Finally went for a second viewing of Return of the King tonight. It was much better the second time around.
I think the main place they messed up was in doing the battle at the black gate at all. Until then the pacing was on, and one felt very near the climax of the movie, coming off the high of a complex battle–and the second battle after that just doesn’t work, and is a much weaker and less interesting battle, one that undoes the pacing. One battle, and the interweaving with Sam and Frodo altered a little, would have beeen stronger.
And then Arwen. When she looks at the sword the first time, dressed in her black cloak, it’s so clear she’s about to take it. And then, suddenly, Elrond is taking it for her, for some inexplicable reason to do with her being weak because her life is suddenly tied to Sauron and the ring. Huh? Everything about the movie points to Arwen delivering that sword, and the handwaving to keep her from doing so looks very much like, well, handwaving.
I can almost see the movie as working without tying off the Eowyn and Faramir threads now. It still bothered me to be racing off to the black gate without knowing whether the two of them are alive or dead back home, but I think that’s tied up in the Black Gate problems, and would have been less of an issue if the battle of Pelennor fields was the climactic battle.
I was once again impressed with the handling of Pippin’s character arc in this movie, and once again “Well, I’m back” made me cry.
And this acrophobe still maintains the Black Stair is much scarier than Shelob. 🙂