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 Lord of the Rings 3: The Return of the King
 Critic's Rating
   [A+]
 Date Posted
   28th December, 2003
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Cast: Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Ian McKellen
Director: Peter Jackson

After years of filming and months of breathless anticipation, Peter Jackson’s visualization of Tolkien’s magical world of wizards, elves and the quintessential battle between good and evil, comes to a conclusion in the most rousing and memorable of ways. With near perfect computer imagery, judicious placement of key sequences from the book and a stellar cast, the final result is nothing short of a magnum opus, one that is likely to be the yardstick by which all future trilogies are gauged for their impact and consistency of delivery.

If last December’s ‘The Two Towers’ boldly disobeyed the sequel law of diminishing returns, ‘King’ manages to completely dispel the curse that jinxed the last acts of movies as powerful as the ‘Godfather’ series. Part of the credit goes to the very strong source material from which the movies themselves have been adapted from, whose vast universe has a distinctive history, languages and a noble lineage as diverse and identifiable as any in the real world.

‘Return of the King’ begins by shedding light into Smeagol’s first contact with the one ring. Here images that we are familiar with from earlier films in the series (such as the ring being picked up underwater by a pudgy hand) are leant more meaning and weight by bringing them into proper context. The flashback sequence never found in the third book but instead elsewhere, goes to show the single minded dedication and forward thinking vision with which Peter Jackson and co-scripter Frances Walsh placed crucial sequences from all three books to make them more meaningful and lend stronger impact to the final product.

‘King’ finds a war brewing in the front yard of the city of Minas Tirith, spectacularly created by the production team, where Denethor, father of Faramir and favourite son Boromir, sits atop the throne, refusing to accept the likely return of the rightful king of Gondor. With much of the remaining fellowship back together, preparations are made for the biggest war that Middle Earth (or any other Earth for that matter) has ever seen, including the likes of trolls, fiery battering rams and huge four tusked elephantine creatures amongst the usual array of orcs and humans. Amidst the pre-war fervour, we never lose sight of the ring bearer Frodo and Sam. The movie then juggles between these two arcs, interceding frequently enough to allow apprehension to grow upon the audience peppered with the grand battle of Pelennor fields where catapults hurl boulders obliterating entire portions of the city.

Visually, the film not only packs heavy emotional confrontations but also some of the most convincing effects ever put to screen. When we first catch sight of Shelob, we contend that yes, if there ever did exist a giant spider, it would very much look, move, attack and function like the one on screen. Preceding this is the conflict of companionship of Frodo between Sam and Gollum. And this really is Sam’s shining moment whether battling to save his friend, or never letting Frodo lose sight of his goal, much like how Peter Jackson must now seem to the rest of the world, with his hobbit like size and shape.  

Composer Howard Shore matches Jackson’s ascension to genius with a powerful score that uses montages from the previous movies in the series to provide a sense of closure to the aural world that he created as a companion piece to the director’s grand operatic vision. Tolkien wrote in the introduction to his books, ‘The tale grew in the telling’ to emphasize how naturally the entire structure of what he had in mind fell into place, obviously because it was constructed out of his deep affection for the world he had imagined. On final inspection the same also holds true for the natural feel for quality delivery that Peter Jackson accomplishes with his swan song. - Faizan Rashid

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