Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

Now that I’ve had the chance to see LotR: Return of the King twice, I’ll take the time to offer my thoughts. My overall opinion is that it was a very good movie with an ending that drags it down.

The details, with spoilers, below.

I’m going to skip the part where I complain about each thing that I thought was a minor flaw in the movie. As J. Michael Strazynski of Babylon 5 fame said, “That the LoTR adaptation has been done this well, or even half this well, is a boon to everyone who’s ever been a fan of the books.”

Having said that, I had a real problem with the way Peter Jackson chose to end RotK. I thought the post-victory part of the film dragged on far too long, and that much of what was left in at the end should have been cut and put on the DVD special edition (which is already where I hope to find the cut part about Saruman in the Shire).

After the One Ring is destroyed and Frodo and Sam make it outside, they talk about the Shire and then there’s a fade and long pause. Once that’s done there are nine more scenes to get through.

1) Gandalf and the eagles rescue Frodo and Sam
2) The reunion of the Company in Frodo’s room
3) The crowning of Aragorn (aka the Star Wars ending)
4) The hobbits return to the Shire
5) The hobbits drinking at the Green Dragon
6) Sam’s wedding
7) Frodo and Bilbo on the way the Grey Havens
8) The farewell scene at the dock
9) Sam returns to his new family

This results in roughly a half hour of sitting in the theater after the exciting climax of the movie, and I think it’s just too much. Ending the movie after the reunion scene or, if we must, after the crowning scene (which I actually thought was pretty cheesy) would have been much better, in my opinion. It’s the end of the tale, and everything that follows is epilogue. Yes, there are more than a hundred pages more of the novel after the One Ring is destroyed, but I don’t think most of that material needed to be included at the end of a movie that was, at that point, about 3 hours long. Peter Jackson had been willing to cut material before in order to make the movies better, so why stop now?

I think the reason that the dragged-out ending bothered me so much was that the rest of the movie was so very good. I loved the sweeping battle scenes and the all the rest, and it was certainly a stronger movie than The Two Towers (though I think Fellowship was the best of the three). I believe, though, that it would have been a stronger movie if the end had been trimmed.

Oh, and I want to comment on some of the acting in this last part of the trilogy. I thought Ian McKellen did another brilliant job with Gandalf, and is far and away the best actor in the film, but this time I was also stuck by the fine job done by Bernard Hill in the role of Theoden. He carried off an air of resignation without seeming like he was wallowing, and the expression on his face when he saw the Witch King coming for him was, in my opinion, the best bit of acting in the entire movie. On the other hand, I thought Viggo Mortensen didn’t do a very good job at all after making the move from ranger to King. He captured Strider well, but seemed overwhelmed by trying to play the King of Gondor.

Anyway, I’d highly recommend this film to anyone who saw the first two, and I definitely plan to buy the special edition DVD when it comes out.

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