What Cameron did in that record-breaking hit film, Jackson does in his anti-Tolkien trilogy: stroking the mob's sullen envy, assuring us that Middle Earth is full of regular people.
At the end, when Frodona and the Matrix Guy show up at the Gray Havens, the true Middle Earth loyalist will be in pain, suffering something like the bends in aesthetic terms as he zooms up to our shallows from Tolkien's chilly profundis.
You may tell yourself that the worst is over...but you would be wrong. Jackson gives his fans their full vindictive money's worth. Not even in this last scene does he fail to kick the nobler world on our behalf. All is reduced, one more time, to farce without humor. In Jackson's staging of this saddest of all Tolkien's scenes, the ship in which the elves are to depart appears to be one of those swan-prowed boats one can rent in some park ponds. I'm not sure whether it actually had foot-paddles or not, but it looks like it would go for about $5/hr, with a bag of duck-feed thrown in. Beyond it lies a painted ocean. I mean, obviously painted. Unmistakably fake. You wince, thinking, damn, why so bad? Then you remember: Jackson wants it to fail. He isn't making these movies for you, you stupid Tolkien nerd. He's making it for the hundreds of millions of anti-Tolkien viewers out there. It's their inoculation against Middle Earth. And if it cures you too, against your will...too bad for you, loser. Jackson may be a fat, fuzzy nerd on the outside, but inside, hey, the man's as slick as that Lakers coach guy.
The final scene maunders on and on as Win-Frodo takes his leave of every...single...damn...character...in...the...movie. Not only does the scene resemble Judy Garland's goodbye to the Tin Man et al., Frod-wina actually manages to look and sound creepily like Garland, with his Anime eyes glistening.
But Jackson's preferred world is, after all, the quaint little Shire. So we fade to black on an image of Sam, Frodo's servant and, er, "friend," cuddling his wife and children in a surprising display of latent heterosexuality. The little is true; the big is false. The ordinary is good; the alien is silly. That's what you take away with you from this nine-hour conditioning session. If you always disliked and avoided Tolkien, you're probably feeling amiable, relieved; you've seen the damn thing, you can talk about it if somebody brings it up, and it wasn't too bad. If you're a believer, you're crushed. And you probably don't even realize what's been done to you. After all, it was a "faithful" adaptation, wasn't it?
It's such gratuitous cruelty, toward people who have so little in the first place...it keeps reminding me of that Bible verse, the only one that ever rang true: "To him who has much, more shall be given; to him who has little, it shall be taken away." You may not realize it for months, but Middle Earth has been taken from you.
One question must be asked, if only for the appearance of fairness: could anybody have made LOTR into movies without ruining it? Tolkien didn't think so; though he took the money Hollywood offered for the film rights, he said over and over that LOTR couldn't be filmed, period. And he was probably right. Still, it's kind of fun to imagine LOTR by various other directors.
Take Sam Raimi. With somebody like Milnius doing the script, Raimi might have done the battle-scenes better...but he'd have messed up the elves even worse than Jackson did. A populist gung-ho type like Raimi would probably have slopped in some hamhanded anti-terrorism allegory, some smartass quips as the heroes decapitate an orc -- Aragorn sneering, "Hey, don't lose your head" Ugh. Let's not even think about that one
So who could have done it right? Maybe Eisenstein. You'd have to slap the Soviet cant out of him -- put a sack over his head, lock him in a motel room in Idaho for a week, and smack him around till he drops the proletarian babble. Then read him LOTR. He'd get the elves, perhaps. And God knows he'd ace the battle-scenes.