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Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

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Wow. Perhaps it is exhaustion (the movie started at midnight and was a good three hourse plus, add getting out of the parking lot, etc. and I am running on little sleep) but I am having a hard time desribing this amazing film. It is magestic and elegant; sweeping and poignant; breathtaking and heartwarming. It was by far the most aestheticaly pleasing movie of the three. Jackson weaves the story lines and the symbols with loving care and artistic genius. To be spellbound by a movie where you basically know the story beforehand is quite amazing.

What struck me was how Jackson managed to keep the movie within itself when it so easily could have been “over-the-top.” There was obviously a great deal of special effects that went into the movie, from the battle scenes to the giant cities to the frightening variety of evil characters, but it never feels fake. The artistry that allows the focus to remain on the characters and their quest is awesome. The whole thing makes the recent Star Wars movies seem like a joke. Or as Slate’s David Edelstein says:

Jackson brings an intensity to the battle of good and evil that makes the stiff, well-mannered drones of George Lucas’ Star Wars epics look like stick figures in a bad, Japanese-made Saturday-morning cartoon.

Watching this film is like staring at a massive work of art. You are awed, excited, and pulled in.

****Warning: Spoilers Ahead****

– The opening scene with Smeagol/Gollum and the finding of the Ring was a great way to bring you back into the story. And it introduces a key theme: that the ring brings evil with it everywhere it goes. Power corrupts. Each ring bearer begins to develop selfish, dark, and ultimately murderous urges. The film begins with this process and it is present throughout, right up to the final demise of the ring itself.

– As I am sure you have already heard, the batlle scenes are simply amazing in scope and size. This film is truly epic. I fear that the small screen of TV/VCR/DVD will not be able to contain it. But the battles are not really that gorey or bloody. They represent the conflict between good and evil not violence for violence sake. They also felt realistic and true despite their obvious fantastic nature. Again, I wasn’t focused on the special effects but caught up in the moment. The elephants are really cool as are the always fearful Naizgul and their fell beasts. I particularly enjoyed the scenes where the Rhohan join the battle and the way the cavelry swept into the orc lines.

– Jackson handles the encounter with Shelob very well. The nasty spider is creepy and the fight scene was exciting but crisp. The way the orcs fall out so that Sam can come in and save the day is also well done. Jackson manages to tell the story without getting bogged down. This was one of my favorite tension filled parts of the book but the detail is not possible in a movie even of this length.

– Pippin’s run in with the Palentir was a little odd. Not only was it transferred from the camp on the way to Edoras to Edoras proper, The Palentir is only mentioned this once and not brought up again. You never see Denethor use his or speak of it, although he does tell Gandalf about what he has “seen.”

– The climatic scene with the destruction of the ring is seemed true to the book, although Frodo’s character change at the end would be startling if you didn’t know it was coming. It seemed he wrestled with the dark side more in the second film. Jackson does a great job of holding you in that moment when the ring is being destroyed. Just when things look hopeless, the ring melts away and Sauron is destroyed and his kingdom with him.

– Finding a place to end the movie was no easy matter. Jackson skips the Scouring of the Shire, which is admittedly an important part of the book, and that will be a disappointment to those who love the books. But I am not sure Jackson had a choice. That story is simply to complex to include without extending the movie beyond reason. As it is, he lets you down gently from the high of celebration atop Minas Tirith. Having the hobbits return to the Shire with it still in tact is jolting but your smile returns when you see Sam getting married.

– The scene with the elves, Bilbo, Gandalph, and Frodo returning across the sea was touching and hit just the right note. It gives you a warm feeling in your heart and leaves you satisfied if a little melancholy; just like the book.

Any complaints are really trivial. I sat spellbound and wide-eyed throughout the entire film just trying to soak as much of it in as I could. I am sure I will go back and try to see and learn new things. With a masterpiece of this magnitude one can do so again and again.

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  • Eric Olsen

    Excellent, thanks for staying up so late and reporting back to us!! Thanks for the bubbly too – you rule.

  • Jonathan

    I saw it at 12:00 as well :) Despite the fact I needed to work and study for finals today, aw well!
    The film rocked my socks.
    Spoiler: The greatest part, was when Denethor was moping about how all is lost, and started shouting at the troops to retreat, then all you see is Gandalf’s white staff hit him in the face. People got up and clapped, it was really great.

  • Natalie Davis

    Can’t wait can’t wait can’t WAIT to see this! I so wanted to attend the showing of FOTR, TTT, and ROTK back to back to back yesterday at Baltimore’s grandest theater, but it would have taken the whole day and I ended up spending most of the day and night at work, bleh. With any luck, I will be able to carve out three hours tomorrow or Saturday. Hope so. Can’t wait!

  • Natalie Davis

    Saw it this morning. Simply awesome. Went to work directly after the film’s end, and when I walked in, a coworker said, “You look as if you were hit by truck.” My reply, “In a way, I did.”

    I have read the trilogy many, many times in the past three decades. I know the story inside and out. But, for me, the three hours and more sailed by. The film kept me enthralled every minute and perched at the edge of my seat, laughing, gasping, cheering, or weeping copiously. Bravo Peter Jackson, cast and crew: LOTR: TROTK is a masterpiece.

  • visualsimplicity

    I finally caught this film in its entirety (first time I tried to watch it, some fire alarm went off and since it was the last showing, they just offered to refund our tickets and give us vouchers for another free movie).

    Anyway, I must say, the battle scenes were breathtaking (some moments sent shivers down my spine – like Eowyn defending Theoden). Brilliant. A masterpiece indeed.

  • Victor

    If every movie was as good as ANY of the LOTR movies, there would be too many good movies to see!