First, of course:
Lord of the Rings Net: the official site
Peter Jackson has given us a masterpiece, as wonderful a film as the novel is a book. And the Extended Versions (available in both VHS and DVD) are the definitive versions - not just with 'deleted scenes', but recut, some scenes reshot, with many new effects shots, and even rescored.
Some of the Poetry
A look at the Oscars
"Foxtrot" goes to the movies
The Fellowship of the RingIt's here, it's brilliant, it's virtually a perfect translation from the written words of Tolkien to the visual images of Peter Jackson. That is Rivendell on the screen. Casting - perfect. The words are often Tolkien's, even if they are moved in time or given to a different speaker - and the moment that the hobbits fell down the hillside and we heard "It's a shortcut." "A shortcut? To what?" "Mushrooms!" I knew we were in good hands.
The best of hands - PJ is not only a Lord of the Rings fan, he's a movie maker, and a good one. He knows what to do with that massive book to make it into a movie (an equally massive one, more than 12 hours when it's done!) - how to pick what needs to be kept, what needs to be changed, and what needs to be left out (let's face it: Tom Bombadill stops the plot in its tracks for 80 pages). PJ isn't filming the book: he's translating it. And brilliantly.
Sure, there are quibbles, weeny ones, but so tiny they're hardly worth mentioning. This movie is truly a must. See itoften.
Oh. My. It's even better in the extended version on DVD. Almost every quibble answered and removed. More depth, more characterization - especially of Boromir, with whom Sean Bean has done wonders - but also more of the budding friendship of Legolas and Gimli, and more for Merry and Pippin. "On Hobbits" restored as the beginning (after the prolog). Some nice little jokes. The gifts of Galadriel. More Legolas... Oh, yes.
Huge sigh. The Two Towers. Helm's Deep - golly. Sure, it doesn't take up that much room in the book, but this is a movie (and a movie suffering from having neither a beginning nor an ending, at that), and a huge set-piece battle like this makes a perfect climax. It's true, poor Éomer doesn't get much screen time, but his lines are mostly there, given to Théoden, who is the main Rohirrim character - and it's a good choice. It's going to make his relationship with Merry, and his death on the Pelennor Fields (oops - you have read the books, haven't you?), mean more. Plus, when Éomer answers Gandalf's "Théoden King stands alone" with his grimly joyful, "Not alone" and the Rohirrim come up over the hillcrest... shivers. Edoras and the Golden Hall of Meduseld are, like Rivendell, perfect. Théodred's death and funeral, and Théoden's melancholic recovery - perfect as well. Frodo and Sam and Sméagol/Gollum is gorgeous - in fact, Gollum will make you forgive CGI for Jar-Jar. (No, really, he will.) Andy Serkis's performance is spot-on and spookily believable. I was a bit worried about the Ents, but they work, they work fine. The breaking of Isengard is well done, too - hell, the whole movie is brilliantly done!
(Okay, so Merry's relationship with Théoden suffered from the need to give Pip one with Faramir (can't say I miss Beregond all that much, unlike the Prince of Dol Amroth... but that's a different story), but still Théoden's death resonated much more with Éomer's part being cut back a bit.)
As we've come to expect, this one's also better in the extended version. Faramir is a lot closer to the one in the book, without being either (a) so strong or (b) so completely powerless that the Ring has no effect on him. In fact, the Ring strikes at him through his family, not through any ambition of his own... and that achingly perfect scene of "The Sons of the Steward"... oh, lord. I could watch those few minutes dozens of times. Sean Bean is exquisite in it. This scene, telling you everything you need to know about Denethor and his sons, is the one I think should have been left in. There's more Merry, Pippin, and the Ents, too, so that plot-thread isn't quite the afterthought it seems in the theatrical version. A bit more at Edoras, plus a look at the battle at the Ford of Isen... grace notes scattered throughout. Gorgeously done.
Here's a nice excerpt from Stephen Hunter's prize-winning review of The Two Towers. Ignore his little problem with dwarves and elves and focus on his evocation of the battle
In other words: see this one, too, and often.
And, in case you were wondering... The Return of the King. Oh yessssssssssssss. Sure, I'd have liked to see the bits they cut out towards the end, the Isengard scene with Saruman and Wormtongue, and the Houses of Healing. But they'll be in the extended version, and I can wait. After all, most critics called the movie too long as it is. And as a whole, the end is just fine as it is. The battle of the Pelennor is perfect: the arrival of the Rohirrim (a scene which is a perfect realization of the book's), the tide turning again when the Haradrim show up, then the arrival of the Corsairs... Damn good. Legolas vs the mumakil was perfection (as was Aragorn taking one look at it and yelling for his elegant, ruthless, Elven killer), and Legolas in the Houses of Healing caused my friend to wonder if Tolkien had written the part for Orlando Bloom...
The changes were mostly needed: Merry doesn't spend three days riding with "Dernhelm" and not catch on, for instance. No annoying Gondorian child. If Elrond's sons weren't coming with the Dunadain Rangers (just what this movie needed, right? More new characters), then Elrond coming was fine. And as Aragorn hadn't embraced his destiny when he left Rivendell, it made sense that only now does he get Anduril (though, frankly, Elrond had to be hiding that thing in the same other dimension the Immortals on "Highlander" hid their swords; he did not have it under his cloak the whole time, it's longer than he is tall!).
The Denethor-Faramir scene was pointed and aching (even more if you'd seen the extended Two Towers scene): "You wish now that our places had been exchanged, that Boromir had lived and I had died." "Yes. I wish that." You could see the realization in Faramir's face that no, he would never, not even now, be able to please his father, so he might as well go and die, since that's all there was left for him. Pippin's song! Oh! Gollum was great, again, even better I think than before. Sam comes into his own, and the physical changes in Frodo are subtle and perfect. Grace notes everywhere, like Éomer's face when Éowyn asks him why Merry should not ride to war, or the reactions of the Rohirrim warrior who gets ale kicked over him by Pippin when he and Merry are dancing on the table, or the way Legolas smiles at Aragorn at his coronation, or the heartbreaking (and broken) look on Elrond's face... And one of my favorite things about these movies, the sprinkling of things left unexplained, as when Elrond tells Aragorn, in Elvish, "I gave hope to Men," and Aragorn answers, "I kept no hope for myself." If you don't know that Aragorn's Elvish name is Estel, Hope, and that his mother said that to him just before he died ... well, if you don't know it, you don't. You can take it as a riff on the "there is always hope" line that Aragorn is always saying, most memorably to the boy in Helm's Deep, and I imagine it works. But if you do know that, you can nod and smile. PJ gave the fans of the book a lot of little moments like that, while giving the whole world a masterpiece. What can I say, but: See It.
And the extended version - ahhhhhh. Another 50 minutes, and all perfect. The Merry-Pippin parting is more poignant, and Merry gets more screen time altogether, even though his relationship with the Rohirrim, and with Théoden in particular ("As a father you were to me, for a little while", and the bit about thinking of him when he smoked...) got cut, but I can fill it in in my mind, it could have happened still, there's room for it. Pippin's hunt for Merry stretching out all day - very good, very desperate. I miss the lines they cut (I wish they hadn't changed "Are you going to bury me?" to "Are you going to leave me?", but that's a quibble), but if they weren't going to dwell on Merry in the Houses of Healing, his lines would have gone nowhere (and see above for filling it in...) The lovely moment when Éomer finds his sister on the field of battle (I did miss the Imrahil's comments, on that and on the double loss of kings, but the moment's strong. And I missed Théoden's funeral, but since we saw Théodred's in The Two Towers I can see that, too.) And we did get the moment when, pretending to be talking about Merry (of course, Théoden's refusal to let him come along was always about keeping him alive and never about any impossibility of his coming; clearly he could ride with Éowyn and not slow her down, and there were thousands of men there who could have swapped him off every hour. It was purely Théoden's unwillingness to risk the young hobbit's life), Éomer did his best to keep his sister out of the battle in the first place.
Of course, there's the death of Saruman (at Isengard) and the Houses of Healing, where the Captain and the White Lady, two wounded souls, find each other. (You could see, as in the extended version yet one more person tried to tell Faramir not to give up on Denethor, that he just really wished people would stop saying it. And that spooky scene when Denthor hallucinated Boromir - oh. my. god.) There's the Mouth of Sauron! And the Witchking of Angmar does confront Gandalf just as the Rohirrim arrive. There's more of the Paths of the Dead - including Legolas's gorgeous description of the Dead following them - and then we see the attack on the Corsairs (with PJ, appearing in his third cameo*, getting killed by Legolas)... and that brief moment of despair, between Legolas and Aragorn - simply beautiful.
* If you missed the other two, he lurches past the hobbits in the street at Bree, and he's up on the battlement at Helm's Deep.
Check here for a somewhat geeky but truly funny look at the Oscar snubs.
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