Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Movie Review: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

It's all over and I'm sad. Next December, there won't be a new Lord of the Rings movie to look forward to. But I take comfort in the fact the Peter Jackson's Return of the King is a triumphant, heartbreaking and immensely satisfying conclusion to the greatest movie trilogy ever (sorry, George).

Picking up where The Two Towers left off, Frodo and Sam are moving closer to Mordor to destroy Sauron's One Ring, led by the treacherous Gollum on a secret path through dangerous tunnels and beneath orc-filled towers. Meanwhile, the rest of our gang is trying to figure out how best to help the kingdom of Gondor, which is very soon to be beset by the bulk of Sauron's army.

And when that army arrives to besiege the white city of Minas Tirith--complete with hundreds of thousands of orcs and catapults and flying ringwraiths and more--your jaw will drop open and remain that way for pretty much the rest of the film. It is a grand and awesome spectacle and the most terrifying battle I've ever seen on film. But Jackson never forgets his characters. The brilliantly seamless special effects always work to serve the story and the characters, never the other way around. You feel every arrow strike, every sword clash, every rock and boulder thud. And in this battle, every character gets their time to shine.

When all the battles are over, when everything these characters--Frodo, Sam, Merry, Pippin, Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Theoden, Eowyn, Eomer, Faramir, etc--have journeyed long and fought hard for has at last come to an end, it's happy and sad and thrilling and poignant. Everything that has been set up in Fellowship and Two Towers pays off in Return of the King. The victories and rewards are richly deserved and well-earned; the defeats, deaths and downfalls are deeply moving.

This is far and away the best film I have seen this year. And taken as a whole, the Lord of the Rings trilogy is one of those rare cinematic events that make you feel as though you have been privileged just to be given the opportunity to experience it. And I'm sad that it's over.

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