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Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (12A)

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The ViewBirmingham Review

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Review byMatthew Turner11/12/2003

Five out of Five stars
Running Time: 201 mins

The third part of Peter Jackson’s epic trilogy delivers everything we have been led to expect: stunning battle sequences, glorious scenery, jaw-dropping special effects and wonderful performances. Please make The Hobbit, Mr Jackson – you know you want to…

Winter 2004 is going to feel very bleak without a Lord of the Rings movie to look forward to. Peter Jackson’s masterful adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings trilogy is finally at an end, some seven years after work first began on it. The result is everything the first two films have led you to expect and, even if he misses out on the Oscars again this year, Jackson can at least console himself with the creation of three of the best fantasy films ever made.

Straight Into The Action

Like the previous film, The Two Towers, The Return of the King just assumes that you remember where it left off and jumps straight into the action, pausing only to give us a brief flashback to how Gollum became the way he is (generously allowing Andy Serkis to appear as ‘himself’). After that, the plot strands resume: Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) continue on their quest to Mordor, to destroy the One Ring in the fires of Mount Doom, unaware that they’re being led into a trap by the devious Gollum.

Meanwhile, Gandalf (Ian McKellen), Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Gimli The Wise-cracking Dwarf (John Rhys Davies) ride to the defence of the city of Minas Tirith, ahead of a ferocious attack by Sauron’s dark forces. However, Aragorn has a Cunning Plan, involving a Zombie Army and an ancient curse…

The battle sequences are nothing less than astonishing. The Battle of Helm’s Deep in The Two Towers was impressive, but Jackson has managed to top even that. The siege of Minas Tirith involves flying dragons (alright “Fell Beasts”, then), Giant Battle-Elephants Of Death (“Mumakil”), elaborately-carved, flaming battering rams, massive catapults (always good for a few laughs) and huge Orc Warriors (none of whom speak like Phil Mitchell this time round, sadly).

The special effects and set design are amazing, too - hopefully, somewhere, George Lucas is hanging his head in shame. The city of Minas Tirith is so beautifully designed that it’s impossible to tell where the real sets end and the CGI begins. The creatures, too, are incredibly well done, the obvious new addition this time round being Shelob the Giant Spider, whose encounter with Frodo and Sam is a terrifying highlight.

Fat Hobbit Is New Hero

Incredibly, in amongst all the carnage, Jackson still manages to keep track of all his characters, ensuring that everyone gets a chance to shine, even Comedy Hobbits Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd). Legolas has a particularly glorious moment in a fight with one of the Giant Battle-Elephants Of Death, that will have audiences cheering, as will Eowyn’s (Miranda Otto) face-off against the Witch-King. All the performances are excellent, but if Aragorn emerged as the de facto hero of Two Towers, then surely “Fat Hobbit” Sam (beautifully played by Sean Astin) is due the same attention this time round.

This isn’t to say that criticisms aren’t possible. There are a good twenty minutes of endings, for example (one of which is irritating and entirely superfluous), some of the language is still overblown in a Fantasy Literature type of way (leading to unintentional laughter), and your eye-lids do tend to droop whenever the Elves are onscreen, Liv Tyler or no Liv Tyler. That said, when the rest of the film is as good as it is, it seems churlish to complain.

It’s not often that you get to use words like ‘vision’ and ‘genius’ with modern film directors, but Jackson is worthy of the highest praise imaginable for bringing the trilogy to the screen. Himself a huge, self-confessed Tolkein Geek, his unadulterated passion, energy and commitment to the project have ensured the films’ success. Reportedly, he has expressed an interest in filming The Hobbit. Let’s hope it’s true.

In short, The Return of the King is a fitting conclusion to an epic trilogy, that, as has already been said elsewhere, has given a new generation of film-goers their ‘Star Wars’ moment. It will almost certainly be Oscar nominated again, and if Jackson doesn’t win this time, there is, officially, no justice. A masterpiece.

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Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (12A)
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Content updated: 16/12/2017 10:59

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