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The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Reviewed by Starflight

The final installment of Peter Jackson's telling of J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. This review will be colored by the fact that I have copies of the DVD Extended versions of Parts 1 and 2 of this epic and think they are much more complete. Do you have the DVD Director's cuts of either film?

After watching Fellowship again, I have come to understand why Jackson showed that Aragorn knew Frodo was leaving the group. It saved time. Aragorn didn't have to spend time figuring it out and it gave time to show the relationship that had grown between them. That end even gave some understanding of Boromir. He really was a good guy that in the end rejected the longing of the One and fought to the Death with Honor and Valor thinking he was protecting the One so it COULD be destroyed.

While there are changes that Mr. Jackson has made to this tale that I don't like, there are many that I have come to see as wisdom in putting story to film. One being at the end of Fellowship and the fact that Aragorn knew and approved of Frodo setting out on his own. And one I don't like, as I have said before, is the portrayal of Faramir at the Moon Pool. Much missed is his wisdom and sense of duty. The wisdom to let pass the One Ring and Duty to Gondor and all Middle Earth to stand against the seemingly wise and do the correct thing even to his almost certain death. OK enough re-hash! On to The Return of the King!!

I at first thought I was at the wrong theater when the movie opened! But only for a second or two. What a great twist to open the film. The movie opens by showing the finding of the One Ring by Deagol while fishing, and his murder by Smeagol for the want of it. We see some of the effects of the One over his extended life and that brings us up to date. It reminds us that the One Ring has a terrible power to corrupt and that some evil must have been present in Smeagol to be corrupted so very quickly by it. A very good start to a very good movie!

The White City of Gondor is much as I had envisioned it in my mind, and Jackson did an outstanding job of building the City for the film. I want to live there, although without elevators it might prove taxing. The battle scenes are fantastic and well filmed. I liked that the carnage was well depicted without being gratuitous and overly bloody. The arrival of the Riders of the Mark is straight out of the typical western, that is until the the camera angle changes to show row upon row of riders, tens of thousands of them. The effect is very powerful!

The death of Theoden was right out of the book as is the slaying of the Witch King by Ewoyn. Sadly that is for the most part the last you see of her. The only other scene is at the crowning of Aragorn and she is with Faramir. How she and Faramir came to be together is left completely unexplained. However we do see some of the wisdom shown by Faramir of the books. And again with this battle we see Merry stab the Witch King but nothing of the cost to himself in doing so and in fact we see him before the Black Gates with Pippen, which could not have happened. Fact is, the killing of the Witch King took a great toll on both Merry and Ewoyn, to the point that they almost died and this is not even hinted at in the movie.

The best thing about the Battle for Gondor was the use of Oliphaunts. Tolkien had gone to great trouble to describe them and then just forgot them. That Jackson used them in a major battle was great story telling. The climb to the pass of the Tower of the Moon was dizzy making to say the least! In my youth I did some rock climbing, but theses scenes had me trying to step back from the edge. You would need pack a lunch for that kind of fall!!

I must say this right off! I HATE spiders! I mean REALLY HATE spiders! And Shelob was perfectly done. She moved like a spider would move. That Sam was told to go home prior to entering the tunnel was at first a change I thought not needed. But in truth it served to separate the two friends for the battle with Shelob as in the book. That tunnel was darker than dark and to have attempted to put that on film would have been impossible, so Jackson found a way to separate them AND show the corruption the One Ring can bring about, even between two great friends.

The Paths of the Dead was another change I liked. I thought it much better that Aragorn took them all the way to Minas Tirith to do battle. A tactical change that was better thought out than in the book. I was disappointed with the non-confrontation with Saruman. In fact it seemed that the only reason for what they did show was so that "....fool of a Took" could later sneak a look into the Palantir and see that Sauron now knew the location of at least one Hobbit.

A great film, and worth seeing more than once! Still I must say I thought there were places that left you wondering what happened, and it is my hope that the extended DVD will fill in the blanks. A hint to Peter Jackson, We don't care if the DVD is even 6 hours long, so run with it!!

The film is chock full of memorable lines and scenes. Too many to list and I have already written a lot of spoilers here. You'll laugh, cheer and cry for more than 3 hours! That it is ended is sad and you'll also feel that! We must say goodbye to old, trusted and much-loved friends.


Related Links:
Starflight's review of The Two Towers - the best fan-based website


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Peter Jackson

Philippa Boyens
Fran Walsh
Peter Jackson

December 17, 2003

Elijah Wood
Sean Astin
Ian McKellen
Viggo Mortensen
Orlando Bloom
John Rhys-Davies
Dominic Monaghan
Billy Boyd
Hugo Weaving
Liv Tyler
Andy Serkis
Miranda Otto
Karl Urban
David Wenham
John Noble
Bernard Hill

Full Credits at IMDb

Available on DVD and Blu-Ray (theatrical editions only at this time)