Retro Review: The Return of the King

After a near seven year odyssey, visionary director Peter Jackson concludes his epic “tour-de-force” telling of “The Lord of the Rings”. His three part epic has brought audiences to their feet as each chapter pushed the envelope on how long a feature film presentation could be.

Probably the biggest box office gamble in Hollywood history finally concludes. But is the final installment worth waiting for or is it just some halfling dropping a ring into molten lava?

The third chapter picks up close to the conclusion of last winter’s “The Two Towers”. Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) are still being escorted by the waif and tormented Gollum (Andy Serkis) deep into enemy territory as the stranglehold of evil still threatens to overcome Frodo.

Meanwhile, Gandalf (Ian McKellan), Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) come upon Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd) after the defeat of Saruman. The heroes return to Rohan where they are welcomed by King Theoden (Bernard Hill) and Eowyn (Miranda Otto).

But rising ever so quickly, the evil forces of Sauron look towards the weakening kingdom of Gondor for an epic defeat. Gondor’s capital Minas Tirith, homeland of fallen comrade Boromir (Sean Bean), is a classic warrior based city which has seen its powerful leadership wean with Boromir’s father and the kingdom’s steward, Denethor (John Noble).

If Gondor falls, the whole of Middle Earth will fall beside it. The heroes, the hobbits and the people of Rohan must once more lock swords with the evil of Sauron in hopes of securing of regal destiny for one of the heroes and the freedom of Middle Earth.

Can one small insignificant hobbit finally achieve his destiny? Can the forces of Sauron finally be destroyed? It comes down to this free-for-all and may the best man, woman, elf, dwarf, orc or hobbit win.

Peter Jackson’s conclusion is as long and drawn out as his previous films. Jackson begins his third chapter with a lot of slow key story points and eventually emerges into the epic battle for Minas Tirith. This battle is probably the best battle of the trilogy and is utter magic. The problem with this sequence being so good is that overshadows a lot of the rest of the film.

The struggle between Sam and Gollum is brilliant as Astin shows range he hasn’t used since the under-appreciated “Rudy”. Sean Astin’s Sam is a crowning achievement in this film. He so deserves an Oscar nomination for his powerful performance. He brings that character to another level beyond that of any hobbit in the film.

The Andy Serkis-Gollum CGI creation keeps getting more and more precious. (Please, forgive the pun!) I also loved the CGI creation of the giant spider. It was seamless and the whole sequence was amazing.

I also really enjoyed the separation of Merry and Pippin. It really allowed for each actor to show a different side of the hobbits. Each of their individual storylines was fun and it made for a more interesting journey this time around. I always felt they were under used and were insignificant compared to Sam and Frodo.

My biggest concern with the film was the ending. The film reaches about 7 different conclusions before the end credits. Each ending felt longer than the next because there was no flow or cohesion as we see a lot more than was needed. We love these characters but did we really need that extra 30 minutes?

I love the world of Middle Earth and all that dwell there. Peter Jackson has done what no other filmmaker ever dreamed of accomplishing with this project. Thanks, Pete for a wonderful journey.

4.5 out of 5

So Says the Soothsayer.

Written: December 2003

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