The eagerly anticipated 'Return of the King' has finally hit theatres and it's the perfectly crafted end to the trilogy we were all hoping for. After the stunning conclusion of 'The Two Towers', 'Return of the King' takes off running, and doesn't let up till the end. All the actors give wonderful performances and Jackson manages to saturate every frame with a mixed sense of beauty and intensity. As the quest for the One Ring is drawing to a close, the magic of the trilogy is just getting started.
After the setback at Helm's Deep, Saruman is crushed, and now the true foe are the armies of Sauron. Poised at the edge of Mordor ready to plunge into Gondor, they are led by the dreaded Lich King of the Nazgul. Arrayed against them are the men of Gondor, sorely lacking in numbers and leadership. Gandalf is determined to defeat the army of orcs - leaving the armies of Rohan to gather behind him, he rides to Gondor to raise Steward Denethon to stand against the might of Sauron.
Frodo and Sam continue their journey to Mount Doom, to do away with the One Ring forever. Gollum accompanies them, although Sam continues to suspect his motives. Frodo begins to sink deeper into the madness of the ring, and Gollum schemes to take it from him. Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli are mustering the Riders of Rohan, but soon learn of greater allies they will need. Lots of other stuff happens too, and the hobbit's get really dirty.
In both of the previous movies, Jackson has brought Tolkien's vivid world to splendorous life, and 'Return of the King' is no exception. The dark and grimy land of Mordor is painted in muted colours restless under a thundering Mount Doom. The evil city of Minas Morgul is bathed in a ghastly green light, and plays a striking opposite to the stunning Minas Tirith. Jackson has crafted an absolutely gorgeous city which will impress even the most jaded movie-goer. Built out of white marble and cut right into a mountain side, the city truly has a sense of size and beauty to it. Pity it can't stand up to catapults. Regardless, Minas Tirith is just one example of the fantastic world of Tolkien which Jackson has brought to the screen.
The visual effects are almost flawless. Particularly impressive are the giant Oliphants, who's lumbering strides and devestating charges are pure cinematic delight. As in 'The Two Towers', the battle sequences are expertly crafted. Tens of thousands of orcs struggle against charging hourss and artillery barrages in a seamless union of computer-generated graphics and live action. You have to see these scenes to truly believe them.
Clocking in at about 310 minutes, 'Return of the King' is long. Ridiculously long. Although filled with plenty of development, sometimes the movie begins to show it's weight. It takes a bit for events to get underway in the opening act, and can't seem to finish itself off properly at the end. A good ten minutes could have been snipped from the finale/epilogue sequences without taking anything away with the movie. Jackson's managed to handle the material as well as he could, and there are only a few changes, and some scenes removed. It's a pity we weren't treated to the scourging of the shire, or some sort of resolution with Saruman. After being such a major villain in 'The Two Towers' he seems content to just sit in his tower and wait the battle out. It has been announced however that Saruman will be dealt with more completely in the DVD, by including a deleted scene. It's easy enough to complain about missing material, but at the length the movie runs, it's very impressive to see how much of the novel Jackson manages to fit in. Although he does tend to lean towards the dramatic at times leading to some very drawn out scenes.
'Return of the King' is truly a cinematic triumph. Not only does it bring Tolkien's legendary works to an audience who've never been able to experience them before, it gives his fans the opportunity to enjoy them in a whole new way. The movie delivers Tolkien's underlying messages of faith and determination, while also teaching would be practioners of evil not to put all their eggs into a ring... and then lose it. Nice!
The success of the trilogy also shows that fantasy movies can be done well, and can appeal to great numbers of people. Hopefully, Jackson's deft adaptation of 'The Lord of the Rings' will open the door for a whole new generation of fantasy movies. 'Return of the King' will be enjoyed for years to come as the closing chapter of a awe-inspiring saga, and a momentous movie in it's own right.