A few months ago I read an article about filmmaking which talked about why the ending of a film is so important: it’s not just that the audiences want to see it come out a certain way, but the ending is the last impression the audience is left with. A film can be fantastic all the way through and then fall on its face at the end, and that’s the impression people will be left with.
Now I loved The Fellowship of the Ring, both the theatrical release and the special edition. I enjoyed most of The Two Towers. But the ending fell flat on its face. Helm’s deep simply stopped, and the Frodo/Sam story did nothing more than present a vague threat from Gollum.
Imagine if The Empire Strikes Back had ended not with Luke getting his replacement hand and Lando and Chewbacca heading off to rescue Han, but had instead ended with the escape from Cloud City. That’s what this felt like.
Visually, the film is amazing. The effects, the scenery, the sets, costumes and battle sequences are stunning. The acting, like last time, is excellent. And yet between the jumbled editing and the lack of an ending, the film is far less satisfying than the previous one.
I’m left with two conclusions: either New Line Cinema stepped in to “protect the franchise” instead of trusting the people who got the first one right, or they had a harder time cutting it down to three hours and made poorer choices.
At this point I’m going to bring up some specifics. You have been warned.
I will admit there are a few story changes that really bugged me, primarily the characterization of Faramir as being just as shortsighted as Boromir. The books made it very clear that Faramir is the only one in his family who has any sense. The other outright changes that bothered me: Rivendell’s elves were leaving way too early. And Eomer didn’t have enough knights with him to fight off the remaining 9,000 or so orcs. They needed the Ents.
I really think it would have been a much more satisfying movie if they had done two things: added a few extra minutes to provide some closure to the Isengard/Rohan story (the only reason those chapters are long in the book is that Merry and Pippin spend the entire time telling people what the Ents did), and smoothed out the editing.
Extra time and re-editing. Which is exactly what they did with Fellowship for the special edition DVD. There may be hope yet, Mr. Frodo.