Friday, September 5, 2008

Review - The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
2004 Hugo Winner for Best Long Form Dramatic Presentation
2004 Nebula Winner for Best Script

Gollum's Acceptance Speech at the MTV Movie Awards
2004 Hugo Winner for Best Short Form Dramatic Presentation

Third time's the charm, right?

For that person who has been held in some third world prison for the past ten years and is being forced to read this blog as torture here's quick synopsis. In this last film the two guys finally reach the volcano while a lot of fighting happens elsewhere. Then the movie has six endings.

Once again I enjoyed it quite a bit and was satisfied with it as an adaptation of the book. The three movies were shot simultaneously they're really aspects of one whole piece even if Jackson adapted them so each movie had a conflict that would be resolved by the end of it. So my comments on The Fellowship of the Ring apply just as equally to The Return of the King.

On the subject of the quality of the adaptation many people became agitated when it was made clear early on in the movies' development that certain points of this book would be dropped. My response to this was that once the ring hit the lava the theater audience would only tolerate things for another fifteen minutes. Director Peter Jackson actually went with roughly a half hour of wrapping up and you'll note that the many endings was one of the biggest complaints about the film.

I have to confessed that I was surprised when The Return of the King swept the Academy Awards that year taking eleven awards and winning every category it was nominated in. Just about every single one was a technical award and I can't dispute that they were well earned. Best director is a stretch but no other director in film history has taken on such a massive project and Jackson succeeded perfectly. The best picture and best song awards on the other hand are not my preferences (The Triplets of Belleville got robbed on best song); I suspect that those categories got caught up in the popularity of the film.

That popularity I suspect drove the short form Hugo since it is one of the very few times with the dramatic presentation where I strongly disagree. Here's that winner in its entirety (and if you haven't seen it, go ahead and watch it now; it's less than three minutes long).

Really, that's it in its entirety. It's an amusing bit of fluff but "Best Dramatic Presentation"? Okay, the Buffy series ending wasn't that great and neither was the Smallville episode but that quickly done two minute gag beat out the two episodes of Firefly that Fox actually aired. The popular name with nothing behind it beat actual "presentations".

That's the legacy of Jackson's adaptation of The Lord of the Rings. It's massive popularity has made the three films the twenty-fourth, fourteenth, and tenth top grossing films of all time (they were higher but several movies have beaten their totals). Many more people have now seen these movies than read the books. Much like The Wizard of Oz the movie is likely to supplant the original in popular consciousness. Some people may have found the book through the movies but they're the exceptions rather than the rule.

Here's a quick example of that using the supreme arbiter of popularity: a googlefight.

"Lord of the Rings" movie - 13.3 million
"Lord of the Rings" book - 11.2 million

Despite it's head start and it's place deep in the heart of nerds the movie has reached many more people. My mother who wouldn't have been able to tell an orc from a fork has seen them. Better get used to that Tolkien fans, Jackson's is the one people will remember while the books fade.

There's a certain irony to that.