The Long View 2003-12-17: The Return of the King

John didn't do movie reviews often, so this is a treat.

The Return of the King

"Wake up, Mr. Frodo!"

"Oh, what time is it, Sam?"

"It's time to finish the last of these here Peter Jackson movies, begging your pardon."

"No, no. Sam, I can't stand it anymore! All I see before me is a huge cycle of product endorsements!"

"You know, Mr. Frodo, for a character who eats all the food and never has to carry the heavy bundles you seem to expect a lot of sympathy."

"Give me a break, Sam; I'm a Christ figure."

"That you're not, Mr. Frodo. Aragorn is a Christ figure: savior of the world; makes the Night Journey to free the unworthy Dead; presides at an apocalyptic battle: two of them, in this flick. The title of the book is The Return of the King. It's his Second Coming, not yours."

"Thanks, Sam. Every character loves to hear himself belittled when he wakes up on cold granite under a pre-eruption volcanic canopy. Is this film going to be as long as the other ones, Sam?"

"It's just as long, Mr. Frodo, but this is the only one of the three where the audience won't notice their ass going to sleep."

"It better be, if they want to sell any DVDs. The first two films were worthy efforts, but they were like sitting through three-hour operas to hear a few minutes of memorable music. The Fellowship of the Ring made hash of the exposition. The Two Towers tinkered with the book's plot without making the story much clearer. They even managed to leave out one of the Towers of the title."

"Ah, but this film is the payoff, Mr. Frodo. All the heavy lifting has been done. This film focuses on the Battle of Minas Tirith (the Pelennor was lost by the screenwriters, seemingly), and you've never seen such a thing. They have oilephaunts as big as those walker-carriers in Star Wars, and the trolls are as ornery as The Incredible Hulk, except they are interesting to watch because they don't jump around so much. The catapults on both sides throw small hills. It's a wonder, sir, if you don't mind my saying so."

"The wonder of our relationship, Sam, is that I can try to kill you in a homicidal rage, but I can't shut you up."

"Ain't it marvelous, Mr. Frodo? Anyway, this film doesn't do just the obvious things right. In the book, if you recall, the way that Mr. Aragorn recruits the army of the Dead is a great little story in itself, but it is not developed much. In this film, the producer plays it for all it's worth."

"Well, that's a comfort, Sam, but something is always lost, isn't it?

"Truer words were never spoken, Mr. Frodo. For instance, there's neither hide nor hair of Saruman in this film."

"Really, Sam? But that's wonderful news! That means, when we go home, we don't have to clear out a gang of ruffianly socialists!"

"Yes, Mr. Frodo, but it also means that they have to stick in Saruman's Palantir like a nose on Mr. Potato Head. But they don't mention Denethor's Palantir at all!"

"I'm sorry to hear that. Denethor is my favorite contemporary statesman."

"Then I'm afraid you'll have cause to be sorrier yet, sir. They make Denethor nothing more than a repulsive obstacle. Gandalf does not debate with him; he beats him up: twice. The film does the worst thing you can do to a character: it shows him eating while other people are suffering."

"We live in dark times, Sam, dark times. The sooner we're through the scenario, the sooner we'll be done with them. And just what are we supposed to do for the rest of the film?"

"Oh, pretty much what you'd expect, sir. You're still the suffering Everyman doing his duty in a historical context that seems to exclude hope. I'm still the world's most faithful sidekick, who won't desert even in the face of the worst abuse; which you'll give me in a few minutes, if I recollect properly."

"And speaking of abuse, Sam, where is Smeagol, our obviously untrustworthy guide?"

"Here I am, nice masters. Smeagol always comes when called."

"You seem very cheerful for a ruined creature of the darkness in an existential crisis, Stinker."

"Smeagol is surprised that the cross rude fat hobbit knows the word 'existential.' But Smeagol does not mind. In this film, Smeagol gets to appear as he was before he found the Ring. Just for a little, for a little bit of the old days. Gollum."

"Really? What do you do, Smeagol?"

"I strangle my best friend, dear sweet kind master."

(Softly to Sam) "Did we keep the giant lava pit?"

(Sam softly back) "Righto, Mr. Frodo."

"So, let's get on with it, Smeagol."

"Wise master: yes, let's get on with it....hobbits don't have cans of insect repellent in their nasty pocketses, do they?"

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