Film Reviews

THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING

By • Dec 17th, 2003 •

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New Line Cinema / Wingnut Films
Running time — 200 minutes / MPAA rating: PG-13

I was naively unaware of the vicious assault I would get from foolishly daring to write a negative word about LOTR: THE TWO TOWERS. (I loved LOTR: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING but was on an arduous trek through Nepal and was not able to review it in a timely fashion.) I was, therefore, unprepared for the Taliban-like response to my LOTR: THE TWO TOWERS review. The LOTR’s fanatics are still calling me “a whore.” It certainly makes me wonder about Tolkien’s empirical influence and the true affect the books and movies have had on people.

I’ve come to the sad realization that all of the thousands of ugly emails I got were from Tolkienites who would have slavishly kept The Ring.

With crazy fierce disregard for the LOTR’s fan base, I attended a screening of LOTR: THE RETURN OF THE KING and, determined not to be intimated by LOTR’s fedayeen, have decided to write a critique of the film.

It is gorgeous, breathtaking, astonishing, and engrossing.

But wait! Fans, be forewarned: I’m reckless enough to continue. Emails and curses be damned!

I too practice black magic.

THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING has my Las Vegas Film Critic’s Society nomination as Best Film of the Year. Even with, and let the wrath begin – the most man-tears and “the love that dares not speak its name” than any other epic I have ever seen.

Sam (Sean Astin) cries and stares longingly in Mr. Frodo’s (Elijah Wood) eyes. Sam takes the notion of loyalty and devotion to a level of piety. I haven’t seen such love since St. Catherine of Siena starved herself for Jesus. Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd) gaze at each other with adoration. Yes, I understand that Hobbits are characteristically touchy-feely and tend towards idolatry but the sexual undercurrents are hard to ignore.

Perhaps just being around the Ring makes one lose one’s focus.

[Move over Mel. It’s my turn to be crucified.]

Have Frodo and Gollum (Andy Serkis) been subtly transformed since TTT? In RETURN they both have the biggest, bluest eyes that mirror their comfortable duality. It was disturbing that they were filmed by director Peter Jackson in such obvious cinematic rapport.

It is the skill and artistry of a director to hold a glance, fix an actor’s eye, and through staging and placement, to convey non-verbal subtext. Jackson achieved his purpose here in making certain directorial decisions that cleverly telegraph his subterranean point of view on the characters.

Once again I will admit that I have not read the LOTR’s saga. In this case, it works wonderfully. I was surprised. I was intrigued. I anticipated nothing. It was a joy to see the story unfold so masterfully.

Not a devotee, I was thrilled the film opened with Hobbit Smeagol finding the One Ring. His physical and emotional evolution from Smeagol to Gollum puts context to the story. Gollum is by far the most fascinating character to emerge in RETURN.
RETURN moves fast. No more forced marches, tree-talking philosophy, or dwarf wise-cracking. Mercifully, Arwen (Liv Tyler) and Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) have small, meaningless roles. Taking center stage is the dynamic Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), who leads the survivors of the Battle of Helm’s Deep to Isengard. Here, Aragorn again meets Rohan fighters and unrequited love interest/warrior Eowyn (Miranda Otto).Thankfully, Gandalf (Ian McKellen) is back in the action while my favorite, the Elf bowman Legolas (Orlando Bloom), finally steps out from behind Aragorn’s sword. Jackson and co-writers Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh skillfully introduce new characters with luxurious, and conflicted, dimensions.

Fantastically realized creatures such as the Black Captain of the Nazgul, the Mumakil, and the wondrous Army of the Dead make RETURN a visually captivating extravaganza. The attention to detail is unparalleled. The enormous battle scenes are brilliant. The technical achievements of RETURN mark a new standard in filmmaking with second and third theatrical viewings mandatory.

The battles won, the Ring destroyed, a king is crowned (and finally washes his hair), and sensibility returns as Sam marries and has children.


Credits:
Director: Peter Jackson
Screenwriters: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson
Based on the book by: J.R.R. Tolkien
Producers: Barrie M. Osborne, Fran Walsh, Peter Jackson
Executive producers: Robert Shaye, Michael Lynne, Mark Ordesky, Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein
Director of photography: Andrew Lesnie
Production designer: Grant Major
Editors: Jamie Selkirk, Annie Collins
Costume designers: Ngila Dickson, Richard Taylor
Music: Howard Shore
Visual effects supervisor: Jim Rygiel

Cast:
Frodo: Elijah Wood
Gandalf: Ian McKellen
Gollum/Smeagol: Andy Serkis
Aragon: Viggo Mortensen
Sam: Sean Astin
Gimli/Voice of Treebeard: John Rhys-Davies
Merry: Dominic Monaghan
Pippin: Billy Boyd
Arwen: Liv Tyler
Legolas: Orlando Bloom
Elrond: Hugo Weaving
King Theoden: Bernard Hill
Faramir: David Wenham
Eowyn: Miranda Otto
Eomer: Karl Urban
Denethor: John Noble
Galadriel: Cate Blanchett

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