RETURN OF
THE KING

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The Return of the King
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SHOULD YOU?
TIP JAR
LOTR: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING
MOVIE REVIEW
LOTR: THE TWO TOWERS
MOVIE REVIEW
THE HOBBIT
MOVIE REVIEW
THE LORD OF THE RINGS: The Return of the King - 2003
USA Release: Dec. 17, 2003
New Line Cinema
Rated: USA: PG-13

The attention span of the average person (depending on how much TV they watch) can barely manage most normal length flicks. So when you ask someone to watch a three hour and twenty-two minute movie, their reaction is very predictable. They say, "That better be a damn good movie."

THE LORD OF THE RINGS: The Return of the King is the final installment of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, based on the novels by J.R.R. Tolkein. As with the first two (THE LORD OF THE RINGS: The Fellowship of the Ring and THE LORD OF THE RINGS: The Two Towers) the director is Peter Jackson (THE FRIGHTENERS) and the screenwriters are Mr. Jackson, Fran Walsh (THE FRIGHTENERS) and Philippa Boyens.

LOTR 01
OH BOO! HOO! HOO! 3 FREAKING MOVIES AND ALL SHE DOES IS CRY. SHEESH!

Let me start with full disclosure: I'm a big fan of the novels and I know the story backwards and forwards. I'm telling you this because I want you to know why I'm not really sure how someone who hadn't read the books OR seen the first two movies would react to this one. They might be completely lost or they might be able to catch on to enough of the storyline to follow along. I'm guessing the former but it's hard for me to say because I can't see it from that point of view.

The movie opens with a flashback. Gollum (the best digitally animated movie character ever, voiced by Andy Serkis: DEATHWATCH) is a twisted creature but in the flashback we see him back when he was still human (actually, a hobbit). His name was Smeagol then and we see how he first acquired his "precious", the One Ring that everyone is so excited about.

LOTR 03
NOW THIS IS A WOMAN! YEE-HAW! IT'S TIME TO KICK ORC-ASS!
UM... BUT DID THEY REALLY HAVE DENTAL FILLINGS BACK THEN?

Cut to Frodo (Elijah Wood: THE FACULTY) and Sam (Sean Astin: THE WILLIES), with Gollum as their guide, foolishly carrying the One Ring to Mount Doom, the volcano where the ring was made and the only place it can be destroyed. Mount Doom lies deep in the heart of Mordor, land of Sauron, an evil demon who needs the ring to regain his full power. If all that is geekspeak to you then you didn't see the first two movies.

The Ring is a great evil and it corrupts all who come near. Frodo has been able to handle this heavy burden so far but the strain is showing. Gollum, on the other hand, long ago devoted his very soul to the Ring and plots to get it back. Sam is sort of Frodo's servant (he still calls him Mr. Frodo) but the friendship between Sam and Frodo is the kind that only comes from shared adversity.

LOTR
IT'S YOUR LIFE OF COURSE, BUT IF I WAS CHOOSING BETWEEN THE LOVE OF A FIREY WARRIOR WOMAN OR SOME MOPEY SAD SACK...
Meanwhile, in another part of Middle-Earth, the rest of the Fellowship is trying to put together a large enough army to defend the city of Minas Tirith (capital of the Kingdom of Gondor) from Sauron's army. As the nearby Kingdom of Rohan learned in the last movie, Sauron's troops do not intend conquest. Their objective is to enslave and exterminate all the races of the world.

Gandalf the wizard (Ian McKellan: APT PUPIL, X-MEN, X-MEN 2), Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen: THE PROPHECY), Legolas the Elf (Orlando Bloom: PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN), Gimli the dwarf (John Rhys-Davies: RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK) and the hobbits Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd) are all working toward bringing together all the forces they can to meet at Minas Tirith. Gandalf himself goes to the city to deliver some bad news to Denethor (John Noble: THE DREAMING, THE MONKEY'S MASK), the Steward of Gondor (the line of Kings is thought to have died out and Gondor has been ruled by a Steward for generations). First he must tell the Steward that his son Boromir is dead (killed in the first movie while defending the hobbits from orcs). Second, that a huge orc army is on its way to burn Minas Tirith to the ground. And third, that Aragorn is actually a true descendent of the royal family and therefore the rightful King of Gondor.

In other words, "Your son is dead, your city is doomed and by the way, you're fired." A bad day for Denethor, who does not take it very well. Actor John Noble does a great job as Denethor, showing us a man in retreat from a reality that has betrayed him.

LOTR 02
THIS AIN'T EVEN HALF THE BATTLE!
Speaking of great, THE LORD OF THE RINGS: The Return of the King is a spectacular movie. Easily the best of the trilogy, it moves like lightning, bringing us to the most awesome battle on film. The siege of Minas Tirith feels very real and the things you will see will astound you. I spent much of those three hours and twenty-two minutes on the edge of my seat in spite of knowing exactly what was going to happen. Think how good the movie has to be for that to happen.

The battle is amazing but it is just part of a much bigger story. Even if the good guys manage to hold off this attack, Sauron will just send another and another. The war won’t end until Sauron's power is destroyed so it’s really all up to Frodo, Sam and the sometimes helpful, sometimes traitorous Gollum. Many terrible things are between them and Mount Doom (
do spiders bother you?* Mwah ha ha ha!) and the terrible beating they take, both emotionally and spiritually, is devastating to watch. It will also probably lead to a best supporting actor nomination for Sean Astin as Sam.

I won't do a science moment here, of course, since this is High Fantasy, but I will argue a technical point with some other reviewers, who have quibbled about how active a role Gandalf takes in the action, being an old man and all. I just want to point out that he's a freakin’ wizard! It's called magic. And if you want to get really Tolkein technical, Gandalf isn't human. He's an incarnation of a spirit from the Elvish pantheon. Basically, a demi-god or archangel. So there.

THE LORD OF THE RINGS: The Return of the King gets five shriek girls.

Shriek GirlsShriek GirlsShriek GirlsShriek GirlsShriek Girls
This review copyright 2003 E.C.McMullen Jr.

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