The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Review

by Homer Yen (homer_yen AT yahoo DOT com)
December 19th, 2003

Triumphant "Return of the King"

As I stood in line waiting to purchase my ticket to the eagerly awaited final installment of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, the patron at the box office window asked about the running time of the film. The ticket agent replied, "three hours and forty minutes, including commercials and previews." That's quite a chunk of time! And, if you add in drive time, parking time, and standing-in-line time, the amount of time you'll invest to see this will rival that of attending a professional football game. Heck, you could drive from DC to NYC in less time. It's the kind of time frame that you would allocate for big events.

However, "LOTR: Return of the King" is a big event. It is bold and beautiful. It is certain to earn a "Best Picture" academy award nomination because it is one of the most spectacular films of the year. It almost vindicates an entirely timid movie season in which there were very, very few standout offerings. And something that you hardly every see occurred, which was a warm round of applause from the audience after the film's conclusion.

With "Return of the King," the epic J.R.R. Tolkien fantasy about Hobbits and heroism, liberty and loyalty, vice and valor, comes full circle. The trilogy began assuredly with "The Fellowship of the Ring." It lost a bit of its footing with "The Two Towers," which felt incomplete and choppy. However, in this closing installment, every one's destiny is confidently realized with emotionally satisfying and weighty results.

We watch with abated breath as brave Hobbits Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) continue their insuperable journey towards the belly of Mount Doom where they must destroy the ring. They continue to traverse inhospitable terrain, grudgingly accept the aid of the self-serving creature Gollum, avoid giving away their presence to the Dark Lord, and internally struggle with the nature of greed as brought forth by the cursed ring.

Meanwhile, for the remainder of the fellowship, they are preparing for a crucial battle to defend the city stronghold of Minas Tirith, one of the last great cities of humankind. The struggle for life and death brings out the best or worst in all. And their natures and destinies will be revealed by battle's end. And we will learn if Lord Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) has matured enough to be our next king.

It's achievement in wonderful storytelling is equally matched by the film's technical brilliance, which strikes an incredible balance between ambition and gratification. The effort is clearly a labor of love for Director Peter Jackson who ably transports us into a wondrous Middle Earth world filled with creatures that are foul and fey, magical and mystical. It seamlessly blends live action with special effects so well that we readily accept the realness of the putrid Gollum character and marvel at the precision in which a giant spider wraps its prey in sticky silk strands. But its showcase piece is the grand battle that is awe-inspiring in every sense of the word. I hesitate to give anything away because it is by far the most impressive spectacle that you have seen in the movies in quite some time. Just find a way to see it. Director Peter Jackson's commitment to its realization is unconditional.
It has been a long journey for moviegoers (over three years and 9 hours of film) just as it has been a long journey for brave Frodo. I couldn't wait to see how the film ended. And now that it has, I wished that there were still more ahead.
Grade: A

S: 0 out of 3
L: 1 out of 3
V: 2 out of 3

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