Episode 57
December 4, 2023

There’s No Rule That Says a Girl Can’t Kill the Witch-king!

Hosted by Jared Pechaček, Ned Raggett, and Oriana Schwindt

Jared, Oriana and Ned discuss their collective choice of topic: Peter Jackson’s version of The Return of the King. It’s been twenty years since the conclusion of Jackson’s three-film effort to adapt the entire Lord of the Rings was released, and it was easily the biggest profile release of the series, coming in with massive interest and attention, setting a variety of box office records in the process along with gaining widespread critical acclaim. It all resulted in a series of worldwide film awards and honors culminating with a famed clean sweep of Oscar wins including best picture, resulting in a tie with Titanic and Ben-Hur with eleven Oscars total but also the only one of those three films to literally win every category it was nominated for, a combined record that still stands. The film’s general impact and that of the series as a whole is at this point undeniable, but how it holds up in a look back, caught somewhat between Fellowship’s own unquestionable triumph and Two Towers’s more stop-and-go successes, warrants its own discussion. What are the many changes made to the tangled relationship between Frodo, Sam and Gollum, and how does that play out as a result for both the film and the wider themes? How does the use of practical models and actual landscapes feed into the feeling of how the film both landed in the moment and held up upon later rewatching, even while it was also the biggest demonstration yet of the possibilities for CGI with massive military clashes and the like? Is it possible to actually lose count of just how many remarkable moments on a grand scale exist throughout the film, even as there are various “well, but…” caveats and questions to raise along the way? How has the whole series of film changed both the perceptions of Tolkien and the film industry in general? And how many endings are there, after all? (Surprise! It never ended, it’s running somewhere in a theater right now, maybe.)

Show Notes.

Jared’s doodle. And that’s another epic trilogy down. (The earlier entries here and here.)

Hurrah for the SAG-AFTRA strike ending and better (not perfect!) terms won.

Our episode on evil. Evil!

TheOneRing.net report on the return of the Eagle & Child pub.

Jason Horowitz’s New York Times story about that Italian Tolkien exhibition encouraged by Italy’s favorite fascists. Sorry, did we say the quiet part out loud? (In the Guardian, Jamie Mackey with more context.)

Our episodes on Peter Jackson’s The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, with lots of notes about the series as a whole so we won’t repeat everything here…

The sole trailer for The Return of the King. But that’s all they needed.

Trilogy Tuesday! It was a crazy time and it was great. Here’s a photo of the all-day pass given out, and here’s an example of that film frame memento given out as well.

The opening scene is really something, no lie. Friendly little worm there.

The screenwriting guru Ned mentions is Robert McKee – per Brian Sibley’s Peter Jackson biography, McKee had come to Wellington, New Zealand to give one of his lectures in 1988, and the New Zealand Film Commission invited Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and future contributing screenwriter for The Two Towers Stephen Sinclair to it and they all apparently took it very much to heart. So a long term impact but even so.

The opening exchange between Sam, Frodo and Gollum. Really are some beautifully shot moments in this sequence.

Oh did Christopher Lee have things to say in the run-up to the theatrical release.

Our episode on the Rankin-Bass Return of the King. It is NOT very good.

Yeah yeah the Arwen vision and Arwen dying and…well whatever.

But boy that introduction to Minas Tirith. THAT’S how to make an entrance.

And the beacons sequence, wow, still. Time zone issues aside.

For examples of the Gondor theme earlier on in the series, skip ahead to about a minute into this clip.

Ride the Empire Builder! If you like.

Hurrah for John Noble (and hurrah for Fringe). Skip ahead three minutes for “The rule of Gondor is MINE!” moment, and the parting between Denethor and Faramir, phew.

Minas Morgul, a triumph of John Howe design, glowing and clamped. (The skybeam is the skybeam but the sonic buildup rules.)

The Holdo maneuver (it really was great, like the film itself)

When Theoden and Eowyn part at Dunharrow, boy that’ll ruin ya. That’s two good actors very much in the moment.

When Aragorn and Eowyn part at Dunharrow, it is very…shippy.

“...and Rohan will answer!” Perfect.

“The stars are veiled.” Are they, Legolas?

Oh you know the Shelob scene. You know.

“The Edge of Night” sequence is unnerving, beautiful and horribly sad.

The Nazgul as the angels of death, in essence. However petty.

Grond! It is great design for sure, plus armored trolls.

Gothmog isn’t bothered with your petty trebuchets.

The Ride of the Rohirrim. No notes. But here come the mumakil

“I am no man!” Yeah, it rules.

Air Bud, the lingua franca of us all.

That crazy Witch-king mace. Gotta love it.

And indeed skip ahead to the end of the clip for that mumak takedown by the scrubbing bubbles. Plus Tracy Jordan with the wisdom.

It still only counts as one, we guess.

Sam finds Frodo in Cirith Ungol – it’s a good moment!

“On this good earth!” (Well, maybe not GREAT earth.)

“I can carry you!” A beautiful sequence, no doubt.

The Crack of Doom. Great acting moments, wonderful moment for Gollum, but not over the cliff again…

And yeah when Mount Doom completely explodes

Will they? Won’t they?

A great way to do individual bows via a movie.

“You bow to NO one.” (Cue big emotions.)

A wordless toast indeed. And a pumpkin. (And a case of the not gays.)

The Grey Havens sends us off. It really is a great Turner-inspired scene.

“Into the West” and the end credit portraits. Great job Annie. (The young filmmaker who passed was Cameron Duncan, to correct Ned there.)

The Triplets of Belleville is a real treat, see it when you can.

Enjoy all the Oscar wins!

Ah yes the Eragon movie. Welp.

And the Chronicles of Narnia tried. But. (Good luck Greta!)

This ran after the episode was recorded but the LA Times had a piece on the movie anniversary and its impact, especially in New Zealand itself.

Our Rings of Power and Hobbit films episodes have more about our general qualms there.

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