Archived News from January to June 2004
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6/25/04 Continuity fans of the Star Wars series might be interested to note that I've placed Star Wars Kids issues #16-20 (Death Star Pirates) back into continuity. Thanks to Freetibet83 and the2ndQuest at Dark Horse's excellent message boards for helping me take a second and third look at that series and puzzle out what does and doesn't fit. Incidentally, if you're looking for interesting forums to discuss Star Wars but have been turned off by the trolls, self-important demagogues and clueless fans of other Star Wars forums, check out Dark Horse's message boards, where you can actually have interesting discussions of Star Wars and occasionally even hear from the author's, artists and even Randy Stradley himself.
6/18/04 Want to see what the new Star Wars DVD's are going to look like?
6/09/04 Sorry for the down time. Had to renew the domain. Well, now that everything's back up and running, how about some...
Star Wars news: Here's the official announcement from Lucasfilm regarding the upcoming season of Clone Wars cartoons:
Lucasfilm Ltd. and Cartoon Network to Present Brand-New, Epic Star Wars: Clone Wars Animated Mini-Series in March
Newly Created, One-Hour Mini-Series to Air in 12-Minute Episodes from March 21-25, 2005
Following the galactic success of the animated Star Wars: Clone Wars, Lucasfilm Ltd. and Cartoon Network will present five action-packed nights of a brand-new Clone Wars mini-series from award-winning animator Genndy Tartakovsky beginning March 21.
While the original episodes of Star Wars: Clone Wars were just three minutes long, each installment of the new Clone Wars animated mini-series, which has yet to be titled, will be 12 minutes - promising viewers four times the excitement, adventure and intrigue as they lead into the long-awaited Star Wars: Episode III, which is scheduled for release in theaters on May 19, 2005.
Tartakovsky (Samurai Jack, Dexter's Laboratory), who produced the first highly rated, critically lauded "micro-series," will serve as director, co-screenwriter and executive producer of the new Star Wars: Clone Wars animated mini-series. Cartoon Network will air the new mini-series from March 21 to March 25 with limited commercial interruptions.
"We were really impressed with the quality of the animation and the storytelling abilities that Cartoon Network and Genndy brought to the first Star Wars: Clone Wars episodes, and clearly viewers were, too, because the feedback we received about the micro-series was fantastic," said Howard Roffman, President, Lucas Licensing. "This new mini-series will bring even more depth and excitement to the story of the Clone Wars and will lead viewers right into the adventures of Star Wars: Episode III."
"It is a tremendous honor for Cartoon Network to have been selected by Lucasfilm to produce these new Star Wars stories, because the Star Wars saga is one of the most popular and successful entertainment properties in the world," said Jim Samples, executive vice president and general manager, Cartoon Network Worldwide. "Genndy thoroughly enjoyed the collaborative relationship we built with Lucasfilm during the production of the first Clone Wars episodes, and is terribly excited now to be entrusted with furthering the storyline and working with such popular and enduring characters. This will truly be a 'must-see' for Star Wars fans and animation lovers."
Star Wars: Clone Wars features such fabled characters as Yoda, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Padmé Amidala, Mace Windu and Anakin Skywalker in the ongoing battle of the Army of the Republic against a vast uprising spearheaded by the Separatists and their massive droid armies. The new mini-series will include an expanded role for a brand-new villain, General Grievous, military leader of all the Separatist armies, who will play a pivotal role in Star Wars: Episode III.
Star Wars: Clone Wars continues the saga where the popular feature film Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones left off - at the beginning of the Clone Wars, an epic civil war that pits the old Republic against a vast Separatist movement led by the forces of evil.
Star Wars: Clone Wars is being produced at Cartoon Network Studios by a team led by Tartakovsky.
Star Wars: Clone Wars is the first animated property starring the central characters of the Star Wars saga. In the first 10 chapters, Obi-Wan Kenobi, serving as a general in the Army of the Republic, led a team of elite clone troopers in a battle on the planet of Muunilinst. There, he encountered a tenacious bounty hunter named Durge and San Hill, a leader of the Separatist movement. Jedi Kit Fisto led an aquatic assault on the Clone Army on the water planet of Mon Calamari. And Count Dooku recruited Dark Jedi Asajj Ventress for a special mission - to assassinate Anakin Skywalker. In chapters 11 to 20, the action continued as Anakin pursued Ventress to Yavin 4 after a fierce dogfight, and eventually confronted her in a fearsome lightsaber battle. Meanwhile, Mace Windu led his troops against an enormous seismic tank in a skirmish on the plains of Dantooine, and Jedi Luminara Unduli and Barriss Offee fought to protect the sacred Jedi caverns on the planet Ilum. In the end, the Jedi confronted their greatest threat on the planet Hypori: General Grievous.
5/19/04 Star Wars news: Exactly ONE year to Episode III!! Many of us believe it will be the best of the new trilogy, but as regards the old trilogy that is coming to DVD on 9/21, check this out:
Yes, you're eyes do not deceive you! That is Hayden Christianson as the redeemed Anakin Skywalker in the new version of Return of the Jedi! And no, this is not a hoax. Even though fan reaction is mixed (when isn't it these days?), many of us recognize that by replacing the aged spirit form of the venerable Sebastian Shaw (who played Vader sans helmet in ROTJ), a BIG continuity problem that came into being with Episode I regarding Vader's age has been removed. The problem lay in the fact that Return of the Jedi takes place 37 years after The Phantom Menace. As Anakin is only 10 years old in that film, he would be 47 years old in ROTJ. Yet the actor who played him -- Sebastian Shaw -- was at least 80 at the time.
The question as to why the spirit of Anakin here is manifest at the age of 23 can be answered by the fact that "years spent in the Dark Side do not age the Jedi's spirit form"... (Although, one has to feel a little sorry for Obi-Wan who's years under the desert suns of Tatooine appear to have aged him beyond his fifty-something years). Note too that a spirit form is absent of what Yoda calls "this crude matter" and that any appearance of a physical form is nothing but a cloak put on for the benefit of those still in the flesh. Obi Wan could very well look like Ewan McGregor if he wanted to, but it would serve no purpose, and Luke would not be able to recognize him (unlike his father whom Luke would know by familial resemblance and the Force). On the other hand, Anakin would want to portray himself as the Jedi he once was, not the decrepit, sickly creature he had become under the influence of the Dark Side.
You've likely seen this one before, but just in case you haven't: In this split-screen, the shot below is the Emperor as Lucas conceived him in 1980 for The Empire Strikes Back. Voiced by Clive Revill, the Emperor here is portrayed by a woman with monkey eyes superimposed above her own. George had not yet nailed what exactly he wanted for the role of the Emperor at this time. By 1983 and Return of the Jedi, he solidified it in the actor Ian McDiarmid. McDiarmid went on to reprise his role in The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and the upcoming Episode III. In the frame above is replacement scene now properly played by Ian McDiarmid. At long last, Emperor Palpatine is where he belongs in the new 2004 special edition of The Empire Strikes Back.
This is but one of the many new changes that are going to surprise us in September! Rumor has it that these DVDs are in fact the (Ultimate) Archive Edition that many sites have been talking about for so long! Time will tell, but this is one fan who cannot wait for the unveiling of these films!!!
5/14/04 Oz fans will be pleased to note that I've finally added Ken Shepherd's excellent "Day to Day Chronology of the Famous Forty"! This is a daily breakdown of the events as described within each of the books that make up the official forty volumes! I'm very pleased to finally have it up and wish to thank Ken again for the amazing work he did on this! Check it out here!
5/10/04 More apologies, this time to anyone who was trying to access the Middle-Earth site last night. I had some problems when I attempted to "make life easier" for myself by shifting some files around! Little did I know that it would keep me up till 4 AM! Ah well, it was storming out anyway, and since the dog gets spooked out and trembly when that happens, I was bound to be up anyway! Still, I'm starting to see double, so it's bedtime at last for me! If you happen to notice any mistakes, omissions, or weird things happening on this site, please feel free to drop me a line and let me know! Thanks!
5/09/04 Posted new Star Wars Clone Wars and Tales comics. Issue 63 of Republic continues Ostrander and Duursema's edge-of-your-seat saga of Jedi Quinlan Vos' downward spiral into the Dark Side as he continues to feign allegiance to Count Dooku whilst spying for the Jedi. Dooku, however, is not unaware of Vos' tricks and sends him to Coruscant to assassinate an important politician whom Vos believes may be Palpatine. Issue 64: Bloodlines is another beautifully written and illustrated issue (this time by Brandon Bardeaux) which centers on Palpatine and his Machiavellian political manipulations. It begins with the death of two Jedi who come very close to exposing Palpatine. The story features unique flashbacks over a period of several days and eventually twenty years to the beginning of Palpatine's Senatorial term on Naboo. The anthology, Tales #19 is also out and it features several comedic as well as tragic short stories, several of which features Han, and one which has a surprising cameo by Indiana Jones!
Incidentally, for those who don't yet know, Tales will shortly begin to have individual Timeline-Era labels per story, designating which ones are Infinities and which belong to the various eras. Fans of this site will know that this is something I've been doing since the book's inception, however, as it will satisfy many fans by putting an official stamp of approval on certain stories, not to mention make my life a bit easier, I look forward to this improvement.
5/07/04 In Star Wars news: George Lucas wrote a very interesting introduction to the paperback edition of Shatterpoint: A Clone Wars Novel. It's well written and furthers what Lucas has said regarding the Prequel Trilogy representing the historical precedent for the decline of Democracy and subsequent emergence of Dictatorship. Incidentally, for those of you who continue to stubbornly reject the Expanded Universe out of a misguided notion that it has nothing to do with the films and Lucas (or in truth are too lazy to read the books and comics), here is further proof that the EU (as it is commonly called) has his full blessing and stamp of approval. It is also the second time Lucas has written an introduction to an EU book (the first being the re-release of Alan Dean Foster's seminal work Splinter of the Mind's Eye). For those who have already purchased the cloth edition of this book as well as the short story (Equipment: included in the Hasbro Short Story Collection), and don't wish to purchase it again, I'll post the introduction here. Click below to access it:
The Clone Wars
by George Lucas
5/06/04 In Oz news: Read a very interesting new Oz book yesterday detailing a number of hiterto unanswered questions: What is the origin of Oz? Why did Lurline enchant it? How did the wicked witches come to be? Why do they melt in water? The story is very well-told and interesting (reminiscent of Eric Shanower's style) even if you're only a casual fan of Oz, and there are some beautiful b&w illustrations within: Click on the cover image to write the author (Philip John Lewin) for a copy. They're $21.00 each with shipping.
5/03/04 Some updates on the Middle-Earth timeline: Scans of both of Marion Zimmer Bradley's long out-of-print tales, "The Parting of Arwen" and "The Jewel of Arwen" are finally up. Click on the link here or on the timeline to access these.
5/02/04 Apologies to anyone trying to access the Star Wars portion of my site yesterday! Apparently, I had wiped out the navigation panel which links that entire portion of the site! Thankfully, I managed to find it, but I'm using this as a lesson (which thanks to Rich Handley will become my new mantra when it comes to important data): Always back up your files on disk!!!
4/30/04 In Star Wars rumor news, as was reported on Theforce.net, it appears that discussions are under way for a full-length Star Wars television series to begin debuting some time in 2006. No word yet as to whether this will be an animated series, a live-action series, or possibly even both. More news on this will be forthcoming this summer.
In other strange news, it appears that the current two season Clone Wars animated shorts were not originally intended to be part of continuity. Randy Stradley at Dark Horse Comics was told to move ahead with introducing such characters as Durge and Asaji Ventress without fear of contradiction to the cartoon series because the series was to be rendered Infinities (meaning: outside of continuity). However, somewhere along the way this changed. The animated series is in fact considered part of the Star Wars Expanded Universe (as most of us knew would be the case from the beginning), leaving some very strange continuity gaffes with the Dark Horse series! Some have hoped that Dark Horse's upcoming spinoff comic, The Clone Wars Adventures, would help, but as these were written some time ago, it's doubtful any continuity fixes will be present there. Anyone with any good ideas or a better timeline arrangement for these stories, drop a line here...
4/18/04 Star Wars: Fans (and detractors) of the old Glove of Darth Vader series should check out this informative (and at times amusing) thread here, which offers a plot synopsis of each book, along with continuity-fixes for the stories.
4/16/04 In very interesting LOTR news, Bob Shaye, head honcho over at New Line Cinemas, has become aware of the petition to bring the Hobbit to the silver screen and has personally responded. It is good news, so read below!
Official Letter from New Line Cinema's Bob Shaye
Dear Loyal LOTR Fans,
Thank you very, very much for the incredible outpouring of support for LOTR, and your eagerness to see THE HOBBIT.
We, at New Line, are most touched and appreciative of your compliments, and your passion for the remarkable work of the author, the filmmakers, talent, and craftspeople.
We are also, as you, most anxious to see THE HOBBIT realized.
Please be assured that there is, in no way, a crass argument with MGM or anyone over money or rights. In fact, no discussions about any settlement of our respective claims, has been commenced. When, and if, such discussions ensue, be assured that we intend to be equitable and appropriate to the spirit of Tolkien, and THE HOBBIT. We will, as much as possible, "do the right thing", respecting the incredible loyalty and appreciation of the worldwide fans. We hope that MGM will feel the same.
However, we also wish to have the film overseen by the best possible mentors - and, for us, if possible, that means Peter and Fran. They are totally occupied by KING KONG now and, we believe, will be the next twenty-four months, or so.
So our efforts will take time to realize.
New Line Cinema
4/08/04 Oz news: I've been negligent as usual with updating this section, but a brand new Oz book has just been published (and sent to me), written by Phyllis Ann Carr (professional author of a number of fantasy titles, including the excellent Gardener's Boy of Oz). It's called The Hollyhock Dolls in Oz and is being offered by the prolific Tails of the Cowardly Lion & Friends. It's been awhile since we've heard any Oz tales from Karr and I'm particularly looking forward to this latest one! Head on over to TOTCLAF (click on the link above) and order your copy now!
3/28/04 Star Wars news: My site was promoted today on www.theforce.net, the greatest Star Wars site on the Internet! Thank you to Michael Potts for the great write up! Any new fans coming here for the first time, welcome and feel free to write a review of your favorite books and comics! Go here for the guidelines and I'll post it in a few days!
3/20/04 Added the History of The Lord of the Rings section to my site. This is a very brief summary of some of the events covered in The Silmarillion, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and was designed as an aid for those who cannot for whatever reason read the books, but who would like to know more about some of the immense back story of the movies, particularly that which relates the events depicted on the screen. You can go there that by clicking here.
3/19/04 DigitalBits has posted some fresh and very
likely rumors about the upcoming Star Wars DVD that sounds good (to me anyway):
we know this is going to get some people's undies in a bunch again... but we can
say with some confidence now that when Lucasfilm and Fox release the
Star Wars Trilogy on DVD in September, the
films ARE going to include new footage. We've confirmed "unofficially" with
three separate sources, each in positions to know, that at least SOME new
footage is being added to the films, and that more special effects enhancements,
tweaks and fixes are being done. We're also told that Lucasfilm MAY include
additional deleted scenes for the trilogy on the bonus disc, separate from the
material added into the films themselves (rather like they've done with
Episodes I & II). We've been told of at least a
few changes that are being made, but we're going to wait to confirm them better
before we post anything. Keep in mind that we have no idea how extensive or
minor the whole of the additions and changes will be. Hopefully, we'll learn
more from Lucasfilm in the near future. So, okay... we're now officially
intrigued. We'll post more when we can.
3/08/04 It's official, the first book (technically the second but who's counting) of the much-beloved Narnia Chronicles, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, will be released in December 2005! Rumors also strongly suggest that Nicole Kidman will play the White Witch! Good news indeed as anyone who's seen Nicole's uncanny ability to transform completely into her role (The Hours) will tell you! Looks like 2005 is shaping up to be a great year with Star Wars: Episode III in May and TLTWATW in December! Update: This rumor has sadly been dispelled by official sources.
Also, as I posted a few days ago: will be available on May 25th. Expect the Extended Edition in November. On the May release, you'll get: The film in 5.1 DD, with English and Spanish subtitles; several exclusive featurettes, trailers (including the much-vaunted 'Trilogy Trailer'), and an exclusive peek at the upcoming DVD and game. Sadly, the one thing that'll be sorely missing on this DVD is a trailer for an upcoming LOTR film! :(
3/5/04 Two items up: First, many of you like myself are great animal lovers. If you'll notice the link on the right, you can now help animals in shelters by simply clicking on the link (it'll take you to the button at the animal rescue site). Click the button. It's free and every click gets the advertisers and sponsors to donate food to local animal shelters, and the best part is that you can click every day! Check this out for example:
On Mar.02, you and others who clicked on the "Feed an Animal in Need" button helped provide 107,603 bowls of food to animals in shelters and sanctuaries. Last year, visitors' clicks at The Animal Rescue Site funded 23,968,850 bowls of food! (Click here for more details.) Together we can do even more in 2004. (from www.theanimalrescuesite.com).
Second bit of news: To allay the costs of running a website, I've placed Amazon.com links throughout the site where you can purchase many of the books and graphic novels you see here on this site. Clicking on the link will take you to Amazon.com, where if you purchase anything, I'll received a few cents. Of course, every little bit helps so I hope you'll do your all your future Amazon.com shopping needs through me!
3/5/04 Expect the DVD theatrical release of The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King to go on sale, May 25 2004. Detailed specs for this and the upcoming Star Wars Trilogy DVD box set should be available soon.
3/04/04 Added a new link on my Links page to a French site which is translating the Oz books into French (not sure if this is a first but it is certainly a momentous endeavour). Also, there are some interesting new Oz books out which I'll tell you about in a few days. Updated the Star Wars timeline to include the latest releases from Dark Horse. Oh, and in case you've been asleep this past week:
THE LORD OF THE RINGS: The Return of the King took home 11 Academy Awards!!! This is a historical first in several respects! It is the first time a fantasy film has ever won an award (Star Wars: A New Hope lost out to Annie Hall in 1977 and The Wizard of Oz to Gone with the Wind in 1939) and the first time a third film in a series has ever won (The Godfather II was the first and only sequel until now to win an award). ROTK ties Titanic and Ben Hur for the most awards ever received for a single film. Return of the King, however, was also a clean sweep, winning all 11 of the awards they were nominated for (unlike Titanic which was nominated for 14). Combined with the previous two years, The Lord of the Rings saga as a whole has taken in an unprecedented 17 Academy Awards! For fans of fantasy, J.R.R Tolkien and great film, it was probably the most exciting Oscars night to date, and one that may never come around again!
2/20/04 (from www.Chud.com) The latest adaptation of CS Lewis' The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe is entering pre-production, with filming set to begin this summer. This version has been a long time coming, and the staggering success of The Lord of the Rings (written by Lewis' IRL BFF JRR Tolkein) helped move it along. There's money in that thar fantasy!
For those of you who had deprived childhoods, TLTWATW is one of seven books in The Chronicles of Narnia, and is about a gaggle of English children who find a doorway to a magical land inside a closet. Not a metaphor for homosexuality as you might think (although that fawn Mr Tumnus always struck me as a tad fruity), the story is informed by Lewis' deeply held Christian beliefs.
While this is officially book 2
of the Chronicles, it's the ideal starting place for the story. Should the film,
which is to be released in 2005, do well, there's a wealth of great stories to
be brought to the screen.
2/14/04 Star Wars: Regarding the upcoming DVD's as well as the final Ultimate (Archive Editions), Bill Hunt from DigitialBits.com has written an excellent article on the subject that I recommend everyone who's interested read: http://www.thedigitalbits.com/articles/starwarsdvd/021204.html
2/11/04 By now you've heard the official announcement we all knew was coming. The Star Wars trilogy will at last be released on DVD on September 21, 2004 (in US and Canada; no word on foreign releases but probably soon thereafter)! You can of course expect DD 5.1, great picture and sound, and for better or worse the Special Edition versions of the films. Also, there will be English, Spanish and French subtitles. What's absent so far is exactly what the films themselves will contain in terms of restoration and changes. How much more tweaking and fixing was done? We know when A New Hope was last publicly screened (a few months back at a film festival), the lightsaber duel between Ben and Vader had been fixed, so it's obvious that some additional work had been done on these Special Editions which we'll be seeing. From my own perspective, while I do think the original versions should probably be released (perhaps as limited edition disks), I'm hoping to see the best possible edition of Star Wars I can get. I hope he went back in and fixed tons of things. If and when Archive (or Ultimate) editions ever come out with new scenes and such, that's great too! The more the merrier! I'm also hoping there will be a lot of deleted scenes. It's probably too much to hope for these scenes to be re-inserted into the film, but I'll take them however I can. Stay tuned for more information in the weeks and months ahead....
2/10/04 Off-topic: This has nothing to do with this site (per se), but just wanted to drop a note for those looking forward to the Black Box set from Black Sabbath, it's been pushed back (yet again) for the final time to April 27, 2004. Why Warner/Rhino keep doing this is beyond me, but this is at last the final date. Here's at last the awesome cover image to get your juices flowing:
8 disks digitally remastered from the original Warner Bros. source tapes. 1 DVD of the Beat Club video (featuring four songs: Black Sabbath, Paranoid, Iron Man, Blue Suede Shoes)
2/06/04 Star Wars: I'm finally posting reviews in one place (so that you won't have to hunt around for them) in the Comments/Continuity Errors section. Go there, check 'em out, write your own!
2/02/04 Be sure to keep your calendars clear on Sunday, February 29th for the Academy Awards to watch LOTR: ROTK take home Best Picture and Best Director... or else!
In Star Wars news, it appears the rumors of the DVDs in late October or November appear more plausible than ever as several sources indicate that this is going to be a reality. Looking forward to it! Also keep your eyes open for Tim Zahn's newest SW book being released tomorrow (Survivor's Quest) as well as an E-book to be released on the same day, entitled "Fool's Bargain".
In Oz news, it appears Disney (or at least Miramix) may be teaming up with American McGee to produce a trilogy of Oz films. Apparently Miramix is attempting to make up for losing Lord of the Rings (in what is considered now one of the most foolish mistakes in film history). Don't expect MGM or anything resembling the Oz books, however. American McGee's release of the Alice in Wonderland video game a few years back was a rather dark and sinister twist on the Lewis Carroll tale. For their proposed Oz trilogy, they plan to go back in time to the period prior to Dorothy's landing in Oz to explore the war-torn land during the reign of the Witches. While interesting (I'll be curious to see how this turns out), rumor has it that the makers are not terribly familiar with the books, which is not a concern for them, so don't expect too much in that department. More on this story as it develops.
1/27/04 For those of you who make purchases with Amazon.com's Merchant program (meaning that you buy used or new books from Sellers who advertise on Amazon.com, beware of: email@example.com. First off, they sent me a Book Club Edition, which they claim they advertised as, but I do not believe (and with no way of checking I can't confirm or deny) and am not the only one to complain about this (as viewed from their feedback). But more importantly, they refused to refund me the correct amount, claiming they had to withhold shipping fees which they paid! Note, this is a lie as all Amazon customers who purchase from second-hand dealers PAY for shipping themselves. I paid well over $3.00 for shipping (the item itself had a postage stamp of only $1.84 Media Mail). They are guilty of fraud and should be avoided like the plague!
1/18/04 Oz: It's been too long since I posted any Oz news, so here's some. At least four new Oz books have been released in recent days! Charles Phipps' The Engagement of Ozma is available from 1st Books Library (you can get from Amazon.com or B&N I believe). This is the second book in his Umbrella Man of Oz trilogy, but it appears it can be read by itself. Marin Elizabeth Xiques has released her second solo work: The Enchantment of Oz, which is available from Tails of the Cowardly Lion & Friends. Also available from TOTCLAF (though published by Patchwork Press) are two new books by Peter Schulenburg: The UnWinged Monkey of Oz and The Emerald Enchantress of Oz. Enjoy!
Addendum: Oziana 2003 is out as well! And with a gorgeous color cover, each issue of Oziana has really been improving in quality over the years. Head over to The International Wizard of Oz Club site to pick the new one up! Next issue's will also come as a limited edition hardcover! I'll be posting the chronologies of all these stories (Oziana and the books above) in due time after I've had a chance to read them all!
1/18/04 ROTK: Some friends got to see Elijah Wood and Sean Astin at the Lincoln Arts Center a few weeks back. They had a great time with a great audience seeing Fellowship of the Ring Extended on the big screen, and enjoyed Sean and Elijah's banter beforehand.
1/5/04 ROTK review: Apologies for the delays. I posted two on theforce.net, (an initial reaction to the film and then a later reaction after seeing it again) but owed my fans here one. I'll keep it brief and to the point since so many of you have read a lot of reviews lately. I've since seen the ROTK two more times and am looking forward to further viewings. I have to admit that the first time I was a bit more analytical and emotionally removed than I would have preferred. I recognized the magnificence of the production, the incredible performances from everyone in the cast and the soaring sweeping soundtrack and stunning visual effects, but having re-read the book months earlier, I found myself distracted by the numerous omissions and slight changes in a way that I hadn't been for the first two films (due to the fact that I waited to re-read the books until after their release). It was a disservice I had done to myself and one which thankfully was rectified by both further viewings and knowledge of the fact that the extended edition DVDs would restore much of what was lost. By now most of you have read the reviews, loads of hugely enormous (and well deserved) praise interspersed with legitimate and not so-legitimate criticisms. Of these, I'll generally touch.
1)The multiple endings: I've never understood what the rush was. You've spent at least 9 hours watching the saga of these characters unfold (and over 10 if you seen the Extended Editions). I think they deserve proper closure! In fact, I hope for more in the EE DVD. The film winds down in a way that runs contrary to typical Hollywood endings (which would have left it celebratory). I know, I know, society has lost its patience and ability to hold their attention for too long on any one thing. No reason the film should suffer, though.
2) Denethor: Brilliantly played by John Noble, but ironically, not as noble as some remember from the book. Fully expect the EE DVD to solve this dilemma as brilliantly as they solved the Faramir one. My only real gripe is Gandalf striking him (apparently played for laughs) and the fact that he seems to snap out of his madness right before expiring (due to a kick from Shadowfax who seems to be following in his master's footsteps). But I'll wait till November to truly judge.
3) Sam and Frodo and Sméagol: I could accept Frodo turning Sam away (I imagine its abruptness will be fixed on the EE DVD), but I wasn't happy they took certain lines from a much beloved scene in the book and placed it in a different context. Textually, Gollum comes upon Frodo asleep in Sam's arms and the good aspect of Sméagol nearly reemerges and changes his mind about betraying him. Sam awakens and accuses Gollum of "sneaking off" which enrages Gollum to the point that Sméagol is permanently subdued. In the book, Sam's (understandable) short-temper is at the heart of this loss. In the film, Sam is 100% justified (for Gollum WAS in fact 'sneaking') so we lose not only the irony of the lines, but the fact that Sam's jealousy and impatience perpetuates an evil situation that might otherwise have been averted.
4) Saruman's absence: It will be on the DVD in November, so not a big deal.
5) The Army of the Dead: I don't have as much of an issue with them going to Gondor, but as you'll see it probably wasn't the best idea. I do have a problem with them as green ghosts, which isn't Tolkienian. Textually, I imagine its possible to draw the wrong conclusion, but the Oathbreakers in the book were cursed to continue living, so we get an undead thing perhaps, but ghosts don't seem appropriate. PJ appears to have made them ghosts because they're far more speedy than an army of zombies would have been, and he needed them to decimate large numbers of Orcs in short time. Of course, the problem with this is that it drains away all the tension of the Battle of Pellennor Fields and in the process robs the victory from the Rohirrim and Rohan. It becomes the standard Deus Ex Machina which is a shame because it's not Tolkien's method (he has them defeat the Corsairs - a battle unto itself - but does not bring them to Gondor). Also, believe it or not, I didn't find them scary, which in the book they are. For one thing, the leader shouldn't have spoken. He belongs in Pirates of the Caribbean, not Return of the King. The perfect method would have been to keep them silent. Witness John Carpenter's The Fog for the scariest undead revenants ever brought to the screen and you'll understand what I mean. THAT would have been perfect.
6) Arwen's fate tied to the Ring: Curious at best. This may have to do with Arwen's bestowing her grace upon Frodo in Fellowship, but once again, I imagine the EE DVD will solve this riddle. Not a big deal.
7) Scouring of the Shire: Gone with the wind along with Tom Bombadil, Gildor and Ghan-Buri-Ghan (unless PJ really surprises us!). It's ok. While I would have loved to have seen the Hobbits riding into the Shire and kicking some major butt, I can see why it wouldn't have been practical. We're talking at least another half-hour of film time, which filmically is anticlimactic to the War of the Ring (even if it is a consequence of it).
Overall, the theatrical edition is chock full of great stuff and is easily the Best Film of the Year (if not of several years)! Oscar had better NOT disappoint me this February! Best Picture and Best Director are the least due this film and if they do not receive it...
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