The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

I caught The Return of the King on opening night. Yes, I stood in line with Eileen and we waited to see the film. I got the tickets on Fandango so that we at least did not have to stand in line and wait to buy tickets. We were near the beginning of the line, but not at the head of the line like we were last year for the opening of Two Towers. Was the wait worth it?

Yes, more than worth it. I have watched both the theatrical and extended versions of Fellowship of the Ring and Two Towers and was waiting eagerly for The Return of the King. What I was afraid of was a bad ending to a great series so far. Kind of like how Return of the Jedi was a suck-ass way to end the original Star Wars series, or how Revolutions got even worse than the Reloaded in the Matrix series. What if for some unexplainable reason, Peter Jackson lost his mind and screwed up The Return of the Kings?

Fortunately, Jackson did not and The Return of the King (I’ll refer to it as King from now on) is a grand finale of a trilogy that has entertained us for the last two years. It falls a tiny bit short of greatness, but it is a grand achievement The movie has a lot of spectacle in it, but never does the spectacle overrun the story or characters.

The center piece battle sequence between good and evil at Minas Tirith does not disappoint, though I thought the battle sequence at Helm’s Deep was much more visceral and exciting. The elephants were a sight to see, as is the sheer number of people and animals that are engaged in battle. None of it feels like the cheap battle scene on Naboo in the Star Wars Episode one. There the battle scene felt more like an arcade game, here it is gritty, visceral and almost real. Though, there was just too many things just “happening” to turn tables, it almost felt like the director was manipulating the battle to make it more exciting. Frodo and Sam’s final ascent on Mount Doom is one to remember as is Shelob’s lair. Denethor and Faramir’s story was quite well done in the film.

The movie falls short of greatness with some tiny flaws. There are somethings that felt short changed in the film though like Saruman, Arwen’s loss of immortality, and a few other things. Also, there are multiple fade-outs at the end of the movie that made it feel like the film ended three times. Other than that the film is near perfection.

The whole cast does a wonderful job. John Noble as the crazed Denethor is absolutely fantastic, as is David Wenham as Faramir the son that Denethor cannot stand to have. Sean Astin is wonderful as Samwise Gamgee and Elijah Wood as Frodo. There cannot be enough said about how great Ian McKellen is as Gandalf. Nor can words describe how good the effects are for Gollum – but even better is the voice and body language that is provided by Andy Serkis for Gollum, Serkis is also seen as a hobbit in the opening scene as Smeagol. Viggo Mortensen turns in a good performance as Aragorn, the soon-to-be king. But, it’s too bad that Orlando Bloom (Legolas) and John Rys-Davies (Gimli) are not mere secondary characters.

The score by Howard Shore is the pinnacle of the three films scores. He masterfully mixes new themes with themes that carried over from the first two films. Shore’s trilogy of scores is well worth the addition to any music lovers collection.

Kudos to the whole cast and crew of the Lord of the Rings trilogy for putting together such a great series of movies. Now, I wonder what I’ll be looking forward to next Christmas. The Return of the King is a must see movie, do not miss it on the big screen. If you think the three and a half hour running time is a bit long, don’t worry, it flies by quickly. I cannot wait for the extended version to come out to see what I missed in the theater.