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Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
Someone should tell Peter Jackson that British cinema seats are not as well-upholstered as US ones, and that tacking an extra 15 minutes onto the end of a 3 hour film is not an act of added value, but of discomfort and may even cause injury as the crowd (once released) stampedes or hobbles cross-legged to the toilets. I saw five people carried out with DVT.
Is it any good? Of course it is! The battle scenes are jaw-droppingly huge and the scenery is vast. Everything's on a large scale: the city, the plain, the staircase, the flying beasties, Gollum's eyes, Frodo's moistness, and a refugee from Starship Troopers. Actually, I also saw bits from Empire Strikes Back, Braveheart, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Trek Insurrection and of course Bad Taste, Jackson's early home-made outing with orc-like aliens (or should that be aliens who have been recycled into orcs?)
I like my burgers with cheese, or even with double cheese. But to dish up cheese-flavoured cheesey cheeese with double cheeeese and cheeeeese on top with a side order of cheeeeeeeeeese was possibly a little over-dairied.
The scene helping the audience understand that the cave where lived the undead was a scary cave was plastered on with indelicate trowell work to excess. The long smoldering looks during which characters were clearly having several paragraphs of inner life on the page but thankfully no voice-overs on the soundtrack meant little to me; I guess JRRT fans would have known what they were thinking...
Acting plaudits once again go to ET Korbit, complete with Harry Enfield Old Git hairstyle and stoutist remarks. I liked Sam this time around, as he seemed honest and complicated, rather than just a batman to Mr F. I still couldn't get away from the slight doubt about their touchy-feeling friendship, especially since so many minutes of the film are spent on smoldering looks with liquid eyes... And Gandaz was given considerably more to do, although the script wasn't a worthy as theis character deserved. Actually, that could be a criticism throughout: the quality of the dialogue was not high; and even when various leaders addressed the massed ranks of soldiers, no one got close to St Crispin or to Harry and St George or 'today is our Independence Day' or even 'never take our FREEDOM!' Personally, I think the Morpheus school of not-very-inspiring speeches has a lot for which to answer. Or maybe the Brothers Karamazov studied at the feet of Uncle Tolk.
I have to wonder about the vastness of the big-name cast. when someone like Liv Tyler gets half a dozen lines and just a few minutes on screen. The newly-crowned King of the title eventually remembers that he likes her, and it's really nice that Agent Smith has brought her from the brink of death to be with everyone. Christopher Lee ended up as a DVD extra. But Yosser Hughes had plenty more to do this time.
The involvement of Xena, Warrior Princess was the closest we would ever get to a non-token female character, and she was value. But the all-powerful Ring-Meister with no face in the Darth Vader Helmet seems all too Macbethian and was easy to vanquish. Talking of Star Wars, the giant woolly elephantoths were very resonant, but when Legless the Gay Archer arrived and bought one down singlehandedly, the audience rose with loud applause...
There was a strong sense of loose ends being tied up and of story strands which might have been left to dangle reaching conclusions. Oh did we really need to be shown that Sam returned to the Shire to marry his ringlet-bedecked sweetheart and have two children? Was it essential to have everyone bouncing on a bed as the cast took their bows? I think not, but apparently this is what JRR did, so PJ must do the same. However, my bum ached; my head ached a little and I was hungry due to the early start time precluding having any dinner of which to speak between work and getting to the cinema in time to help bagsy ten seats for me and my friends. And I was acutely (chronically) aware of all this, while I supposed to be carried along by the wonder of the story and the willing suspension of disbelief...
Finally, comment must be made about the nine-and-a-half-fingered one. Rarely can there have been a leading character who has so much screen time and yet fails in characterisation. It was never clear that the Ring was having the wicked effect upon him that it clearly had on ETK and Sam and even Bilbo. Why was this? Is he immune to it's power? Or might that have given the writer the problem of having a protagonist we didn't like? I see this a a plot flaw, since it would have been very easy to have had the ring passed around the Fellowship, and when the carrier goes bad, have a big fight and duff him up. The pass the ring to the next guy. Eventually, everyone will have shown their bad side (Legsofglass doesn't have a bad side, just a bad hairstyle) and the wickedness will clearly be ascribed to the ring, not just to the baddies.
Also, Gandaz seems to have mighty power when he chooses, but just swings his mace wildly when he forgets to blast the enemy into next week. The dead army were too easily persuaded (or is that another case of DVD extra footage which will reveal all?) and then they went away without exacting revenge on the living, which I think they might have been entitled to do.
So, in summary, well done to the scenery and the special effects, but if only they'd chosen a better story to commit to celluloid. LOTR devotees are bound to have loved it, but those of us who prefer quality literature feel cheated and will return again to Hamlet, to LA Confidential, to Bugsy Malone before we return to grand-scale epics of this length and pace.