Skip to comments."Return of the King - post all reviews here"
Posted on 12/06/2003 5:26:58 AM PST by ecurbh
Dec. 08, 2003
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
By David Hunter
NEW YORK -- An epic success and a history-making production that finishes with a masterfully entertaining final installment, New Line Cinema's adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" is a soaring legend in its own day and destined to be cherished for many ages to come. "The Return of the King" is the longest and most complicated of the three "Rings" films and probably fated to be the biggest moneymaker. Sure to be an Oscar contender in many categories and a breathtaking argument for director Peter Jackson winning every award there is to give, "King" has none of the usual deficiencies that frequently scuttle third films.
Opening unexpectedly with a flashback to the day when the twisted Gollum was a healthy Hobbit-like fisherman named Smeagol (Andy Serkis), who commits murder to possess the powerful One Ring, "King" deftly resumes the story after the events of "The Two Towers." After a brief encounter with the talking lord of the forest Treebeard (voiced by John Rhys-Davies), Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Theoden (Bernard Hill) and other survivors of the Battle of Helm's Deep go to ravished Isengard. Within minutes, we're reintroduced to the many characters, including Hobbits Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd), Rohan fighters Eomer (Karl Urban) and Eowyn (Miranda Otto), Faramir (David Wenham) of Gondor and the one new human character, Denethor (John Noble), the Steward of Minas Tirith, site of the next great showdown between the mighty forces of evil Sauron and the free peoples of Middle Earth.
Frodo and Sam (Elijah Wood and Sean Astin), guided by the vengeful Gollum (again a wondrous combination of special effects and Serkis' inspired performance), finally enter Mordor, but the divisive influence of the Ring almost ends the fellowship of the two heroic Hobbits. When the three infiltrators pass by Minas Morgul (the dead city where the Nazgul reside), they watch another army of Sauron march to battle under the command of the Witch-king.
Eventually, this Black Captain of the Nazgul, who rides one of the dragonlike beasts first seen in "Towers," has a fight with Eowyn and Merry in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, outside the walls of Minas Tirith, that readers have been waiting decades to see. It's a gloriously crowd-pleasing moment, while overall the lengthy siege is tremendously exciting and visually unparalleled.
Huge elephantlike Mumakil and trolls pushing the giant battering ram known as Grond join hordes of Orcs in a gargantuan assault on Minas Tirith, a fight which faithless Denethor turns away from when he gives into fear and fatherly pride by sending Faramir to certain death. It's the leadership-tested Gandalf (Ian McKellen) who commands the defense of the city. Although Denethor comes off too as enigmatic compared to the original material, he sure has a spectacular final scene.
Jackson and co-writers Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh make noteworthy departures from Tolkien, including such crucial moments as what happens when Frodo is finally standing on a ledge over the Crack of Doom inside the volcano where the ring must be destroyed, and how Aragorn makes use of the Army of the Dead that only he can command. Whole swaths of the book have been condensed and eliminated, but Jackson and company usually realize splendidly whatever they take on.
There are only brief moments with the saga's Elvish beauties: Arwen (Liv Tyler) refuses to abandon Aragorn. Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) makes a crucial connection with Frodo near the story's climax. Dwarf fighter Gimli (Rhys-Davies) provides much-appreciated humor with his sarcastic remarks. Fearless Elf bowman Legolas (Orlando Bloom) delivers the best battlefield action, while wise Elrond (Hugo Weaving) provides Aragorn with the restored sword that defeated Sauron long ago.
The thunderous conclusion to the story of the Ring that includes the end of Frodo's journey and the battle outside the Black Gate winds down to a sublime denouement, leaving only 20 minutes to wrap up when Tolkien took a hundred pages. The extended DVD should bind "King" and the other two films into one awesome movie deserving of regular revivals in theaters. But who can resist right now a classic fantasy adventure that never drags and is simply ravishing to look at thanks to the thousands of craftsmen, performers, animals and postproduction refiners?
Anyone wishing to be added to or removed from the Ring-Ping list, please don't hesitate to let me know.
Nine minutes of footage of various scenes.... (RotK spoiler thread)
Frodo (Elijah Wood) is a complete and utter mess, making his way slowly to Mount Doom with Hobbit best-pal Sam (Sean Astin) and bi-polar freakazoid Gollum (Andy Serkis) in tow. The film begins with a sinister backstory that sets up the allure of the forbidden fruit that now hangs from Frodos neck: Serkis, as Smeagol, kills for his precious and slowly wigs out over time. Many years later, hes every bit as calculating, cooking up a deadly encounter with you-know-her but not before plotting an elaborate mix-up between Frodo and Sam using breadcrumbs (Give us this daily bread, so to speak). Gollums last-ditch attempt to reclaim his old drug is the Christ-like Frodos only chance to destroy his oft-mentioned burden. But this is just one of many jittery interplays in the film.
While Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Legolas (Orlando Bloom), and Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) wake the dead, Gandalf (Ian McKellen) prepares to fight the Witch King over at jaw-dropping Minis Tirith, where the white wizard must navigate Denethor and Faramirs fiery father-son disconnect. Behold the lighting of pyres on mountainsides, an awe-inspiring evocation of primal communication. This is how tightly the inhabitants of Middle Earth are connected. In Return of the King, the magic is in the details, and Jackson works overtime to get everyone in on the action: Pippin sings a song (ostensibly for Denethors pleasure, its also a dreamy musical backdrop for one of many battles in the film), and its a nosy Merrys vision of a lonely tree in a garden that brings the fellowship to Minis Tirith.
Much of the films problems are, of course, relative (Uruk-hai leaders shouldnt be allowed to talk!). Fans of Christopher Lees hot air will probably miss Saruman the most. (Jackson wisely understood the characters potential to distract, so its assumed that the dark wizard fell along with his kingdom at the end of Two Towers.) Jackson puts the cock-tease into the films sweltering, geometric cross-cutting, but the films 200 minutes still feel overstuffed. The dead army doesnt bring the film to a screeching halt in the same way Treebeard did Two Towers, but theres now a hurried, going-through-the-motions quality to these and many other scenes. Treebeard and Galadriels cameos are small, but the characters could have been easily excised without being missed. (Cate Blanchetts catwalk strut from the first film was endearing, but her breathy delivery is cloying when her dress isnt flowing sensually behind her.)
Because Jackson spends considerable time fulfilling quotas, crucial melodramas are undervalued. Jackson is ill-prepared to handle the Aragorn-Arwen-Eowyn love triangle. Jackson knows this, which might explain why he avoids the shot of Eowyns face when Aragorn returns and snags the eternally lovelorn Arwen (Liv Tyler, more asthmatic than Blanchett). The nondescript Eowyns curious empowerment ritual is seemingly informed by a broken heart first, political-correctness second. Jackson does a poor job evoking the womans genuinely breathtaking success in battle as a personal mission. Womanhood seems almost beside the point, when it really should be the true impetus. The Eowyn-Merry tagteam outside Minis Tirith is essentially Jacksons promise to Tolkeins female and outré fans. Of course, it all successfully points to the inclusiveness of the authors world. The Lord of the Rings trilogy has appealed to girls, boys, straights, and queers alike, and theres plenty of worship in Jacksons film for everyone whos good--regardless of sex, size or how long Sam stares into Frodos eyes.
Jacksons majestic longshots and extreme close-ups will make you swoon. Wind and fire are their own characters, and theres a primordial wistfulness to many of the films power shots (namely the sight of a defeated Frodo and Sam at Mount Doom while fireballs whisk by their heads). Because of their elegiac stillness, its as if were watching daguerreotypes from an audacious, ridiculously dramatic neverland. The films best (often simplest) fantastical flights of fancy (an impromptu beam of light from Gandalfs staff, the flight of savior eagles) are those that smooth out the roughest battle scars and evoke losses being rewarded from cosmic beyonds. We permit the CGI madness because theres an unmistakable transcendental quality to the films images, and Jackson respects and authenticates Tolkeins core principles of sacrifice and spiritual ascendance.
This more of a mini-review.
2 The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
Directed by Peter Jackson
After the Matrix sequels imploded, you may have feared big-time for the final chapter of Rings. No worries. It's now official: Peter Jackson has created the mack daddy of all movie fantasies, and Return of the King brings the film version of Tolkien's trilogy to a combustibly exciting close. Prepare to be wowed by the giant spider, the charging Mumakil, the Army of the Dead and the battle of Pelennor Fields. Prepare also to have your emotions wrung out as you watch the coronation of Aragorn (fiery Viggo Mortensen), consider the fate of Frodo (Elijah Wood) and the fellowship, and then get deeper into the character of Sam (Sean Astin comes into his own with this brave, questing performance). The dominance of effects-driven spectacles hasn't been a boon to film -- hello, Haunted Mansion -- but in the hands of a master like Jackson, who respects Tolkien's passion for action and character, it's an art form. Jackson hits a grand slam.
As a non-purist wrt the films, I was disappointed to hear that the "Scouring of the Shire" was not to be included in the film. The greatness of the LoTR lies not just in the majesty Middle Earth, and the affirmation of eternal verities, but very much in showing the evolution of the world (the ending of the Third Age) and the costs imposed. This is most satisfyingly done in the return to the shire by the transformed hobbits. Perhaps it is asking too much of a movie audience to attend to--but I'm begging you, if you like the films, and haven't read the books, please do so.
"PROMISE you - you have never seen what you are going to see in this film. I work in the industry IN GRAPHICS, and my jaw was on the floor (that is, when I wasn't saying "Oh my gosh!"). Helm's Deep truly is now nearly dull! The film is epic, sweeping, a vast grand saga in the truest vein. I had high high hopes and expectations, and they were not only met, but SURPASSED. The balance between top-notch action and truly small, personal, touching moments makes this film an incredible narrative. It IS exhausting, but in a very very good way. It is thurough (as thurough as a film with this much in it could be). This film truly delivers, as a final film in a series never has. Not Indy, not Jedi, not Aliens, and certainly, CERTAINLY not Matrix."
I know. I thought the same thing. But there is some plausibility if you understand the powers of all the Elven Rings and the One Ring. I reallyt don't understand why the story has to be tampered with, even here, but... we'll see.
Consider also: Think about how many people you actually see wearing the One Ring in the books. It's surprising how many there really are. But they really did! My point is that it's often easy to forget what was or wasn't in the story. Precedence implies possibility. Exploring the possibilities gives plausibility.
That said, now how on earth can they have changed what happens at Mt. Doom? I'm really rather nervous about this final film after reading all the changes that were made not only in the storyline, but in the characters themselves. I have a feeling that they became rather enamoured of Andy Serkis' Gollum and put too much emphasis on him.
But there is hope! Forgive me if this was already posted, but check out this comment, can it be our dearest hope may come to pass?
New Zealand designer Ngila Dickson (who also designed the costumes for Last Samurai) is quoted as saying .....
"I would love to have had more technical expertise on the Rings, but what I did have was people willing to destroy their lives. On a project like that, heart and soul were more valuable when you needed people 24 hours a day seven days a week. And it was 24 hours a day, seven days a week for a very long time."
By a long time, Dickson means "we just finished pickups (late reshoots) last July."
And then she drops a teaser - "and I'm already hearing rumours about next year." Pressed, she will say only it's for a "vast, gigantic" future DVD release of the entire trilogy.
*sigh* ahhhhhhhh.... all is right in the world.
It was posted at NRO's The Corner yesterday.
LOTR III [John Podhoretz]
I just saw the third Lord of the Rings movie. I am no LOTR nerd, found the books excruciatingly boring, and was not blown away by either of the previous films. But this movie does have the greatest line of the decade. On the eve of battle with the forces of evil, king-in-waiting Aragorn declaims to his assembled troops, "I bid you stand, men of the West!"
I don't know if the line appears in Tolkien, but it obviously has amazing resonance today. It's bitterly ironic that the actor who speaks it, Viggo Mortensen, is very, very, very bad on the War on Terror and Iraq.
Posted at 11:50 AM
(Obviously, the line is not in the book - but it's a great line anyway.)
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (review)
December 08, 2003
After seven years of speculation, the final secrets of the film version of Lord of the Rings can today be revealed.
The strict embargo signed in hobbit's blood by all journalists who have seen The Return of the King lifts this morning, ending the agony for fantasy nuts who have been digging for the details of director Peter Jackson's trilogy since he began work in 1996.
The good news is that this film, the third instalment in the trilogy, is staggeringly impressive. It does everything bigger, and most things better, than the first two movies.
It's worth seeing even if you hate fantasy-fiction, even if you got stuck on page five of The Hobbit, even if you thought Bilbo was an endangered chocolate marsupial.
The battles roar from the cinema speakers, medieval in their bloodlust, tightly paced and choreographed.
One thrilling war scene, where the Rohan cavalry gallops across Middle Earth, swords and shields glinting in the sunlight, is simply beautiful.
New Zealand's stunning mountain tops glow above the clouds in another scene, as a string of flaming beacons is lit across Middle Earth to call the forces of good to battle.
The performances of actors such as Sean Astin, playing the hobbit Samwise Gamgee, are so touching that even a cinema of hardened hacks was snuffling before the 200 minutes were up.
Australian stars shine in this film, including David Wenham as the ranger Faramir, and Miranda Otto, whose character Eowyn becomes an Orc-slaying action heroine.
The Australian contingent is led by veteran Adelaide theatre actor and producer John Noble, who hopes audiences do not simply loathe his character, the tortured villain Denethor, twisted by desire for the enchanted Ring.
"I worked my arse off to make him a real person," Noble said. "On screen (he) appears to be a fairly vile man, but I understand him totally. I felt every pain that that man felt."
There is romance, too; the bond between Liv Tyler's elf princess Arwen and the warrior Aragorn, played by Viggo Mortensen, develops to make this film far more complete than the first two pictures.
Special effects creator Richard Taylor has crafted a world that looks astonishingly real.
One of the film's best shots is wizard Gandalf, played by Ian McKellen, charging on horseback through the steep, narrow, cobbled streets of the fortified city Minas Tirith.
"He's been to the osteopath," Sir Ian said of Gandalf, who takes on the fight against evil with new energy.
On screen it looks like the producers must have actually constructed a city with the proportions of Dubrovnik, but in fact, when The Australian visited the Rings set in June, Minas Tirith was a polystyrene miniature about 3m high, being painted by two tousle-haired Kiwis in jeans.
It is cinematic alchemy; as if the film-makers have taken a few paddle-pop sticks and a disposable Esky and created the Death Star.
Of course there are flaws; some appallingly corny dialogue and the odd silly stunt.
But this movie is satisfying and great fun, and among the occasionally cheesy dialogue are some memorable lines.
"A day may come when the courage of men fails," warrior-king Aragorn tells his massed army as it prepares for an attack that seems impossible. "It is not this day. This day, we fight."
To quote Gandalf, after The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers the board is set and the pieces in motion. In just over three hours New Zealand director Peter Jackson ties up the loose ends of J R R Tolkien's fantasy classic in a sweeping, epic movie.
Where Return Of the King succeeds is by following in Tolkien's footsteps and telling the story of huge events through the perspective of the smallest participants - in this case, hobbits.
In the astonishing battle scene at the heart of the film Jackson frequently swerves from the grand view to that of Merry (Dominic Monaghan) or Pippin (Billy Boyd), hence heightening the effect of the crowd shots.
The first hour of Return Of The King sets the scene for the battle of Pelennor Fields.
Gandalf (Sir Ian McKellen) and Pippin arrive at Minas Tirith - a towering city, much of which was actually built for the film, with the remainder being filmed using a 1/72nd scale model - to witness the slow mental disintegration of its guardian Denethor, played with relish by Australian theatre veteran David Noble.
Gandalf is forced to take command of the city, a situation which allows McKellen the chance to bring a new dimension to a character he has played wonderfully well in each of the three films.
Meanwhile, the forces of Rohan are gathering to ride to Gondor's aid. However, Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) chooses to find Gondor aid in a different direction, trekking the Paths of the Dead to raise a ghostly force reminiscent of some of the effects in Jackson's previous film, The Frighteners.
When the three forces collide with the armies of Mordor, the tour de force of the three films is played out.
The Battle of Pelennor Fields completely dwarfs in scale and ambition the other major battles in The Lord Of The Rings, and like Saving Private Ryan before it will set a standard for conflict on celluloid few movies will match.
The initial siege of Minas Tirith is exciting enough, with huge boulders raining down on the city and smashing masonry and citizenry. However, once the cavalry of Rohan arrives the battle is turned.
The massed charge of the horse soldiers has almost as big an impact on the audience as it does on the orcs, with it feeling as if the onrushing army will burst out of the screen and into the audience.
Mordor has cavalry of its own though, and the arrival of its war elephants is a marvellous digital effect which - like much of the computer-generated trickery in the three films fits seamlessly alongside live action.
Gondor's triumph is much against the odds, which the film makes abundantly clear. It also doesn't shirk away from the terrors of war - which is where the hobbits' perspective of the battle is so effective.
While Pippin and Merry are coping with their fears, their fellow Shire-folk Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) are marching into Mordor with only the tricky Gollum (Andy Serkis) for company.
Their story poses Jackson the same trouble as it posed Tolkien - how to weave it into events happening on the other side of Ephel Duath. An additional problem Jackson has is that much of Frodo and Sam's journey involved painful tramping, which doesn't make for gripping cinema.
While their journey to Mount Doom may feel truncated, Astin and Wood make up for it with outstanding performances which readily translate the agony of the march to Mordor. They are particularly outstanding during their duel with the giant spider Shelob - a truly terrifying creation set to become one of the classic movie monsters.
The final moments on the slopes of Mount Doom are well played out, bringing the trilogy to a suitably emotional finish.
As with the first two films, there will be moments Tolkien devotees will earnestly debate, with some sections of the books omitted or altered.
Many will regret Jackson's decision to omit the scouring of the Shire from the Return Of The King although including it would have made for a film much longer than studio executives would have permitted.
The demise of Saruman (Christopher Lee) was also allegedly cut due to time constraints, but having been a central figure in the first two films it is unfortunate he shuffles off-stage unseen.
However, for having tackled the allegedly impossible task of bringing Middle Earth's many fantastic sights and citizens to life so successfully, most will forgive Jackson such decisions. It is now possible to view the three films as one movie, and the three combined are a spectacular triumph.
The devotion of cast and crew to Tolkien's work shines through, and through their dedication movie history has been made.
Given PJ's love for goriness, I wonder if we'll see the heads flung into the city.
A R T S / M O V I E S
Seven Holiday Treats
Well, some are precious gifts; some are lumps of coal. A couple are epic in scope; others are microscopic. A few have their eyes on the Oscar prize; the rest will be happy to entertain you and siphon off your shopping budget between now and the New Year
Monday, Dec. 15, 2003
THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING
Directed by Peter Jackson
Starring Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen
Well, it's back. The film event of the millennium three superb films re-creating J.R.R. Tolkien's epic series of novels reaches its climax with The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. For the third December in a row, the year is capped with a robust cinematic retelling of the war of Middle-earth, as the hobbit Frodo (Wood) and his fellowship of humans, elves, dwarfs and the wizard Gandalf (McKellen) surge into battle against the dark power of Mordor's Lord Sauron.
The king in the story is the hunky human warrior Aragorn (Mortensen). But Jackson is the true lord of these Rings. The New Zealand auteur spent seven years on the trilogy, collaborating on the scripts with Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens. He chose and directed this perfect cast, orchestrated the smashing visual effects Tolkien's bestiary on the march in fantastical realms. In Return, the giant trolls, four-tusked elephants and flying, screeching serpents of Mordor will amaze adults and may startle small children. The spider monster Shelob, creeping up on Frodo and mummifying him in a silken straitjacket, offers a delicious horror-movie frisson.
Viewers don't play this movie like a video game. They are seduced to live inside it. In one brilliant visualization, the hobbit Pippin (Billy Boyd) manages to light a bonfire at the top of Gondor to alert his distant comrades to a military victory. On a far hill, a second fire is lit, its flame echoed on farther mountaintops, on and on into the dawn. At last, it's wartime.
The Ring films, like Master and Commander, celebrate old-fashioned martial virtues: honor, duty, comradeship, sacrifice soldiering on, under an immense, sapping burden. Though the trilogy percolates with bracing adventure, it is a testament to the long slog of any war. Pain streaks the faces of the film's stalwart warriors. They know the enormity of their foe and know that the child hobbit who bears the Ring is far from them surely in peril, perhaps lost forever. At one point Aragorn asks Gandalf, "What does your heart tell you?" and in a little movie epiphany, the wizard's face briefly warms, brightens, and he says, "That Frodo is alive."
The boldly choreographed battles are really a diversion from the story's great drama: three little people Frodo, his companion Sam (Sean Astin) and the ex-hobbit Gollum (Andy Serkis and a lot of CGI geniuses) on their way to Mount Doom with a mission to destroy the Ring. Cringing and crafty, Gollum is the rebellious servant, subverting Sam's selfless impulses, trying to twist allegiance of the pallid, ailing Frodo away from his friend. (So poignant are Gollum's turbid emotions, and so persuasively is this computer critter integrated with the live performers, that he deserves a special acting Oscar for Best ... Thing.) The devotion of Sam is inspiring. His plea to Frodo--"Don't go where I can't follow!"--makes him the film's real hero.
At 3 hr. 20 min., The Return of the King occasionally slows to a trot. There's a long middle passage where half a dozen characters in turn muse and fret at length. After the climax there's a plethora of meetings and farewells, most of them extended versions of the goodbyes in The Wizard of Oz. But Jackson is entitled. He surely felt that he and his companions of the Ring had waged their own hard, heroic battle and that sentimental adieus were earned.
They are, too. The second half of the film elevates all the story elements to Beethovenian crescendo. Here is an epic with literature's depth and opera's splendor and one that could be achieved only in movies. What could be more terrific?
This: in some theaters, the Ring trilogy will be shown back to back to back. What a 9-hr. 17-min. trip three huge installments, one supreme enthrallment. Ecstasy trumps exhaustion in the reliving of a great human quest, a cinematic triumph. --By Richard Corliss
08/12/2003 03:24 PM
If Best Picture Oscars were awarded purely for the battle scenes, Peter Jackson's final instalment in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Return of the King, would be a shoe-in.
But the fact that Oscar gongs are awarded on a slightly broader range of cinematic competencies than battle scene depiction shouldn't worry Jackson and his backers at New Line Cinema.
Regardless of what happens at the Oscars (although all agree it would be nice to see Jackson take home Best Director or Best Picture) this film will be remembered as one of the best ever, for so many reasons.
Firstly, it is quite possibly the most visually stunning piece of celluloid to ever hit a cinema screen. The Battle of Pelennor fields will simply dumbfound you. No kidding.
The giant elephant-like Mumakil, sweeping aside everything in their path with mammoth forklift tusks and crushing any leftovers with their enormous kauri trunk legs, are an absolute piece of Weta Digital genius. So too is the scene where Legolas attempts to bring one down, single-handed.
As amazing as the battle scenes are in Return of the King, it's the sheer depth of thoughtful film artistry that makes this movie so good. One question asked of all the actors at the pre-premiere media day was how Jackson manages to get such good performances from his cast.
Sounds simple, but it's one of the most memorable moments in the film, the last touching scene before the battle cry is sounded. And it was something Bernard Hill himself came up with, after seeing the spears lined up in a storage room at Weta and idly running his hand along them as he walked past. He mentioned using it to Jackson as a device to convey the king's connection with his warriors. Jackson promptly added it in.
Another triumph of Return of the King is the development of Gollum (Andy Serkis). The opening sequence, where we get a glimpse of Smeagol's transformation into the creature Gollum, is brilliant. Apparently a scene Jackson considered using in the second film, it works brilliantly to remind us of the power of the ring - and where the journey all started.
Jackson's directorial prowess is also evident in the way the many stories are laced together. As good as the battle scenes are, Jackson knows there's only so long a battle can hold an audience's attention. To keep us locked in, Jackson switches the action deftly between the battles and, for example, to see how Gollum, Frodo and Sam are faring (and fearing) on their weary trek to Mt Doom. It's this clever pacing between the awe-inspiring battle scenes and moments like the touching intimacy between the two Hobbits that will keep viewers glued, hour after hour.
Sir Ian McKellen has said he felt the actors' performances were slightly overlooked in appraisals of first two films in the trilogy. With many of the cast emerging from their shells for this one, that shouldn't be an issue now.
Amongst the characters who shine are Sam (Sean Astin), the loyal companion to Elijah Wood's Frodo. The relationship, which many suggest is based on Tolkien's experiences of the comradeship between British soldiers in WWI, is beautifully conveyed. The depth of feeling between the two is easy to see, thanks to the bucket-loads of Hobbit tears and misty eyes.
Gollum, as mentioned, continues to engross, and is now probably the best known CGI character in moviedom. That status is in no small way due to the sheer brilliance of actor Andy Serkis, who played Gollum for real in filming and was then used as the basis for the computer creation we see on screen.
Other stunning scenes to look for include the lighting of the beacons. Like a Middle Earth version of modern day broadcast transmission towers, the beacons come alight across an incredible landscape (our own Southern Alps) calling the fellowship to war.
All in all, Return of the King is nothing short of a masterpiece. If the end is long in the coming, it's because it's wrapping up three films, not one.
Together the three epics add up to the most amazing cinema adventure ever. Roll on Oscar night.
Watch the trailer on our Lord of the Rings site here.
The Return of the King: Jackson's crowning glory
With its sense of spectacle and its dramatic depth, 'The Return of the King' confirms Peter Jackson's 'The Lord of the Rings' as the greatest movie trilogy of all time, writes RUSSELL BAILLIE.
(Herald rating: * * * * * )
We come to it at last, the great film of our time. The film which makes the heart leap, the tears flow, the adrenaline race like never before.
The film which makes you laugh out loud, cower in fear, feel dizzy with vertigo, and at the end - and be warned, it sure does takes its time to finish - feel exhausted, dazed and slightly thankful it's all over. At least, until those compulsory further viewings.
It's the one that makes you wonder: how did we get so hooked up in this imaginary world with its labyrinthine legends and its allusions to everything from The Bible to British history, its creatures great and small, its grand scheme of things.
Well, if memory serves, there were two films before this - in my book, one brilliant, one not quite so, in that order - and a certain hefty work of fiction before that.
So far as his history-making adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's book goes, Peter Jackson and his crew have saved the best and the boldest for last. And that's despite the final third of Tolkien's original work being where his story unravels.
Performance-wise, many of Jackson's cast - some of whom were previously sideline characters - shine like never before.
Among them Sean Astin as Frodo's companion Sam, whose character becomes something much more than the loyal simpleton of earlier episodes.
Likewise, Billy Boyd as Pippin gains in stature and sings a couple of songs while he's at it. Also outstanding is Bernard Hill as King Theoden, whose character has transformed from a wizened Lear to a heroic Henry V. He also delivers one of the great speeches to the troops ever committed to celluloid.
Some characters do fall by the wayside: Liv Tyler's Arwen becomes a passive near-sleeping beauty, while Eowyn (Miranda Otto), her rival for Aragorn's affections, gets to swing a very big sword.
There are more deeper, darker Shakespearean overtones to this, as Middle-earth politics, loyalties and blood ties become more complex.
That resonates especially in the sub-plot involving the Steward of Gondor, Denethor (John Noble) and Faramir (David Wenham), the son he wished were dead rather than his slain brother Boromir.
The Return of the King may be following several strands of story - part of the slight undoing of the previous film, The Two Towers - but here it interweaves them with deft precision, using what it needs from the previous books and pacing most of its long running time in exact swings of tension and release.
That's right from the opening sequence, in which we meet Smeagol in his pre-Gollum days and are reminded of the devastating power of the ring, as well as seeing a little more of where actor Andy Serkis ends and the magic of Weta Digital begins.
We are every stumbling step of the way with Frodo, Sam and Gollum as they head towards Mt Doom. We're also there, with the rest of the scattered fellowship, preparing for the showdown against the mounting might of Sauron.
"We come to it at last, the great battle of our time," says McKellen's Gandalf as he sees the forces mount on the vertiginous city of Minas Tirith. It is a great battle. It makes The Return of the King a great war movie - the thrill of the horse charge of the Rohan warriors, the chill caused by the devastating stomp of the elephant-like Mumakils as they counter-attack.
It takes a certain matinee idol elf to bring one down in an eye-popping action sequence. It's topped off with a priceless one-liner by his short mate Gimli.
The Battle of Pelennor fields also comes with troll-powered catapults, and pterodactyl-like beasts piloted by Nazgul led by the Witch-king Angmar, the baddest of the Lord of the Rings baddies yet, though he has some competition from Orc captain Gothmog whose visage seems a tribute to the Elephant Man.
Both are played by Lawrence Makoare who played orc Lurtz in the first film. If there's a prize for most makeup-tolerant actor, he deserves it.
If it's a great war movie, it's quite a horror film, too. First there's the Army of the Dead who are summoned by the man who would be king, Aragorn, for the final showdown. Some business to do with an old curse apparently, but they are a visually arresting bunch whose special effects hark back to Jackson's The Frighteners.
Then there's Shelob, the giant spider into whose lair Frodo is led by the treacherous Gollum. It could have gone all very B-movie at this point, but with the combination of creature and choreography, it's something more akin to Alien.
But there are visual moments that are arresting for their simple beauty, such as the lighting of the beacons - mountain-top bonfires which presumably used the Southern Alps as their backdrop and on screen look like a high-concept art piece.
As in the book, it does take a while to find its ending, even without including episodes such as the scouring of the Shire, which were discarded by Jackson and his co-writers.
If it takes a while to wrap up, then again it is the ending to what is effectively one very big movie. It should be allowed a few curtain calls.
If it takes its time to roll the end credits, for much of the film it is beyond exhilarating and certainly the best of the three, effectively elevating the series into the greatest trilogy in cinema history.
Peter Jackson started off filming a legend. Now he is one.
THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING
Cast: Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Viggo Mortensen, Sir Ian McKellen, Bernard Hill, John Rhys-Davies, Orlando Bloom, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Liv Tyler, Miranda Otto
Director: Peter Jackson
Rating: M (violence and fantasy horror)
Running time: 202 mins
Screening: Cinemas everywhere from December 18
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Oops, sorry! Sometimes it seems like nothing else will do, but I need to remember that I may be bothering others. I grew up (many years ago by now) in a house where the whole family swore pretty regularly, I have a feeling that the habit has been handed down more than a couple generations. It drove my wife crazy for the first 20 or so years of marriage, now I seem to be much less likely to talk that way, for whatever reason. Unexpectedly perhaps, my parents were quite religious.
Yes, they really did pull out all the stops in the LOTR project, didn't they. It's gratifying, and plays a large part in its success, IMO.
Gosh ;-) I hope they do bring out a massive DVD!
But word has it that it's on par with Shore's score for the first two movies.
It's available for sale now:
December 04, 2003
With Lord of the Rings, Peter Jackson has rewritten the cinematic rules, says James Christopher
IGN has a great new interview with PJ, in which he discusses premieres, Extended Editions, carrots, and King Kong, as well as setting the record straight on the whole Saruman/Christopher Lee thing. [More]
Q: What's the definitive version of these films?Here is my belief: The Extended DVD versions will become the definitive versions and will be remembered as the beginning of the realization that a DVD is not just a high-tech way of capturing a film but a new medium with rules of its own.
JACKSON: The theatrical versions are the definitive versions. I regard the extended cuts as being a novelty for the fans that really want to see the extra material.
"Not to beat around the bush, this film is soul-stirring perfection. At 210 minutes, there is not a wasted frame of film. From the smallest moment of quiet conversation to epic battle sequences full of sweeping vistas black with ravaging hordes of Orcs and worse, we are swept into this mythical world with an emotional immediacy that is as compelling as it is enthralling. A broken heart resonates with the same thunderclap of dragon?s wings. In this, the darkest of the films, the characters grow as each fulfills his or her destiny so that they, as well as the story itself, achieve a kind of closure. Bittersweet, though it may be."
"LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING is fabulous in every sense. With its companion films in the trilogy, it?s in a category of its own that is so far above the usual cinematic entertainment in scope and execution, that any attempt at comparisons is an exercise in futility."
"The Battle for Helm's Deep is over. The Battle for Middle Earth is about to begin."
Sauron's forces have attacked Gondor's capital of Minas Tirith in his final siege against mankind. Watched over by a fading steward, Denethor (John Noble), the once great kingdom has never been in more desperate need of its king. But will Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) find the strength to become what he was born to be and ascend to meet his destiny?
As Gandalf (Ian McKellan), with Pippin (Billy Boyd) in tow, desperately tries to move the broken forces of Gondor to act, Théoden (Bernard Hill) unites the warriors of Rohan to join in the fight. Even in their courage and passionate loyalty, the forces of men - with Eowyn (Miranda Otto) and Merry (Dominic Monaghan) hidden among them - are no matches against the swarming legions of enemies raining down on the kingdom.
Despite great losses, The Fellowship charges forward in the greatest battle of their lifetime, united in their singular goal to keep Sauron distracted and give Frodo (Elijah Wood) a chance to complete his quest. Travelling across the treacherous enemy lands of Mordor, Frodo must rely increasingly on Sam (Sean Astin) and Gollum (Andy Serkis) as The Ring continues to test his allegiance and, ultimately, his humanity. The Fellowship's journey is coming to an end.
Let's face facts, folks - there has never been a third chapter to a movie trilogy that has fully delivered or satisfied the way it should have. Return of the Jedi was a good but soulless end to the original Star Wars trilogy, full of wooden acting, an overwhelming sense of trilogy déjà vu and Ewoks. Godfather Part III, also decent, was completely unnecessary, nowhere near as good as the first two and starred Sofia Coppola. The less said about the third parts of the Matrix, Alien and Back To The Future franchises, the better.
Eventually, someone had to break the curse, and it has finally happened. It brings me great pleasure to tell you, though it should come as no surprise to anyone who has seen the first two films, that Peter Jackson's third and final entry in the Lord of the Rings saga, The Return of the King, is the film to break said nuisance.
This is a vital, exhilarating concluding chapter that successfully entertains and more than stands on its own merits. The New Zealand director has pulled out all the stops to deliver a bigger, darker, more emotionally resonant motion picture experience that is more satisfying than any fantasy film or second sequel that has come before it. And yes, that includes The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers.
Despite shooting all three films at the same time and doing a hell of a job on parts one and two, Jackson's work here is his finest hour, more accomplished and assured than ever. Trials and personal dramas that each of the characters endure in their journeys are given as much attention as the massive battle sequences, in particular the breathtaking Battle of Pelennor Fields.
Sharing writing duties once more with Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, the director does a fantastic job adapting Tolkien's final book of the series from page to screen. The trio faithfully capture and translate the late author's eye for detail, small character idiosyncrasies and themes of friendship, temptation, loyalty and bravery that will please both hardcore fans of Tolkien's books and fans of the films.
I stated last year that his trio deserved at least an Oscar nomination for their work on adapting The Two Towers (didn't happen). By taking the slimmest of the three novels and turning it into the richest of films, they deserve not only an Oscar nomination, but quite possibly the award as well.
The large, returning ensemble cast also displays a higher level of acting quality. All have become comfortable, but not complacent, in his or her character. There isn't a bad performance to be had (John Noble makes a fine addition to the cast as Denethor, the jerk of Middle Earth), with the trio of Sean Astin, Elijah Wood and Andy Serkis being this chapter's true standouts.
Wood does a fine job handling Frodo's physical and mental struggles with his task, Serkis is once again wonderfully evil as Gollum and Astin's heartfelt turn as Sam reveals his character to be the true hero of the saga. If there is one minor quibble, it is this - I missed seeing Christopher Lee's Saurman, whose scenes have been cut and saved for the Extended Edition due in 2004.
On a technical level, this is about as good as it gets. From Howard Shore's majestic score to Andrew Lesnie's rich cinematography to Weta Workshop's eye-popping visual effects, including the terrifying giant spider Shelob and an army of 200,000 orcs waging war on Minas Tirith, the movie dazzles the eye as much as it does the mind and heart.
Looking back to a little over two years ago, I remember that I wasn't looking forward to these films. Hollywood seemed to be stuck in a rut - while the price tag on films kept going up, the level of quality went in the opposite direction. After the horrible summer movie season of 2001, I had become so jaded with mega-hyped blockbuster wannabe's that I was convinced this series would just be more of the same - all style, zero substance.
How wonderful it was to be wrong. While the overall quality of big-budget American cinema continues to slide into the sewer, Peter Jackson and his cast and crew of thousands have shown me that quality commercial cinema such as this, the most fully satisfying cinematic trilogy made to date in the history of cinema, is still capable of existing.
- Shawn Fitzgerald
Good find, thanks! Only 6 days to go!!
I am very pleased to finally be able to bring you my thoughts on The Lord of the Rings:The Return of the King! I was able to view the movie last week by invitation from the great folks at New Line Cinema, however I have held my review until now at their request.
The screening took place December 2nd, at The Grove Pacific in Los Angeles, and was under heavy security. We had to pass a security checkpoint where they checked us over with metal detectors to make sure that nobody was carrying recording equipment! hehe
After grabbing my bag of RotK popcorn (no soda, for obvious reasons) and getting a copy of the Production notes, I secured myself a seat dead centre of the theatre, and, along with a packed house, anxiously awaited the start of the show. There was a buzz all over the place as to what was going to be shown and what scenes folks were excited to finally see on the big screen. The only thing that was lacking is that I had to leave my beloved Lady Arien at home and attend the screening by myself. With all of the Press folks there that were screening the movie in preparation for the Press Junket to take place the next day, there was not an empty seat in the house! Needless to say that, given time, I feel mi lady will allow me to make up for this little adventure. ;-)
Finally, at 6pm, after a full year's worth of spoiler images, trailers, hours of discussions in our Community Forum on what RotK was going to be like, debates on what and what should not be left out, and overall anxiety and sadness about the finally being able to see it, the lights dimmed, the New Line logo appeared on the screen, and the crowd erupted in a roar of cheers!
I've thought long and hard about how I should write this review. Do I try and remember everything I saw and list out each and every scene and fill this review with spoilers? Or do I just tell you about the experience and how I felt about what I saw and highlight items of interest? I've decided to do the latter. For one... it would be practically impossible for me to list each and every scene, and also, because I feel that to truly enjoy this movie to its full extent, one needs to try and dismiss everything that you've read or heard, leave your expectations at home, and just go see this movie for what it is! And in my humble opinion, it is a masterpiece of cinematic art and I would like to honour it as such!
Now, do not get me wrong, doing what I just suggested is not an easy task. Because of who I am and what I do here at WotR, I have been exposed to just about every image, video, and plot line spoiler everywhere, and, for myself, it took a concentrated effort for me to push all of that stuff out of my head!! Actually, it wasn't until about 1/4 of the way through the movie that I stopped looking for this and that, and, thanks to the wonderful score by Howard Shore and the overwhelming imagery on the screen, I was able to just loose myself in the "experience" that this movie will come to be known as.
As much as I love the books, seeing this movie up on the big screen is nothing short of an awe-inspiring masterpiece! I honestly feel that Peter Jackson and all the cast, crew, and special effects folks have done a great service for the writings of The Professor and that this film, along with The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, will be cherished by both book and non-book fans alike for many, many years to come.
Return of the King starts with a beautiful scene out on a river, with Smeagol and Deagol having fun, laughing and fishing. There is overlaid narration that tells you that this is actually a memory or dream of the creature Gollum, and it, like the rest of the movie, serves its purpose beautifully! The purpose of this opening is clear. Throughout the previous two movies the One Ring has been referred to as having "a will of its own," and by the time you return from the dream sequence to the main characters, you are left with the knowledge that the One Ring is NOT just some tool of Sauron that wants to get back to its Master, but that it is an evil, wilfull and malevolent entity unto itself. It not only lures Deagol to pick it up off of the river bottom at the risk of drowning, but it also displays its power to corrupt by forcing two young Hobbits, that were obviously great friends, to battle to the death over it. You are taken from a "warm and fuzzy" place between friends in a boat, to a dark place, full of pain and torment, as young Smeagol is torn between the guilt, pain, and anguish over what he has just done, and the overpowering love/lust for the Ring.
This movie takes you on an awe-inspiring, amazing journey through Middle Earth as you have never seen it. From the majestic city of Minas Tirith, both under siege from the evil forces of Sauron, and again in the end, in all its beautiful glory during the coronation of The King, the wondrous heights of the Misty Mountains as the Beacons are set ablaze to signal that Gondor is in peril, to the deepest darkest place in Mordor where Frodo and Sam encounter the evil spider creature Shelob, the scenery, both in splendour and in horror, is done in such a way that one cannot help but believe that Middle Earth is actually a wondrous place that exists in reality here and now. In my opinion, the Oscar for Sets and Design should go to PJ and his teams without a doubt.
There are quite a few aspects of this movie that are worthy of the Academy's attention as far as I'm concerned. To put this spectacular film together (and let's not forget filming the previous two movies at the same time) should merit Peter Jackson the Best Director award. The Special Effects award again goes Richard and all of the talented folks at Weta. I would also say that Best Adapted Screenplay should go to Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens. Most of all, I truly believe that for his emotional portrayal of Samwise Gamgee, Sean Astin is well deserving of the Best Supporting Actor, if not the Best Actor nod from the Academy. While all of the cast did a wonderful job in bringing their characters to life in their own special ways, Sean's performance spanned the full range of emotion, from heart-wrenching despair and agony for Frodo, anger and rage at the deceit of Gollum, to the love of life in The Shire and the simple joy of coming home to his wife and daughter, truly stole the show.
Now back to the movie...
From the standpoint of a fan of Tolkien and his works...was I satisfied as to the inclusion of the parts of the books that I wanted to see? Well...yes I was... and I'll tell you why. It amazes me, how PJ and this excellent cast are able to convey what quite often took pages in the books, with a simple line or two of text and/or just a glance and a smile between characters in a scene. For example... The Voice of Saruman is a complete chapter unto itself in the book version of The Two Towers, however, the fate of the evil Wizard Saruman is resolved very effectively during a brief exchange between Treebeard and Gandalf after Gandalf, along with Theoden, Aragorn, Legolas, and Giml arrive in Isengard. In the same token, the relationship between Eowyn and Faramir is brought forth with just a simple smile, and a loving glance between them at Aragorn's coronation as King. After viewing the theatrical version in its entirety, I can well understand how the Voice of Saruman scene, being 20 minutes of pure dialogue, would take away the pace that had been developed up to that point. However, I am greatly looking forward to seeing this scene, along with The Houses of the Healing, on the Extended Edition!!
There has been a lot of talk about the battle scenes, and if you like battle scenes as much as I do, you are in for a treat! The battles at The Pelennor Fields and The Black Gate of Mordor are in a word... epic! There is not a single part of these scenes that's not amazing! The sheer enormity of it all is breath-taking, to say the least! Everything is both massive and rich in detail at the same time. The attention to every minor detail comes through as simply amazing, from the Mumakil that have what appears to be wooden barbed wire tied between their tusks (which they use to sweep away the Gondorian Army as they are being driven by tattooed, arrow-slinging Haradrim...evil men in the service of Sauron), to Grond, Sauron's huge, fire-breathing battering ram that they use to break through into the city of Minas Tirith. I have to say, though, that the most significant impact that comes across during these scenes is not from the enormity of the battle itself, but from the emotions of the characters involved. Yes, the Nazgul on their winged steeds driving fear into the hearts of both the civilians and soldiers alike is intense!
The confrontation between The Witch King, the leader of the Nazgul, and Eowyn, the daughter of King Theoden who has disguised herself and ridden into the Battle along with the Hobbit, Merry, is spine-tingling! But for this viewer, it's really a movie's ability to move me emotionally that counts in the long run...and this movie delivers in a major way. It's absolutely wonderful to see Aragorn come into his own, in, of all places, The Paths of the Dead. To go through the joys and agonies of the friendship between Merry and Pippin, who, at one point, must be separated from each other, only to find each other on the battlefield. It's the hope and the courage of Theoden's Rohirrim sweeping through the host of seemingly fearless, jeering Orcs, the impact of the 6,000 horsemen's attack tossing their bodies like waves crashing on a beach, that makes you want to stand up and cheer, and then it's the love and the sadness of a fallen King who cherishes a final few moments with his daughter that makes you want to bury your head in your hands and sob.
The Return of the King, being the third and final part of the story, does an outstanding job in bringing all of the story lines from the previous two movies full circle to a satisfying completion. The One Ring, its fate beginning with its creation by the Dark Lord Sauron and continuing through all three movies, corrupting everyone that comes in contact with it, nearly achieves its goal of returning to its master by its final corruption of Frodo when he claims it for his own rather than destroying it, takes you all the way back to the conflict of Isildur, when, given the opportunity to destroy itl, claimed it for himself instead. Gollum's fate, which started with murder for the love of the Ring, comes full circle as he dies for that same love.
The destiny of the Elves, who, in the first movie, began their departure from Middle Earth on their journey to The Grey Havens, is completed as the last boat leaves, bearing Celeborn, Queen Galadriel, and others whose stories we have watched unfold since the epic tale began, three years ago, with The Fellowship of the Ring. I was very impressed by the fact that the screenwriters even picked up on very small story lines that really have no major impact on the main plot...to destroy The One Ring and defeat Sauron...but serves to satisfy the viewer that good really does triumph in the end, and the brave never go unrewarded. Nowhere was this was shown more clearly than the story of Samwise Gamgee, a shy, gentle, brave, and loyal Hobbit, who, in the first movie, blushes at the very thought of dancing with Rosie, of whom he is obviously very fond, but dares not show it, and the change that he goes through during his journey is brought across as his courage overcomes his shyness, his ultimate reward very evident as he is shown being welcomed home by Rosie, his beautiful wife, and Elanor, his golden-haired daughter, after his return from The Grey Havens. As a fan of he books by J.R.R. Tolkien, as well as a fan of Peter Jackson's achievement in the adaptation of the books, I was very pleased to see the amount of research into the books that had obviously taken place, and the manner in which the information was utilized to provide a sense of completeness to the story.
I'd like to summarize my thoughts by answering some of the questions that I've been asked by friends who know that I've seen the movie. The first one always asked is "How was it?" and I hope that you can tell from this review that I feel the The Return of the King, in conjunction with The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, is one the most significant cinematic achievements of this generation and will last well into the next! Of course, I get asked, "Is there anything you didn't like?" and the reply is...yes, there is a scene or two that I would call "cheesy," but, in the grand scheme of things, for a movie that's 200 minutes long, to have only a couple of cheesy scenes is a major accomplishment, in my humble opinion. Do I like this one better than the other two? I'll say this...a lot of people I know really loved FotR, and, as can happen with a "middle movie," were not as fond of TTT, well...to me, Return of the King is bigger, more visually stimulating, and yes, maybe even better than both of the previous movies combined. I say this not to bring down the other two, but to me, it makes logical sense that you would want the finale to be the best of the three, you know what they say... big finish!!! :-)
The Return of the King is a jaw-dropping, heart-wrenching movie that kept me on the edge of my seat and drove me through the complete spectrum of human emotions and left me not only deeply satisfied, but also with a profound feeling of both joy...from being able to see a story that I have come to be so fond of, and that has become such a large part of my life...but with a feeling of sadness as well. As the final scenes ended, the credits started to roll and the song "Into the West" started to play, the tears welled up once again as I felt that this part of my journey in Middle Earth was over, and it was my time to leave the Havens, bound for Valinor, and, after exchanging a few words with a couple of folks, that's exactly what I did, I headed for the exit and went home.
I now anxiously await all the hype, expectations, spoiler images and all the wonderful discussions that will occur within the War of the Ring Community, and elsewhere, in preparation for the Extended Edition due to be released next year!
Webmaster - War of the Ring.net
Am I reading this right? They're cutting the romance entirely? NO!
They're cutting the romance entirely? Excellent!!
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