lotr according to pj), he rams his big, kingly tongue down her throat. i'm certain tolkien would have found that highly appropriate. (snort) the oddest plot device of all here is that arwen gets cold hands because she's chosen mortality (i guess elves don't have circulation problems :) and is later portrayed as having some kind of evil-borne illness caused by sauron, supposedly adding urgency to aragorn's quest to defeat the bad guys and become king. huh? yeah, it's just as stupid as it sounds. no real explanation is given. that's what happens when you don't follow the book. so, in conclusion, just ignore it and watch the good parts of the movie that actually make sense. :)

there are a couple of bright spots in the midst of the elf drama, btw, and neither of those things have to do with arwen or elrond. much to my delight and surprise, figwit gets a cameo, and it's a speaking role! :) he's part of arwen's escort to the grey havens and the only elf who's not a major character who talks at all in rotk. isn't that figalicious? and he looks way prettier than liv tyler! go figure! :) yay, figgy! the other bright spot, of course, is the rest of arwen's harem, i mean escort to the grey havens. :) :) :) ladies, hold on to something during this scene because you won't know where to look first. ;) i can guarantee right here, right now that some of these guys are going to have websites devoted to them before this is all over with because there are some real hotties among the ranks. :)

ok, ladies, here's what you really want to know about... legolas. of course, there's simply not enough of him, but he's a minor character at best, so we shouldn't expect there to be, but really, who freakin' cares? you don't have to give him lines; just have him stand there and smile so that we can drop to our knees a time or two in sheer bliss. ;)

anyway, leggy doesn't get a lot of screen time in general, and it seemed to me that he didn't get any more screen time in rotk than t2t. oh, stop pouting. every second he's on screen is worth it, trust me. ;) his two main points of exposition were at the golden hall (the "hooded" scene) and upon entering the paths of the dead (he gives some background on it), but he also had some short lines here and there in rotk that were painfully obvious and unnecessary, as if pj just wanted to give him something to say so he didn't only just stand there and look all pretty. :) we don't mind, really, it's ok. ;)

if you read the rest of my review before scrolling down this far, you know by now that he kills a mumak all by himself, and the fx were much better than i expected them to be. i thought his gravity-defying leap onto his horse in t2t looked horribly fake, but the mumak sequence is better than the cave troll-climbing scene in fotr, and goes on a bit longer. he basically scales the thing (using embedded arrows as a ladder for a portion of the climb), kills every man onboard, shoots three arrows (at one time -- that's right, three arrows on his bowstring at one time :) into its skull to kill it and then slides down its trunk (trunk surfing? :) as it falls over to the ground with a resounding thud. very exciting, very cool. a true hero moment. the whole audience cheered at the end of it.

leggy and gimli are still keeping count of their kills to a certain extent, and when our favorite elf takes down the mumak, gimli exclaims with exasperation something like, "that still only counts as one!" ;)

there's not nearly as much "comic dwarf" stuff in rotk, but he and leggy have a nice moment at the black gate when they know they're completely outnumbered and the mission is suicide, and gimli comments on how he never thought he'd die like this beside an elf, and leggy responds with something like "you mean beside a friend." awww. :) very touching.

for all you droolqueens out there, prepare yourselves. the best legolas moments are at the end of the movie, and there are two of them that will drop you like a sack of potatoes. :) the first is by frodo's bedside when he wakes up in minas tirith and the second is at aragorn's coronation. these are absolutely drop-dead gorgeous moments for him, even better than the "grief" scene in lothlorien, if you can imagine that. fairer than the sons of men, indeed. ;) all of the women in the audience, and i mean ALL of them, swooned at these beautiful shots (they were literally gasping aloud at the sight of him), and most of the females in attendance were adults, not teenagers, so you know he looked quite impressive. ;) i recommend that all females have heart exams before viewing these scenes to make sure they're healthy enough to endure them. :) all of the orlando and leggy fans will be very pleased with just these two scenes if no other. it was worth sitting for three hours just to see those two shots! ;) there are some hot-assed elves standing along with him at the coronation as well, so don't neglect them entirely just to drool over leggy! :)

ok, i'm exhausted, so i think the review is officially over. :) hope you enjoy rotk as much as i did! i'm sure i'll be seeing it many more times to come over the next few months.

tender-loving elf kisses,
jennifer