Tuesday, 20 July 2010

(500) Films of Empire - Day 308

Following my statement that I felt the Toy Story films were "the greatest film trilogy of all time"TM. I felt that I was right in my opinion but asked others for theirs. The perfect trilogy is hard to find many trilogies have become sagas thanks to recent fourth entries (Indiana Jones, Alien, Terminator), others let down by poor third parts (Spider-Man, X-Men, Godfather), whilst the Bourne trilogy, while all great movies, is exposed as being quite "samey" in that Damon is always on the run from shadowy suits using computers while he tries to regain his memory.
General consensus seemed to put forward only one genuine contender - The Lord Of The Rings.
And so with a plentiful supply of drinks, snacks and takeaway pizza I settled in for a day of watching the 12 hours that would be the extended versions of LOTR.
Would it be the greatest film trilogy of all time? Or "just three movies of people walking to a fucking volcano" like Randall critiques in Clerks II.

24 - LOTR: The Fellowship Of The Ring - 3 stars
And we're off. I initially didn't think much of FOTR when I saw it at the cinema but when I got the extended version I enjoyed it a lot more.
That was then. On this viewing I started to pick up on the holes in the story and the lack of pacing at times. Pacing is very important when dealing with 12 hours of film!
I never read the books so was coming to these films just from a moviegoer's perspective, not as a critique comparing the books and the films.
I started to worry when at the end of the first disc (the extended editions were split over two discs) they had only just formed the Fellowship of the Ring. That meant the entire second disc would be made up of them walking.
I really didn't need to spend a half hour wandering around Hobbiton or hanging out with Galadriel. Oh and talking of Hobbition, why exactly does one tiny town in the shire happen to have hobbits from Ireland, Scotland, America and Yorkshire?!
I know that Peter Jackson wanted to be faithful to the book but over the course of the trilogy there are only so many times that the Fellowship can be attacked while walking towards Mordor.
Grumbles aside, the film is extremely well made. Jackson maintains control over all aspects of the filmmaking process and delivers a great looking film with well drawn characters. Even if they are more characters than necessary but I understand that cutting out parts of the story would have caused uproar within the fan camps.
Out of the performances, Ian McKellen deliver gravitas as Gandalf and surprisingly my favourite performance in this part came from Sheffield's Own Sean Bean, who has one of the longest death sequences in cinema history (apart from possibly Mr Orange in Reservoir Dogs who lies in a pool of his own blood for the whole film). Boromir has a good character arc and a heroic death to boot. It takes three arrows to take this man down. Go Sharpe!

54 - LOTR: The Two Towers - 4 stars
Hey anyone else remember when after 9/11 people were saying that they should change the name of The Two Towers because it was reminding people of the tragedy at the Twin Towers?! People are stupid some times.
Second part gets under way and luckily the Fellowship have been split up so that we have three seperate stories to fill out the time with:
Frodo and Sam walk to Mordor picking up Gollum on the way, Merry and Pippin walk with the trees, and Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli walk/ride with the captain of the Titanic to Helm's Deep for a throwdown with a shitload of Orcs.
This was my favourite part of the trilogy mainly due to two things: Gollum and Helm's Deep.
The performance of Gollum as a fully CGI character banished all the memories of Jar Jar Binks thanks to the wonderful work of WETA workshop and Andy Serkis.
Serkis was a relative unknown before LOTR but in one scene, he revolutionised the way that performance capture was done and then received by the public.
The scene in question is where Smeagol and Gollum have a two-way conversation between the opposing sides of his personality. Pure genius and a wonderful way to handle what would have normally translated as a tricky scene to pull off in the book.
The second highlight of the film was the Battle of Helm's Deep. An epic, rousing fight scene with thousands of extras (a nice lack of CGI here) as Saruman's orcs lay siege to the walled defences of Helm's Deep. A great mixture of arrows, sword, and hand-to-hand combat that is huge in scale yet feels claustrophobic in terms of space.
The highpoint of the trilogy but many people disagree since it is not a complete story, only the middle part without a beginning or an end, but then my favourite Star Wars film is The Empire Strikes Back so what do I know?!

34 - LOTR: The Return Of The King - 3 stars
By now I was struggling. Sure you get a stirring sequence every now and then like the Ride of the Roheirrhem. But some 10+ hours in and a few things were now apparent to me. Merry, Pippin and the Ents were just really annoying. I can't believe that they didn't get killed off. They were just really there for comic relief and didn't do much of that.
It was very odd for a film of this nature to get to the end of the story and only have one of the main group of characters on this journey die along the way. Gandalf doesn't count because he comes back. Any other quest or disaster film would have had a few more deaths e.g. Posidien Adventure, Saving Private Ryan, etc.
The other problem for me was the simmering sexual tension between Frodo and Sam. Three films of talking about each other's ring, the two of them should have just found a cave and got the dirty deed over and done with. And the nonsense about how Sam gets married when he goes back to the Shire, give me a break. She is the one of the most blatant beards in the history of movies.
However saved for end of the film are the biggest problems in the entire trilogy.
Number 1 - The eagles. After the ring is destroyed and Sam and Frodo lie exhausted on the mountain top, probably after having some hot Hobbit love, they are rescued by eagles who swoop in and save them. Where the hell were they the rest of the time?! Gandalf had one doing his bidding in the first film so why didn't he just get one to give Frodo a lift to Mount Doom? Probably because it wouldn't have made for as exciting a journey but it certainly would have chalked a few hours off the running time.
Which brings me to my second problem with this part of the trilogy aka the Never Ending Story with its multiple endings. Following the destruction of the ring, Frodo and Sam share a moment and then the screen fades to black. Film's over right? Nope. We have to endure about a dozen more endings where they all say goodbye to each other, live happily ever after, etc. I will admit that when I first saw this in the cinema I burst out laughing when Viggo started singing an Elvish song. Then Frodo is seen writing the story of The Lord of The Rings but then they tack on a couple more. Fair enough for the fans of the book, but your average cinemagoer i.e. ME does not need all this closure.

So my time with the Lord Of The Rings has come to an end and I still feel justified in my claim. Sorry Peter Jackson but Toy Story is still the greatest film trilogy of all time.

Days remaining - 57 Films remaining - 59

1 comment:

  1. I agree with a lot of your comments, but I would urge you to read the books. You feel you know the characters better, so more ending are needed, nae, desired. Oh, and no real homo-erotic Frodo/Sam, nonsense!