Today, I thought I might do a post in two parts. In the first part, my plan is to discuss another movie that doesn't hold up any more in my opinion. In the second, I'll try to explain my thoughts on The Lord of the Rings
a little more, since I'm not entirely satisfied with my earlier attempt myself.
The Neverending Story
. I saw this movie recently, a couple of years ago in fact and I have to say, I was puzzled as to why it had been such a beloved family classic in the eighties. Yes, we all love Falkor the
giant flying puppy dog
Luck Dragon and while limited to moving heads and blinking eyelids, a lot of the creature special effects hold up reasonably well. The Rock Biter is impressive, as is the giant turtle in the swamps and Falkor and Gmorth are both fairly well-realised within the scope of the obvious budget limitations.
So... what hasn't held up so well? The kid who plays Atreyu, I couldn't help notice, was for the most part atrocious - and since he has to carry half the movie, that's not a good thing. Also, while the concept of the greatest warrior being a tiny kid might sound cool when a viewer is
a tiny kid, it looks progressively more and more stupid as one gets older. For starters, when did he rack up the required experience? When he was six?
Also, for a land of boundless imagination, I've gotta say Fantasia is a pretty dreary and empty place. The movie uses some brief montages to give us an idea of how wonderful this place is and they're just snippets of poorly colour graded stock footage of a few mountains and some desert. Talk about dull. The Nothing seems more alive than this place - and when something called 'The Nothing' seems more interesting than the world it's destroying, that says something.
Finally... talk about bleak! There is absolutely no light in this movie. No matter how dark or heavy things get, good stories should always have a bit of light and shade. Even the damn supposedly happy ending feels bleak. We don't even get a close up shot of Artax to see that he's been brought back and is now alive and well. Although to be honest, that's a damn sight better than the book where he doesn't come back at all. And speaking of Artax... THAT scene has got to be one of the most traumatising things ever put into a movie. Actually, going off topic a bit... what is it with so many kid's movies being so depressing? I recently saw Toy Story 3
and that wasn't exactly a barrel of laughs either. However, the list is endless. Bambi
Anyway, if you remember this movie fondly, great - but my advice would be to just keep it as a memory. Also, its eighties synth soundtrack is awful. Truly awful.
In this part, I will go back to trying to work out why The Lord of the Rings
doesn't impress me much any more. Why does it feel flat to me? A good question. I think that the filmmakers tried to cram too many characters and stories into the trilogy for one thing and that didn't help matters. With so many concurrent plots running, there wasn't enough time to spend on any of them. For example, take Faramir and Eowyn. They put a lot of effort into showing the struggles of these characters but then near the end of the third movie, they're forgotten about. There's a half-hearted attempt at redressing that in the extended editions but that's next to useless. However, if the filmmakers don't care enough about these characters to properly wrap up their story arcs, then why should the audience give a damn about them? Ditto for Saruman, who was just dropped by the wayside.
The filmmakers also neglect the main characters too much and waste a lot of time on the doings of secondary characters. Also, for so called fans of the book, they royally messed that up. I've made no secret of the fact that I pretty much hate the book (wordy, poorly written thing with stilted dialogue, stupid songs and wooden characters
) but even I recognised that the hobbits are the core main characters - and that Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas are no more main characters than Faramir or Eowyn. However, the filmmakers waste enormous amounts of time on these people. We get long dull speeches and soliloquies from them and have to sit through copious numbers of useless subplots invented solely for the purpose of giving them things to do. Take bloody Helm's Deep. That was supposed to be a short skirmish. Oh, and then there's all that rubbish with Arwen. Every one of her scenes is a pace killer, dragging the movie down like an anchor.
Then there's the messed up story-telling techniques. The biggest one that comes to mind is introducing characters in Rohan before the characters from the first movie have met them yet. It breaks up the flow of the story when they cut away from the three hunters pursuing the Urak-hai to show people moping around the Golden Hall and being dreadfully dull.
Thinking about it, there were so many damn anchors dragging behind this trilogy, it's a wonder it even managed to get out of its harbour.
Also, there's the matter of tension - or more precisely, the lack of it. I want to say a few positive things for a moment... and then proceed to hammering the hell out of these movies. There was fantastic tension in The Fellowship of the Ring
. The scenes in Moria and the attack by the Urak-hai at the end were amazing, and these still stand up
and stand up well
. Unfortunately, the filmmakers outdid themselves here because after that, things never feel tense again. The main culprit for this would have to be the battle of Helm's Deep. With King Theodas performing comical jinxes that get people killed, Aragorn leaping into hordes of Urak-hai, and somehow avoiding getting skewered on one of the several hundred pikes, Legolas skateboarding, Gimli being a git and elves performing their "now you see them, now you don't" tricks, the whole thing descends into farce. The sense that there is any real danger disappears and it never returns. That earlier battle with the CGI monsters and Aragorn's pointless fake death didn't help matters either. The battles in Return of the King
aren't much better. The opening scenes of the battle of Minas Tirith are impressive, but it drags on too long and deteriorates into silliness as well with the green ghost army (wiping away orcs like some kind of dishwashing detergent) and Legolas and the elephant thing. Damn... it... all. However, even in the first movie, there are problems. The Nazgul actually don't hold up too well either. Their movements are so stilted and artificial, it's hard to convince yourself that they're a legitimate threat. They don't feel real - and I don't mean this in a complimentary way, as if to suggest that they seem ethereal and other worldly. I mean, I don't think evil sorcerer kings or whatever the hell they're supposed to be would just stand around the guy they're after and spend three minutes slowly reaching for something in their hands.
Finally, there's the way in which all the elves speak so slowly. I guess that was supposed to ethereal as well. However, it just came off as annoying. Ditto for those long scenes where they show Frodo grappling with the ring's power. There were far too many of these moments throughout the trilogy and they dragged on far too long. The throbbing eerie sound effects employed in these scenes were also incredibly cheesy.
Well, that was interesting to tell you the truth. It seems that the more I think about these movies now, the less I like them. I will say this about them however. They've shown that fantasy films can be made that look spectacular and feel alive. They've opened up interesting doorways for filmmakers and I think it'd be great if a few more filmmakers went through them. Guillermo Del Toro did for instance, using a few Lord of the Rings
type concepts in Hellboy II: The Golden Army
was an awesome movie. So, it's not as though the trilogy was a total write off. However, I doubt many people will be watching it in another decade or so.
This post has been edited by Just your average movie goer: 06 May 2011 - 09:33 AM