The Return of the King (2003)
Ebert:1/2 Rolling Stone:1/2 TV Guide:1/2
Question: Is The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King the best film of the trilogy?
Answer: Yes. (But it's really just the last 3.5 hours of a single film and should not be considered separately)
Question: Is The Lord of the Rings Trilogy the best film series ever made?
Answer: Yes. (But it's really just a single film and should not be considered a series or trilogy)
Question: Am I serious? Is it actually better than any and all film series ever made?
Answer: Yes. (Although I am an insane fan of the Matrix Anthology, I will concede that The Lord of the Rings is a more impressive accomplishment)
The Lord of the Rings is absolutely, without a doubt, far and away the best movie in the history of the medium. Nothing even comes close and it will probably be a very long time before anything ever does. It is the defining cinematic event of my lifetime.
The Return of the King brings to a close the three year event that has consumed my attention ever since I grudgingly agreed to attend the first installment The Fellowship of the Ring. It seems hard to imagine now but being a vocal opponent of the fantasy genre I was never excited about this film and I expected I would watch it once and then forget about it. Since then I have watched the extended four hour DVD version of Fellowship at least ten times and in addition to seeing The Two Towers three times on DVD since August we watched it no less than seven times during it's run in the theater last year. On December 16th, we woke at 8am, drove to the theatre, took our seats at 9:30am and for the next 16 hours straight we watched the Special Edition Extended Theatrical Presentation of the entire Lord of the Rings Trilogy including the first North American screening of this final chapter. At 1:30am the next day we, along with a gaggle of nerds draped in elvin cloaks and furry Hobbit feet, stumbled from the theater into the night and congratulated ourselves for being the "coolest" people in Middle-Earth.
The story here ends as Frodo, Sam and Gollum continue toward Mount Doom to destroy the One Ring. The former Fellowship members assist Rohan and Gondor in the final great battles of Pelennor Fields, Minas Tirith and then at the Black Gates as Sauron wages his last war against the peoples of Middle-Earth.
The battle scenes are like nothing you have ever seen before. They are so huge that you are completely overwhelmed. The enormity of visual stimuli is staggering and it will take countless viewings before I can honestly say I've seen and absorbed the entire film.
The technical masterpiece that is Gollum continues to amaze. It is no exaggeration to say that he represents one of the greatest scientific achievements of the 20th century. As this effect technique is applied in the future it will completely knock down all practicable story telling barriers. If it can be imagined then it can now be brought to the screen in vivid detail.
The actors, now inhabit their roles as thoroughly as if they were born to them. I know it is the bane of actors to be type cast or too closely associated with a character but I will now and forever refer to Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn. Whether he's in a pirate movie or next year's Troy, Orlando Bloom will always be Legolas. Sean Astin and Elijah Wood might as well just change their names to Sam and Frodo. These characters are as familiar to me now as are my own family members.
I wanted to write a huge dissertation for this review where I would go over every moment of this film and the entire series. But having seen the movie a few times now I don't feel as if it's necessary to praise it on high or extol it's greatness. The Lord of the Rings films are unlike any other movie in existence. You do not just watch it, you "experience" it. And that experience cannot be enhanced by an opinion or and editorial.
If you are like me then you have seen the entire film now and can scarcely wait for the Special Extended Edition Return of the King DVD to be released next November. Hopefully the entire hour and ten minutes that was excised from the theatrical cut will be restored and we will be able to finally see, in it's entirety, Peter Jackson's groundbreaking master achievement The Lord of the Rings... from Fellowship to Towers to King.
Here's me with some of the Maidens of Rohan and Elf Princesses of Lothlorien and Rivendell at the 16 Hour Trilogy Tuesday!