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Rings, Kings, and Things
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I saw Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien's movie titles fit in right alongside Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life and Pirates of the Carribean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, don't they?) this weekend, and I'm already a half-step behind the rest of blogdom, who apparently stayed up until 4am last Wednesday to see it at the earliest moment possible.

You already know me as crotchety, so it should come as no surprise that I didn't experience LOTR:ROTK with the unbridled euphoria that everyone else seems to have.

Sure, some of the battle scenes were impressive, though I kept thinking of The Empire Strikes Back, right down to Eowyn saying to her dying father, "But I've got to save you!"

"You...already have," he whispers. And he should have had the good decency to just die right there, like ol' Darth did, but instead he wheezed out a whole little boring speech. Stop when you're behind, dude.

There seemed to be too many moments of unintended humor (and not nearly enough of the intentional kind): Denethor getting caned upside the head (not once, but twice!) by Gandolf, Denethor running about half a mile while he was on fire just so he could dramatically jump off the very top of Minas Tirith, and so on.

Perhaps it was my mood, but my mind was wandering incessantly during the film. I was hardly ever immersed in the story. Something always kept pulling me back out, like Arwen's idiot-child stare coupled with her incessant whisper (speak up, dammit!).

The whole enterprise felt more contrived, derivative, pompous, and boring than the previous two films (though they were probably the same way).

Okay, now it sounds like I hated the film...but I didn't. It was still better than 90% of the dross toted out by Hollywood this year. The least important aspects, the staging and sets, the costumes and special effects, were all great. And the acting was good. But a lot of the defects came from the original source material, I think. The dialog just wasn't very good, and neither was the plotting.

And perhaps a disembodied malevolent force works well as a villain in a book, but it doesn't work so well on-screen. It's hard to take a big-ass flaming eye seriously as a bad guy. When I think of great movie villains, they all have an element of humanness that makes it easier to relate to them, and that makes them all the creepier. No way to relate to a big-ass flaming eye. Same problem with the Witch King.

So it's harder to root for hero when they're not transposed by an interesting bad guy.

Another problem is the inherent difficulty of translating an epic, broad in both space and time, to the big screen, even with the eight or ten hours Jackson had to work with.

At least they passed out a friggin' program guide with Dune (remember that?). And unless you were the ubergeek who redrew the maps from the books so many damn times you memorized them, it was hard to visualize where all the kingdoms were in relation to one another. I kept longing for a map, and then they show the end of the damn movie!

Anyway, that's enough grousing to draw the ire of all you die-hards. I'm still glad I saw the film, and there was enough in it to like. But it wasn't nearly as good as all the reviews and hype indicated.

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