Volume 6, Issue 1 University of Houston
Third installment is the king of the ring
By Barrett Goldsmith
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King could easily have collapsed under the weight of unrealistic expectations.
The first two films in the trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) and The Two Towers (2002) grossed a combined $1.8 billion in international box office revenue and were nominated for 19 Academy Awards. Return of the King was touted by the filmmakers as the best film in the trilogy and was picked by critics as the early frontrunner for the best picture Oscar.
As with the first two films, director, writer and co-producer Peter Jackson had to create a film that satisfied two audiences. He had to please diehard J.R.R. Tolkien fans looking for a faithful adaptation of the author's book. But he also had to make a film that appealed to the casual moviegoer just looking see to a good flick.
Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn) and Ian McKellen (Gandalf) both give stunning performances in Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
With this final installment, Jackson succeeds on both counts. The film is by no means perfect, but its flaws get swept up in the storm of epic battles, gorgeous cinematography, endearing characters and rock-solid storytelling.
The battle sequences are as good as any in film history. When the seemingly endless computer-generated armies of Middle Earth converge on the last stronghold of humans, the effect is simply indescribable.
But it is on a smaller scale that Jackson does his best work. The hobbits, elves, dwarves, men and wizards are, at their core, delightfully human. The characters exhibit real emotions, bleed and their suffering is as painful to watch as any war movie or literary drama.
The acting is strong, if unspectacular, and the cast has no major weak points. Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Ian McKellen and Viggo Mortensen are all capable leading men who have saved their best performances for the last part of the series.
The smaller parts are handled expertly, highlighted by Bernard Hill as Theoden, the king of Rohan, John Noble as Denethor, the beleaguered ruler of Gondor and Miranda Otto as the beautiful and bellicose Eowyn. The film probably will not get any Oscar nominations for acting, though Astin and Mortensen have a shot at a Best Supporting Actor nod.
Most of the movie's problems stem from a lack of time. The film is 201 minutes long, but it still feels rushed at times. The two major battle scenes in the film don't have much space between them, and the second battle suffers appreciably from a lack of tension. Some scenes seem to be cut off in the middle.
Fans of the book will find that some key scenes have been altered and some have been omitted entirely. But in most cases, the changes are welcome and enhance the story. In addition, the extended edition DVD will be released next year and will feature about 45 minutes of deleted scenes.
The success of the first two films ensured the success of Return of the King at the box office. But Jackson and his team have ensured that, for once in the movie industry, the product is as good as the demand.
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Starring: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen
New Line Cinema
The verdict: Believe the hype, this film delivers. The filmmakers spent eight years on the project and didn't waste a minute.