As promised, here is my Academy screening NO SPOILERS review. This was at Time/Warner on 51st Street NYC.
I am so happy! Warmly happy, yes, and I’m also sad. Both at once. In fact I feel just like I feel when I get to the last pages of the book. I said to my still sniffling colleagues as we rode the elevator down, I forgot how sad it all is, and that watching this movie would make me feel bad at the end, not good. (I mean that in the best sense!) I spent the day so eager to get to the screening room and for the lights to dim, that I naturally expected to feel celebratory afterwards. Believe me, there is plenty to celebrate about this film, but at the moment I am still mourning for poor Frodo.
I loved it. Yes, wholeheartedly. I suppose I can’t really say I m satisfied because what I mostly want, I can’t have for more than two weeks: I WANT TO SEE IT AGAIN! Ah me, where to start. Well, at the important part. The ending. Yes, dear friends, they get it right. It’s not the book but they get it right. Yes it has six endings and I love every one of them (I didn’t really count them!). Every one is earned and every one works. I was hoping for a few more, to tell you the truth, I did NOT want it to be over. BTW, they also get the climax right!
The film is stunning. Amazing. Frightening. Breathtaking. Heartbreaking. Epic and intimate all at once. Elijah delivers every single solitary moment and will probably be overlooked for acting honors simply because he doesn’t seem to be acting, he seems to be crawling to Mordor to destroy the One Ring. Astin is fantastic and so, so right. Viggo delivers. Bernard Hill, Liv and John Noble are all wonderful. But really, it’s wrong to single anyone out since they are all so amazingly good. I want more of them all, of course.
Peter Jackson and his marvelous team make it all look so easy. He takes you so fully into Middle Earth that you forget you’re watching made-up creatures and all you can do is react to them emotionally. The Nazgul, the Mumakil, the Orcs, the Trolls. You feel the weight of the odds against you. When you see, along with the Rohirrim, the heart-crushing view of Minas Tirith surrounded by the hordes of Mordor you want to find some place to hide to save your own skin, rather than rev yourself up for a death ride against them.
So many amazing moments. Smeagol and Deagol, Frodo’s first moment with The Ring. Pippin and the Palantir, Eowyn and Merry, Gandalf and Pippin’s arrival in Minas Tirith! Denethor sinking into madness. The Beacons of Gondor! What visual and emotional poetry is made of this! The muster of Rohan! Aragorn and Anduril! Shelob spinning Frodo! Sam charging up the stairs in Cirith Ungol, Naked Frodo! The arrival of the Corsairs. All of Mt. Doom and The Last Battle. And the eagles! The eagles! I think they have my favorite moment of all.
A word of warning to those who know the books, (no, don’t be worried): You know how jarring it is to watch these films the first time through because it’s so hard to put THE BOOK aside. Well, I had that feeling on and off for about the first hour and then it totally went away. The beginning has the most changes and feels the most awkwardly cut. I didn’t miss Saruman at all, although I will be thrilled to see his scenes restored on the DVD. Purists will find plenty to complain of since there are missing words, scenes and beats and, frankly, several missing concepts, and believe me, I understand what Moriarity means by problematic and its not bad. I swear, I think there could have been six more movies made of just this material. What IS on screen is so fantastically realized that you just can’t help wanting to see everything they left out. The changes in this third film are less on the invention side and more on the ramp up the tension side, and no doubt we will be arguing for many months whether some or any of it was justified or not. But for me it’s just like taking a different path to get to the same beloved place.
Oh yes, my friends, all who love Tolkien’s story and his grand masterpiece, you are going to need those Kleenex. Unless you never cry while reading the books. Come on Dec 17th!
Be strong and resist spoilers. You will love being surprised,