Here we are gang, here at the end of all things. Let’s get straight into Annemarie’s reactions to The Return of the King and the end of our saga. How proud are you of your predictions? Which movie was your favorite? Are you glad you sat through the extended editions?
AM: Let’s pull the predictions back into this post so we can easily see how right I was:
- The evil lord dudes will all be vanquished. TRUE
- At least one more of the Fellowship will die. I’m hoping it’s not a hobbit but I think it might be one of the four. FALSE. No hobbits died and neither did the rest of the Fellowship.
- Aragorn and Arwen will be reunited but will tragically not be able to stay together. HALF FALSE. They do get reunited after Aragorn’s coronation but presumably they live out his days in happiness.
- The Ents will be a crucial piece of the fight and Merry and Pip will get some awards for their work. ALSO HALF FALSE. The Ents seemed to be done with their takedown of Isengard, so I’m a bit disappointed.
- Speaking of awards, I’m imagining a fancy coronation/awards ceremony (like the one that happens at the end of Star Wars: A New Hope). TRUE. I mean, the name of the movie is literally “return of the king,” so that was an easy guess, but other than a standing ovation, the hobbits’ only award is the knowledge that they saved the world.
- Sam gets to snuggle up to the lady hobbit he was eyeing at the beginning of Fellowship. TRUE!
- The army of orcs will continue to be disgusting and hopefully won’t have more lines because they’re scarier when they’re not talking. TRUE AND ALSO GIANT SPIDERS.
- Gollum will sacrifice himself to defeat Sauron. FALSE. Gollum doesn’t sacrifice himself, but he does die.
- Gimli and Legolas will bring the dwarves and elves together in harmony. TRUE? These two end up buddies, but since the elves leave, I don’t know where that leaves the whole harmony between types of people thing.
- This is more a request, but can Legolas do some more badass skateboarding stunts, please? REQUEST GRANTED!
I will say no more about the awfulness that was the entire giant spider sequence, even though I watched almost none of it. I do think the whole “why are there 12 endings” thing was a bit overhyped. There is one fade-to-black that is supposed to make us think it’s over when it’s not, but it cannot have ended before the coronation. That was what I was waiting for, and I’m told the regular edition ends after that point.
In watching the extended edition, I’m a bit confused as to why the elves are leaving Middle Earth. Wasn’t this whole time the “age of man?” Since evil has been soundly defeated, wouldn’t they want to stick around? I also don’t quite get why the elves or even Gandalf didn’t help out Frodo a bit more efficiently. I get that he’s the only one who can touch the ring, and even then he got corrupted just by its proximity, but why not have Frodo catch a ride on one of the giant golden eagles and have them dropped off at the foot of the volcano? I forget if elves are more powerful than wizards, but couldn’t the elves have seen how to help get rid of this thing more efficiently? It ruins the hero’s journey, but that’s kind of a massive plot hole to me.
Brooke, explain why I’m wrong. I also don’t recall which of the 3 films you said was your favorite, so let’s get back to that one, please!
B: I’m still not sure if I’m more annoyed or impressed by the accuracy of your impressions, but well done, I guess.
Now, on to your questions. I’ve done some discussing with greater experts than yours truly to ensure I got the very best answer for you. So here’s the deal. You know how this entire saga has been about the destruction of the One Ring? Cool. Remember how there are other rings too, they were all controlled by the Ring of Power and secreted away from Sauron? Rad. Well, the answer to them leaving Middle Earth has to do with those rings.
You see, the rings were the last things keeping magic in Middle Earth — which means the elves could no longer live there. So, when they swear to help destroy the One Ring and the power it wields, they are doing an incredibly selfless thing. When they all hop on that boat, it’s less a ship to another land, and more a ride to an afterlife where they can join their ageless fellows. It’s important to note here, that only the high elves from Rivendell bailed. Legolas and the other wood elves were able to stay because they were low elves, but that’s a whole other deal. Presumably, Gandalf as an angel, Bilbo on the brink of death and Frodo who never healed properly and carried the Ring for so long can exist in the mythical land through some sort of communion with magic as well, but ultimately, it’s a story of self-sacrifice for the elves.
It’s fair to say that wizards are more powerful than elves, but both are a good measure stronger than the hobbits. So, the question of why they aren’t more active in Frodo’s quest is a fair one. I think most of it comes down to Frodo’s very, very ordinary nature allowing him to go quite unseen. Sauron and the Ring-Wraiths and any number of other creatures would have been bound to take notice if a pair of hobbits were swooping around on some golden eagle backs and slam dunking the Ring into the fires of Mordor, you know? Not to sound too much like an elf here, but their ability to see the future is spotty at best. Elrond states that no future is certain. They are given glimpses, but not a real instruction manual. Still, when they are able, they chime in. Remember the knowledge they dropped about Sauron’s plan to trap everyone during the battle of Pellinor Fields? That allowed Aragorn to go and gather up the ghost guys so he could save the day. And all of that gave Frodo a relatively clear path into Mount Doom, so that was pretty clutch.
Now, if you want a much more authoritative and detailed explanation of the mythology, you can watch this video.
Before we started this journey, I remembered both The Two Towers and The Return of the King quite fondly, but I would have probably called Two Towers my favorite. That would have been a rather misinformed statement as a good portion of the stuff I thought I recalled happening in that movie actually happened in Return of the King. I have to say, this finale is well worth the long journey it takes to bring us up to the brink. From the opening action that sees Saruman get his in a very real way, right up to the sad parting of ways at the end, this movie is tying up loose ends and taking names.
I really, really love Saruman’s death. Almost unreasonably so. But my very favorite moment (which I knew was in this movie) comes when Eowyn takes down the Nazgûl Witch-king with the ferocious declaration — “I am no man.” While that one line does not nearly make up for the scarcity of women in these pictures — spoiler alert: they fail the Bechdel test in a painfully real way — it is a triumphant moment for an extremely sympathetic character.
I have to say, now that we’ve made it through our quest, which has been my first watch in at least a decade, I do recognize some shortcomings here that I never noticed before. Orlando Bloom is beautiful and cool as Legolas, but he’s given the kind of Captain Obvious dialogue that makes him seem almost stupid instead of ethereal and mysterious like an elf should be. I won’t elaborate further on the lack of female characters with agency, but come on dudes.
Then there is my biggest pet peeve. Peter Jackson LOVES to break up battles with cuts to other action. Usually action that’s quite peaceful. This seems intended to be profound juxtaposition, but it just takes me out of the action. My other gripe often comes into play in conjunction with this first tendency. Emotional dialogue seems to be a challenge for Jackson, so he overwhelms the scene with sweeping music, hits the slow-mo switch ever-so-lightly and calls on his cast to do nothing more than say each other’s names and then sort of mouth at each other, as when the Fellowship is reunited.
Okay, Annemarie. Let’s have your verdict. Which movie did you like the most? What part of this movie was your favorite? Who ended up as your favorite character? Has it been worth all of the hours we’ve spent to see the fullest of the full version of this story?
AM: While the action and battle sequences live up to the hype, I have to say I enjoyed frolicking around in the Shire and Rivendell the most, so Fellowship might have to be my favorite? I question it because I know it’s a lot of character building without any resolution whatsoever, but this piece of the story is so crucial. I also would say that the first Harry Potter book is my favorite because again, it’s fresh, it’s new and there’s so much story to look forward to. There’s obviously many fun moments sprinkled throughout each of the three films, but that anticipation is so intoxicating.
I was a bit surprised at how casually Saruman was disposed of in the beginning of Return of the King. I expected him to be a factor in the final big battle, but as he was falling from his perch, I said, “Wait, is a fall going to kill a wizard?” but then he was impaled spectacularly and 100% dead as a doornail. That moment might have been my favorite if not for the aforementioned scene where Eowyn hacks apart the dragon’s head. Is the dragon the Nazgûl? So many details I am apparently still not up on. I have to concur that that is also my favorite moment from this film. You can’t go wrong with a scene in which you shout “YAS QUEEN” at the TV.
I do appreciate your novel-sized recap of why the elves have to leave Middle Earth. That’s a really crucial bit of mythology that I’d completely missed and it does help inform why they were unable to help Frodo more and why their actions are ultimately a sacrifice for their way of life. Does this mean there’s river-side homes for sale in Rivendell? Count me in for a vacation home!
As for whether the extended edition was worth it, I honestly can’t say. Since I never saw the theatrical releases, I don’t know what I would have missed had I only stuck to the shorter versions instead of the longer ones. I assume that all the key plot points were covered in the theatrical editions and that nothing radically changed from version-to-version. Maybe we got more exposition and perhaps more of Merry and Pippin getting stoned?
I completely agree on Legolas’ place in the Fellowship as a wise but pedantic re-capper of what he thinks is going on. You need that voice in any story, but it does seem that some of the beautiful language we heard in Fellowship doesn’t make it all the way through the series. And the point about women is spot-on, and I hear that Jackson gave even more for them to do than Tolkien. Come on, guys!
There are so many noble and admirable characters, but I think I’m gonna go with Sam as my favorite. He’s the real selfless hero here, no competition, and while he doesn’t get to go on the traditional hero’s journey and grow and change as a result, he did have a fine adventure and got to show how a true friend can save the day. Honorable mention goes to Eowyn for being a badass. I hope she continues to do awesome things in this new Age of Man.
Brooke, favorite character? On the flip side, least favorite character? Are we going to continue the mythology and watch The Hobbit series?
B: Annemarie. Elaine. Moody. Miller. You are deliberately attempting to provoke me. Before I can even respond to anything else you’ve said here, we need to address the audacity of this suggestion about watching The Hobbit trilogy. Here is a picture perfect recreation of my exact reaction when I read that line.
Rage, Jen, rage. As someone who has heard, on multiple occasions, my ranting about the utter hot garbage that is The Hobbit trilogy, you know very well that we will NOT be watching them for required viewing. I would be down to read the book, which is meant to be delightful, but we will not indulge Peter Jackson’s fuckery. Yes, I said fuckery. He turned a 300-page adventure book into a three-film, nine-plus-hour saga that looks like garbage, is paced like garbage, wastes talent like Lee Pace and Benedict Cumberbatch, creates unnecessary love triangles, and brings Legolas to a school he doesn’t even go to just so he can kill more orcs, because we haven’t seen enough of that. Jackson tried to shoehorn Aragorn in too, but Viggo Mortensen told him to take a hike, because he’s the hero we don’t deserve. That didn’t stop him from releasing extended editions though. And did I mention how little dragon time there is? 20-minutes total would probably be generous, even though his name is in the title of the second movie. I only showed up for dragon. I only showed up to the third to fuel my hate fire.
Are you happy now, AM? I have no doubt this was your goal when you “innocently” made that suggestion. But, I digress. Back to what we’re actually discussing, The Return of the King.
I’m going to nerd out for a hot second since you asked for all of the deets on Eowyn and the Nazgûl. The Nazgûl is the dude riding the creature you’re calling a dragon. In fact, that creature, which I assumed was a drake or a wyvern is in fact, a Fell-beast. Fell-beasts seem to be a creation of Mr. Tolkien and are the primary mode of transportation for all of the Nazgûl. They are described as “winged creatures with beak and claws, similar to birds but much larger than any other flying beast. The creature possessed a naked body without feathers, a long neck, and a vast hide between its horned fingers.” So now we know.
I don’t know the difference between the extended and theatrical editions all that well either, but I do know that in Return of the King extended means you get to see The Mouth of Sauron, and watching The Mouth of Sauron get decapitated is one of my favorite moments. So, I’ll say it was worth it. Now no one can ever question your dedication.
I would have to say my favorite character would be Arwen or Galadriel — because sweet elven clothes, and rad powers. In particular, I love that everyone fears Galadriel and we’ve talked extensively about how endearing it is that Arwen is capable of such love that she would sacrifice immortality for her guy. I am also a big fan of Sam, he breaks my heart on the regular, and you know I’m a sucker for that. I don’t think I have ever considered a least favorite character. It’s definitely that bad dad who eats chicken and tomatoes after sending his son off to die, and then who tries to burn the same son and himself alive. I believe you yelled “It’s your own damn fault!” as he was an inferno bomb off the top of Minas Tirith.
Okay, AM. Send us out. Do you have any closing thoughts to share before we say farewell to our friends in Middle Earth?
AM: Thank you for indulging me in my troll question, I knew very well how much you didn’t like The Hobbit films, but I wanted to make you spell it out for me exactly why we will not be going farther with this franchise. We’ve talked about reading the books, and since 300 pages seems do-able, as we say, “Add it to The List!”
Also, OHHHHH THAT was the Mouth of Sauron? I knew that was a key reason I was made to watch the extended editions but I missed that dude’s name somehow. I like that no one can question my dedication to this project even though more details were lost on me than absorbed. Thank you for enlightening me, and maybe one day when Peter Jackson figures out how to make yet another indulgent LoTR film we can ignore it instead of watching it because, well, we can. We’ll always have the Fellowship.
Next time, we’re going as far away from Middle Earth as possible. We’re checking back in with our tan, club frequenting friends in The Hills.