I went on my own to see TTT at the Bowie theater. The fun fact PJ had to impart in his preview is that Fran Walsh directed the scene when Smeagol tells Gollum to go away. I think PJ kind of botched it a little when he finished up, saying that this is all to say he wasn't directing everything. But no, shouldn't the point be that Fran DID direct some of it and she should get more credit and you're supposed to be promoting her, not bringing it back to you? Sigh.
The vistas were really more impressive in the way the camera took you swooping with it in the remastering. The one big drawback to the remastering, though, is hobbit stubble. Bad four o'clock shadow on all the hobbits but Frodo. But I guess it is worth the price to see the loving and meticulous stitching WETA workshop put into the costumes and etchings in the armor more clearly. I don't think I noticed before that the weave of Gandalf the White's grey mantle was the same weave as the Fellowship's cloaks from Lothlorien, which makes sense. I loved how distinctive the weave is in the new focus. The TTT EE is such a better movie than the theatrical version, I forget what a joy it is to see until I sit through it. RotK, both the theatrical and the EE, are a bigger spectacle, but I find the TTT EE is just a better narrative. I think the difference and improvement between the theatrical and EE versions is most marked with this film. FotR EE made a great film even better, but the TTT EE made a mediocre film into a really good one. They made very good use of this EE.
Where FotR's EE gave more depth to an already great film, the TTT makes sense of and fills out the mediocre theatrical version into a great film. It gives us more of Frodo and Sam's journey. I love the rope scene and the moment the hobbits share in that. I also love that it gave us a little more sense of the rigors of their journey in showing them taking miserable shelter in the storm. I do think one of the weaknesses of the films is that they do not quite capture the sense of how grueling the journey is for them and how isolated they feel as the text does. Some of that is due to interweaving the quest and battle narratives that the books keep separate. But I do think more of it could have been captured with more shifting camera angles showing us one relentless ridge to surmount after another, more slogging and falling, more angles from the hobbit's eye view. I think Sam's being physically worn down, too, is underplayed until they get to the foot of Mt. Doom in RotK.
I miss book Faramir, fully wise, wizard-schooled, and resistant to the ring's will, and such a welcome relief in Frodo and Sam's grueling journey, but the EE makes me love the addition of troubled Faramir as well because it fills out the developmental arc he goes through that the theatrical version did not, and links him in contrast with his brother much more strongly than Tolkien's text does. It makes him so much more than the Troubled Plot Obstacle he is in the theatrical version. I love the scene of the victory of Osgiliath showing the bond between the brothers, but that their alliance is only a partial one because there is only so far that good hearted Boromir will fight his father's injustice for Faramir's sake, and his capitulation to his father's power is what makes him prey to the ring's power, and that Faramir functions as the scapegoat in resisting. It puts Boromir's talk with Aragorn in Lothlorien in a different light. Good stuff.
But I still hate when Faramir says, "I think at last we understand each other, Frodo Baggins." WTF is this "we" stuff? It makes no sense! This is my biggest WTF spot in this film. Have any of you been able to make sense of it from what's shown? He has just come to understand what Frodo is going through and how Sam is supporting him, but what's new for the hobbits to understanding him? Projection much? It would make sense if he said it after he stated," then my life is forfeit", when they learn what his sacrifice means, but not before. And I guess this other WTF spot is just as big, and that's just before when Frodo's holding up the ring in front of the ring wraith and he can't sense it's there and fails to write a big message home, "Hey Boss!! Guess what's Round, Shiny, and Right Here in Osgiliath?!!!" I understand that Frodo is ringspelled worse and worse each time a ring wraith is near, and that his standing in front of the ring wraith and fell beast is a cool looking shot, but still WTF? I guess the good part is that these couple of moments can be easily edited out and still keep the narrative coherent.
I love that we get more of Pippin and Merry in drinking the Entdraught and then in partying in the store room with Treebeard watching. We don't get that much more of Rohan, but it's already beautifully developed, and Theoden, Eowyn, and Eomer couldn't be cooler. I could do without Eowyn being put through the humiliation of the bad cooking scene, but like that we get a little bit of Aragorn's background.
The wonderful ancalime8301 joined me for the RotK EE. Having determined that Snowden Square still has a superior sound system after seeing TTT in Bowie, we headed to Columbia, tried out a new pizza place that proved tasty, and headed to the theater accompanied by 3 hobbits, an elf, and a human. I brought along these fine folk:
And Cali brought this gentlehobbit:
The fun tidbit PJ imparted before RotK was that he learned as a kid that there was a charge of 6000 horses in I think it was the Battle of Waterloo, and he always wanted to know what a charge of 6000 horses looked like, so he told the animation department to make sure they depict 6000 horses in the Rohirrim's charge on the Pelannor Fields. And he'd been wanting to stage a big battle since he was 3. So there was one very satisfied 3 year old there. From the way they mucked up Frodo and Sam's integrity in the quest in favor of some very well done but a little overly long battles, I could tell that already.
As I said, I enjoy both the theatrical and EE of RotK for the spectacle, but I think the films really dropped the ball on the heart of the quest by diminishing Frodo's ability to judge character and trust in his Sam and his Sam's allowing it by trying to find the next bus back to the Shire. Frodo pities Gollum, but is never duped by him, and the strength of the whole concept of pity is destroyed by making Frodo Gollum's dupe. Additionally, I do think that at heart, one of the things they did most magnificently for a cinematic interpretation of the books in FotR is to personify the ring, and they totally dropped this crucial theme in the following movies. If the quest was going to be less grueling because of being interspersed with the battle books, then they needed to make what Frodo was struggling with more tangible, and it would have been so very easy with WETA's CGI geniuses to show Frodo slipping deeper and deeper into the ring world and fighting harder and harder against it as his will grows, not shrinks like a spent addict's. They could have also used a scene of Frodo preoccupied with an intense battle of wills with the ring for Gollum to have mislead Sam and separated them in the beginning of Shelob's lair's passages, instead of weakening the hobbits' bond like they did. I bet someone with animation skills could splice in such scenes, the ring pulsing as it whispers to Frodo, the Wheel of Fire glowing before Frodo's eyes (why did PJ forget show-not-tell here?), Frodo growing tall in his robes of white, and resplice parts of the quest portions to make this film into the film it should be.
The addition of the king's crown scene was lovely, but the crossroads scene just added to the weakened depiction of Frodo's will. The addition of the Houses of healing is lovely, but other than that, I don't think the EE adds much except length to RotK. The additions with the army of the Dead are good, but don't add much. I do like more of the partying in Rohan and the drinking game, but again, it doesn't add that much. The remastering allowed me to see some more effects with the dead in Dunharrow than I had noticed before.
Except for the stupid tying of Arwen's fate to the ring, the other parts of the plot are handled perfectly and beautifully. I really suspect the reducing of Arwen to a damsel in distress after giving her such a strong start in FotR that made her more like Luthien's heir is that the writing team listened to fan reactions that she was being Mary Sued. This is why I hate the Mary Sue charges already being thrown at the warrior wood elf woman they are scripting for The Hobbit. I like seeing women given more active roles in the story. Now if they could manage to stop whitewashing and allow people of color to play more roles than orcs, and with more than one POC in the Gondorian army, I'd be really pleased. Hobbits are described as brown and Tolkien is not specific about the skin shades of a lot of his peoples, so it would be nice if 21st century fanfic, which is what the films are, could do at least as well.
I see the EE of RotK as a missed opportunity for adding more substance, and of course I would have liked some indication that Sam as a ringbearer has at least a possibility of sailing and joining Frodo, but I would have been happier if they had used a way of separating the hobbits that did not diminish their strengths. At least the remastering does make it all prettier, and WETA's physical depiction of Middle earth is an unequaled achievement, so I'm glad I got to see it in greater clarity on the big screen. I just squee with a red pen--can't help it--it's still squee. (-:
Also posted at http://lavendertook.dreamwidth.org/1034