Lord of The Rings - The Return of the King
I had not realise just how anxious I had become to see the climactic final episode of Peters Jackson's epic vision of Tolkien's story. I had arranged to take my kids to see the films straight after school on the second day of general release, but when buying the tickets noted that my local flea pit (sorry multiplex)was having an after midnight showing on 17th December, and on an impulse I bought a ticket. I thought the place would be packed with Tolkien fans and cinema buffs all eager to be amongst the first to see the movie, so I was somewhat surprised to sit down in an almost deserted auditorium, in fact there were less people than there were members of the Fellowship, and that included the two ticket collectors. Obviously, despite the hype, my neighbours were not going to give up a nights sleep to experience the thrill of this movie!
Well I reckon they missed out - the film is visually a tour de force, and I was very impressed by the acting of Sir Ian McKellan, who suddenly raised the character of Gandalf to new and heroic heights, and Bernard Hill, who is simply superb as the doomed Theoden. That is not to say that the film is perfect, far from it. The editing has lost whole chunks of the story, Saruman has simply disappeared. I was very disappointed that the allies of Gondor, Dol Amroth, including my personal favourite Forlong the Fat, fail to appear, as do many of the allies of evil, so the Easterlings introduced in the second film are not seen in action.
The weakest parts of the film for me is the almost sickening sentimentality that slips in from time to time reflected in the sad cow eyes of Frodo. However my comments must not detract from the overall triumph of the film; and they may in part be answered next December with the release of the special edition DVD which Sir Ian indicated on the Jonathon Ross show may be 5 hours long and rumour says will include the Scouring of the Shire and maybe extended battle sceenes.
Not that they need much extending. From a horde of images of battle surely the arrival of the Rohirrim at the battle of the Pellenor Fields is outstanding. The whole scale of the computer generated armies is simply jaw dropping, as the crescent of riders descends the hillside to smash into the ocean of waiting orcs. There is no doubt that hundreds of gamers throughout the Uk and thousands throughout the World are going to rack their brains as to how they can refight these cataclysmic actions.
The problem is of course a matter of scale, maybe even more so than the historical actions we try to refight. The superb range of Lord of the Rings models produced by games Workshop are the only ones to portray the chararcters as envisaged in the film, but the cost of these figures is comparatively high which limits the collection of large armies by individual gamers. Even for a group or club, raising the required number of orcs and their allies is a serious challenge, even if drafts of Warhammer orcs and goblins are brought in to swell the ranks. And if you wanted to include Haradrim allies in your forces, and who wouldn't, how on Earth would you include Mumakils, 32 foot high war elephants carrying massive fighting towers and a large crew?
So despite the obvious attractions of the 28mm ranges I think that the only way to even attempt to refight the major actions of Middle earth is in a much smaller scale. Given the ranges available I favour the 10mm scale, which allows you to consider the Warmaster, and Hordes and Heroes ranges from
Kallistra. However a number of gamers I have spoken to are hoping that we will see an extension of the various 6mm ranges currently available. Even when you have the models, you then have the problem of a set of rules that are playable yet allow a balanced game. I am looking forward to the Sci-Fi and Fantasy Partizan on the 8th February, as I expect to see a variety of Middle Earth games and it will be interesting to see just how some of the top gamers and modellers in the UK have chosen to translate Peter Jackson's powerful images.
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