Friday, December 19, 2003

A return that took too long

Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great. Some achieve greatness. And some have greatness thrust upon them. Literally. Just like Frodo who has “greatness” thrust upon him to return an ordinarily looking ring back to its rightful place.

Ok, I admit. I’m not a true-blue LOTR fan, so I may not appreciate the heavy responsibility that Frodo burdened himself with. But The Return Of The King confirmed my suspicion that Frodo is a good-for-nothing with a delusional sense of his own greatness. In this final instalment of the LOTR trilogy, Frodo once again appeared like an epileptic who screws up at crucial moments only for the subservient (should I hazard the word “gay”?) Sam to save his ass. In “hindsight”, Sam’s saving of Frodo’s ass probably saved ours too; otherwise the movie will go on forever and our sorry asses will be beyond rescue by the time we get to the “bottom” of things.

And precisely because I’m not a LOTR fan, I shall not dwell on the merits (or otherwise) of the film adaptation. Suffice to say that The Return Of The King boasts some stunning cinematography, and the battle scenes with thousands of extras are wonderfully choreographed. However, if you compare these with the 45-minute or so battle of Helm’s Deep in The Two Towers, you will get the feeling that the director didn’t save the best for the last.

The Return Of The King also made me realise a couple of things:
(1) Medieval warfare is kinda… stupid.
(2) Strategy counts for little, and absolute numbers win. So always aim to be on the right side of the majority.
(3) Leadership comes with responsibilities and risks. But, somehow, the leaders in this movie seldom get killed. The odds of a leading man at the forefront getting crushed by the on-rushing enemy are surprisingly slim. Evidence: Except for King Theoden, practically all the leading characters – even the hobbits – survived the onslaught of the orcs and oliphaunts. Really amazing odds.

In terms of screen presence, the schizophrenic Smeagol, with the help of CGI, probably made the most impression. Theoden’s niece, Eowyn also left her mark with some gutsy fighting and the “I am no man!” outburst. Other characters, such as Agent Smith (oops, carried over from The Matrix), had such fleeting appearances that they barely made a dent in my memory. This explains why I can’t remember where Liv Tyler fitted into the entire scheme of things.

The numerous characters and sub-plots posed another problem. Whatever needs to be returned – the ring, the king – took too long in the end because all the loose ends had to be taken care of. Towards the end, this 3 hours 20 minutes movie will actually leave you begging for an ending.

Verdict: My apologies to LOTR/Peter Jackson fans, but I think The Return Of The King will do well with better editing.

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