Saturday, December 31, 2011

Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

By Alan Trehern, King of the Reunited Blogosphere

After almost a decade since the first Jackson-directed Lord of the Rings films hit theaters, here we are.  I keep finishing this trilogy every year or so, and all I really want is to be trapped in the beauty and serenity of the first installment, The Fellowship of the Ring.  But, alas, we must finish this saga and bring an end to the Third Age of Middle-earth with the War of the Rings and the defeat of the mighty Sauron.  **looks for NJNM intern**  WHERE'S MY PIPE WEED!!??

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Directed by Peter Jackson
Starring Sir Ian McKellan, Elijah Wood and Viggo Mortensen

Again, what was supposed to be two separately told stories in the book is well-weaved to tell the final battle for Men of the West with Aragorn FINALLY taking up his mantle as King; he leads his army against the Orc, the weird Men of the South and the huge, badass elephant monsters.  Battle scenes are once more outrageously satisfying, even though the "green ghost army" (they support Ron Paul) was a little ridiculous.  And that pouty chick from The Two Towers shows up and face-stabs the main Nazg├╗l, even though I was under the impression they aren't suppose to die until the Ring is destoryed, but whatevs, bilbro.
Who farted?
But everyone was waiting for the final chapter(s) in the Frodo/Sam/Gollum Euro-Trip to Mordor.  And yep, SPOILER ALERT!, they get in and drop the trinket into the huge pool of lava that no one in Mordor thought to put a huge, impassable gate around.  There's even a front door and perfectly crafted hallway up to the flowing river of Mount Doom lava.  I mean, if I was Sauron, seal up the volcano, playah, then worry about the armies of the West.  It's Evil Dark Ruler 101.

And boy do they end this thing in style.  If you find a loose end in this film, you are more attentive than I, good traveler.  With the coronation of Aragorn (now Elessar), the return to the Shire and the final send-off at the Gray Havens, the ending to this film could have been a fourth installment!  Haha, I kid, I kid.  But since I still have to get the extended edition of the 2nd and 3rd films (over 60+ minutes added onto Return of the King), I'm confident I'll be speaking perfect Black Speech in no time.

"And yet, my beard is still the most glorious..."
So if you haven't caught on, these movies are total recommendations.  Now, some may mourn this fact, others may rejoice in it, but Tolkien abandoned a sequel to LOTR (about 30 pages) which told of Aragorn's son, the new king.  With so much untapped mythology due to the death of Tolkien in 1973, I feel that the shadowy and lost stories of Tolkien's legendarium adds to its immortality.  And with an adaptation of The Hobbit coming in less than a year, I feel we're going to have another few classics on our hands.  Thank you Tolkien and son.  And thank you Peter Jackson, for helping make some of the best movies we will ever see.

Ben P's Notes:
Before this viewing, I had only seen Return of the King one time, and that was in theaters back in 2003. I had forgotten a lot of the minutiae of the story, so it was a surprise to me when Eowyn killed a Nazgul and not the embodiment of Sauron himself (as I thought back in '03). I also remembered the big reveal - that there was a chick on the battlefield - having a lot more impact back then, but I digress. Even with all of the sh*t-talking I did about the trees in our review of The Two Towers, I think I like that movie a bit more than this one. The huge battle outside of Minas Tirith at the end of Return of the King seemed like Helm's Deep Lite in comparison, probably due to the editing: the battle was crosscut with a ton of other story elements, leaving the viewer a bit disoriented at times and not completely aware of the ebb and flow of the fight.

I've got the same gripes as the second film regarding the characters and their separation (it's just not as fun when they're apart), and even more complaints this time around regarding Frodo and Sam's journey. For the first two films, we're made to sympathize with Frodo and this burden that he's heroically taken upon himself. He slowly becomes corrupted by the Ring, but we're still pulling for him. He's the Hero, after all. Or is he? Consider this: at the end of Return of the King, finally leaning over the edge of Mount Doom [1], Frodo can't let go of the Ring. It's Gollum who knocks it away from him, and even then Frodo doesn't attack Gollum to get the Ring back to destroy it - he still wants it for himself. It just so happens that he knocks Gollum to his death and manages to hang on to the side of the cliff, only to be saved by the Real Hero of The Story, Samwise Gamgee. The dude put up with so much crap throughout these movies, was resented and dismissed, and still stuck with his mission. Talk about perseverance. Frodo may as well have fallen into the lava and died along with Gollum. He made it all that way under the guise of heroism, and failed at the very end. Not much of a hero in my book.

Throughout this review series, Trehern has touched on almost everything that makes this franchise great, so I won't repeat them all here. It's a fantastic trilogy that, even ten years later, easily holds up as some of the most impressive filmmaking of all time. It put Peter Jackson on the map in a big way (Return of the King won Best Picture at the Oscars), and - perhaps most importantly for the film industry - established Weta Digital as a powerhouse visual effects company, the only true competition for George Lucas's Industrial Light & Magic (ILM). Most importantly for the fans, though, The Lord of the Rings has become a must-see for movie watchers of all ages and holds a spot as some of the most beloved movies ever made. Kudos to all involved. Until next time...

[1] This pit is referred to by some as "The Crack of Doom," though I can't imagine anyone doing so with a straight face.
And I'll be **seeing** YOU later...


Michael said...

Awesome stuff. I actually watched LotR over the break so I could have them fresh in my mind for when I read your reviews.

Also, if there was actually an NJNM intern, I would submit my application in a heartbeat.

Keep up the good work!

Ben Pearson said...

Thanks Michael, and thanks for reading!