Hi, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab...
Does it seem like an all-Beaks week? And isn’t that a good thing?
I have seen twenty minutes of RETURN OF THE KING, and, frankly, I wish I could purge every frame from my memory. The two month wait was unbearable enough without having to see the build-up to the Battle of the Pelennor Fields (and you thought the odds at Helms Deep were bad), and what appeared to be the unexpected death of a character that, to the best of my knowledge, is much different from his fate in the book (though I’ll allow that it’s been a while since I read it). Or maybe that was just another level to the tease. All I know is that this was the last thing I needed in the middle of October. As if turning thirty wasn’t enough.
What did I see? Specifically? By now, you’ve seen reports around the web from Smilin’ Jack Ruby at CHUD, or my pilot shooting companion from Upcoming Movies, Greg Dean Schmitz, and they’ve all been relatively vague for a reason. The edict from on high at New Line is that shot-for-shot descriptions are a no-no, which is a relief since my memory is such a jumble, I’d probably be substituting moments from Saturday’s Game Three of the AL Championship Series for the stuff I forgot. So, I’ll give y’all a scene-by-scene account of the twenty minutes so you can, to a lesser degree, share my pain.
1. Gollum Conspires – Guess what? Gollum is still brilliantly performed by Andy Serkis and impeccably rendered by WETA. And he’s even more unhinged than at the end of THE TWO TOWERS, plotting further the demise of Frodo and Sam so that he may reclaim the ring. This time, however, Sam catches every bit of Gollum/Smeagol’s muttering, and brings a skillet upside their untrustworthy guide’s head. Unfortunately, Frodo still refuses to give up on Gollum, and, thus, their lives remain in danger. You’ve seen some of this in the new trailer. Good scene, and no spoilers.
2. Denethor’s a Gluttonous Prick – This was the best edited sequence we were shown, and, boy, is it ever a doozey! Faramir gets the high hat from his pops, who’s too busy shoveling down his dinner to lead his men into battle. At the end of the scene, Denethor bullies a song out of a heavy-hearted Pippin, and he responds with a mournful ballad that’s been haunting me all week. Chilling stuff.
3. Aragorn, Elrond and a Really Important Sword – A brief scene, well played by Viggo and Hugo, that relays some ominous information regarding Arwen. Elrond also makes an unlikely suggestion as to who might be able to help them in their final battle versus Sauron. Oh, and Aragorn gets Narsil. This is the only halfway uplifting moment in the whole damn reel.
4. Theoden Bids Farewell to Eowyn – It’s just as heart wrenching as it sounds. “No more despair.” Easy for him to say, especially when every scene thus far has been so freighted with death. By now, I’m nearing tears, and, despite knowing roughly where the story goes, figuring that this stands be the most depressing movie I’ve seen since DEAD RINGERS. “Bev?”
5. Pelennor Fields – Shades of HENRY V as Theoden attempts to rouse his army into fighting bravely against a veritable sea of orcs. Some of this is in the trailer, but what we saw went much further, fading cruelly to black just as the mayhem was about to hit fever pitch. The best part of the scene is how Jackson makes Merry the audience surrogate, rendering the hopelessness of the situation that much more unbearable.
6. Shelob! – She’s big, she’s spider-y, and, best of all, she’s real nasty lookin’. The scene was mostly Frodo fighting her off with a protective light given to him by Galadriel. What else is there to say other than WETA nails it again?
New Line logo, and lights up. That was twenty minutes? According to my cell phone, it was, so I shuffled angrily out into the lobby, cursed the studio for toying with my emotional well-being, and sped straight over to the Moriarty Labs to see about hopping in that infamous time machine, which, much to my dismay, was long ago broken down and sold as scrap to cover the Professor’s mounting gambling debts (betting on Slamball is one thing, but the Kumite!?!?) Looks like I’ll be waiting impatiently with the rest of you until that glorious, if melancholy, day in December when this saga draws to its inevitable close.
To be fair, I haven’t seen enough to effectively gauge its Oscar chances, but given the tepid buzz I’ve heard in the past week for MASTER AND COMMANDER, COLD MOUNTAIN, MONA LISA SMILE, THE MISSING and THE ALAMO, it sounds like the only serious contenders might end up being THE LAST SAMURAI, BIG FISH and, believe it or not, SEABISCUIT. It’s ridiculously early to start speculating, but, as of today, things really seem to be breaking in RETURN OF THE KING’s favor.
That’s the obligatory Oscar paragraph. We all know this journey has been about something much bigger and more indelible than a glorified pageant masquerading (badly) as a legitimate barometer of artistic success. From what I saw last Friday, Jackson is not shying away from the darkness that must fall over this tale before it reaches its magnificent conclusion. I haven’t doubted the man yet, and I’m not going to start now.