Warning: Spoilers ahead, my precious!
WHERE IS MY ADORABLE FARAMIR ON THAT POSTER?!
Sorry, what I meant to say was that this review is for the extended edition.
Here’s a summary of the plot:
In a nutshell, The Return of the King is about the destruction of the One Ring and the ensuing overthrow of the Dark Lord Sauron. It takes several hours of film to get there and there’s still loads to go after Sauron’s defeat. There are battles and madmen and people in disguise. There are oodles of Orcs and Gollum is rather disturbing. Oh yes, and there is also a king who returns.
This. Film. Was. Awesome. Yes, it has a few issues – there’s a missing scene I wish had been included, and the ending was slightly changed. But this movie was still just as wonderful and epic as the book it’s based on, which is more than I can say for the Harry Potter movies.
Let’s begin at the beginning, shall we?
The beginning of the movie was amazing. It’s not from the third book but it is from the first book. It shows Sméagol and Déagol, two hobbits and best friends, sitting in a boat and fishing. That’s not the remarkable part – what’s cool is how unbelievably beautiful their location is. The trees and grass are bright green; the water dazzlingly clear. It’s paradise…
…until Déagol falls into the water and finds a ring and his best friend goes, “MY PRECIOUS” and strangles him to get it and turns into Gollum, and not vaguely cute Gollum either but creepy Gollum. Look, I’m not saying I love hobbit violence. It’s just that the visuals of the opening scene helped to make Gollum’s story sadder, I think. He lived in a wonderful place and had friends and lost all that because the Ring is evil.
The next scene that I want to discuss is the killing of Saruman and Wormtongue. They die in the book, but at the very end in a chapter called “The Scouring of the Shire”. In the film their deaths happen in a scene that was in the previous book. Is that clear? So in this movie there is no Scouring of the Shire and that’s a bit weird. Basically, Saruman’s an evil wizard who turns the beautiful Shire, home of the hobbits, into the Middle-earth version of the Industrial Revolution. It becomes an awful and disgusting place. The hobbits have to drive him out. It was kind of cool because you seen how much they’ve grown in bravery during their journey. At the beginning of the story they wouldn’t have had the guts to fight. However to be honest, that chapter dragged on and on; I loved the story but I wanted it to end already. So including the Scouring would have made the movie even longer, shooting the extended edition over four hours and I’m not sure that it would have even been very interesting.
Shelob the spider was scary, but a bit of a letdown. I imagined her to be far bigger and far scarier. In general I just wanted the Frodo-Sam-Gollum scenes to hurry up. I didn’t hate them, but there’s other characters I like more.
I really like the friendship between Legolas and Gimli so I liked seeing more of that. I think I like Gimli more. He’s funnier and basically a huge softie. Legolas may be better looking but he doesn’t have much personality, so I dumped him for someone else.
Minas Tirith was gorgeous! For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, that’s a city, not a person. I wish I could live there.
I really liked Pippin in this movie. In the previous films all he and his cousin Merry did was tag along and get stoned. He really came into his own in this film/book. So did Merry, but I
like Pippin much more.
Since I keep making short little observations, let’s have another. This movie was made a decade ago, and yet you can’t tell that from the special effects. A cursory reading of its Wikipedia article told me that there’s quite a bit of CGI in The Return of the King, but there don’t seem to be nearly as many as there were in the Hobbit movie. There’s nothing wrong with CGI, of course, but I think really complex makeup work is more impressive. (The Orcs weren’t CGI, were they?)
Éowyn was mostly awesome, but I think some things were messed up. In the book since she’s not allowed to fight with the guys, she disguises herself as one of them. I knew that she fought in a battle, but somehow I totally didn’t pick up on the fact that the mysterious “Dernhelm” who brings Merry to the battle too was her. Stupid, I know. In the movie he always knew it was her and I think that changes things. In the book she fights to save her uncle and when she’s in trouble Merry helps her, but he doesn’t know who she is. In the movie it could be interpreted as, “Oh look, the girl doesn’t know how to fight and he has to save the day. Figures.”
Faramir was awesome. Full disclosure: I… yes… have a crush on him. But! I did even before I watched the movies. I love his personality. So it doesn’t hurt that he’s also the most good-looking guy in Middle-earth. He combines the best of Aragorn and Legolas. He’s clean like Legolas (Aragorn apparently never takes a bath until the end of the third book) and manly like Aragorn (Legolas… manly… ha, no way!). He makes me so sad. His dad hates him for no reason and says he wished Faramir had died in place of his older brother. And then tries to burn him alive.
Speaking of his dad, I think Peter Jackson oversimplified Denethor. In the book it’s quite obvious that although he’s a git, some of that is due to Sauron. When Denethor’s wife died he was understandably sad and so he started to look into his palantír, which is basically a rock that magically lets you see all over Middle-earth. The trouble is, though, that Sauron controls them and he can warp what you see. He can make you crazy. In the film it was just, “Oh, he’s absolutely batty!” In the book I couldn’t completely hate him, just as I couldn’t completely hate Gollum, because they’ve both been unwillingly influenced by Sauron.
Now for Éowyn and Faramir together! They are my favorite couple from any story, book or film. (Sorry, Peeta and Katniss.) They’re perfect for each other, as both are shortchanged by their family. Faramir’s dad hates him and Éowyn’s family loves her but won’t let her fight even though she wants to. I adore their scenes in the book, in the Houses of Healing as they recover from fighting / almost being burned alive. In the normal edition of the film, however, their only scene is when they stand together at Aragorn’s coronation. In the extended edition they also have a short scene in the Houses of Healing. I thought it was good although I can’t remember any specifics because we’d watched The Two Towers before, it was about two in the morning by the time this movie was wrapping up, and I was sleepy. It’s the only thing I’m actually mad at Peter Jackson about for any of his Tolkien movies. In the novel there’s at least five pages about Faramir and Éowyn. Grrrr.
Aragorn’s coronation is the final scene I want to talk about. First of all, it was weird to see him clean. I think he actually looks better when he hasn’t had a bath in a while, although that may just be because I’m used to him looking like that. Second, they got Elrond just right in this scene. He’s one of my favorite characters. His daughter Arwen is in love with Aragorn and if she marries him she’ll basically turn into a human and can’t sail across the sea to immortal elfy paradise with her family. So Elrond’s facial expressions really got to me, because you can tell he’s happy for both of them but also really sad because he’s losing his child. (Aside: why, when I was searching for that link, did the search engine tell me that ‘Elrond facial expressions at Aragorn’s coronation’ might contain adult content?! So confused.)
I didn’t have much to say about the music of The Two Towers. It was nice, but this movie’s score surpassed it, I think. Hope and Memory was good. Pippin’s song was stupendously sad. I eventually figured out that it’s the second part of The Steward of Gondor, so I listened to that track on the CD just for his song. And then I realized that the rest of it was quite pretty as well. Also that version doesn’t include Denethor’s disgusting chewing sounds, which is a plus. I adored The Houses of Healing, played during the scene of the same name. It’s so pretty and sad. Like everything else in Middle-earth. Finally, the credits song is called Into The West and was written/performed by Annie Lennox. Yeah, I know. If I were assembling the film score and you suggested Annie Lennox, I would suggest a mental hospital to you because she just doesn’t seem high-fantasy-ish enough. But she did just fine. The song is – you guessed it, very pretty and sad.
At the end of all things, it was an excellent movie.
Don’t try to tell me that this review was too long – it took less time for you to read it than it would to watch the movie. Or read the book.