This is a retro-post. I put this online 24 December 2005 using the date it was originally sent out.
LORD OF THE RINGS: RETURN OF THE KING (REVIEW)
You WILL be warned before spoilers. It’s OK to read the first bit.
First, a word about spoilers: If you’ve read the book there are, by definition, no possible real spoilers. If you haven’t read the book there will be spoilers but shame on you for not reading the book.
Second, when you see the film, it is NOT OVER until it says THE END on the screen. About one third of the people missed parts of the film because they thought it was over when it wasn’t. There are a number of fades to blacks as each story line is ended. Also, take a whizz first! This puppy is 3h 20m without previews and credits.
Third, to sum up the film: OSCAR SWEEP, BABY! If the Academy screws this up, they ought to be drawn, quartered, diced, sliced, and served up to an orc army. (Hey Eric, tell us how you really feel.)¨
OK: If you’re a spoiler freak, STOP READING RIGHT HERE.
Where should I start? Let’s start with the acting. Hugo Weaving as Elrond actually looked the part: worn, haggard, and tired after years of fighting. This same look was my complaint in the earlier films because he didn’t look like a proper elf. Elijah Wood has never disappointed me in his acting until this film. I can’t quite say why, but until the very end it just wasn’t quite right. The ending, though, is a different story. Sean Astin, in my opinion, stole this show with his Samwise character. Sweet, loyal, brave, Sam deserves this Oscar.
Fans of Legolas and Gimli will be disappointed to note their roles are greatly diminished in the theatrical cut. Saruman has been excised from the theatrical film entirely. I was very upset when I heard this but having seen the film I understand. I am looking forward to the DVD release so I can see all the missing parts.
Normally, when discussing a film, I break the review into three parts: the good, the bad, and the ugly. There is no bad or ugly. Just excellent and not-quite-as-excellent- as-it-could-have-been.
First, an admission. I am not one to cry. I am definitely not one to cry at films especially when I’ve read the book and know how it turns out. I can’t remember the last time it happened. I cried. A few times. So bring your hankies ladies and gents!
My most serious complaint is the ending. I don’t mean the fact it has multiple endings. The natural end of the film is the sailing to the Grey Havens. Why Jackson didn’t use this as the ending is beyond me. Not only was it well done, it was perfect. Flawless. Everyone in the theatre was crying. It is the end of the movie story. Oddly, he tacked on a bit about Sam, which should have been deleted or placed before this scene. (Please note in my review I say “The natural end of the film is the sailing to the Grey Havens” — I am aware that is not how the book ends. It is how the FILM should end because the other stuff is not nearly as relevant due to Jackson’s re-working of the end of ROTK)
So while we’re on the subject of the Grey Havens, let’s finish the discussion. A more heartbreaking scene in film I’ve never seen. It’s unspeakably sad in the book and on the screen it’s emotionally devastating. Yeah, this is where I was really crying — the whole damned scene. And for all you who didn’t read the book and thought Sam and Frodo were just a bit too close for comfort, you get your long-anticipated kiss. So there; and nobody in the theatre made rude noises. Elijah redeemed his otherwise relatively weak performance with this Grey Havens scene. The whole lot of the hobbits deserve Oscars(tm) for this scene.
The other scene that really pulled me apart was when Aragorn was speaking to the hobbits just after he was crowned as King. The hobbits bowed to him, but Aragorn stopped them and said, ‘You, my hobbit friends, bow to no-one.’ He, the king, then bowed to them followed by the assembled peoples of Gondor and Rohan.
Another potential tear-jerker is after the ring is destroyed. You see the jubilation in the faces of the fellowship followed by the realization that Frodo had probably just given his life to help them win the war. The actors portray the dawning realization as ecstasy turns to agony brilliantly. Having read the book and knowing he hadn’t died reduced the emotional impact of this scene drastically. (Then again, I know how it ended and I still was ripped apart by the Grey Havens scene).
Speaking of destroying the ring, the penultimate Mount Doom scene with Gollum and Frodo is not realistic. As the two fight, one visible and one not, it becomes more funny than dramatic and is, by far, the least realistic scene in the entire trilogy and I disliked it intensely.
The Scouring of the Shire wasn’t in the film. It wasn’t even filmed. Much to the dismay of both me and the actors who wanted to do it. It’s not the fact I want to see our beloved hobbits kick some ass, it’s that it shows that the war spread to all of Middle-Earth and that they all had to participate in the war. Had they refused their obligation they and everything they loved would have been destroyed. The only bit of the Shire’s destruction you see came in the first film as Frodo looks into the Mirror of Galadriel.
From the ladies’ standpoint, both Arwen and Eowen were relegated to tiny roles, though it was still more than they were given in the book. Merry and Pippin grow up in this film.
I thought the madness of Denethor (sp?) was done very well though my friend Jace disagreed with me. I suppose we all have our own mental concept of how it was written. The difficulty with this whole bit and how he interacts with Faramir comes down to the previous film, The Two Towers. If you’ve not read the book and/or seen the DVD with the scene showing the relationship between the two, this scene plays as unrealistic. Lovers of the book know it is realistic, but the victim of a bad edit in the Two Towers.
Shelob was great because they went for Spider and not Monster. She was very realistic and very intense. This scene is not for small kids. Shelob definitely looked like a big, real spider and not a CGI creation.
Gollum’s acting was very good, and his split-personality is even more evident as the film wears on and the ring exerts influence over both him, Sam, and Frodo. I still think Gollum looks too CGI for my tastes despite all my friends thinking he’s so cool.
The pacing of the film was excellent. The cinematography was fantastic. The sound was good but I think the Foley Artists were not up to snuff in some of the busier scenes.
And, yes, Aragorn is definitely King.
Today, it was announced that the film made $73 million in its opening weekend in the US and nearly a quarter BILLION dollars worldwide. A record of course. I wonder if the might of the Ring can sink the Titanic?
Five stars. See it. Now.