WHAT I DID NOT LIKE
1. Faramir was one of my favorite characters in the books. He is markedly less noble here, although most of the damage was already done in The Two Towers. His heroism, as well as his admiration for his older brother, does not come across well.
2. Denethor was an epic tragic figure in the books. Here, he comes off as petty and vindictive; a crazy man, not a great man crazed by the loss of his beloved son. The handling of the Denethor-Faramir relationship was probably the biggest disappointment to me, aside from Liv Tyler’s unaccountably tepid Arwen. She’s beautiful, but bland, bland, bland.
3. Horses don’t charge for over a mile. They also don’t charge walled positions. Silly. This happened several times.
4. The Great Sleepless Eye as spotlight. Sauron can see across Middle Earth, but not through a rock right in front of it? What was that? Minor, but very weird.
5. The tiny size of the Army of the West, and the way it gets surrounded. Ever heard of a defensive square, gentlemen? Or better yet, a fighting withdrawal using the seven hills of the book? It didn’t make sense and it wasn’t dramatic. Again, minor, but a strangely inept touch. The same sort of thing happened when Eomer’s riders surrounded Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli. If you crowd too much, no one can do anything. What was the point? Yes, they’re surrounded. We get it. Oh, they’re really, really, really surrounded? Come on.
6. Elrond’s reduction in stature. I’d prefer to have seen him remain aloof, even bitter.
7. The siege of Gondor seemed rushed. I thought the siege of Helms Deep came off more powerfully.
8. Aragorn seemed rather lacking in authority when he confronted the dead. He was such a stud taking on the Nazgul and the orcs; I found this a little surprising and disappointing.
THINGS I REALLY, REALLY LIKED
1. The Riders of Rohan were perfect. Theoden’s transformation from deceived victim to triumphant victor was great. His line about being able to enter the Hall of his Fathers without sorrow or shame brought tears to my eyes. I loved Theoden in the books, loved him even more in the movies.
2. I had my doubts about Eowyn. While the actress didn’t quite fit my mental picture of her, she gradually grew on me. In The Return of the King, she comes into her own. I hope we’ll see more of her and Faramir in the extended DVD.
3. The charge of the Rohirrim. Yes, they didn’t fight the Oliphaunts in the books. No, it made little tactical sense considering their superior speed. But holy cats, it was so freaking cool!
4. Legolas rules, again.
5. The devotion to the close relationships of the hobbits. Some may have felt that the ending(s) was too drawn out, but I say no. These four had been through Hell and back, been irreparably changed – even maimed – and a quick Hollywood wave-and-ride-into-the-sunset would have been wrong, wrong, wrong. I never found Frodo terribly interesting in the books, but Elijah Woods did an outstanding job of bringing him to life. By the end, I wanted to weep with Sam.
6. The last fight with Gollum was much better than I imagined it could be.
7. The horrors of war and its effects on the women and children was tremendously powerful in each movie. The grief of the women and children as their men rode out on Faramir’s hopeless charge on Osgiliath was overpowering. Also great was the constant reminders that the men were fighting to protect those they loved. They rode willingly to die, that their loved ones might live.
8. The power of the Nazgul ripping apart the retreating cavalry of Gondor. And then, the aerial assault on the city walls.
9. Grond. It WAS Grond, nightmarish and terrifying.
10. The crotchety old hobbit glaring at the returning heroes, as he did at Gandalf before. There is the unconquerable strength of The Shire. He who refuses to be impressed by the glamour of the great will never lick the boots of a tyrant.
11. Loved the lighting of the watchtowers. Huge tension, plus it demonstrated some of the tactical realities involved. Very cool stuff.
12. The final scene. Sheer perfection. In a hole in the ground….
(My apologies to regular blog readers. There wasn’t room for all of this in today’s column, and I didn’t want to force any newcomers to wade through the last few days of posts.)