In anticipation of The Hobbit, I will be reviewing each installment of the marvelousLord of The Rings trilogy, finishing with:
Peter Jackson‘s outstanding Lord of The Rings trilogy comes to a truly epic conclusion in The Return of The King, directly following up on The Fellowship and The Two Towers, which puts every department involved in the production to their very finest and proves once and for all that the one true way to adapt the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien into film is that of Peter Jackson and his team. He would be no less than proud.
After what’s arguably the most horrifyingly messed-up opening sequence to any of these films – which depicts Sméagol’s ghastly transformation into the corrupted creature Gollum (played marvelously Andy Serkis) at the hands of the cursed, seductive ring of Lord Sauron – we see the continution of his march towards Mordor alongside the hobbits Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin), who intend to destroy the ring once and for all when they get there. But Gollum sees how the ring is starting to seduce and transform the once innocent Frodo, and plans to lure them into the lair of a giant spider, Shelob, so that he can eventually claim the ring for himself. “Smeagol killed for the ring once, he can do it again.”
Elsewhere in the vast realm of Middle Eart, hobbits Merry and Pippin (Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd) are finally reunited with Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) and company, but they’re soon forced to split apart again when an Orc army of Sauron is seen marching towards Minas Tirith, capital of Gondor, to which the white wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) rides with Pippin. There he tries to convince the steward, Denethor (John Noble), to call for the aid of King Theoden (Bernard Hill) of Rohan to help fend of the evil forces of Sauron, lead by a vicious Nazgûl known as the Witch-King (Lawrence Makoare). Caution: he is quite the badass. Nevertheless, Denethor has gone stark raven mad after losing his son Boromir (Sean Bean) and refuses to even fight for the kingdom he has to watch over during the absence of the tru heir of the throne – Aragorn.
Merry remains in Rohan with the others until a signal is finally sent from Minas Tirith, prompting Theoden to stop whining about the past differences between Rohan and Gondor, and ride to their aid at last. Their forces are not large, however, but this gives Aragorn the idea to venture into the unknown with an Elf named Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and their funny dwarven friend Gimli (John-Rhys Davies) and beg for help from an army of fallen warriors – i.e. ghosts. It all boils down to the most intense, bombastic and just purely epic of the Lord of The Rings movies. An element that helps is the character of Eowyn (Miranda Otto), neice of Theoden, who in this film is one of the strongest and most badass female characters ever created for a motion picture without coming off as clichéd, exaggerated and overly feministic. She has the guts to duel the Witch-King, woman-to-man so anyone who does not respect her needs to check themselves into some manner of mental ward.
The other characters, which must add up to well over 20, include Aragorn’s Elven lover Arwen (Liv Tyler), who has given up her immortality in order to be with him; Arwen’s father Elrond (Hugo Weaving), who has ordered a reforging of the blade that Isíldur used to kill Sauron, for Aragorn to inherit; a deformed Orc general (Makoare again); Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) who fears the end of the Elves; Éowyn’s protective brother Éomer (Karl Urban); Boromir’s less beloved brother Faramir (David Wenham), who attempts one final time to win his father’s love by sacrificing himself and his troops at the Pelennor fields; Treebeard (Davies again), who has taken over Isengard, and lastly, Ian Holm returns briefly as Bilbo Baggins at the very end. The casting of the characters and the way they develop, interact and/or function is beautiful to watch.
The Extended Edition, though, includes characters that were cut from the theatrical release, such as the evil wizard Saruman (Christopher Lee), his servant Grima (Brad Dourif) and The Mouth of Sauron, whose scenes actually make the film better in my opinion. Saruman’s scene, for instance, gives us a great final confrontation between him and Gandalf and provides a better explanation as to how Pippin found the Palantír, a crystal ball used by Saruman to speak with Sauron, which our heroes later utilize to get one step ahead of him. Then there’s the scene at the Black Gate of Mordor, where The Mouth, played by Bruce Spence, taunts the remaining armies of Gondor and Rohan by convincing them that Frodo has been killed for real and that there is no hope that he will reach Mount Doom with the ring in time. This scene really should’ve remained. It is emotional, chilling and adds more weight to the rousing speech Aragorn gives to the soldiers before charging towards the Black Gate, uttering only the following words: “For Frodo”.
That’s another thing that makes The Return of The King stand out; the speeches. Another smashing one being the one King Theoden gives as he arrives with the riders of Rohan at the Pelennor fields. He knows that the enormous army of Orcs outside Minas Tirith will most surely destroy them, but he will make sure they die as heroically as scientifically possible. When they begin their charge and Howard Shore‘s Rohan Theme starts playing, I always get a wee bit emotional, I’m proud to admit.
I need not remind you what an awesome composer Howard Shore is, but even he gets his crowning moment in this particular entry of the trilogy. The scene where Faramir begins his suicide mission and Denethor orders Pippin to sing him a song, which he sings beautifully over clips of the orcs preparing to take Faramir’s troops down with sadistic pleasure – I dare you to watch this combination of imagery and music without getting goosebumps!
And of course, the visuals are still some of the finest in recorded Hollywood history. The gorgeous sets of Minas Tirith, the camera movements over the landscapes of New Zealand (which plays Middle Earth nicely), the devastatingly realistic movements of Shelob, all the trolls and especially Gollum – everything is first-rate. The very same can be said for the characters, their relationships (let’s face it, Frodo would be toast without Sam, who’s arguably the true hero), their absolutely splendidly chosen actors, the eargasmic score, the incredible battle scenes, the awe-inspiring climax, the techniques these people basically invented to make certain shots possible and every infinitesimal detail that indicates what an insane amount of effort, work and love has been put into creating this entire trilogy. The only complaint numerous people seem to have is that this film takes too long to end. I disagree. I believe the long ending is necessary to tie everything up, give everyone closure and bid this great trilogy an appropriate farewell.
I don’t know what else to say, these are just three absolutely remarkable movies. If you’re not a fan of them, that’s fine, but even then you really have no choice but to regard them with awe and recognize them as a crowning achievement in filmmaking in general. I love them, I can watch them over and over again and I am stoked beyond description to see what Peter Jackson has in store for us in The Hobbit in just a few days. Victor out!