Science fiction and fantasy
The Lord of The Rings: The Return of the King
directed by Peter Jackson
By now most viewers will be prepared to forgive Jackson his deviations from the authorised version of Tolkien's epic. Again in this film he makes a few slight changes for the sake of clarity, pace and drama. On the whole though Peter Jackson has been more faithful to the original in this film than he has in the rest of the trilogy.
Melodramatic at every moment, the final movie ought to be the best because it has all the climactic scenes. Jackson has chosen to play this film more straight-faces than the other two. Some of the more emotional scenes, particularly the battles, are real hanky-soakers. These moments are milked for all they are worth with heroic gestures and an atmospheric score.
The sets of Osgiliath and Gondor are stunning, sheer magic in CGI. Oliphants storm through the battle scene at Gondor, looking terrific as they trample everything in their path. It's a good bet that some of this would have been impossible, or at least highly improbable, just five years ago. I'd like to say that all the special effects are this good but there's a lapse when the hobbits are finally reunited and we see them together against a backdrop of humans. The cut-out is so obvious you can almost see the scissor snips.
The Return of the King is a tremendous film until the last half hour, when everything starts to come to pieces. At this point the maudlin score is getting repetitive, and you start to wonder how long it will take to wind up. It's not the sheer length of the movie that's at fault as much as the failure to find a change of tone. The ending is overly weepy, and it drags. It could have done with more humour, and more weddings. After making so much of the romance between Arwen and Aragorn it is odd not to see that to its conclusion and show their wedding.
John Noble plays Denethor, the mad Steward of Gondor, as a sort of Nero figure, eating fruit and listening to songs whilst the city burns. The Return of the King has too large a cast to be able to pick out one star. One performance that stands out is Éowyn (Miranda Otto) facing up to the Witch King of Angmar, who can't be killed by any man. She manages to look so very earnest when she says "I am no man!" and sticks it to him.
For the first three hours of this film audiences will get more than their money's worth, and this remains one of 2003's most enjoyable movies. However it is let down by an ending that lacks balance and focuses on tearful goodbyes to the point of nausea.
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A an epic and tragic fantasy set in the Elder days of Middle Earth.
Review © Ros Jackson
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