I recently took the opportunity to see all three of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movies back to back to back. I'd seen them all before, but never in one day. I wanted to get my notes down for my own benefit, but I hope some of 'em are interesting to other people as well:
- I'd forgotten how few dwarves were in the story. I know that's the case with the books as well, but Gimli might as well be the dwarf.
- I don't really understand the decision to change Saruman's character so radically. I understand you have to take shortcuts from time to time when translating books to the screen, but I don't see any reason for this change.
- Speaking of characters who shouldn't have been using palantirs, I think mentioning the fact that Denethor had been driven to despair by what he'd seen in his would have given a little depth of his character or at least helped explain why he was so dead set on burning himself.
- Sean Bean was a lot better looking than I remembered. He did a terrific job in what I think was probably the most difficult role in the first film.
- The women were sold awfully short. Galadriel was terrific, but expanding Arwen's screen time was a mistake and her storyline left Elrond with little to do except be the disapproving father. There were far too many shots of Eowyn gazing winsomely at Aragorn rather than being the badass we all know she was.
- The fingernails! Oh my, so many dirty, crusty fingernails. They definitely added to the grittiness of the films, but I didn't remember there being so many of them.
- In a couple of places, the films actually filled in the gaps where my imagination failed. Helm's Deep looks exactly like what was written, but my mind hadn't really developed that picture properly. Likewise, the Paths of the Dead and Dwimorberg were places I'd struggled to visualize and the films brought into focus.
- Of all the cities in the film, Edoras was my favorite. I loved that the scale of it was far more realistic than what you see in most fantasy films. It felt like a real place rather than a fantasy set for a movie.
- The casting was perfect. I can't think of a single main character who didn't both look and act the part. You can't get more 'Gandalf' than Ian McKellen, can you? But...of all the characters, I'd have to say that Orlando Bloom was the one who was utterly irreplaceable.
- I don't get why Glamdring didn't glow when orcs were around like Sting did. Given the attention to detail, there must have been a reason for it, but it seemed strange to me.
- Maybe it's just me, but the Mouth of Sauron looked like a Richard Case Doom Patrol drawing brought to life. Creeeeepy....
- This was true in the books as well, but the Faramir and Eowyn romance seemed kind of sad and perfunctory. Faramir was clearly her second choice, just as Faramir had been his own father's second choice. It felt like they were settling for each other more than anything.
- The musical was gorgeous. The themes, however, got so heavy handed that they were distracting at times. Any time Sam was trying to comfort Frodo, or any time The Shire was mentioned, in come the flutes! It got almost comical at times.
- On that note, I would like to thank Peter Jackson for including so many details and Easter eggs in the films that weren't strictly necessary but added to my enjoyment enormously. Having Aragorn sing the story of Beren and Luthien to the halflings at Amon Sul made me smile.
All in all, I still say it's about as good as a film version of the Lord of the Rings could be. It's a far, far better trilogy than the either Star Wars series. Of course, it helps to have a book you're basing your films on, and it's even better when you conceive and film your trilogy as a trilogy right from the start. But give Peter Jackson his due: He film an unfilmable series of books and he succeeded beyond any reasonable expectation.
Your fanboy, RK