Lord of the Rings The Lord of the Rings
The Return of the King
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
the return of the king one of shadows' all-time best films Peter Jackson concludes his ambitious three-film Lord of the Rings epic with one of the most astonishingly powerful action-adventure movies ever made. Not only does Jackson meet impossibly-high expectations, but he uses inventiveness and passion to add texture and emotional energy to an already rich story.

The Fellowship is now in two camps: While Frodo and Sam (Wood and Astin) travel into Mordor with the slimy Gollum (Serkis), a massive battle is brewing in the kingless land of Gondor. This'll require all the strength and creativity of the wizard Gandalf (McKellen), reluctant monarch Aragorn (Mortensen), elf warrior Legolas (Bloom), feisty dwarf Gimli (Rhys-Davies) and surprisingly brave Hobbits Pippin and Merry (Boyd and Monaghan). And they'll have to work with a troubled king (Hill) and his tenacious niece and nephew (Otto and Urban), as well as a bereaved leader (Noble) and his frustrated son (Wenham). Can Frodo and Sam destroy the powerful ring before the evil Lord Sauron kills every living thing in Middle-Earth?

This film keeps us gasping from start to end! It's so impeccably and artfully done that we can hardly breathe, immobilised by emotion, suspense, the sheer spectacle, the intimate drama. Each character is pushed to the brink (some of them beyond it) by a script that never takes the obvious road; sticking closely to Tolkien's story helps, but there's an artistry in the writing that makes this more cinematic than literary. Each performer soars with it, showing us the blood, sweat and mental anguish at every stage, including moments of humour and joy that continually surprise them (and us). Wood and Astin will forever be a double-act after the gruelling voyage Frodo and Sam take to the fires of Mt Doom.

Mortensen creates a gorgeous arc over the three films from hesitant to warrior to ruler--we not only believe this transformation, we feel it! Boyd and Monaghan prove that they're capable of much, much more than being a comic double act. Serkis gets to appear on screen as Smeagol in a prologue, then goes even further as Gollum later. And McKellen continues to add spark and soul with his perfect blending of wit and gravitas.

Jackson juggles all of this with remarkable skill--technically this is a triumph from the expert music and production design to the nearly seamless effects. And scenes of quiet intimacy are staged with the same care as the mammoth battle sequences, which keep shifting gears and escalating until we are nearly overwhelmed ... and yet they're always coherent and meaningful. The themes are so resonant that they hit us deeply, as do the interpersonal dramas among the characters. The idea that even the tiniest people can change the world, as long as they work together, is pure inspiration. Quite simply, we never want the film to end! And for a while we think it might not, as Jackson wedges in several codas, epilogues, false conclusions and postscripts, most of which are a little too sweet after the raging power of the story's devastating climax. But they also let us say farewell to characters in just three years that have secured a place both in movie history and in our hearts.

cert 12 themes, violence, suspense 11.Dec.03

dir Peter Jackson
scr Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson
with Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen, Ian McKellen, Sean Astin, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, John Rhys-Davies, Andy Serkis, Liv Tyler, Miranda Otto, Bernard Hill, David Wenham, John Noble, Karl Urban, Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, Marton Csokas, Ian Holm, Sean Bean
release US/UK 17.Dec.03
03/NZ 3h21

End of the quest. Astin and Wood

gandalf aragorn galadriel


23rd Shadows Awards

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... merry and pip frodo Bill Egan, London: "Excellent review for a truly wonderful movie. What sets this movie above even its astounding predecessors (Fellowship and Two Towers) is the sublime mix of the grand and the intimate, the heroic and the emotional. The direction, acting, special effects etc. are all top-notch. Kudos to brilliant Peter Jackson for achieving the impossible; a mythic, heartfelt, and uplifting adaptation of Tolkien's masterwork." (13.Dec.03)

Phil, Rugby: 5 out of 5 stars "The triumphant climax is the best yet, non-stop action from the characters we're now getting to know. Battle scenes are amazing, special effects likewise. The final 10 mins will bring a tear to your eye, but no-one will see you because Jackson has about three endings. I doubt if I will see a more special film for many a year. A great 3 1/2 hours out of your life." (17.Dec.03)

legolas and gimli eowyn arwen

Patrick Madigan, Jacksonville, Florida: 5 out of 5 stars "A truly epic movie that is at once grand and sublime. I cannot think of a more illustrative scene that demonstrates the power of the film, the skill of the director or the universal nature of the theme than when Pippin sings for the Steward of Gondor as his soldiers ride out to certain death. It was perhaps the most moving yet under-played scene in a film full of vast spectacle and grand heroics. Believe me, this is a great movie." (18.Dec.03)

Laurie T, Minneapolis: 4 out of 5 stars "What more can I say that has not already been said? A long movie, but if you liked the other 2, you need to see the ending, don't you?" (7.Jan.04)

gandalf galadriel Dave Haviland, London: 3 out of 5 stars "If you liked the first two films, youíll love this. The whole trilogy has been an astonishing technical achievement, but once again I found myself shifting in my seat, for the narrative problems that plagued the first two films are still evident. The film is over three hours long, with lots of tedious exposition and an interminable epilogue. The dialogue is banal at best, and the cod Shakespeare begins to grate early on, as does the cloying sentimentality. Worst of all, none of the characters is particularly engaging. Frodo is the apparent hero, but heís never properly tested because at key moments he is passive, making duff decisions, only to be rescued by the inexplicably loyal Sam. The most interesting character is Denethor, the unworthy King who resents his son, but this complex character is quickly reduced to a pantomime villain. Nonetheless The Return Of The King is the best film of the series, a faithful rendering of the book, and well worth seeing for the battle sequences alone." (30.Dec.03)

denethor and faramir orc Jessica Carlson, South Bend IN: 5/5 "I am a person who will give you the best review for this movie. I cried ... I had chills ... I again cried ... I giggled ... I also almost lost control of my crying. I love the part when Frodo is in the tunnel with Shelob. It is a strong part for Elijah Wood. Tears streamed down my face when the Rohirrim charged toward the army of Sauron. I hope this gives u an insite as to how much i love this movie. It is WONDERFUL! No questions asked." (16.Feb.04)

© 2003 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall