Friday, December 14, 2012

Review: "The Return of the King" is a Crowning Achievement

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 178 (of 2003) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
Running time: 201 minutes (3 hours, 21 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for intense epic battle sequences and frightening images
DIRECTOR: Peter Jackson
WRITERS: Frances Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Peter Jackson (from the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien)
PRODUCERS: Peter Jackson, Barrie M. Osborne, and Fran Walsh
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Andrew Lesnie (D.o.P.)
EDITOR: Jamie Selkirk
COMPOSER: Howard Shore
Academy Award winner including “Best Picture”


Starring: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellan, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Orlando Bloom, Liv Tyler, Hugo Weaving, Billy Boyd, Cate Blanchett, Dominic Monaghan, Miranda Otto, John Rhys-Davies, Andy Serkis, David Wenham, Paul Norell, Lawrence Makoare, and Alan Howard (voice)

The subject of this movie review is The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, a 2003 fantasy film from director Peter Jackson. The film is the third of three movies based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s three-novel cycle, The Lord of the Rings (1954-55), specifically the first book, The Return of the King (1955).

The Rings trilogy ends with The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, a magnificent epic of war, romance, honor, loyalty, and salvation. Although I view it as the least of the three films, ROTK is quite entertaining – at many moments, spectacularly so. Anyone who loved the first two pictures will certainly love this finale.

Most of the former Fellowship of the Ring: the man who would be king Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), the elfin archer Legolas (Orlando Bloom), the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellan), Gimli (John Rhys-Davies), and the HobbitsPippin (Billy Boyd) and Merry (Dominic Monaghan) gather in preparation for the final battle in the defense of Middle Earth. They join the people of Rohan to aid Gondor in a ferocious battle to save the human royal city of Minas Tirith. Meanwhile, Gollum leads the other two hobbits – Sam (Sean Astin) and the bearer of the One Ring, Frodo (Elijah Wood), to Mount Doom. The Hobbits are unaware of the treacherous path upon which Gollum leads them; he is the former owner of the One Ring and seeks to destroy the Hobbits so that he may regain possession of the Ring. As Frodo and Sam approach Mount Doom, the birth place of the Ring and the only place where it can be destroyed, the good guys gather at the Black Gates for a battle against the bad guys as the evil eye of Sauron searches for the One Ring, the object that will restore Sauron to Middle Earth.

Although ROTK is certainly a fine film, it has an air about it of being a story that’s run too long. Much of what makes The Lord of the Rings so endearing, the pageantry, the epic scope, the romantic soliloquies, the grand battles, the sweeping score, and the lead characters love for one another slowly creep towards self-parody. Thrilling speeches seem flat; fascinating fantastical creatures become comical. That maybe one reason director Peter Jackson cut the film to three hours and 20 minutes, as an earlier cut of the film had reportedly crept close to four and half hours in length.

Because the film story’s is so wonderful and engaging, I can overlook the flaws as ROTK wraps up LOTR. All aspects of the filmmaking is, for the most part, either excellent or very good: directing, acting, script, score, photography, visual effects, costume and set design. The one really great element of the film is it’s editing; that is what holds the film together even in the moments when it starts to tread the fine line between sublime and pure ridiculous.

In the end, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is probably the best closing chapter of a trilogy since Return of the Jedi, and ROTK is, even with its blemishes, a technically superior effort to Jedi. It’s certainly better than The Matrix Revolutions, so I’ll be happy that The Return of the King is a tremendously satisfying conclusion and heartily recommend it.

8 of 10

2004 Academy Awards: 11 wins: “Best Picture” (Barrie M. Osborne, Peter Jackson, and Fran Walsh), “Best Art Direction-Set Decoration” (Grant Major-art director, Dan Hennah-set decorator, and Alan Lee-set decorator), “Best Costume Design” (Ngila Dickson and Richard Taylor), “Best Director” (Peter Jackson), “Best Film Editing” (Jamie Selkirk), “Best Makeup” (Richard Taylor and Peter King), “Best Music, Original Score” (Howard Shore), “Best Music, Original Song” (Fran Walsh, Howard Shore, and Annie Lennox for the song "Into the West"), “Best Sound Mixing” (Christopher Boyes, Michael Semanick, Michael Hedges, and Hammond Peek), “Best Visual Effects” (Jim Rygiel, Joe Letteri, Randall William Cook, and Alex Funke), and “Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay” (Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Peter Jackson)

2004 BAFTA Awards: 5 wins: “Best Film” (Barrie M. Osborne, Fran Walsh, and Peter Jackson), “Audience Award, “Best Achievement in Special Visual Effects” (Joe Letteri, Jim Rygiel, Randall William Cook, and Alex Funke), “Best Cinematography” (Andrew Lesnie), and “Best Screenplay – Adapted” (Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Peter Jackson); 9 nominations: “Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music” (Howard Shore), “BAFTA Children's Award Best Feature Film” (Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Barrie M. Osborne), “Best Costume Design” (Ngila Dickson and Richard Taylor), “Best Editing” (Jamie Selkirk), “Best Make Up/Hair” (Richard Taylor, Peter King, and Peter Owen), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role” (Ian McKellen), “Best Production Design” (Grant Major), “Best Sound” (Ethan Van der Ryn, Mike Hopkins, David Farmer, Christopher Boyes, Michael Hedges, Michael Semanick, and Hammond Peek) and “David Lean Award for Direction” (Peter Jackson)

2004 Golden Globes, USA: 4 wins: “Best Director - Motion Picture” (Peter Jackson), “Best Motion Picture – Drama” “Best Original Score - Motion Picture” (Howard Shore), and “Best Original Song - Motion Picture” “Howard Shore, Fran Walsh, and Annie Lennox for the song "Into the West")


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