Éowyn and Theoden
Musically, that is
I had always liked Éowyn's theme from The Two Towers. It is airy and has a freshness to it that perfectly caught the character at that stage in the story. That theme is developed in The Return of the King in many ways.
The most obvious variation is the martial version heard on the album (in "The Ride of the Rohirrim") and the more bold version heard after she kills the Witch-King. The theme sounds very different when heard in brass, echoing more the Norse sound that Howard Shore has created for the Rohan in general than what her theme sounded like in The Two Towers.
"This saddle is chafing my thighs!!!"
However, one of the things that I look forward to whenever I see The Return of the King are the variations heard earlier in the film. While Éowyn's theme is never heard in The Return of the King the way that it sounded in The Two Towers, it does go through some more subdued variations.
Simply put, until she joins the Rohirrim, every time she appears on the screen the music does something georgeous, especially when she's mooning over Aragorn. The strings and Norwegian fiddle (which was introduced in The Two Towers relating to the Rohan) often show up, giving her theme a lilting quality it didn't have before.
Of course, Theoden's theme is that of the Rohan, which is also reprised from The Two Towers, only this time, instead of broken and plaintive, it is proud. The proudest moments, however, do not appear on the album. After the beacons are lit, and Aragorn goes to inform Theoden (another great cue that isn't on the CD), Theoden's assent is accompanied by a march version of the Rohan theme. It is never heard this way again (a variation on this march, however, is heard on the album in "The Ride of the Rohirrim"), but it is the most rousing presentation heard in the series yet.
"Chewing gum on line, eh!?!
I hope you brought enough for everybody!!!"
It remains so right up until the actual charge on the Fields of the Pelennor. What makes the attack of the Rohirrim so galvanizing is not how martial it is, but rather how basic the adaptation of the theme is in this context. It is heard with the Norwegian fiddle over it, and the variation is similar to that which opens "The Hornburg" in The Two Towers.
Theoden's death seems to be scored with something similar to his recovery after Saruman's possession, a moment I always found to be wonderful... that moment is reflected in his demise also by his line, "I know your face," to Éowyn.
The nature/hope theme that was formerly connected to the moth that Gandalf communicates with at Isengard (heard on the album of The Fellowship of the Ring in "A Knife in the Dark") and the Ents (heard on the album of The Two Towers in "Isengard Unleashed," and heard in the film again just before the "Forth Eorlingas" charge) is also associated with Theoden in this film (it is also heard right at the end to presage the arrival of the Eagles).
The Rohirrim inspire hope for the Gondorians, although Theoden doubts that his participation will make any difference in the long run. It is for this reason that when this theme is heard in The Return of the King that it is when Theoden is contemplating the battle he is leading his men into and the actual arrival upon the battlefield.
When he speaks to his men, Theoden acknowledges that they may be riding to their deaths. It is his acceptance of this, a practical extension of the development of his character from The Two Towers, and his stirring speech to the Rohirrim before the battle, with its cheers of "Death!" is chilling because their cause is a very Norse one: to die an honorable and glorious death. The hope/nature theme crescendos to this.
The music for this barely appears on the album for the film. The track that is there, "The Fields of the Pelennor" only has the arrival of the Rohirrim and their charge. The rest of the track consists of cues from the initial wave upon Minas Tirith, including the attack of the Nazgûl.
However, there is some damn amazing music in this sequence.
As I mentioned before there is the actual charge of the Rohirrim itself. There is also the charge as the Oliphaunts attack (I love the fact that they strap spikes on the tusks of the Oliphuants just to make them hurt more).
The arrival of Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli and the dead army feature both Gondor and Fellowship themes expanded upon and given a mythic sound in brass... shots of Aragorn fighting and Legolas bringing down the Oliphaunt were scored with music that starts with one of these familiar motives, but then takes them in totally different directions harmonically.
Another major theme in The Return of the King is this theme, which is first heard in The Fellowship of the Ring when Sam and Frodo are leaving the Shire ("The Treason of Isengard" on the CD) and again after Galadriel refuses the Ring and Frodo realizes how dangerous it is to be travelling with so many people ("Lóthlórien" on the CD).
"Wow, Mr. Frodo, I wouldn't have thought that Minas Morgul
would have such a huge satellite dish."
This theme is absent from The Two Towers, but it returns in Return of the King as a major element of the score. I absolutely love the fugue version of it heard as Frodo and Sam enter Mordor proper. It is so harsh and dark.
While I have, for years, avoided the Oscar broadcast, but this year I may watch it. Is it because The Return of the King got eleven nominations (picture, director, adapted screenplay, art direction, sound mixing, original score, original song, costume design, film editing, makeup, visual effects and a partridge in a pear tree) and it is bound to win some of them? No. It is because I just found out that Billy Crystal is hosting.
I fear that, like in 2001 with The Fellowship of the Ring, Return of the King will get a whole bunch of the more technically-oriented awards. Lost In Translation and Mystic River may be steep competition.
The original score nominees are Big Fish by Danny Elfman, Cold Mountain by Gabriel Yared, The House of Sand and Fog by James Horner and The Return of the King by Howard Shore. I haven't seen Cold Mountain or heard its score, but Yared is usually engaging, and his score for Anthony Minghella's The English Patient was much better than that overwrought film deserved, and their next collaboration, The Talented Mr. Ripley was very entertaining. The Horner nod is kind of a slap in the face to these other composers, but at least Hans Zimmer wasn't nominated again this year. I'm actually worried that The House of Sand and Fog may cop the win because it is one of those films that isn't about to win too many other awards, but the Academy members may want to give it something.
Sharp-eyed readers may well infer from this entry that I have seen The Return of the King again. I have, indeed. Yesterday evening, at 4:30 PM. Unfortunately, the Fresh Meadows theater has now moved it from Auditorium 4 (which had the DTS presentation that floored me) to their much crappier Auditorium 2. Bleah.
When Theoden says, "I will take my leave," and then walks out of his own tent, what does he mean?
a. "These fruity Elves make me nervous. He's been staring at my ass since he got here."
b. "This guy's daughter is mortal now because of you, you asshole!"
c. "I'm getting the fuck out of here."
d. "He showed me a sword, and said it was for you. Nice knowing you."
e. "Didn't I see this guy in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert?"
f. "Didn't I see this guy in those horrid Matrix sequels?"
g. "Goddamn green-blooded, stuck-up Vulcans!"
h. All of the above.
What do the following films have in common:
Field of Dreams
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King