The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) (PG-13)

Peter Jackson closes off his adaptation series of Tolkien's fantasy books in astonishing fashion. So great and incalculable was the success of this film that it landed the movie eleven Oscars, tying for the most with "Titanic" and "Ben-Hur". It reopened the world's eyes for the third time to the land of fantasy, carving the way for other movies to make their mark, most notably "The Chronicles of Narnia" series and the TV show "Game of Thrones".
Courage and finality—these are at the center of "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King". The movie begins as Sam and Frodo are still struggling to get to Mount Doom to rid Middle Earth of the ring forever.
True to the second film, the movie makes time jumps and leaps from character to character without hesitation. The editing for all movies is sensational because it splices battle scenes with soft dialogue sequences and there is not a beat missed.
We have to take a moment and acknowledge everything that went into this series—the costumes, the CGI, the sound editing, the film editing, the choreography, the set design, the cinematography, etc. etc.
Re-watching the series, I was reminded that Jackson was a big fan of horror...the influences are not hard to spot. I think the most notable likening would be to Sam Raimi's "The Evil Dead" for the shots that shift from protagonist to ghostly antagonist.
Indeed there is a deep spiritual undertone to the film, not just because the characters travel from the afterlife and back. It's a quest our heroes went on, a quest that they know they might not come back from.
Jackson swiftly introduces new characters, stays true to the books, and makes you empathize with the characters you grew to love.
Much of the entire trilogy is shot in a dream-scape like stupor. The vocals fade in and out, the camera bends at odd angles, and voice-over is used liberally. You would think that you were witnessing a Malick film from the amount of characters that speak in their own minds.
Yes, it's true that this movie gave a new meaning to nerd fandom; but what is often overlooked are the small moments of surreal beauty that punctuate the film: Frodo falling to his feet and being helped up by an ethereal elf that he is hallucinating; a two-sided conversation in one character; and the most strong loyalty imaginable.
In "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" we got the battle of Helms Deep, but in "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" we get the battle of Minas Tirith and if anything Jackson outdoes himself.
It may seem like an easy win in hindsight—turning a classic book series into movies. But you try making three movies that total well past nine hours in length combined, stick them in a theater filled with people who have never seen anything like it before, and see how you fare for yourself.
The dark lord Sauron now preys on the men of Gondor. The company must flee to them in order to better protect man. Elves, dwarves, orcs, goblins, and men all meet once again...this time the results will be final.
For the last time, Elijah Wood and company gives stellar performances. For the last time, Andy Serkis amazes as Gollum. For the last time, we see the fade out on Middle Earth...this is where Jackson should have stopped.
Fantasy, in this trilogy at least, belongs to Peter Jackson. This is the man whose film feature debut was "Bad Taste" about aliens that eat people.
He was most known for a movie called "Heavenly Creatures" before "The Lord of the Rings"—but he became in instant success and a household name post-Tolkien.
His trilogy is immaculate, staggering, and epic.
I consider it to be one of the best trilogies ever made. The three movies comprised give such a vibrant meaning to literature and—though I be criticized for doing so—I think Tolkien may have been happy to see them completed in such inspiring fashion.

Score: 4 out of 4 stars

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