I went to see Return of the King last night at Guildford Odeon. Comfortable seats with good sight-lines, even up against a side wall where I was. It was strange to be in a cinema that was completely full, but very quiet and attentive - not the usual munching and chattering.
I was bowled over by the film. Just as Two Towers was significantly more exciting than Fellowship of the Ring, once again Jackson lifted his game in the third movie.
I was really impressed by the pacing of the film. Yes it was long (and yes I didn't make it through without a toilet break) but there was time for the action to gather pace, time for the sense of impending doom to really develop. And time to bring it all to a close in an unhurried fashion. It reminded me of the experience of a Wagner opera, not just musically, but in the expansive way time is used to absorb you into the mythical world. It was a real shock stepping out into 21st century Guildford afterwards.
Things I really liked:
1) The mustering of Rohan, and the sense of courage struggling with despair.
2) The visualization of Minas Tirith - utterly splendid.
3) The arrival of the Riders of Rohan on the field of Pelennor was suitably spine-tingling.
4) Eowyn's fear before the battle and her confrontation with the Nazgul.
5) The Riders shouting "Death! Death!" as they charged the orcs. Connects with something deep (and rather worrying) in my heathenish Saxon roots.
Some minor quibbles:
1) Gandalf's disrespectful behaviour towards the Steward of Gondor was hard to swallow. Beating him up not just once, but twice - unforgivable rudeness!
2) The sequence of events in the Battle of Pelennor Fields was mucked about with somewhat. But not in a particularly irritating way.
3) The climactic struggle with Gollum in the Cracks of Doom was dragged out. Should have been a shockingly sudden and violent denouement. And I hated the Spielbergesque dangling over a precipice.
4) The Paths of the Dead were nowhere near scary enough. This is a problem with film ghosts in general - ghosts are scary because you see them out of the corner of your eye, or imagine you hear them behind you. You shouldn't be allowed to get a good look at them.
5) Where was Sauron's Darkness? Admittedly this would have made for a murky few hours, but the arrival of the Riders at dawn would have been even more thrilling.
6) Snogging and clapping? Group hugs?