I can think of a lot of things I'd like to do with three hours. Have sex with Paris Hilton, do my taxes, watch the video of me having sex with Paris Hilton. Instead I sat through the longest movie ever made -- Return of the King.
I know. I know! A lot of you out there love the Lord Of The Rings trilogy and love this series-ending capper especially. I am not one of you. I do not like stories of fantasy. I do not like trolls or magic bowling balls or wise old white-haired wizards played by English actors. It is a genre beloved by those who attend Star Trek conventions. And while these are very nice people, seriously, do I want them to drop by my house to chat about it over a beer?
No. I do not.
I saw first The Lord of the Rings, and walked out. I saw the second, More Lord of the Rings, and walked out. Then a friend invited me to a free screening of this latest Ring thing and I decided to give Tolkien one last try. I got there early and the theater was packed with eager Star Trek conventioneers. I sat in the middle of the row next to the person who had invited me and who loves this movie (this was her second time). The place was crowded and I knew no one, least of all me, would be getting up in the middle and leaving. And then the saga began and I became another magical movie character -- Alex in A Clockwork Orange.
There is no doubt that someone knows what they're doing here. The movie is produced and directed by Peter Jackson with care and sincerity -- there's that word again -- and I believe everyone involved did a sincere job of sincerely translating the book to screen sincerely. Nice costumes! Maxfield Parrish vistas! Big battles! Liv Tyler's lips!
But in terms of storytelling, Return of the King is well... Apparently it's all about this ring. A really, really bad ring. And trolls. And magical lands and spells and made-up creatures that appear from nowhere. The slowest moving troll (Elijah Wood) has to destroy the ring. That seems to be "the plot." Why then does he not just go and drop it in the volcano and be done? I... don't... know.
As for everyone else, it's a lot of guys with long hair and beards. I could not tell one from another. There is the long-haired, bearded guy who's the King, and the long-haired, bearded guy with the big nostrils, and one who looks like the guy who works at the hardware store down the street from me.
Too many people. Too much stuff. No story!
It's not just that the fantasy genre is fay. It's not just the forced "Wouldist thou goest" artifice of language. What I dislike most about fantasy like this is the last minute appearance of story solutions: "I know! Let's go to the Flumdiddle Forest where the Philodumdrums live! They will surely help us!" In an imaginary world, you can pull these kinds of story telling solutions out of your pants and no one asks questions. It is the kind of Jolt Cola creativity found only in rousing game of Dungeons & Dragons.
As hour two dragged into hour three, while the entire audience kvelled with joy over... whatever... I tried to think of things I had to buy at Ralphs: I need water, shaving gel, what else? Occasionally these important thoughts were interrupted by the movie. What was I watching? Why should I care? There's a city that's being attacked by "the bad guys" whoever they are. Why does saving this city mean anything? We don't know. And in between all the "action" is the long, tedious, endless journey of Elijah Wood and his little troll buddies, up a long flight of stairs, down a long flight of stairs. Should we? Shouldn't we? I can't! Yes, you can!
Stop talking about it and do something!
Finally it seemed to end. But just when the long-haired bearded King is crowned and I started to look for the exit, I realized... we're not done. No, we have another hour of epilogue!! The Elijah Wood troll decides to leave Flumdiddle Forest. He has a scene on a dock saying goodbye to his troll pals and I swear the movie stopped. A shot of Elijah. A shot of his friends crying. Another shot of Elijah. This one longer. Five, ten minutes? Say goodbye.Get on the friggin' boat! I wanted to scream, but I was trapped in my seat, unable to leave. Another shot of Elijah. Another shot of his friends. His eyeballs. Their eyeballs. Get... On... The... Friggin'... Boat!! You friggin' little troll person!!!
Finally he did.
Return of the King playing everywhere.
Pack a lunch.