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

by David N. Butterworth (dnb AT dca DOT net)
January 5th, 2004

A film review by David N. Butterworth
Copyright 2003 David N. Butterworth

*** (out of ****)

    "Given what we've seen so far, Part Three should be some finale," I wrote after viewing the second chapter of Peter Jackson's ambitious, $300 million "Lord of the Rings" trilogy around this time last year and that observation turned out to have been a no-brainer. "The Return of the King" (to give the film its abbreviated title) picks up where Jackson (and Tolkien) left off, with
Hobbits Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Samwise Gamgee (Sean Astin) continuing their arduous journey to Mount Doom to destroy said ring, guided by the scheming CGI-rendered
Gollum/Smeagol (voiced by Andy Serkis) with human (Viggo Mortensen's Aragorn), elf (Orlando Bloom's Legolas), and dwarf (John Rhys-Davies's Gimli) once again leading the Fellowship into battle against the dark forces of Saruman (whom this time around we never actually see, oddly). Unlike the "'Two Towers" before
it, character plays second fiddle to spectacle- the battle sequences at Pelennor
Fields are staggering and majestic in scale and execution, upstaging everything
else in the picture. And just when you're starting to grow weary of the excess
(this 201-minute epic, which features three or four false endings, might have felt a little more manageable at, say, an even three hours?) Jackson throws more incredible creatures into the mix, from swooping winged dragons (think "Reign of Fire") to massive, lumbering Oliphaunts (think "The Empire Strikes Back") to the giant spider Shelob (think "Eight Legged Freaks"). Frodo's mismanagement
of the ring continues unabated though as does his constant distrust of friend and ally Sam, plus there's some occasional silliness (the steward of Minas Tirith,
for example, meets with a somewhat ludicrous demise). But these minor grievances
are overshadowed by solid performances, a laudable score (by Howard Shore), and Grant Major's magnificent production design. It's a worthy end to a one-of-a
kind (make that three-of-a-kind) series.

David N. Butterworth
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