Rewatching The Return of the King with Dr Vick, we both found ourselves wincing and hiding our eyes plenty of times during the Battle of the Pellenor Fields. OK, so self-appointed hardnut intellectuals = mimpy underneath the pose shock horror newsflash, but still, I can generally watch battlescenes and film violence without flinching (it’s boo-monster suspense I find hard). What’s so different here? I mean, given that:
i. I know the story already, and how it turns out,
ii. These are CGI rocks landing on CGI orcs, CGI oliphaunts stomping CGI Rohirrim,
iii. This whole section – like the entire trilogy as filmed by P.Jackson – is chock-a-block with references to other films and/or classic paintings, most massively obviously The Empire Strikes Back, where Luke and the other little flying crafts lassoo and bring down the giant marching elephant-like war vehicles.

But actually i. and iii are the reason ii. doesn’t counteract our emotional connection: knowing the story in fact locks you more deeply into it, it can intensify rather than blas’-ifying (mileage will vary). And I think the very jokiness of the references can intensify, also: on one hand, Star Wars as something to be bearing in mind seems ridiculous bathos – except on the other, this version puts back in all the stuff you realise you allowed to be airbrushed over, that it’s a fairly horrible battle, a story of violent and horrible mass death. So your knowing chuckle turns itself inside out.

(Speaking of sense of ridiculousness as a device for making something stronger, well, I love Simon R, and think he is a good thing and a great man etc, but isn’t what he’s arguing here one of the goofier rock-critical positions you’ve encountered? If the argument is “It’s funny => It’s not serious => It’s not meant”, it breaks down at BOTH of the “=>”s. Also I think a clue to Queen’s sense of themselves from the off can be discovered by, um, reading the name they gave themselves, maybe?)