The Return of the King: In depth review
Just so you know, this is very much a working draft. I’d like to perhaps expand it to include all three movies, and to become a much larger review and critique. But I don’t have a draft feature built into my CMS, so it falls that I must do it publicly. I want it online because I will almost certainly forget or lose it if i try to keep it on a computer somewhere, so here goes. Don’t expect any real cohesiveness yet, or completion of thoughts and issues I raise. Oh, and feel free to comment, or flame me if you like… :)
Of the three books, The Return of the King has always been my favorite. Tolkien’s intention was to present the story as a single epic, and was dissappointed with the need to split it up into three. ROTK is thus the culmination of the prior two stories, and is almost entirely about the climaxes of the various plot lines.
On the whole, Peter Jackson’s translation of the books to film is a good one. Without picking on some niggling details, his dedication to the spirit and quality of the books is laudable. In the artistic arena, the work is unparalleled and, in my opinion, the very essence of what the Tolkien intended to paint with his words. Jackson’s translation fails fundamentally at the philisophical level though. In all aspects of how the characters were portrayed, Jackson sought to emphasize the frailty and weakness of men. And although Tolkien does address evil in all the races, his characterization of men was not biased in that manner. Aragorn never doubted his heritage, nor struggled with who he was, though he did struggle with the enormity of his quest as anyone would.
Laying aside those objections, lets address ROTK specifically. Of all the movies, ROTK strays the least from Tolkiens story line. There were a large number of circumventions of smaller sub plots, but they were nicely done, leaving room for them to have happened without indicating they did thus pleasing both the fan and the newly initiated.
The films high point and the most mature people of the film were definitly the Rohirim. We have little time to explore the personality of Denethor, or the reasons why he is overcome with grief. Not enough time is spent of Aragorn, though what time is spent is nicely done. Too little time is spent with Frodo and Sam on the long toilsome journey across the wastes of mordor. In most of the characters, you are left with only just enough to see the surface of their depth and emotion. But the Rohirrim benefit from the time spent on them in the Two Towers, and the character of Theoden and Eowyn are of central importance until the death of the Witch King towards the middle of the movie.
Jon argues that any real emotion people feel is probably supplemented by their knowledge of the book because of the speed of the movie when addressing so many complicated themes and characters. He might very well be right, but I’ll contend that the movie offers a very real experience, even if it does not quite approach that of the books in terms of its depth.
Some other points I’d like to discuss further:
Jackson’s treatment of the Aragorn/Arwen relationship, specifically her near rebellious attitude towards her father. I’m not sure what my thought are exactly, but it seemed like he painted it in a much less subissive way to authorities than it should be.
In a related topic, I’d like to discuss Jacksons treatment of Aragorns self-doubt (which was mostly non-existent in the books).
Why did Jackson feel it necessary to engender some sort of animosity between the Elvish and Human kindreds?
After listening to the rationale behind their treatment of Farimir, I still think it was a mistake. It could very well be a result of the writing process and partially out of their control. I know its hard to keep the big picture in your mind, especially when so many things are pulling at you, and there were genuine concerns and reasons for their approach, but to some degree it put in serious danger some very important plot points, and I don’t like it.