In a recent two-part interview with Empire
Magazine, "Lord of the Rings" director Peter
Jackson explained that the third film of his
trilogy, "Return of the King" (IMDb listing) is his favorite. Why? Because it took "Fellowship of
the Ring" and "The Two Towers" to properly set
the stage, introduce his characters and weave
the background story together. Now that feat
has been impressively accomplished, he is free to
plunge headfirst into the story and let action
speak for itself. And Jackson clearly relishes
this freedom to pick up the pace, jump back and
forth between the story lines and bring it all
neatly back together at the end. All parts of the
trilogy have a distinct feel to them, but out of the
three, "Return of the King' is the most different. It's a
stupendous cinematic epic that pulls out all the
stops physically, digitally, emotionally and, most
The Fellowship's journey is drawing to its close
as Sauron amasses his forces on Pelennor
Fields in front of Minas Tirith, the White City and
capital of the fading kingdom of Gondor. Slowly falling apart
under the listless stewardship of Denethor
(John Noble), the city and people of Gondor
have never been more in need of their king. The
time has come for Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) to
ascend to the throne to which he is rightful heir --
but will he find the strength to meet his destiny
and rise to the challenge to lead his people in a
battle they cannot conceivably win?
While Gandalf (Ian McKellen) tries to convince
the broken forces of Gondor to mount a
defense, King Theoden (Bernard Hill) and the
warriors of Rohan come to their aid, but even
their combined strength, their unfailing courage
and fierce loyalty cannot defeat the swarming
legions of enemies pouring into the kingdom
under Sauron's watchful eye.
Meanwhile, Frodo (Elijah Wood) has made his
way into the treacherous darkness of Mordor.
Slowly succumbing to the growing weight of his
burden, he must increasingly rely on Sam (Sean
Astin) and Gollum (Andy Serkis) to get him to
Mount Doom and the fires that can destroy The
Ring, even as the trinket continues to test his
allegiance and, finally, his humanity.
For the warriors, each small victory comes at a
great sacrifice and immense loss, yet they
charge on and challenge Sauron at the Black
Gates of Mordor to the greatest battle of their
lives. All in an effort to distract Sauron's unblinking eye and give
Frodo a chance to complete his quest.
The film is a surprise in many ways. There is an
undercurrent of almost-giddiness, which makes
the commitment and sense of achievement of
all involved nearly palpable. The film's 3 hours and
21 minutes (which seems to fly by, actually) are
so emotionally charged as to be visceral.
Despite the gravity of the subject matter and the
violence of battle, there's humor aplenty,
unexpected at times, but welcome and fitting.
Upon first viewing, I think, the tone of the overall
film will take some getting used to, and while
not having read the books will not in anyway
impair your viewing pleasure or the film's
context, having read them will help to get a
better sense of the Tolkien reality reflected so
A terrific movie in itself, "Return of the King" is
part of something bigger. United with the first two films, the whole story comes together beautifully. As a whole, the trilogy is simply the
brilliant sum-total of a monumental cinematic
effort. Unprecedented. Unlikely to be outdone.
Ever. In that sense, it remains to be seen just
where Jackson -- described by his cast in
December's Empire Magazine as "rotund," "hobbit-like," "shy,"
and a "genius" -– can possibly go from here.
And if the masses who turned out for the
London premiere of "Return of the King" are any
indication of the reception it will get -- a crowd
that swelled to 8,000; the largest ever at a
London premiere -- it'll be unprecedented, awesome and deservedly so.
Filmfodder Grade: A+