Friday, December 26, 2003

Before I proceed, here's the link to medical blog run by a nurse practitioner in the States. My thanks to him ( I think it's a him :P ) for linking to mine. It's a nice fast-paced read, and provides a list of other medical blogs as well. Check it out :D

Spankysplace Blog

I finally got the chance to see The Return Of The King this morning, after having to stew for more than a week. I was in New Zealand the day it opened, aargh! You can't imagine how badly I wanted to watch this while I was there! But the tour schedule didn't allow for it, and besides, the screens there are pretty small in comparison to ours, so I decided to be patient and wait till I got home.

In a nutshell, ROTK is fantastic!!! And what's more, it has toppled the 10-year reign of my previous favourite film, Dead Poets Society. So now my list is thus:

1) LOTR: The Return Of The King
2) Dead Poets Society
3) The Sixth Sense

In my book at least, that's quite a feat. But ROTK touches me in so many ways really. Despite being a little cheesy in certain parts, my enjoyment of the movie also stems from the fact that I've been extremely lucky to have recently been to "Middle-earth" itself, ie. New Zealand, and viewed quite a number of the filming locations. E.g. Queenstown's Dart River and The Remarkables ( the latter looming large in many scenes ), Wellington's Dry Creek Quarry ( the venue for Helm's Deep and Minas Tirith ), Matamata near Rotorua ( the actual sets for Hobbiton lie in this small farming area, but I missed out on visiting the actual site -- I did, however, pass the outskirts, and the whole place just looks like The Shire, just without the little houses, which was a real treat! ).
Seeing the locations first-hand also illustrated the many challenges faced by both cast and crew during shooting. Many of these places are isolated, with fickle weather conditions and rough terrain. Another thing I noticed, again thanks to Dan, our Wellington guide who's this huge fountain of information :), is that director Peter Jackson paid lots of attention to details, sometimes using one specific location for a scene lasting less than a minute, just because it had "the right trees". I kid you not! Other touches you probably don't know about include the fact that the boots worn by the warriors in the movie were embroidered on the inside as well -- something audiences would never see, but which the team added because it was commensurate with the practices of the novel's characters. Wow...

If you're still reading, here's my review of ROTK :P

Spoilers beware!!!

Spoilers beware!!!

Spoilers beware!!!

This is by far the best in the whole trilogy, and I am rooting for Jackson to win as many directorial awards as possible for making LOTR the masterpiece that it is. The Oscars beckon, but rumour has it the Academy doesn't favour blockbusters and "maverick" directors, so it could be a kinda-stupid-show-beats-really-really-good-film year like that of Forrest Gump ( which beat "The Shawshank Redemption", a major travesty, in my opinion ). A friend of mine from the US says "Cold Mountain" will get the Best Picture nod this year, for various unfair reasons. Let's hope that does NOT happen.

What's not to admire and love about ROTK? I never got round to reading JRR Tolkien's book, and this could be good or bad, 'cos some friends who did tell me the book is better. Anyway, I'm first and foremost a film buff, 'cos I rarely have the time or energy to read entire novels nowadays, and in terms of enjoyment factor, ROTK the movie has it all: a wonderful screenplay, a cast that shines more and more with each new chapter, a director with great vision and skill, a crew that excels in every area imaginable, and the set that IS Middle-earth: gorgeous New Zealand.

This installment features battles galore, with the climax at Minas Tirith, where all the forces of good and evil collide in a massive war involving Nazgul, oliphants, cave trolls and gryphons ( like I said, I haven't read the book, so forgive me if the terminology is incorrect, especially regarding the gryphon bit :P ). If you thought Helm's Deep was something, you ain't seen nothing yet! The visual effects in ROTK are eye-popping, and put the clone wars in Star Wars Episode II to shame. I only wish more magic could've been included. My favourite scenes always have Gandalf wielding his staff: his confrontation with the Balrog in The Fellowship Of The Ring ( "You shall not pass!" -- awesome! ), his charge down the mountain to Helm's Deep with a beam of white light illuminating the sky in The Two Towers, and this time, the bit where he rides out across a field, staff lit up again, to fend off a group of vicious Nazgul from fleeing warriors as they head for the refuge of Minas Tirith.

Elijah Wood and Sean Astin are terrific as Frodo and Samwise respectively. The two actors bonded strongly in real life, and it is clearly evident in the film. The most poignant scene, where Frodo is believed dead after a frightening attack by Shelob ( a giant spider that is guaranteed to make you arachnophobic *shudder* ) has Sam weeping, "Don't go where I cannot follow." I lost it then and there *dabs at eyes with tissues* And how about the last part when Frodo is too weak to take the final steps to the edge of Mount Doom? Sam says, "I cannot carry it (the ring) for you, but I can carry you!", then proceeds to lift his friend and continue climbing despite his exhaustion. Extremely touching. :)

The action sequences are fantastic! I've always liked swordfights, so I was grinning from ear to ear :D Orlando Bloom, who's slender yet athletic and graceful, is the one to watch. Keep an eye out for the oliphant scene, where Legolas shimmies up the giant creature, then in a step-wise manner, manages to topple the massive beast. Humour abounds as Gimli, upon seeing Legolas land on the ground looking pleased with himself, exclaims, "Well, it still only counts as one!" ( in reference to a competition they had in keeping score of the number of enemies they felled ). Don't think that was in the book, right? ;) Anyway, Orlando's my mom's favourite. He's got cheekbones to die for, and for me, his smoky voice is the best part. Just saw on HBO last night that he's due to star in "Kingdom Of Heaven", a tale about a peasant ( Orlando ) who becomes a knight, then saves a kingdom and wins the love of the princess. Fluff, you scoff? Let me tell you who the director is: none other than Ridley Scott! Can't wait to see that one! :)

Romance is also abundant, as Aragorn chooses between Arwen and Eowyn. I don't think there was ever any question Arwen would win, but I prefer Eowyn, the strong-willed princess who can match a man in battle. She even chopped off a dragon's head to defend her injured uncle. Beat that, Arwen! :P So yes, I wasn't too happy when Aragorn rejected her and broke her heart. But then, Arwen has always been his first and only love. Gotta give him points for loyalty and self-restraint. Guys like that are really rare. :)

Ah, Aragorn. Or more specifically, Viggo Mortensen. My favourite from the very beginning, and cast perfectly ( Stuart Townsend was the original choice, but got fired after just 1 day of shooting. He's the pale, effeminate type, so I'm glad Viggo got the part in the end :)).
As the title states, Aragorn finally takes his place as rightful heir to the throne of Gondor. It's a pleasure to see Mortensen go through the various emotions as his character grapples with his fate -- hesitation, even denial, then eventually, resignation and acceptance. He exudes a quiet regal quality never seen before in his prior films ( "Daybreak", "28 Days"... although he was darn sexy in "A Perfect Murder" :P ), so it's nice to have him play a courageous king for a change. He infuses Aragorn with kindness, honour and a deep introspective spirit, and demonstrates great sword skills in the battle scenes. He's 45 years old but looks 10 years younger. A poet, artist and song-writer, Mortensen lends his vocals to a short song near the end of the film. It is a haunting melody. Wonder if it's in the movie soundtrack? ;)

Here're some interesting things you may not know about ROTK ( thanks to Dan who told me during the LOTR tour, as well as an ROTK special I saw on NZ TV -- the perks of being on vacation, haha! :)):

1. The sound effects for the war chants and stomping of soldiers' feet were recorded at the Wellington sports stadium during a sellout rugby game. The participants ( a 35,000-strong crowd ) did it for free. That's the spirit! :D

2. Viggo wears a wig. Didn't think it was necessary, he's already got longish dark hair what. :P Also, his dressing room mirror is always covered with clippings and photos. Apparently Viggo never preens. Cool :)

3. Some of the roars you hear in the films are contributed by lions from the Wellington zoo. We passed by during the LOTR tour, and believe it or not, the zoo is located right smack in the middle of, get this, a residential area! Dan said you have to really love animals in order to live there. Heh heh :)

4. One scene in ROTK, with Aragorn whispering to Gandalf in a crowded room as they ponder the progress of Frodo, lasts less than a minute but required 60 takes! Such is the perfectionist in Peter Jackson. A little scary!

5. The part where King Theoden rides past 200 soldiers, touching their spears with his sword, was an improvisation on the original script. The horses went a bit nuts during the shoot, but they managed to complete it without any major injuries. ( p.s. people say Theoden's speech is the highlight of the movie, but I much preferred Aragorn's battle cry: "Someday men will betray one another, but it is not this day!" or something like that. )

6. If you watch all 3 movies closely, you will realize that the Hobbits are always moving from the left side of the screen to the right, ever since they leave Hobbiton. This is deliberate, thanks to Peter Jackson, who wanted consistency throughout their journey. In ROTK, when they finally return home, they move from right to left. Cool :)

I'll add more if I think of something. Right now, I'm on night shift yet again, after failing to sleep a wink in the afternoon even though I tried to ( hmm, maybe I tried too hard. I don't know... ). Not feeling too good still. Persistent nausea, a bit of a headache. I just want to get through tonight in one piece.

On a happier note, my old friend, Adrian, is getting married tomorrow. Many congratulations!!!!!

No comments: