The trilogy is done, and it is everything it was expected to be. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King brings to an end the fabulous trilogy by Peter Jackson, assuring itself of a Best Picture nomination and hopefully a win this time around.
The movie concludes the journey of Frodo and Sam, as they edge towards Mt. Doom (never ever appearing to get closer to it) with their devious guide Gollum, and of Gandalf, Legolas and Gimli as they unite between the returning king Aragon to fight one last battle that will decide the fate of Middle-Earth. Yes, it sounds quite boring, doesn't it?
Along with the story, The Return of the King has all of the positives of the previous film, The Two Towers, while having less of the negatives, such as somewhat slow stretches, choppy editing in one or few places, and so forth. The Two Towers was about as good as it could be considering that it was a centerpiece in a story; The Return of the King is everything that a finale should be. So, in essence, it is the opposite of what is The Matrix Revolutions. The switches between Frodo's storyline and Aragon's storyline are much cleaner this time around, and compliment each other more in terms of action, suspense and dialogue. Instead of just jumping from one character storyline to the next, this time Jackson did a much better job at leading into scenes with dialogue and related action.
Best about The Return of the King is that it has no slow stretches. It does have dramatic sequences with no action, but the building tension of the upcoming battle and so forth really eliminates any tendency to get bored. A few of the flashbacks and side stories (such as the love story with Arwen, which still seems weak) are a little tedious, but some fans may enjoy seeing how Smeegle came to be Gollum. The entire storyline following Frodo, Sam and Gollum is top notch; these sequences are superb from beginning to end. These scenes compliment the corresponding storyline that takes place in Gondor, especially the last half which is essentially one long battle sequence. Remember the Battle of Helm's Deep in The Two Towers? Well, the battle here, though in some ways not as complicated as the Helm's Deep one, dwarfs that one as it is about twice as long and involves about a hundred thousand more fighters. The last half of the movie is nonstop action.
There are few flaws in the film, and most come near the end. In the book, the hobbits return to the Shire to find that it is has been overridden by Saruman (Christopher Lee's character) and are forced to fight him alone. This ending seemed anti-climatic and ultimately dragged on. Though it may very well be in the Extended DVD version, Jackson decided to take this section out, for those reasons addressed above. Unfortunately, he just replaced it with an equally boring sequence that involves a lot of goodbyes, hugging and crying. Another interesting thing to note is that Eowyn (played by Miranda Otto), who is the woman fighter that is in love with Aragon, is never shown in the final moments, even when the man that she loves is making out with Arwen (Liv Tyler). This little sub story is never wrapped up.
Aside from taking a little too long to finish, The Return of the King is an extraordinary film with all of the makings of Best Picture. Voters may have been waiting until this final chapter was released to give the film the true recognition it deserves - the majority vote come Oscar time.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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