Jackson knew going in that Tolkien fans were going to scrutinize and analyze every detail, every nuance of his films. Despite what must have appeared at times an insurmountable task, Jackson remained committed to creating an epic adventure that would entertain while staying as close as possible, within the confines of time constraints and visual effects, to Tolkiens literary vision.
Theres no denying parts of the novels were changed, omitted or reworked. Bringing every single page of The Lord of the Kings trilogy to the screen was/is simply not possible. And like The Two Towers, its absolutely necessary to have seen the previous two movies (not just have read the books) in order to quickly pick up on the story.
The Return of the King starts off with the fellowship split into different subgroups. Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) are being led by Gollum (still one of the coolest creatures ever created) to Mordor. As the One Ring gets closer to Sauron, its power over the ringbearer becomes increasingly intense. The friendship between the loyal Sam and his Frodo is put to the test, with Gollum weaseling his way into Frodos confidence and effectively pushing Sam out.
The larger group of fellowship members is split apart after a disturbing incident with a glass orb. For the first time on the journey, Merry and Pippin are separated, with Pippin (Billy Boyd) accompanying Gandalf (Ian McKellen) to Gondors capital, Minas Tirith. Merry (Dominic Monaghan) remains with Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Legolas (Orlando Bloom), Gimli (John Rhys-Davies), King Theodon (Bernard Hill) and the soldiers of Rohan as they strike out to assist the soldiers of Gondor who are led by the mentally imbalanced King Denethor (John Noble). The fellowship peels off even further as Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli visit the Paths of the Dead where deceased soldiers haunt the mountains waiting to be released from their pledge to assist Isildur. While Aragorn and crew are calling on the ghost soldiers, Merry and Eowyn (Miranda Otto) secretly join the horse soldiers of Rohan to battle Saurons army at the Siege of Minas Tirith.
Thats basically the set-up, with the little groups facing formidable odds while on the final stretch of the journey. Almost three and half hours long, The Return of the King flows so smoothly it seems considerably less lengthy. And while the battle scenes, including the Siege of Minas Tirith and the Battle of Pelennor Fields, will be praised by audiences, Jackson did well in remembering the humanity of his characters, allowing each central figure to be fully fleshed out and not lost in the great battles.
The effects in The Return of the King are up to par with what weve come to expect from the trilogy. Youll swear Gollum is a real flesh and blood character, and Frodo and Sams battle with Shelob the spider is incredibly well done. The only part of the movie that was a little distracting involved the giant elephants. Some of the effects were a little on the cheesy side, in particular a scene with Legolas fighting his way up the side of the elephant. It just looked exactly like what it was, a CG effect. But other than a few very minor aberrations, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is epic filmmaking and storytelling taken to the nth degree.
If youre going to do a trilogy, there has to be a compelling reason for there to be a third movie. The third film has to be the big pay-off (take note Matrix filmmakers). With The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Jackson fulfilled all of his promises. The epic journey concludes on a masterful note, with this final film the most emotionally involving and, dare I say, entertaining of the three.
Bring on The Hobbit with Peter Jackson at the helm, of course!
"The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" was directed by Peter Jackson (cast and crew list) and is rated PG-13 for intense epic battle sequences and frightening images.
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