Tuesday, April 29, 2014

I re-watched Return of the King, here's the rundown...

Bryce E.E. Graham

I was only a sophomore in high school when Return of the King came out in theaters. I loved the entire Lord of the Rings series up to this point, and after seeing Return of the King on opening night, I knew it would go down as one of my favorite movies. Critics agreed with 14 year old me. It received a 94 on Metacritic and won 11 Academy Award, including Best Picture and Best Director, and it seemed, to my 14 year old brain, like the greatest masterpiece to ever be produced. I liked it so much, I saw it a second time that week, and it was still amazing…but everything changed the third time I saw it.

I finally hit a wall after spending more than nine hours in one week watching the same movie, and I did not come out of the experience unscathed. For this final viewing I did not pay attention to the awe-inspiring battle scenes, the crazy CGI, or the plot, none of that mattered. I’d seen the film before and I knew what to expect in those regards. Instead, what I paid attention to that third viewing was the sheer number of scenes in which characters cried their eyes out. I counted 13 separate scenes, a number that stuck with me for these past ten years.

To make sure this number was correct I watched the movie again and tallied up the crying scenes. I was not precise in my measurements, as I kept playing 2048 on my phone whenever I got bored (which was way more often than I thought it would be), but damn it all if I didn’t count 13 separate scenes of crying. That’s an insane amount of crying, nearly one crying scene every fifteen minutes! And when there isn’t actual crying on the screen, everyone looks like they could burst in to tears at any second. Heck, the first crying scene comes within the first five minutes of the film! It’s paired with Smeagol’s voice over saying “And we wept, precious, we wept to be so alone.”

That’s what this whole movie is about, weeping. Not so much being alone, but there sure is a helluva lot of weeping, so much so that you could play a drinking game. Just start drinking anytime someone on screen is crying, and stop when the crying stops. It might take until the end of the movie, but you’re sure to be wasted if you follow this one rule.

But let’s say you want to drink more, and who could blame you? I certainly wish I had a few to trudge through this behemoth of a movie. Well, just add two more rules and you should be fine. Drink any time anyone says “Frodo” and drink whenever a sword is unsheathed. That’ll fuck you up nice and good.

Anyway, the clear winner of the cry-off that is Return of the King is Sam Gangee. His face is constantly wet, not with the blood of his enemies, but with his own blubbering. The last half of the movie he’s either weeping or killing something, which sounds way more awesome than it is. That description sounds like a maniacal boss in the most brutal video game never to be released. Instead it’s just some hobbit, lost in Mordor with his best bud.

It’s really crazy how wet with tears Sam’s face is toward the end of the movie. He and Frodo run out of water, they continue the physically taxing task of climbing a mountain, and they have to deal with the heat of a volcano, yet somehow Sam's face stays drenched the whole trip to the top. I’m surprised he had any water at all to spare for tears, but apparently hobbits have special tear reserves, just in case they need a good cry.

After Sam and Frodo finish saving the world, they fly back home on the wings of eagles (again, it sounds way more badass than it actually is), and live their lives. That leads us to twenty different endings, piled on top of each other, each feeling more final than the last. But before the very end, Gandalf gets to call out how much crying’s been going on in the movie: “I will not say ‘Do not weep,’ for not all tears are evil.”

First of all, what is that supposed to mean? I didn’t think any tears were evil, it’s not like villains go around crying their eyes out. I’ve never thought of tears as evil, what is Gandalf not telling us? Is there a new evil in the world? Is it a monster made of tears? Is that what Sam’s book is going to be about? I understand Gandalf’s trying to make the hobbits feel better about their parting, but it’s just such a weird line. Second, I really love this scene, because after saying this Gandalf looks squarely at Sam who gives a shit-eating grin, as if to say “Yeah, yeah, you got me you smug son-of-a-bitch, I cry all the fucking time. What of it?” It’s absolutely amazing.

Long story short, Return of the King is an absolute cry fest, which is a shame because it had the makings of such an amazing movie. There could have been blood and guts galore, epic battles that were more than just about shear number of troops, and more robust characters, including more strong female roles which were sorely needed in this film.Instead the studio went the Oscar-bait route, making their actors cry all the time, using superfluously extravagant amounts of CGI, and of course wrapping the movie up with a happy ending. So, if you want my opinion, just stick with Game of Thrones. It’s a better rounded fantasy experience, and each episode is only an hour long. There’s also far less crying and sentimentality, more blood and guts, and actual strong characters that you can get behind. Trust me on this, you won’t regret it.

If you have any questions or suggestions for future posts leave them in the comments, or find me @brycegraham on twitter.

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