The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
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Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (DVD) (WS)
"One ring to rule them all. One ring to find them. One ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them." In the conclusion of J.R.R. Tolkien's epic masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings, as armies mass for a final battle that will decide the fate of the world--and powerful, ancient forces of Light and Dark compete to determine the outcome--one member of the Fellowship of the Ring is revealed as the noble heir to the throne of the Kings of Men. Yet, the sole hope for triumph over evil lies with a brave hobbit, Frodo, who, accompanied only by his loyal friend Sam and the hideous, wretched Gollum, ventures deep into the very dark heart of Mordor on his seemingly impossible quest to destroy the Ring of Power.]]>
With The Return of the King, the greatest fantasy epic in film history draws to a grand and glorious conclusion. Director Peter Jackson's awe-inspiring adaptation of the Tolkien classic The Lord of the Rings could never fully satisfy those who remain exclusively loyal to Tolkien's expansive literature, but as a showcase for physical and technical craftsmanship it is unsurpassed in pure scale and ambition, setting milestone after cinematic milestone as the brave yet charmingly innocent Hobbit Frodo (Elijah Wood) continues his mission to Mordor, where he is destined to destroy the soul-corrupting One Ring of Power in the molten lava of Mount Doom. While the heir to the kingdom of Men, Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), endures the massive battle at Minas Tirith with the allegiance of the elf Legolas (Orlando Bloom), dwarf Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) and the great wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen), Frodo and stalwart companion Samwise Gamgee (Sean Astin) must survive the schizoid deceptions of Gollum, who remains utterly convincing as a hybrid of performance (by Andy Serkis) and subtly nuanced computer animation.
Jackson and cowriters Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens have much ground to cover; that they do so with intense pacing and epic sweep is impressive enough, but by investing greater depth and consequence in the actions of fellow Hobbits Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd), they ensure that Return of the King maintains the trilogy's emphasis on intimate fellowship. While several major characters appear only briefly, and one (Christopher Lee's evil wizard, Saruman) relegated entirely to the extended version on DVD, Jackson is to be commended for his editorial acumen; like Legolas the archer, his aim as a filmmaker is consistently true, and he remains faithful to Tolkien's overall vision. If Return suffers from too many endings, as some critic suggested, it's only because the epic's conclusion is so loyally inclusive of the actors--most notably Astin--who gave it such strength to begin with. By ending the LOTR trilogy with noble integrity and faith in the power of imaginative storytelling, The Return of the King, like its predecessors, will stand as an adventure for the ages. --Jeff ShannonSee all Editorial Reviews
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Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) are still following the treacherous Gollum (Andy Serkis) on the path to Mordor, with the increasingly strained Frodo unaware that Gollum is sowing suspicion between the two best friends. By the time he realizes his mistake, he's been dragged into the lair of Shelob, a monstrous spider, and then abducted by orcs who want the Ring he carries. Determined to find his friend, Sam heads into an orc citadel...
Meanwhile, Gandalf (Ian McKellen) takes Pippin (Billy Boyd) with him to Minas Tirith, after the hobbit has a close encounter with Sauron through a palantir. \Not only is the city under siege, but the Steward Denethor is slowly going insane, even sending his one remaining son, Faramir (David Wenham), on a suicide mission to reclaim a dead city. With Minas Tirith crumbling, Aragorn's (Viggo Mortensen) only hope may to be summon an army of the dead, who will only obey the King of Gondor. But even the dead won't help him if Frodo doesn't destroy the Ring...
The "Lord of the Rings" trilogy is one of those once-in-a-lifetime movie experiences. There has never been anything quite like it in movie history, and there probably never will be again -- it's too rare. And it seems somehow fitting that the book that every other fantasy has to measure up to, has now become a sweeping cinematic triumph. Good things come to fans, I guess.
Peter Jackson really outdoes himself. You know those battle scenes in "Two Towers" and "Fellowship of the Ring," with the swooping camera and thousands of soldiers? "Return of the King" towers over all of them. There's everything from volcanic eruptions to an invasion of howling ghosts to the attack of the oliphaunts (like elephants, only bigger). It's a shattering rollercoaster ride, and there's no guarantee that all the beloved characters will make it out alive -- and some of them don't.
But if Jackson manages the epic battles well, he does an even better job with the gentler, quieter moments. The action slows down, and the characters share little moments. They cry, they hug, they support each other lovingly -- such as Gandalf comforting the frightened Pippin with a description of the afterlife. Jackson and his fellow screenwriters Fran Walsh and Phillippa Boyens throw themselves into the semi-formal language of Tolkien's world, resculpting Tolkien's words into equally rich movie dialogue.
Elijah Wood gives an unparalleled performance as Frodo Baggins. Frodo's gradual deterioration is wrenching to watch, and the climactic scene at Mount Doom displays just what the Ring can do to even the pure-hearted hobbit. Sean Astin follows up with his powerful performance as Sam, who is increasingly the "strong" hobbit, rather than the follower. The final scenes between these two outstanding actors are beautiful and understated.
But all the supporting cast also give powerful performances -- Boyd and Dominic Monaghan put their characters through some intense growing pains, and the "I'm going to take care of you" scene is enough to bring tears to your eyes. Mortensen gets more kingly every moment, while Ian McKellen balances action with grandfatherly wisdom. Bernard Hill has a quietly moving final scene, and Miranda Otto brings the despairing, kick-butt Eowyn to life. Christopher Lee's malevolent Saruman is sorely missed, but at least he'll be in the extended version.
Perhaps the most striking thing about "Return of the King" is the final fourth of the film. While the "multiple endings" may annoy some viewers, it seems somehow right to gently let go of these characters rather than have a sudden, splashy finale. And whether they have a happy or sad ending, Jackson never lets us forget that whatever happens to them, they're all scarred by their experiences.
"Return of the King" brings the epic "Lord of the Rings" trilogy to a close, and cements Jackson's reputation as a master filmmaker. With the outstanding cast, beautiful scripting and amazing direction, this is the best of the "Lord" films -- and that's saying something.