"The Return of the King" indeed!

by Eric Melin on December 18, 2003

in Print Reviews

At last, after three years, the ten and a half-hour sweeping and majestic triumph that is Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy has come to a close.

The visionary achievement that has been brought to fruition here cannot be underestimated. The three “LOTR” movies are classics for the ages, like J.R.R. Tolkien’s books. I doubt their appeal will ever wane.

Enough with the big words, let me just tell it like it is. “The Return of the King” is everything it should be. After “The Fellowship of the Ring” and “The Two Towers” introduced us to more than a dozen main characters, and a dozen more subplots. “ROTK” offers dizzying action, a deepening of all the characters, and closure to all the interwoven storylines, ending with a finality that leaves me wanting to watch the entire thing again.

Since Tolkien’s books are the basis for every fantasy novel written since then, it’s only justified that Jackson’s film trilogy be judged the same way. Time will treat them well, methinks, especially “The Return of the King.”

The focus in this last installment is back to Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin), and it’s a smart move. The wear of their impossible journey has all but overcome them, and that remarkable CGI wonder Gollum (Andy Serkis + computers) sees his chance to swipe “the one ring.” Astin and Wood seem to have really grown into their roles in this film. Their story carries the most emotional weight, but that’s not to say Jackson is skimping on the other characters.

What makes “The Lord of the Rings” so special is that Jackson gives everyone their time onscreen and allows the audience to step into their boots (or huge sandals and hairy feet as it may be). Since the books were written so long ago, some of these situations are familiar to us. We’ve seen a countless number of films rip off major elements from Tolkien’s text since it was published. That kind of looting throughout the years has taken the surprise element away from the story, but that is the only thing that is missing. And with the full story arc now completed, it is enough to see the film come to a satisfying ending.

“The Return of the King” features battle sequences more detailed and rich than I’ve ever seen on film. Ironically, that’s how I felt after seeing “The Two Towers” last year, too. Every one of these breathtaking sequences breaks new technical ground. The camera movement alone was enough to make me feel like I was on a theme park ride, never mind the fact that giant flying lizard beasts kept swirling in and out of the camera’s range the entire time. These scenes are not meant to impress on a purely background level. They are instead skillfully choreographed to put you in the middle of the developing action.

The movie does take a long time to really get going, and a long time to end. I could identify that the pace was slow, yet remarkably, I still wasn’t ready for the end to come. I knew the tale had been wrapped up, but I wanted more. As a single film, I think “TROK” can be enjoyed. But as a trilogy, it can truly be appreciated for the achievement it is.

After all, when you have a ten-plus hour movie, what’s wrong with a half-hour ending? A longer epilogue takes the time to do all the characters justice, and after investing that much time in the inhabitants of Middle-Earth, that’s what is really important.

So all you “Matrix” and “Star Wars” fans should rush out to the theaters, because your favorite films have just been rendered useless relics. They both stole brazenly from the most popular of Tolkien’s myths, and were rewarded with huge mass appeal. The themes in all of these stories are very universal and timeless.

But only one fantasy trilogy has gotten it so damn righ three times in a row. Now Peter Jackson has stolen all the thunder and brought it back to its roots. “The Return of the King” indeed.

Eric is the Editor-in-Chief of Scene-Stealers.com and writes the Screen Stealers column for The Pitch. He’s President of the KCFCC, and drummer for The Dead Girls and Ultimate Fakebook. He is also Air Guitar World Champion Mean Melin. Eric goes to 11. Follow him at:

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