Though “Lord of the Rings” is a classic example of a hero’s quest and a series about magic, elves, hobbits and wizards, it remains at it’s heart a story about what makes us human. “The Return of the King” more than any of the other parts is truly a story of weaknesses and how we all need help to overcome them. Pride, greed, covetousness, curiousity (the bad kind) and fear all serve to keep the Fellowship from their quest, but friendship and love will out (along with some righteous a**-kicking).
Peter Jackson understands this, and while he may stray from the books, I feel he never strays from his vision and from telling the important parts of the stories to us. His weaknesses lie in pacing the films. “Fellowship of the Ring” suffered from too much walking and not enough talking and “The Two Towers” suffered from his handling of the seperation of the Fellowship and the intercutting between the three group’s seperate stories. Fortunately, he has overcome this in “Return of the King.”
While the battle scenes are extended, he uses natural breaks in the action to cut to scenes of the hobbits. It’s not jarring as it seemed to me in “Two Towers.” The stories are much more balanced in terms of the rhythms of their actions and the tones of each scene. Instead of feeling you’re missing something at the cutaway, you feel you are getting to see something more.
Even the cheesiest of the special effects, the army of the dead — while having it’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” moments — is used sparingly enough that it’s forgivable. What’s not forgivable is some hard care emotional manipulation which brought a few inappropriate laughs from the audience, and an extended ending that seems even longer and tacked-on after three hours in a butt-numbing movie seat.
These criticisms are trivial when compared to my overall feelings about the film. I loved it, I think it is best of all three. It was exciting and heart-breaking and funny and a wonderful end to this journey. The admiration the cast has for each other is so evident and it adds to the richness of the characters interactions. There’s so much going on, but again, Jackson handles fitting all the pieces together deftly. And, it’s mercifully light on Arwen.
There’s not a whole lot more I can say without spilling some beans that readers may not want spilled so I’ll just say “Return of the King” was time well spent and ended to much applause and many tears. I don’t think anyone will be disappointed with this magnificent ending to Jackson’s masterful telling of Tolkien’s series.Rating: A