The Declarer (Floyd McWilliams' Blog)

Sunday, December 28, 2003


Yesterday I, my wife, my two sisters, and my brother-in-law went to see The Return of the King. The movie was quite long -- when we got up to leave poor Sherry could barely walk because her legs had gone to sleep -- but it was intense and held our interest.

Following the advice of my brother-in-law, I left for the bathroom whenever Arwen appeared on the screen. But the film was so quickly paced that both times I returned in the middle of a battle experience, which made for a disorienting return up the stairs to my seat. (Whether the movie should have contained so many battle sequences is another matter.)

I am not going to blog about the movie yet; I want to think about it, and discuss the film with others. One thing I would like to state for the record: Can we stop this nonsense about how the Lord of the Rings has "great special effects"? A third of a billion dollars were spent on these movies, which is ample money to take advantage of three decades of progress in the field of special effects. Does anyone really think that a 21st century movie would have effects on a level, with, say, "This Island Earth"? It is as if someone in the year 1970 were to see a film and exclaim that it had "great color".

If LOTR effects were consistently wonderful, that would be worthy of praise. The actual footage was a mix of the spectacular, the adequate, and the silly. If a scene involved battle, or terrain that could be found in New Zealand, it looked very good indeed. But for every instance of a spectacular flying stone cube or loathesome monster, one can find a real clunker. When Sauron opens the gates to respond to Aragorn's challenge, just how large would you say Mordor appears to be? Five hundred feet wide and deep? What seventies sci-fi movie now showing on Mystery Science Theater 3000 was the source of the Uruk-Hai? (And what's up with the scene where the Uruk-Hai is spawned from ... mud? Did Saruman discover how to interbreed humans and soil?)

How about the scene in the first movie where Galadriel appears to be electrocuted? Speaking of Galadriel, there was no sense that the Gray Havens took place on a seaport (though I kept telling myself that it must be real, as New Zealand has plenty of coastline). And what happened to the orc commander during the siege of Minas Tirith? At first he had a hideous growth that mostly hid one eye socket. By the time that the corsairs appeared, he had apparently been the beneficiary of some plastic surgery.


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