The Return of the King debuts next Wednesday in the U.S. and the advance buzz is deafening. Variety says:
- A "King" that earns its crown, Peter Jackson's final installment in his monumental "The Lord of the Rings" represents that filmmaking rarity --- a third part of a trilogy that is decisively the best of the lot. With epic conflict, staggering battles, striking landscapes and effects, and resolved character arcs all leading to a dramatic conclusion to more than nine hours of masterful storytelling, "The Return of the King" is an urgently paced 200-minute film without an ounce of fat --- until unfortunate multiple endings that go on and on, as if Jackson couldn't bear to let go. Again unlike other trilogy finales, this one will rank with its predecessors at the box office, where the first two entries have generated $1.786 billion internationally.
....In a way new to the trilogy, the emotional momentum surges along with the physical action. After early ambivalence over his responsibility for the Ring, Frodo grows into the job; after long dodging his royal inheritance, Aragorn finally rises to the occasion; Sam, especially, emerges as a three-dimensional character of intense devotion to Frodo even after he has been tricked by the Iago-like Gollum and exiled by his closest friend; and the ineffectual Hobbits Pippin and Merry take on some size, figuratively if not literally.
....To greater effect than he has at any point in the three films, Jackson cuts among different sets of activity, the most spectacular being the battle and the most emotionally intense being Frodo's painful, inch-by-inch journey.
....The trip, which requires perilous climbing up slippery twisting stairs, is marked by the Gollum's frequent attempts to make off with the Ring and by the most frightening episode in the entire trilogy --- Frodo's and, subsequently, Sam's face-offs with an enormous Spider named Shelob. The incredibly detailed and life-like arachnid succeeds in stinging Frodo, and rapidly wraps him like a mummy. Sword-in-hand, Sam then engages the beast, and the angles at which the struggle is shot are enormously impactful and unusual for shots involving so many digital and special effects. Few will watch this scene without drawing back in the theater seat.
....The siege of Minas Tirith may well be the mother of all cinematic battles; certainly no pre-CGI war film ever featured a scene involving upwards of 200,000 soldiers. But that's how many Orcs maraud the city, and the details are extraordinary: the huge stones catapulted at the fortifications from mobile towers; the fire-breathing dragon battering ram that crashes through the main gates; the earth-shaking Mumakil that raze all before them with scythe-like tusks and carry dozens of men; the gradual movement of the battle from the ground to the upper levels of the exquisitely designed citadel. All of "The Lord of the Rings" has been building to this, and it delivers entirely.