The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King

5 stars


3rd January 2005

Bloody hell... where do you start? The final and most exciting chapter of the most ambitious trilogy ever committed to film is gazing down upon us like the eye of the Dark Lord himself - was there ever any chance that Return of the King was going to be rubbish? I can happily report that you were indeed correct in your assumptions - Peter Jackson has actually trumped old hamster face and created the best movie trilogy of all time, completing it with a masterpiece.

But still, no starting point for reference. The story? That's a given, seeing as the Lord of the Rings books have recently been voted the most popular read of all time - those who haven't lost themselves in Tolkien's work will have no doubt had the ending ruined by savage internet trolls anyway, so there's no point going into detail here. The special effects? Again, you already knew they were going to be breathtaking and you already knew that those found in Return of the King would slash on the effects in its two predecessors from a lofty perch. The cast of characters? Well, we know them like the back of our hand already, don't we? After all, you don't spend 6 hours in the company of an assorted bunch of fellows like those in this trilogy without becoming somewhat attached.

So... what? What can you say? I was absolutely flabbergasted by Return of the King. I'm exhausted (and not just in the physical sense either). It was great. It was excellent. Right now, as I run through the hundreds of movies I've seen in my short lifetime, I can't think of any that I've enjoyed more than the one I've just seen. The superlatives in the English language cannot do this movie justice and I'm cursing my inferior vocabulary for not knowing any better words to describe Return of the King than 'great' and 'excellent' but I'll do my best. Here goes. It was fucking amazing.

Peter Jackson has outdone himself - not only has he orchestrated 5 years of madness trying to film 3 epic movies at once in his home country of New Zealand, but with the help of Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens has managed to write and film possibly the most comprehensive and pleasing adaptation of the last century. Obviously the writing credits have to go to crazy old J.R.R., but Jackson's achievements shouldn't be overlooked - there's masterful direction on show here, tremendous scope and visual effects that don't break up the flow or overpower the storyline (stand up, the Wachowski brothers). If Jackson isn't given a gong at next year's Academy Awards, there's something very, very wrong with the American Film Institute.

If Peter Jackson was bang on the money, then you have to also pay credit to the casting crew - when Return of the King kicks in, you wouldn't have anyone else in the Fellowship but those who stand ready to fight on the battlefield. The gentle strength and vigour of Mortenson's Aragorn, the brashness of Bloom's Legolas, the determination and blind dedication of Wood's Frodo and the compassion of Sean Astin's Sam. All of the cast are fully into the spirit of things, but the four tiny hobbits outshine the rest by far. Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan will be happy that they're now made for life, while Elijah and Sean can look forward to slightly more complex roles than North and Rudy. Wood is merely excellent, Astin deserves an Oscar.

How does Return of the King compare to the other two Lord of the Rings movies? Sure, you could be Mr. Cynical and pick holes in all three movies (Fellowship tried to cram too much into 2 hours, and its follow-up took 90 minutes to get going) but on the grand scale of things, the final chapter not only wraps up the series in fine style, but doesn't let up on the action for a second. The battle for Minas Tirith, the siege of Gondor, Shelob's Lair, Mount Doom... it's over 3 hours long, but apart from a drawn-out, sapid ending, you'll never once glance at your watch. Go back to any of the previous two Rings movies after you've seen Return of the King, and you'll instantly start to get impatient waiting for the next set piece to arrive.

So, to sum up, a truly astounding achievement in filmmaking, a triumph of heart and soul over money and marketing and an absolute joy to watch from start to finish. It's a very rare thing to experience these days, but sitting in the cinema watching the action unfold, I got a definite feeling of being part of something special, kind of like the way people describe first seeing Star Wars at the cinema in 1977. That kind of recommendation doesn't come along very often, so if you're still slightly put off by the overlong running time and the overt geekiness, then swallow your damn pride, get your coat on and go and see the best part in the best movie trilogy of all time.

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