Lord of the Rings

Lord of the Rings (Musical)

Before I launch into this, please note that it's 1am, and I apologise for any typos or poorly phrased things. When I first heard that they were doing The Lord of the Rings as a musical, my first reaction was one of wry amusement, surely it wouldn't transfer?

When I heard about the actual performances in Toronto, these impressions seemed to be confirmed, and so when it came to London I wasn't too keen.

However, I'd read that they learned from Toronto, and tightened things up a bit - and so on a whim I took myself into London to see the show.

It's good. It's very good.

It's not 'Lord of the Rings' complete, but the major highlights are there. For example, the Rider of Rohan don't appear at all, nor do the elephaunts or the army of the dead, but the Ents do, as does Shelob, Saruman, the Black Riders, the Elves, Moria and others.

The set spreads into the theatre, with branches covering the boxes, and the stage itself is absolutely chock full of hydraulics - sections rise and fall, and the whole thing spins.

There are several points which were simply incredibly well done. Firstly there was the ring disappearances. Bilbo's eleventy-first birthday is a great application of Physics - it's a variant on Pepper's ghost. It'll leave some people in amazement.

The disappearance in the prancing pony was astounding, though possibly mainly due to my inattention. I was expecting a cheat with the stage lights (but that wasn't it) - one minute Frodo was there, and the next he wasn't. Now, I may have blinked and missed it - in fact I know I did, as I don't know how that was done. Frodo's disappearance it was very swift (he probably just merged with some people moving cross stage) - but it was very smooth.

The first real appearance of Gollum, at the start of act 2 was the perfect entrance. A really good piece of stage engineering. The black riders were very effective too... Shelob and the Balrog also made an appearance. Some smaller audience members will have nightmares about Shelob.

I liked the rendering of the orcs, where can I have a go on some of those bouncy stilts?

Large sections of the book are removed, I think this won't disadvantage anyone unfamiliar with the material (indeed, it is probably more problematic for those familiar, as they're more likely to be thinking 'that bit should be next... where was it?') It'll annoy people who are 'precious' about the book, but for everyone else, it's good. The stage show restores the 'in one bound he was free' escape from Saruman by Gandalf (I know it gets filled in later in the book - but in the film the filling in is pretty quick, and I think that's better for live action).

Tom Bombadil doesn't appear (yay!) though he does get a mention.

The music is actually well done, this could have easily been handled badly. There's a nice duet with Sam and Frodo which was getting a bit too slushy for me - and then Gollum subverts it. Nice.

Opening night isn't for a few weeks yet, these are the previews, so there's still a few things to iron out, for example, when Gandalf knocks on the door of Bag End, he really does need to ensure he doesn't knock the door right open. Also the Bag End set is a bit wobbly. There were a few other little foibles, some on stage, some technical (e.g. during a quiet bit, there was a yellow flash above the stage which was out of place). There was a bit of a mishmash of accents, which could be offputting, and the elves (especially Arwen and Galadrial) kept doing weird jerky things with their hands, not continuously, but from time to time.

These were minor points, in an otherwise excellent production - and it is still in previews, with one of the main actors currently with an injured leg after an accident last week.

Generally, it was very good, and I could really see where the millions were spent!

Tip: There is one full interval, the second interval is a pause, you have only a couple of minutes. Things start on stage 15 minutes before curtain.

Finally. I'd like to remind you of the opening sentence....

Return of the King

Yesterday we finally got to see The Return of the King.

Generally, I was very pleased. I didn't feel there to be a gaping Christopher Lee shaped hole in the film, though it'll be nice when he's back in the extended cut. I was a bit disappointed that the Scouring of the Shire was cut, but I can see why it was cut.

The film is spectacular in it's scope and depth, though some SFX didn't quite work for me. There is a scene where the hobbits are reunited and they are bowed to by the population of Gondor. The hobbits don't feel to be a part of their landscape in the same way that they usually do. Similarly when Legolas climbed up onto the Oliphaunt that screamed CG almost as much as Spiderman did swinging through the city.

These moments are few and far between, most of the CG is so well done that it fades, it's a shame that a few examples do stand out.

The battle at Minis Tirith is incredible, the Riders of Rohan crashing into the Orc army is a sight to behold.

Overall, the trilogy has to be one of the best epics of all time - with Two Towers being my favourite of the three. I think that's because I like films that finish in a darker place.

Now it's Kill Bill Vol 2 to look forward to....

'Fellowship of the Ring' and 'The Two Towers'

Last night I went to see Fellowship and Two Towers at the cinema again. Nice to see them on the big screen, though they did not seem to be the extended versions.

I did notice a few things. For example, at the end of Fellowship, when Boromir was dying, Aragorn runs over to him and one of the dead Uruk-hai starts to get up.

The bit where Legolas leaps to the horse which everyone seems lo love still doesn't do it for me, it looks fake (which it is, of course) - and the comic relief elements of Gimli still seem overdone (but less so than they did at first viewing).

Gollum, of course, is wonderful - a bit of a shame that they didn't re-render the fellowship scenes with the Two Towers Gollum, but I suppose the law of diminishing returns hits there. Andy Serkis was robbed when they handed out the Oscars.

I hope they can do The Hobbit whilst Ian Holm is still young enough! It'd be so nice to see the ring finding scene slotted in there.