After a harrowing trip back up from Scenic Whitney Point, we're home, and the dog has been freed from durance vile, and all is well at Chateau Steelypips. Posting here will continue to be light, as I attempt to catch up on my book log (I've done a bunch of reading over the past few weeks).
Not coincidentally, there are two new entries there now. Go read them.
There's No Place Like I-88 for the Holidays
I'm off to kennel the dog (she doesn't do well with other dogs, despite being the cutest thing ever, and she definitely wouldn't do well with R.D. (my parents' nine-month-old yellow Lab)), and do a little last-minute shopping and stuff at work, then Kate and I are off to my parents' in Scenic Whitney Point for a few days. Blogging will thus be almost nonexistent. Not that there's anybody reading this at the moment, anyway.
Merry Christmas to all. (Assuming you celebrate Christmas, that is. If you don't, Merry Obligation-Free Day Off Work. Unless you're in another country, or an industry that doesn't recognize Christian holidays, or something, in which case, um... Look! The Winged Victory of Samothrace!)
And to all a good night.
Business Cards From Hell
A little while back, there was an online poll on gay marrriage run by a bunch of annoying fundies that got linked by various bloggers. It was a slow day at work, so I went over there and voted against their preferred option. By way of thanks, I got email this morning that began:
I want to take this opportunity to wish you a Merry Christmas, and to offer my sincerest thanks for signing the American Family Association's poll on marriage.
which at least suggests that they did keep the voting anonymous. Sadly, the letter goes on into the usual gibberish about saving gays through the holy power of Jeebus, which doesn't deserve repeating.
What caught my eye, though, was the signature:
Homosexual Issues Editor
American Family Association
I bet that title gets some interesting reactions at convention parties...
The King, He's Back
The Return of the King has been out for five days now, so the hard-core fans have mostly seen it already. Those who haven't seen it are advised to skip the following, as it will be massively spoiler-ridden.
SPOILERS for The Return of the King
As usual, waiting a few days to post about a topic has made my job easier. A lot of the things I'd like to say have been said by Timothy Burke. While I don't agree with everything he says, I agree with most of it. Of course, the existence of his review won't stop me from repeating some of what he says... Kate posted some early comments as well. And, of course, a wealth of material is available in this Making Light post and comment thread. The main result of a lot of the comments is to remind me that I really can't relate very well to the hardest of the hard-core Tolkien fans, but it's fascinating stuff, as always.
Overall, I thought it was a terrific movie. Everything just looks fantastic, and they did a wonderful job with a lot of the key scenes. Minas Tirith looks amazing, the Ride of the Rohirrim was great, Shelob was spectacularly creepy, and they nailed the tone of the whole thing.
This is a weblog, though, so anything I post about it has to include some bitching. In order to end on an up note, though, I'll get the negative stuff out of the way first:
Changes I Really Didn't Like:
- The biggest problem I had with the movie, in terms of story changes, has to be the end of the Ring. In the book Gollum gets the Ring away from Frodo, and topples into the fire while capering about celebrating. It's fairly important to the story, and to Tolkien's brand of Catholicism, that the Ring is destroyed by chance, and not through any action of Frodo's. Having Frodo attack Gollum, and cause him to topple off the cliff undermines that point.
- Arwen. I don't know what they were thinking with this-- like Aragorn really needs her to be wasting away in order to fight Sauron.... I actually approved of the expansion of her character in the first movie, but after that, she just fell apart.
- Denethor's death. The image of him lying down calmly, Palantir in hand, and dying on the pyre is very powerful. Him running out of the room, and leaping off a cliff was just silly.
Changes I Didn't Like, but Understand: These are mostly scenes I would've liked to see. Weirdly, they tend to owe a lot to the fact that I saw the Rankin-Bass cartoon version several times before I even read the book....
- Gandalf facing the Witch King. It's really kind of a nothing scene, in many ways-- they exchange a couple lines of dialogue, and then nothing happens-- but it would've been cool to see.
- The Mouth of Sauron. Again, kind of a nothing scene, but it would add a little style to the fight at the Black Gate. I understand the omission, though-- in the book, the Frodo-Sam plotline comes after the Black Gate scene, so there's some suspense, which would be lost in the movie, where we already know that Sam and Frodo escaped. Without that suspense, there's no point.
- Frodo and Sam get drafted into the Orc army. OK, this one owes a lot to the "Where There's a Whip" song from the Rankin-Bass version, but it's a great scene in the books, too. It'd take a lot of time to do right, though, and the movie was already pretty full.
- Frodo and Gollum on the slopes of Mount Doom. In the book, there's a scene where Frodo threatens Gollum on the slopes of the mountain, and appears as a huge figure, with the ring a giant wheel of fire. Putting it in would destroy the suspense of the scene where he gives in to the Ring, but I like the image, and there's a nifty bit of foreshadowing.
- The loss of the Shadow. Timothy Burke goes on a bit about how much the loss of the enveloping shadow of Mordor hurts the movie. I'm sympathetic to this, to some degree-- it's a nice image, that I did miss. On the other hand, leaving it out doesn't detract all that much from the battle, and does give the Pelennor Fields sequence a distinct look. Plus, shooting those scenes during the day probably saved Peter Jackson from being lynched by his stunt team.
Changes I'm Indifferent To:
- The Houses of Healing. I never actually cared that much about this scene in the book, so I don't miss it much. I'm also not entirely sure it would make sense in the movie, as Eowyn is still ambulatory after killing the Witch King.
- The Giant Mutant Elephants. Yeah, it's a little excessive, and draws out the battle scene, but two things made it basically worthwhile: 1) "That still only counts as one!" and 2) The look on Theoden's face when he sees the advancing elephants, and then orders another charge.
- The shortened ending. The Scouring of the Shire is a nice scene in the books, but putting it in would make the ending drag even more than it already does. Leaving out the rest of the Fellowship Farewell Tour is a solid improvement.
Changes That Improved on the Book
- Gollum's psychological warfare. Having Sam actually start back was a little dumb, but overall, I thought this really tightened up that part of the story. It made Gollum's transformation back from Smeagol much more concrete, and I liked the extra tension between Frodo and Sam.
- Eowyn and Theoden. The whole Eowyn plotline was terrific, but I particularly like the fact that Theoden sees her as he's dying (in the book, he talks to Merry, and dies thinking Eowyn is still in Rohan). I thought it was a great touch that his first line in that scene ("I know your face.") echoes his first line in the second movie after Saruman's spell is broken. Bernard Hill and Miranda Otto are great.
- Battle scenes. In general, I thought that Jackson did an excellent job with the battle scenes. Not so much on the tactical level, where they make little sense, but on a cinematic level. He does a great job of cutting back and forth between known characters doing heroic deeds, and random soldiers or civilians looking scared and so forth. It does a nice job of driving home the effect of warfare on the people involved, something that's kind of lacking in the books (though, to be fair, that's absent in pretty much all epics). (Kate thought the civilian stuff in The Two Towers was over the top, but I thought it was effective, and anyway, she was just cranky about what they did with Faramir...)
I could wibble on about the movie for quite a bit longer, and I may do that later. But for now, I'll stop there.