Sunday, December 28, 2008

The 12 Hours of the Rings

So Mel and I did something we've been meaning to do for some time; but haven't had a chance to, since it takes a good 12 hours uninterrupted.

We watched the entirety of the extended editions of the Lord of the Rings trilogy back to back; only breaking between films for a meal, a snack, and to use the facilities.

I have a few comments to make on the experience.

First, it was in no way boring or tedious. They really are great films, of a wonderful world and a wonderful story. I don't see how anyone could be bored by that.


Peter Jackson does not know how to end a movie.

At all.

It's even worse in the extended editions.

Especially "The Return of the King"; which has four endings, all of them bad.

I still think the Return of the King was the weakest of the three; mostly because of the ending(s); but also because of the battle of Pelennor fields.

Both "Two Towers" and "Return of the King" suffer in the extended cuts from the interminable Sam and Frodo sequences.

In that vein, Peter Jackson really has some unresolved repressed homosexuality issues to work through.

I still think that the battle for Helms Deep is the best pre-modern battle scene ever put to film (the modern battle king is of course the opening of "Saving Private Ryan").

I really dislike the battle of Pelennor fields, and the siege of Minas Tirath; with an excessive and unnecessary use of non-canon deus ex machina (the armys of the dead). The only good parts of that whole sequence are Eowyn killing the witch king; and the Olyphant charge.

The extended versions are far better films in most every way; though there are some things which he should have cut. Some scenes either don't work, or just go on too long.

The way to watch them really is one after the other. I of course saw them one at a time as they came out; and had not done the marathon since; and it greatly improves the narrative and feel of the thing. The films were written, shot, and edited as one film; and only cut up for release... funnily enough much as "The Lord of the Rings" was written as a single book and split in three for publication... and the best way to enjoy the story is all in one.

The extended version has much better characterization and story arcs for Boromir, and Faramir. The theatrical cuts of the films I thought butchered them both. Also Sean Bean was great (as always), and in the extended edition David Wenham really shines; something he couldn't do with the nothing role the theatrical cut reduced Faramir to.

Frodo is simply poorly characterized throughout; more pathetic melodrama than character, and this is worsened in the extended edition. Sam (as is appropriate to the hobbits arc) is the true hero of the piece, more so than anyone else; and again this is very much emphasized in the extended edition.

Similarly, Gimli is still weak comic relief; an insult to a wonderful character (though I do enjoy Johnathan Rhys-Davies performance of him).

Orlando Bloom can't act, but that's OK because Legolas as written doesn't require any acting ability.

Liv Tyler also can't act; but Arwen as written (in the movie, not the book) actually needs some acting ability, and her lack thereof leaves the character as hollow. Again, this is much worse in the extended edition.

Eowyn was much better in the extended edition; unfortunately Eomer was still nothing.

Andy Sirkis was robbed when the academy disqualified him for an oscar nomination because his characterization was motion captured then animated over. That was Sirkis's performance, not the animators, and he deserved a best supporting actor nomination at least.

You can't bitch about the Balrog, because Tolkien himself had multiple descriptions for them, including one like that used in the movie. Besides which, the Balrog in the movie was pretty cool.

No, I don't miss Tom Bombadil, or the Scouring of the Shire; I think the movies are better without them (though you have to see the extended versions or leaving out the scouring makes no sense), ... and in fact the book would have been as well.

I hate adaptation purity nazis.