"Large chance of death. Small chance of success. What are we waiting for?"
the dwarf Gimli (John Rhys-Davies ) asks his fellow fighting companions. Like
everyone else, what you've been waiting for is one last chance to fight with
your heroes. You'll finally get it in Peter Jackson's THE LORD OF THE RINGS:
THE RETURN OF THE KING, the final film in the wildly successful trilogy, which
looks to be a surefire Oscar winner. It's also the best of the three. The
first was great. The second was quite good, but disappointing nonetheless.
The third, however, is such a stunning achievement by Jackson that it's hard to
believe that he could ever be able to surpass it even if he make a hundred more
films. (Actually, most viewers are mainly interested in one more from him in
particular -- THE HOBBIT, which reportedly he'd like to make. I don't believe
that finding the funding will prove to be a problem.)
So epic in scale and length and so operatic in music and sound, the movie calls
to mind another famous story about a ring -- Wagner's opera, The Ring of the
Nibelungen. The music to THE RETURN OF THE KING is so stunning and memorable
that the first thing that you're likely to do when leaving the theater is to
purchase its equally incredible CD. The movie is also quite dramatic with
Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) giving a speech to the troops that is reminiscent of
King Henry's St. Crispin's Day charge to his soldiers in Shakespeare's HENRY
"We come to it at last," Gandalf (Ian McKellen) tells Pippin (Billy Boyd), "the
great battle of our time." The story this time is basically one long series of
battles, of which you will never tire. Trust me on this. My bladder
frequently has trouble lasting even for a normal length film, but it made it
through all three and a half hours of this one. My son remarked that I barely
moved through its showing. If it had been six hours long, I don't think I
would have complained or budged.
My favorite times during the fighting occur when the cameras pull way back, and
we get aerial views of the action. God, isn't CGI great! The best of the new
mythical animals used for warfare are a cross between STAR WARS' Imperial
Walkers, Hannibal's elephants and prehistoric beasts.
The picture's ensemble cast is so strong and memorable that you'll wish the
Academy would consider giving a special ensemble Oscar to all of the actors. A
few characters do stand out, in addition to Aragorn, Gandalf and, obviously,
Frodo (Elijah Wood), the lad who has the dubious honor of carrying the
ill-fated ring. Again, the movie's scene stealer is a CGI character named
Smeagol, whose voice and motion is done by Andy Serkis. I still think that
Serkis deserves a supporting actor award.
Let me be honest. I was frequently lost. It's easy to figure out the overall
outline of the story and what is happening, but you'd have to frequently
consult a detailed program to figure out all of the story's various clans --
just like in an opera. Jackson's genius is that he managed to make this tale
of Middle Earth grand and mesmerizing rather than hokey and silly. In lesser
hands, the movie could have turned into the bomb of the century rather than the
must-see trilogy of the decade.
After one ending after another, which allows needed closure, Jackson finally
finds one that fits perfectly. Don't be surprised if you tear-up when the
ending credits roll since you'll be bidding adieu to good friends. You been in
there fighting their battles with them for three years now, and they're
leaving. Goodbye. We'll miss you.
THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING runs a fast 3:20. It is rated
PG-13 for "intense epic battle sequences and frightening images" and would be
acceptable for kids around 12 and up.
My son Jeffrey, age 14, went on and on about how much he liked this one, his
favorite of the three. Giving it ****, he gave special mention to the fighting
sequences, the intricate scenery and the story itself. He couldn't find
anything about it that he didn't like.
Copyright © 2003 Steve Rhodes