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THE LORD OF THE RINGS - THE RETURN OF THE KING (2003)
Saying that this film starts where `Two Towers' left off is somewhat misleading, for the film starts a great distance from the walls of Helm's Deep. `Return of the King' opens with a flashback of Smeagol (Andy Serkis) obtaining the one ring of power and an origin of his deterioration into the creature Gollum. This opening recaptures an emphasis that was somewhat lost within the epic battles of `Two Towers,' at that's the ring. The first installment, `The Fellowship of the Ring,' provided heaps of exposition on the ring's importance and influence, and in `Return of the King,' we see it pay off, big time.
After the armies of Isengard have been defeated due to an allegiance between Theoden (Bernard Hill), the king of Rohan, and the elves, the main threat to middle earth is now concentrated in the kingdom of Mordor, controlled by the dark lord Sauron. Sauron has turned his eye towards the realm of Gondor, the last free kingdom of men, and the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellan) must warn Denethor (John Noble), Steward of Gondor of the impending attack, while Aragorn (Viggo Mortenson), heir to the throne of Gondor, and Theoden gather men to aid against the armies of Mordor. The dark lord Sauron needs only to regain the one ring of power to conquer all of middle earth, and two hobbits, Frodo (Elijah Wood) the ring-bearer and Sam (Sean Astin), must continue their journey, directed by Gollum, to Mount Doom, the only place where the ring can be destroyed. Got all that? If not, you need to bone up on your `Lord of the Rings' before expecting to follow this film.
Since all three epics were filmed simultaneously, each individually has the feel of being part of a larger picture - except for this one. `The Return of the King' is just too big, the most epic of a set of epic films. Now that director Peter Jackson has brilliantly constructed the characters and plotlines throughout the first two films, he puts them to use.
All of the characters have their best moments within this film. The pair of mischievous hobbits, Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd), are no longer the tree ornaments they were from `Two Towers,' but are split-up, and take their characters in completely new directions. Aragorn, played with an unmatched sense of honor by Viggo Mortenson, is about to meet his destiny as the future king of all men, while Andy Serkis continues his expert portrayal of Gollum (Serkis' provided not only the voice of Gollum, but also assisted during production by acting out the scenes of the computer-generated character with his fellow actors).
However, the real acting triumph of the film is Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins. He continues his descent into corruption with an incredible talent that many could not pull off. Wood's performance is so critical to the film because it determines the ring's power to corrupt, which, needless to say, is absolute.
The first two films established Jackson as an incredible visionary, shooting vast landscapes from his native New Zealand. With `Return of the King,' Jackson really gets a chance to show off. With, hands down, the most beautiful visuals of the trilogy, Jackson makes `Return of the King' a gorgeous feast for the eyes, while never resorting to McG level over-the-topness. Jackson stays very grounded in his characters, not letting the effects tell the story, but only assist the wonderful dialogue and characters. Think of `Return' as a mix of `Fellowship' and `Two Towers,' with enough action and character development worthy of ending a film event of this magnitude.
The bottom line, fans of the films will not be disappointed. Hardcore Tolkien lovers might be upset by plot changes and interpretations made by Jackson and the other writers, however, it is unrealistic to expect a completely true adaptation of the novels, being that film is an entirely different medium. Despite the alterations, Jackson consistently stays true to the major themes and ideas from the original text, while adding some of the finest filmmaking ever put to screen. `The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King' is one of the most finely tuned and cinematically perfect films ever made. Not only the best of the trilogy, but a crowning achievement in epic filmmaking.
The Lord of the Rings - The Return of the King is by far the most moving, inspirational and epic of the three parts in Peter Jackson's take on Tolkien's fantasy masterpiece. After proving that this trilogy can carry the weight of a truly enormous body of text with The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, Jackson has shown that nothing is impossible anymore when being brought to film, and that fantasy can be surreal, but grounded to reality.
I saw this film at 8:00 PM, and missed school the following day -- exactly similar to The Two Towers when it was released. After seeing The Return of the King I was speechless. Never before had a film made such an impact on me as this conclusion did, and now with it completed, The Lord of the Rings is truly the best of the best.
Jackson has treated this trilogy as one film, following to Tolkien's linear time-line, and not the way the books were written, which makes this a film that flows and never loses track of pacing. The dialogue is emotional, be it the speech between Gandalf and Pippin before the gates of Minas Tirith, or inspirational, such as the rousing deliveries by Theoden and Aragorn. The vast emotion makes this a film for the ages. Following our heroes adventure since film one, we have grown compassion for each and everyone of them. Sam's devotion to Frodo is something that can inspire, and the eu-catastrophe is fully used here once again, because just as it seems that all hope has been lost, it shines through the void and victory is achieved. If one were to fear that the ending would feel like there was no closure, then have none, because The Return of the King has a 20-minute denouement that goes as far as four-years into the future, and the ending on the shores of the Grey Havens brought me to tears.
The special effects are nothing short of amazing. The blend of miniatures/bigatures and CGI is believable beyond comprehension, and the addition of New Zealand locales adds something beyond some peoples' wildest dreams. The level of detail on Minas Tirith is something no one has ever seen before, the massive armies sunder speakers as war erupts, and we see the Mumakil and the Fell Beasts in full fruition, as hinted in The Two Towers. What could've seem fatal, as cinematic history has shown before, is the introduction of Shelob the spider. The special effects team has created the most memorable spider in film history. She terrifies and drops jaws at the realism of such a beast.
The tension for the siege on Minas Tirith is so highly anticipated, that the filmmakers have completely satisfied every expectation to how epic it could've been. The scope is just extraordinary. The battle of the Pelennor Fields is so huge in the book, yet it has been fully realized in Jackson's film. The final stand at the Black Gate is so emotional involving, it's hard to think that any action could top what was previously seen, but it is done so with vision beyond imagination.
Howard Shore's music is also some of the most impressive and beautiful orchestration ever done for film. Besting its predecessors, The Return of the King's score is pure genius. From the new theme for Gondor, to the moving Into the West, Shore's composition sweeps and soars. Now that each of the three films' complete recordings have been released, I strongly urge a fan of the music to buy them, because they really are the best of the best.
The acting even surpasses the first two, having the evolution of each character add to the dramatic effect, be it the loss of a life, or the triumph over evil. Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn is like a Godsend. Sean Astin steals nearly every scene he is in as Sam, making us hope he helps Frodo get rid of the Ring of Power. Once again, Andy Serkis provides a stirring and great performance as Smeagol/Gollum. The full weight of the Ring is realized in this film, and Elijah Wood makes us see his struggle like the Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers only hinted upon.
Overall, The Lord of the Rings - The Return of the King is remarkable. The battles are amazing, never making the film drag, and always heightening the tension. From the acting to the sound editing, this film delivers in what it promises, and that is the supreme motion picture of our lifetime, and many more years to come.
It honestly does little to his stature by mentioning that author J.R.R. Tolkien was a genius, but it's as true as anything I know. His words told a story but it's what they leave behind with the reader that made all the difference. Something deep touched director Peter Jackson's heart when he first read it and I know this because I felt it too when I read it, and again, the same feeling when I saw the movies. Say what you will about the integrity of events or characters in this adaptation but there's no denying the passion and solidarity to Tolkien's work.
`The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King' is the point where all lines (characters, story, events) from past to present draw together and complete the picture, so wide in scale, so epic in its execution, that it takes more than just a few minutes to truly appreciate the complexity of this giant film. I have seen nothing like it before in my life, and remain in awe of the gift of success that came at such an enormous risk. Much that was once doubted or criticized has been washed away in a sweet tide of victory from the filmmakers. But aside from all the obvious technical and narrative achievement of each film the most amazing feat that Jackson and company was able to accomplish was bringing these three continuing films together seamlessly, as one free flowing tale.
As the camera lens widens with epic visuals of massive armies and battle scenes the story simultaneously narrows in on the relationships and character struggles. On one hand it's about the peoples of Middle-earth and on the other it's about the individual characters whose fate is entwined into these horrific circumstances. Neither one overshadows the other as Jackson manages to juggle everything with such care and expert deliverance. Much of the films success is due to the intricate development of so many wonderful characters that remain at the foreground of Jackson's film versions. Superb casting has seen this become the most beloved element in the films, something you remember strongly toward the end when we see them saying goodbye, there is a genuine feeling of loss and accomplishment as we conclude this journey together.
Peter Jackson has worked hard, its plain to see, and the rewards are more than one could wish for. What he has done with this legendary tale is go far beyond just making three movies. He has ushered in a new era in film with outstanding quality and approach, ever vigilant of the viewers. These films are for the fans by the fans and he has done all this without taking his eye off the ball as a filmmaker. It is over now but the films are instant classics that will live on through the test of time. I am thankful for the chance to see these movies in my time and will be forever grateful for Peter Jackson and his good heart.
Here at the end of it all I look back, spellbound. `The Return of the King' is an amazing conclusion not only to the hard long journey but also to the captivating world of Middle-earth. So much has gone into these films and so much has come out of them, to the lives of the people around it. I am touched by Peter Jackson and the work from his amazing visionaries who knew above all else that what they had was something special to tell. Every frame is littered with detail and splendor. Not a moment is lost to carelessness or brevity. It's loving and frightening. It will take you on the trip of your life, into golden fields and dark tunnels. Overall it just tells a fantastic story. It's a story that has lived on for generations and will continue to inspire and entertain. We will never see the likes of it again as it respectably slips into history as the great trilogy that ruled them all. For the Quest is achieved, and now all is over. I am glad to have been there, too.