Jonathan Last doesn't much care for the third LoTR movie - he savages the movie in his review. There's a problem though - either he's never read the books, or he doesn't remember them - a lot of his criticisms are just completely uninformed. I agree with him on the change of Faramir - but curiously - he misses the significant changes made to Denethor in the third movie. The movie has Denethor completely giving up - in the book, while he's grieving for Boromir:
- he doesn't send Faramir out on a suicide charge (he gets injured by a Nazgul during the fall of Osgiliath)
- he does light the signal fires, calling for aid (the movie has Gandalf and Pippin doing it)
Last watched the movie without following it, and has clearly forgotten the books. Here are a few things he messes up completely
The script also serves many of the lead characters poorly. Aragorn, for one, seems listless and passive. Where "Fellowship" and "The Two Towers" had light moments sprinkled here and there, "Return of the King" is bereft of them, save for one bit of stoner humor involving Merry and Pippin (Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd), which is so utterly out of place that it borders on the offensive.
Huh? He didn't watch the same movie I did. I'm wracking my brain here, and the only thing I can come up with is the "Flotsam and Jetsom" scene where Merry and Pippin greet Gandalf (et. al.) at the gates of Isengard. That was true to the book - they had been smoking and drinking, and over indulging in general. That scene went pretty much just as the book did (although there it was in "Two Towers"). Last misses this; he needs to go re-read that part. Probably more than once. Let's take the next misperception up
Then there's Frodo and Sam. There is a school of Tolkien readers that delights in imagining a homoerotic subtext between Frodo and his faithful servant. This interpretation is bunk, of course, and was mercifully absent from the first two episodes, but in "Return of the King" there are several occasions when it appears that Sam and Frodo are about to kiss, full on the mouth. On the last one, Frodo does kiss Sam, albeit on the forehead. Go figure.
Sigh. Clearly, Last hasn't read "Return of the King" lately. You see, there's one problem with Last's issue here - that scene was true to the book. From page 384 of "Return of the King"
Then Frodo kissed Merry and Pippin, and last of all Sam, and went aboard; and the sails were drawn up, and the wind blew, and slowly the ship slipped away down the long grey firth; and the light of the glass of Galadriel that Frodo bore glimmered and was lost
There's a problem with Last's mind, not with the book or the movie. These characters are showing the affection of comrades in arms - likely drawn from Tolkien's actual experience as a British soldier during World War I. Last simply doesn't get this, and his politics get in the way of understanding it. Go read the blasted book, and understand where Tolkien was coming from. Sheesh. The cluelessness continues:
IRONICALLY, Jackson's biggest failing this time out comes in the area of his greatest strength: pacing. The script has trouble with compression, compacting days into minutes without adequately portraying the passage of time. The story, which takes place over several weeks, plays as if it spans just a day or three and involves much wasted motion. (For example, the scene where Pippin grabs the palantír is used simply as a bloated excuse to geographically separate him from his chum Merry.)
Sigh. That's from the book. The only thing missing (and it'll be added back to the extended DVD) was Wormtongue throwing it down in the first place. Pippin became fascinated by the thing, and felt compelled to grab it, and then to peer into it later. In fact, peering into it - and having Sauron see him - was exactly why Gandalf spirited him away to Minas Tirith. Perhaps if Last had bothered doing some research - you know, that thing journalists are supposed to do - he'd know that. As to the matter of "several weeks" - it was thirteen days from the fall of Boromir to Pippin's pledge of loyalty to Denethor and Gondor - not quite two weeks. The pacing was fast because - at that point in the story - things were moving fast. Again, Last makes assumptions based on some half remembered reading of the books.
The movie left Last cold, but much of that seems to be due to the fact that he misread large sections of it. He should go back and read the trilogy again, and then review the movie. His issue with the changing of Faramir will remain; most of his other issues will disappear.