Return of the King movie review, dvd, movie poster

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen

Directed by Peter Jackson
Rated PG-13
for intense epic battle sequences and frightening images

out of Stars, Movie Grade: A
movie poster movie trailer

Theatrical Release: December 17, 2003
Running time: 201 minutes

by Kevin Lang

The Lord of the Rings is a trilogy that appeals to different people on different levels. Just like my favorite sport is hockey, another person's might be football or soccer, and when I walk into a movie like Bend It Like Beckham, I can enjoy it, but not nearly as much as it might appeal to a diehard soccer fan. This is true of nearly all films, including The Lord of the Rings. Those who had been once absorbed into Tolkien's books or those who had played D&D growing up will probably have a closer connection to Middle-Earth than others. They will also be the quickest to defend The Lord of the Rings against any criticisms, no matter how justified they are. This is not to say that they are wrong or right. They are just more strongly affiliated with The Lord of the Rings than others.

I myself am not a diehard fan, but I did enjoy the films. What this basically means is that if I hadn't seen an early screening of The Return of the King, I wouldn't have waited in line for the midnight show on opening night. I would have more than likely seen the film sometime during the opening week.

Last year, although I gave the film an A+, my opinions on the character of Gollum in The Two Towers garnered me more than a handful of hostile emails. I enjoyed The Return of the King just as much, and I look forward to more mail. As for Gollum, his character was developed more in The Return of the King, and some of his dialogue provided for enjoyable comic relief. Therefore, I'll leave the little CGI antagonist alone for now.

There is little question as to whether Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King was a well-made film or not. The director's craftsmanship was close to impeccable. However, it would be narrow-minded of me not to consider any shortcomings that existed in the story. Since there is far more positive than negative to say about the film, I'll begin with my favorite thing about The Return of the King.

There was one particular scene in The Return of the King that truly captured my attention as both a critic and a moviegoer. It was a scene in which the hobbit Pippin (Billy Boyd) was asked by Denethor (John Noble) to sing him a song as he stuffed his face with several plates of fruits and meats. At the same time, alternating with this shot of Denethor, we watched Denethor's son ride into a barrage of arrows that struck his body repeatedly. Denethor continued to gorge himself, letting several drops of bright red cherry juice dribble from his mouth down his chin. It was arguably the most memorable scene across the trilogy, beautifully edited and highly effective.

The Return of the King used scenes such as this one to effectively convey the essence of Tolkien's trilogy. Here, they weren't just sweeping sequences as they often were in The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers. Now, not only did they look good, but they more effectively conveyed the emotion in the surrounding context of the story. This was because they fit perfectly into the film, as was not always the case with the first two Rings movies.

For the most part, the only real downside to The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King was its length. Mr. Diehard fan, I know what your thinking. It wasn't long enough. You read the books, and there were things left out. Surprisingly, you actually wish it were longer. Once again, refer to the first paragraph of this review. As for my opinion, the resolution was about fifteen minutes too long. I would welcome it if I was reading the book, but in the movie it seemed to drag on a little.

In the end, The Return of the King continued the battle between good and evil that had existed throughout the trilogy. The movie's religious similarities were even more obvious than in the first two films. Gandalf, who had been resurrected in the second film as Gandalf the White, returned here as the God-like figure. Cate Blanchett, who played the elf Galadriel, returned as the Mother-like figure, whose blessed liquid provided the hobbit's light in dark places. Frodo (Elijah Wood), the Christ-like figure, suffered for the people, carrying the burden of the ring, which represented Satan's grasp and at the same time, as often seen in the film, the ring represented Satan's lure and appeal as well. The elves were angelic-like figures, who in the end accompanied certain characters on their journey to a heaven-like resting place. Aragorn, the strongest believer, had the most faith in Frodo and Sam, always keeping Arwen's cross-like gift around his neck. Gollum, having murdered his friend for the ring, can be seen as the opposite of Aragorn, wearing a veil of his true inner-self on the outside, a weak soul torn and contaminated by evil. Whether Tolkien actually intended these similarities is arguable, but nonetheless they make for an interesting discussion.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King was a strong film that successfully capped off an enjoyable trilogy. If you liked the previous two Rings films, you will probably enjoy this one even more than the first two.

"The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" Review written December 17, 2003, CTF.

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