At this point, it's better to simply download one of the edits available on the darkest corners of the world wide web (lots of great listenable ones out there, some with all the cues separated, leaving you the choice to combine them as you want), and wait patiently for an official complete release (which will happen in less than 5 years now) than bother trying to do an edit using various sources (because the OST and UE aren't enough to make a version of the score like you'd like to do. You'd be missing clean openings and endings for lots of cues).
OK, so, having now seen the film, I've tried to do a quick thematic analysis, to see if knowing what the themes represent would help me appreciate the score a bit more (because it seems to be quite a richly thematic score, and it's hard to make sense of it all). So here's my interpretation of the themes heard in the score, with timestamps of statements of each theme (I don't claim that any of this is correct/accurate or whatever (there are probably a lot of mistakes, actually). It's just my take on the themes based on what I remember from the scenes they were used in. Sometimes I put an interrogation mark when I wasn't sure if that's indeed a theme or not). Note that I tried to keep the list relatively simple, so I didn't include bridge sections of themes, accompanying rhythms, etc. Also worth noting: I listed a few "Unknown Theme". I used that whenever there is a melody which I think could be a theme, but which I'm not able to attribute to any character/creature (some of them I listed because I can't help but think "I heard that somewhere else in the score!" but couldn't find where. Some of them may not be themes at all, but just incidental melodies). Any help or correction is appreciated!
The Fantastic Beasts Theme
To me, this is definitely NOT Grindelwald's theme, rather a theme for the creatures. It is used over the Fantastic Beasts logo, then for the scene with the Billywig and the scene with the Demiguise, so that would make more sense than it being a theme for Grindelwald.
Disc 1 - 01. Main Titles: 00'19 - 00'38 / 01:23 - 01'34
Disc 2 - 03. Billywig: 00'01 - 00'21
Disc 2 - 04. The Demiguise And The Lollipop: 00'04 - 00'12 / 00'19 - End
The Wizarding World Theme
Disc 1 - 02. There Are Witches Among Us - The Bank - The Niffler: 00'53 - 01'27
Disc 1 - 03. Tina Takes Newt In - MACUSA Headquarters: 00'00 - 00'21 / 00'53 - 01'14
Disc 1 - 04. Pie Or Strudel - Escaping Queenie And Tina's Place: 00'05 - 00'22
Disc 2 - 01. A Man And His Beasts : 00'07 - 01'25 / 01'55 - 02'16 / 03'12 - 03'49 / 05'43 - 06'08 / 06'40 - 07'01 / 07'51 - 08'12
Disc 2 - 08. End Titles Pt.2: 00'00 - 00'20 / 00'42 - End
Disc 1 - 01. Main Titles: 01'43 - 02'2 (A Phrase) / 02'22 - 02'37 (B Phrase) / 02'37 - End (A Phrase)
Disc 1 - 06. Inside The Case: 00'23 - 01'17 (A Phrase) / 01'17 - 01'33 (B Phrase) / 01'33 - 01'42 (A Phrase)
Disc 1 - 15. Relieve Him Of His Wand - Newt Releases The Thunderbird - Jacob's Farewell: 03'36 - 03'46 (A Phrase)
Disc 1 - 17. End Titles: 01'07 - 01'37 (A Phrase) / 01'37 - 01'47
Newt's Heroic Theme
Disc 1 - 04. Pie Or Strudel - Escaping Queenie And Tina's Place: 01'06 - 01'11
Disc 1 - 09. Tina And Newt Trial - Let's Get The Good Stuff Out - You're One Of Us Now - Swooping Evil: 05'43 - 06'05
Disc 1 - 10. Gnarlak Negotiations: 02'41 - 02'46
Disc 1 - 11. The Demiguise And The Occamy : 02'40 - 02'57
Disc 1 - 17. End Titles: 00'35 - 00'54
Disc 1 - 02. There Are Witches Among Us - The Bank - The Niffler: 02'05 - 02'27 (A Phrase) / 03'25 - 03'44 (A Phrase) / 03'59 - 04'33 (B Phrase) / 04'51 - 04'57 (B Phrase) / 05'28 - 05'48 (A Phrase)
Disc 1 - 04. Pie Or Strudel - Escaping Queenie And Tina's Place: 01'31 - 01'52 (A Phrase)
Disc 1 - 06. Inside The Case: 01'42 - 01'58 (A Phrase?)
Disc 1 - 07. The Erumpent: 01'31 - 01'48 (C Phrase?) / 01'59 - 02'06 (C Phrase?)
Disc 2 - 09. Kowalski Rag: 00'03 - 00'35 (A Phrase) / 00'36 - 00'50 (B Phrase) / 01'09 - 01'57 (A Phrase) / 02'16 - 03'13 (C Phrase?) / 03'30 - 03'48 (A Phrase)
Jacob's Secondary Theme (Jacob The Baker?)
Disc 1 - 15. Relieve Him Of His Wand - Newt Releases The Thunderbird - Jacob's Farewell: 10'11 - 10'37
Disc 1 - 16. Newt Says Goodbye To Tina: 02'06 - 02'56
Disc 2 - 09. Kowalski Rag: 04'40 - 04'50
Jacob And Queenie's Love Theme
Disc 1 - 15. Relieve Him Of His Wand - Newt Releases The Thunderbird - Jacob's Farewell: 11'37 - 11'53
Disc 1 - 16. Newt Says Goodbye To Tina: 02'56 - End
Disc 2 - 09. Kowalski Rag: 04'50 - End
OK, I'm not sure this theme is actually Tina's, but she's the only character I could think of that theme could be for.
Disc 1 - 04. Pie Or Strudel - Escaping Queenie And Tina's Place: 00'32 - 00'47
Disc 1 - 09. Tina And Newt Trial - Let's Get The Good Stuff Out - You're One Of Us Now - Swooping Evil: 01'15 - 01'34
Disc 1 - 15. Relieve Him Of His Wand - Newt Releases The Thunderbird - Jacob's Farewell: 07'55 - 09'01
Newt And Tina's Love Theme or The "Moving On" Theme
Not sure what this theme is supposed to represent. The two propositions above are the best I can come up with.
Disc 1 - 12. A Close Friend: 00'08 - End
Disc 1 - 15. Relieve Him Of His Wand - Newt Releases The Thunderbird - Jacob's Farewell: 05'02 - 07'19
Disc 1 - 16. Newt Says Goodbye To Tina: 00'00 - 02'01
Not sure at all about that one. It's probably supposed to be just incidental music.
Disc 1 - 05. Credence Hands Out Leaflets: 00'19 - 00'30 / 00'50 - 01'01
Disc 2 - 02. Soup And Leaflets: 01'26 - 01'37
Not sure about that one either. It's hard to hear a melody beneath all that droning.
Disc 1 - 05. Credence Hands Out Leaflets: 01'26 - End
Disc 2 - 02. Soup And Leaflets: 00'04 - 01'03 / 01'42 - End
Disc 2 - 05. I'm Not Your Ma: 00'05 - 00'29
THIS to me is Grindelwald's theme. It first appears for its appearance in the prologue, then when the Obscurus is shown in the case (and this is what Grindelwald wants) and finally when Graves mentions Grindelwald when interrogating Newt. Makes sense to me.
Disc 1 - 01. Main Titles: 01'04 - 01'23
Disc 1 - 06. Inside The Case: 06'44 - 07'23
Disc 1 - 08. In The Cells: 00'31 - 01'25
Disc 1 - 09. Tina And Newt Trial - Let's Get The Good Stuff Out - You're One Of Us Now - Swooping Evil: 00'30 - 01'03
Disc 1 - 15. Relieve Him Of His Wand - Newt Releases The Thunderbird - Jacob's Farewell: 02'11 - 02'45?
The Obscurus' Theme
Disc 1 - 13. The Obscurus - Rooftop Chase: 00'00 - 01'09
Disc 1 - 14. He's Listening To You, Tina: 00'38 - 01'44
Disc 2 - 05. I'm Not Your Ma: 01'23 - 01'33
The Thunderbird's Theme
Disc 1 - 06. Inside The Case: 00'00 - 00'20 / 05'17 - 05'45 / 06'12 - 06'34
Disc 1 - 15. Relieve Him Of His Wand - Newt Releases The Thunderbird - Jacob's Farewell: 03'20 - 03'36
Newt And The Thunderbird Theme
I think this might be some sort of bonding theme for Newt and the Thunderbird, as that theme appears in both scenes with the character and the creature.
Disc 1 - 06. Inside The Case: 02'10 - 02'39
Disc 1 - 15. Relieve Him Of His Wand - Newt Releases The Thunderbird - Jacob's Farewell: 04'00 - 04'29
The Niffler's Theme
That one is probably the hardest to grasp, so the timestamps below are more guesses than anything, really.
Disc 1 - 02. There Are Witches Among Us - The Bank - The Niffler: 01'40 - 02'05 / 02'54 - 03'06 / 04'33 - 04'47
The Erumpent's Theme
Disc 1 - 07. The Erumpent: 00'00 - 00'18 / 00'52 - 01'02
"On The Run" Motif:
Disc 1 - 09. Tina And Newt Trial - Let's Get The Good Stuff Out - You're One Of Us Now - Swooping Evil: 04'41 - 05'12
Disc 1 - 10. Gnarlak Negotiations: 01'16 - 01'26
TRACK-BY-TRACK THEMATIC BREAKDOWN
Disc 1 - 01. Main Titles
00'19 - 00'38: The Fantastic Beasts Theme
01'04 - 01'23: Grindelwald's Theme
01'23 - 01'34: The Fantastic beasts Theme
01'43 - 02'22: Newt's Theme (A Phrase)
02'22 - 02'37: Newt's Theme (B Phrase)
02'37 - End: Newt's Theme (A Phrase)
Disc 1 - 02. There Are Witches Among Us - The Bank - The Niffler
00'53 - 01'27: The Wizarding World Theme
01'40 - 02'05: The Niffler's Theme
02'05 - 02'27: Kowalski's Theme (A Phrase)
02'54 - 03'06: The Niffler's Theme
03'25 - 03'44: Kowalski's Theme (A Phrase)
03'59 - 04'33: Kowalski's Theme (B Phrase)
04'33 - 04'47: The Niffler's Theme
04'51 - 04'57: Kowalski's Theme (B Phrase)
05'28 - 05'48: Kowalski's Theme (A Phrase)
06'11 - 06'29: Unknown Theme A
Disc 1 - 03. Tina Takes Newt In - MACUSA Headquarters
00'00 - 00'21: The Wizarding World Theme
00'53 - 01'14: The Wizarding World Theme
01'34 - End: Unknown Theme B
Disc 1 - 04. Pie Or Strudel - Escaping Queenie And Tina's Place
00'05 - 00'22: The Wizarding World Theme
00'32 - 00'47: Tina's Theme?
01'06 - 01'11: Newt's Heroic Theme
01'31 - 01'52: Kowalski's Theme (A Phrase)
Disc 1 - 08. In The Cells
00'31 - 01'25: Grindelwald's Theme
Disc 1 - 09. Tina And Newt Trial - Let's Get The Good Stuff Out - You're One Of Us Now - Swooping Evil
00'30 - 01'03: Grindelwald's Theme
01'15 - 01'34: Tina's Theme?
01'51 - 02'05: Unknown Theme I
02'27 - 02'48: Unknown Theme J
04'41 - 05'12: On The Run Motif
05'43 - 06'05: Newt's Heroic Theme
Disc 2 - 01. A Man And His Beasts
00'07 - 01'25: The Wizarding World Theme
01'55 - 02'16: The Wizarding World Theme
03'12 - 03'49: The Wizarding World Theme
03'49 - 04'11: Unknown Theme P
04'11 - 04'51: Unknown Theme Q
04'51 - 05'08: Unknown Theme R
05'08 - 05'43: Unknown Theme S
05'43 - 06'08: The Wizarding World Theme
06'08 - 06'32: Unknown Theme T
06'40 - 07'01: The Wizarding World Theme
07'51 - 08'12: The Wizarding World Theme
The theatrical cut.
And so the journey ended with The Return Of The King... After the relative disappointment of The Two Towers (with which I wasn't as pleased as I was with The Fellowship Of The Ring), I surprisingly wasn’t particularly anxious before the release of the last part of the trilogy. For some reason, I was convinced it was going to be great. I remember watching the preview for that film on the TTT DVD, with Elijah Wood claiming "It’s better than the first two combined", and after that, seeing the teaser, and later on, the trailer, and then I knew... There was no doubt in my mind the film that was coming to theaters was going to be very special... Very special indeed...
And right from the start, I was proven right. The opening of the film is one of my favourite moments in it. Starting the grand climax of this story of epic proportions with the shot of a worm was a stroke of genius. It is something completely unexpected, but it works so well. The whole pastoral, bucolic opening sequence actually makes for a great contrast for what is about to follow (both in said sequence and in the film as a whole) and I believe was the most perfect way to open that film. I absolutely love it, and the music that accompanies it as well. And the visuals, too. Ah, yes, the visuals. As some of you might recall (those of you who have read my review of The Two Towers), I wasn’t a huge fan of the visual aspect of the second film, which looked too "raw" for my taste (in terms of color, of special effects, etc.). But here, right with the first scene, the film looked much, much better (well, there's that underwater shot that looks like bad, but bad-looking underwater shots seem to be a common thread in PJ movies for some reason). Gorgeous colors there: lots of greens, gold... It looked great. PJ wasn’t afraid of colors anymore. Colors were back!
The look of the film is one of the many things I love about it. Always been a fan of everything having to do with Gondor and the design of the armors, buildings, etc. so the fact that most of the film deals with that culture is definitely a plus (always preferred Gondor to Rohan, which is one of the reasons why I prefer that film to The Two Towers). Also, as mentioned above, colors make a grand return in that film: we got green for the Army Of The Dead, red and black for Mordor, white and blue for Gondor, yellow/gold for the Pelennor Fields... Was happy to see the film was not all just grey and blue like The Two Towers! There are also many memorable shots to be found in the film: the one during Faramir’s escape from Osgiliath, showing on one side the dark clouds of Mordor and the Nazgûl in the air and on the other the White Rider and the light coming out of his staff, the silhouette of the Rohirrim hitting the bell during the muster of Rohan, the vertiginous overhead shots during the climb of the stairs of Cirith Ungol, Shelob showing up above Frodo, Aragorn facing the Black Gate as Sauron tries to seduce him, the Eagles arriving at Mount Doom... Jackson was firing on all cylinders with that film. Visually, there isn’t much that bother me here (some of the visual effects may look a bit dodgy, but not as much as some in TTT). Some have mentioned that this film was the first one where PJ started going a bit mad with bloom (a trend that got much, much worse with The Hobbit trilogy) and I originally agreed with that statement (going by memory), but rewatching the film, it really isn’t that much pronounced and is limited to only some parts: the sequence where there is probably the most bloom is during the Battle Of The Pelennor Fields, and even then, I think it isn’t much of a nuisance, and actually participates in making us feel the conflict has reached really epic, mythical proportions, and what we are seeing now is the stuff of legends. So, for me, it works.
Of course, the visuals isn’t the only thing the film has going for it. The Return Of The King is a film of many highlights. MANY. There are few movies in which you can find as many stirring sequences as there are in this one: the arrival at Minas Tirith, the Lighting Of The Beacons, the Muster of Rohan, the Sacrifice of Faramir, Theoden’s speech and the Charge Of The Rohirrim, the White Shores dialogue, Sam coming into his own while fighting Shelob, the whole End Of All Things sequence, the Grey Havens... It is a movie that keeps on giving, that just goes from one inspired moment to the next (with the occasional mishap, quickly forgotten and forgiven given everything that surrounds it). It really is one hell of a cinematic experience, and even can be a bit exhausting because of that (in a good way, that is!). It is not perfect, however, I’ll willingly admit that. It suffers from excessive bloatness from time to time, and you can clearly feel PJ indulging himself in quite a few sequences, now that he was more confident after the success of the two previous film. It was all of course embodied by the sequence in which Legolas kills the Oliphaunt (that one never bothered me much, as by that point in the story, it feels “earned” so to speak: such an heroic deed gives a great idea of the magnitude of the conflict at hand. This is huge, now! Some might say it is over-the-top (it’s hard to deny that) and doesn’t belong here, but it is a “cool moment for the sake of being cool” that works for me). And this bloatness is what made the film stray too far from the book, for some...
So this is where we have to discuss the deviations from the book. This film is the most controversial of the three when it comes to the adaptation aspect of it (The Fellowship Of The Ring is probably the most well-received by book fans, and the complaints regarding The Two Towers being mostly limited to the changes done to Faramir's character) The Return Of The King was a bit particular for me, as it was the first film in the trilogy that I watched when I was finally really familiar with the books. Before The Fellowship Of The Ring was released in theaters, I had only read Book I of the first novel (the story didn’t quite grab me, and I blame that mostly on the Bakshi film, which I had seen before reading the book, so I had visuals from it stuck in my mind, and that didn’t work in the book’s favour, unfortunately), and I didn’t remember much from it, so when I saw the film, I couldn’t really evaluate it as an adaptation, and I had no expectations for it as an adaptation, and thus didn’t notice (nor was I bothered) by the changes. By the time The Two Towers was released, I had read the books once (maybe twice), so I noticed mostly the major changes but none annoyed me that much (I could understand the reasoning behind it, even though I would have liked PJ to find a different approach with the case of Faramir. And I was bummed Shelob didn't show up at the end of the film). But when came the time of The Return Of The King, I knew the story much, much better, so this is really the one where I approached it differently, not simply as a film, but as an adaptation. And yes, as much as I loved what the film had to offer, I was disappointed by many of the changes. No Beregond? No Bergil? No Imrahil? What, why? Of course, for someone trying to streamline the story of the book, this seems like one of the most obvious and easy things to cut, so I came to accept that (though I later realized as unimportant as these characters might seem in the great scheme of things, their absence is at the origin of us not really caring much for the Gondorians, which is something I addressed in another post of mine here). But then there were bigger changes than that...
First, there’s the Arwen subplot. To be honest, I never gave that one much thought back then, so I didn’t feel particularly annoyed by it (the fact that I didn’t find the Arwen scenes to be as boring as the ones in TTT played a part in that). With time, I’ve come to understand the gripes people have with it, and I guess it now bothers me a bit, but I’m still pretty much indifferent to it. Then, there’s the Denethor situation... That one I was more disappointed with. I do wish they had shown the Palantir, as omitting it created more problems than having it in the film (by then, it had been established what a Palantir was: it wouldn’t have complicated things too much nor would it have taken too much screentime to show it to explain Denethor’s madness. Now the guy just seems like a douchebag just... because). A third major change is everything to do with the Grey Company and the Army Of The Dead. Now, this one is rather funny, because before even watching the film, I was convinced they were gonna have the Army Of The Dead show up at the Fields of the Pelennor, as cinematically, it is the thing that made the most sense to me. If you stick to the book, you have random guys we had never seen before show up, go with Aragorn recruit the Dead to kill some pirates, then leave the Dead there, and finally, during the Battle Of The Pelennor Fields, you have those 200 (or so) men arriving and turning the tide of the battle. I’m not sure the average moviegoer would be OK with that. The most common reaction you’d get would probably be: "Why didn’t they keep the Dead with them?" which is actually something addressed by Gimli in the film, but by that point, the Dead have made a real difference. Having them be summoned just to kill a few pirates would not have made a big impact, in my opinion... There’s another change, which I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere, but which personally kind of bugged me, and that is what happens when the door of Minas Tirith is smashed by Grond. In this particular case, the film takes the complete opposite direction of what happens to the book, and I’m not sure I liked that. That moment in the book, where there is a sudden silence, and the Witch-King slowly rides in the city, with Gandalf facing him, was such an iconic scene that I was at first really disappointed that it had not been included in the film. What the film offered instead made me grin the first time I saw it as it took me a bit by surprise (not necessarily in a bad way, mind you), but the more I think about it, the more I would have liked PJ to stick to the book here. That being said, I ended up being more or less pleased about how he dealt with that face-off in the EE (more on that below), so there is that.
And finally, the last major change much debated among fans is Frodo telling Sam to go home, and Frodo facing Shelob’s lair alone. Well, to begin with, many seem to be bothered by the fact that the Shelob's lair sequence was moved from the second film to the third one in the first place. Never considered that a problem, personally. In fact, I think it was a good choice. Remove that from the third film, and you have barely anything to show of Frodo and Sam's journey (just Sam rescuing Frodo in Cirith Ungol, and then the two walking in Mordor to Mount Doom) while there'd be a lot of scenes with the other storylines. Here, there's more balance between each. As for the way Frodo and Sam are separated in the film: this, I’m personally OK with. The way they are separated in the book is not entirely satisfying, and this was much better for many reasons: first, it shows the growing influence of the Ring on Frodo, second it makes the Shelob’s lair sequence more frightening knowing Frodo is going in alone (though the "frightening" part is a bit debatable, I’ll address that bit below), and third, it makes for a badass return for Sam (but I can understand why people hate that change, as they think Sam would never have abandoned Frodo. Ever. And I agree. Wish PJ would have found a way to deal with that more delicately. Maybe, instead of having Sam actually leaving and suddenly deciding to come back after seeing the Lembas bread and realizing Gollum's treachery (hadn't he already realized before that that Gollum was behind all this anyway?), you could have him simply stay where Frodo left him, and after having cried all the tears in his body, putting himself together and realizing he can't leave Frodo alone). Actually, my problem with the Shelob's lair sequence has more to do with the way it was lit: it’s too well lit. It’s supposed to be one of the darkest places of Middle-Earth and that’s how you lit your set? As a result, the sequence was not particularly scary, which is a shame because it would have been a great opportunity to play around with shadows, eyes glowing in the dark, etc. The way it is described in the book is so chilling, it’s a real pity they didn’t capture that in any way in the film. Anyway, all this to say that as an adaptation, I acknowledge the fact that The Return Of The King could be improved upon (in that regard, The Fellowship Of The Ring remains the best of the three).
While we're on the topic of things being changed and moved around: it is interesting to note that in this film (much more than in the previous two) many scenes were moved around until late in the game, and it is pretty much unnoticeable for someone who isn’t aware of that fact. The only scene where one could really notice it is when Gandalf rescues Faramir and his men, with Pippin being here for some odd reason (which of course is explained by the fact that this was originally the moment Gandalf and Pippin arrived at Minas Tirith, as most of you already know). I actually thought about that one when rewatching the film, and I suddenly realized something: that meant that the awesome arrival at Minas Tirith with Shore’s fantastic cue and those awesome aerial shots as Gandalf is riding all the way up to the Citadel were originally not going to be in the film! I am so glad PJ changed his mind, because that sequence is one of my favourite in the film. That change is also a good way to spot some of the pick-up scenes in the film: for example, the scene taking place at night between Pippin and Gandalf at Minas Tirith, with them suddenly seeing the light coming from Minas Morgul as the Mordor army is leaving the place, wasn’t originally there either (since Gandalf arrived when Faramir and his men were fleeing from Osgiliath which was invaded by said Mordor army). It’s rather funny to put the pieces together like that and see how the film was shaped as the editing went on.
And now, about the score... Ah, the score... Simply put, this is my favourite score of all time (or at least easily Top 3 material). Building on all the thematic material established in the previous two scores, Shore kept on developing his musical landscape and created one gigantic masterpiece that goes through all the emotional spectrum and took us from one impressive setpiece to the next with a mastery of the orchestra that is matched by few other film composers! Much like the film itself, the score has a large number of stunning moments: the lyrical rendition of Gandalf’s theme as he flees from Edoras with Pippin, the majestic grandeur of the Gondor theme statement during the Lighting Of The Beacons (to this day, still one of the best combinations of music and visuals in the history of cinema), followed by the martial Rohan material for the Rohirrim leaving Edoras, the beautiful choral material for Gandalf rescuing Faramir and his men, the chilling string writing in the Shelob’s Lair sequence, the exhilirating heroic music for the “Legolas kills the Oliphaunt” scene... The way all the themes are handled, each one being given the chance to shine, and all beautifully interacting with one another is also one of the best aspects of the score. But ultimately, if I have to give only one reason why this is my favourite of the three is simple: the Gondor theme. That theme is what makes this score, for me. The tragedy of this once beautiful and noble civilization is perfectly encapsulated by this soaring melody that conveys both the idea that Gondor is past its glory days but also that it can still rise to the occasion, for one glorious final stand. And as I previously mentioned, Shore’s theme fills in the void left by the lack of Gondorians in the film for us to relate to (Faramir being unconscious most of the time, and Denethor being a complete mad man). There are no characters to really represent the Gondorians on screen and thus make us care for them, so Shore’s theme takes this responsibility, and does it admirably.
My love for the Gondor theme is also the reason why I was always a bit disappointed by how Shore ended this score, with his Wagner homage. Now don’t get me wrong, I like this bit, but the fact that it basically "replaced" one final glorious Gondor theme statement annoys me. By that I mean: it seems clear to me that, had it not been the final film, Shore would have definitely ended the score with a big Gondor theme statement instead of the Wagner cue he wrote to conclude the trilogy. If you look at the two previous score, there is a clear pattern (well, in my opinion). The Fellowship Of The Ring has a clear overarching theme that binds everything together, and that is the Fellowship theme (one could say there’s also the Shire theme, but more on that in a second), the film being of course all about that group. And what do we get at the very end of the score? A big Fellowship theme statement (and right before it, the Shire theme). Next, The Two Towers: the big new theme here of course is the Rohan theme, the film revolving in big part around that people. And what do we get at the end of the score? A big Rohan theme statement. And finally, we have The Return Of The King, with the Gondor theme being the big new thematic idea here (well, it had been introduced in the previous scores, but only in the third one did it really came into its own), and a lot of screentime being devoted to Minas Tirith. And what did we get at the end of the score? NOT a big Gondor theme statement. Of course, you’ll say: "But here, this isn’t just about the end of The Return Of The King, this is end of the trilogy as whole!", and I understand that. But couldn’t Shore have written a big Gondor theme statement followed by his homage to Wagner? I sure wish he did... Anyway, enough about that!
Before concluding this review, let’s talk about the theatrical cut. This one still holds up pretty damn well. When compared to the extended cut, it clearly works better in my opinion, though it could have been slightly improved, methinks. There are things that work definitely better in the theatrical cut (the audience not knowing what was the outcome of Aragorn’s encounter with the Army Of The Dead makes for a much more exciting arrival at the battle than in the EE, same regarding the lack of scene with the Rohirrim the moment they depart from Dunharrow to their arrival at Minas Tirith...) but then there are scenes that were kept for the EE that would have made a much bigger impact, had they been included in the theatrical cut: the scene with Gandalf facing the Witch-King (I know not many people like it, but I’m fine with it) and the scene where Frodo and Sam encouter the company of orcs. These are two scenes that are really tense and which really make you consider the quest may fail, so I think it would have been terrific if they had been part of the theatrical cut, for non-book readers to experience them that way (especially the Witch-King scene, set up by a line of dialogue kept in the theatrical cut but with no payoff!). Having them in the EE, which most people watch after having already seen the theatrical cut, robs them of their impact. Apart from that, I think the theatrical cut still stands strong and doesn’t feel like it’s missing anything really important (considering what was included on the EE, that is), apart from Saruman’s death of course, but it goes without saying! Regarding the additions of the extended edition, they fall into two categories: the one that are most welcome (the coronal of silver and gold scene, Merry swearing allegiance to Theoden, Eomer finding Eowyn on the battlefield, Sam seeing the stars shining while in Mordor) and then there are the ones that feel either unnecessary or detrimental to the viewing experience (the whole Paths Of The Dead added footage, the Pirates Of Umbar, Aragorn using the Palantir...). That is why, in my opinion, the best version of the film lies between the theatrical cut and the extended cut. A “partially-extended cut” of sorts.
The Return Of The King may not be a flawless film, but it is an awe-inspiring experience nonetheless. A most powerful and magnificent climax to one of the finest trilogies of all time. Whenever people defend a movie that was highly anticipated by fans and ended up being trashed, saying "The expectations were too high anyway! They could never possibly meet these expectations!", I always bring up this film as a proof that it can actually be done. My expectations for that one were sky high, yet it surpassed them. Was it everything I could have hoped for? No, maybe not (some aspects of the books could have been handled more carefully), but it was also many things I couldn’t have hoped for. There is no doubt in my mind that it is one of greatest movies ever made. Compared to The Fellowship Of The Ring, it is probably rougher around the edges, but in a way, that is what makes the experience more visceral and more powerful. Remakes will come and go in years to come, that is almost inevitable, and they may handle some things from the book better, but I doubt any will approach the greatness of this adaptation as a whole. It's not just a case of the stars or planets all being perfectly aligned, it's a case of the whole universe being perfectly aligned when that film was made. You did it, PJ! You're are the True King! Now bring us The Hobbit! It's going to be awesome!
Well, for something completely unprepared, it's not that bad. Sure, it's rough around the edges, but given the circumstances, it's understandable.
Here's some advice I'd give for future installments:
- Try to give the show a bit more structure (maybe you could start the video by giving a quick summary of the various OSTs you're gonna talk about, write down beforehand a few things you'd like to mention regarding the score(s) you're gonna talk about...).
- Make sure you prepare the audio samples beforehand (or maybe edit out the part of the video when you're looking for a particular bit in a track). You could also, instead of using your computer speakers to play the audio samples, add the music in post-prod so that the quality is better (though maybe that'll get your video blocked by Youtube, so there is that).
- Try to go a bit more in-depth regarding the music (maybe you could give a bit more context (for example, when talking about a new score in a franchise, talk about the previous scores and what each one brought to the table, and how the new one fits in all this, how it deals with the material that came before...), talk about the themes, the composer's previous output, etc.).
So yeah, there's room for (a lot of ) improvement, but I like the enthusiasm displayed here and especially the part at 11:01 when you tell everyone how to listen to music properly! Bravo for that!
Oh, and I quite liked the Golden Compass video game music played here. Was completely unfamiliar with that one, and it sounds really nice. So, at the very least, your show helped me discover that one, and that must count for something!
Will be watching Episode 2, if there is to be one!