The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
“This Christmas the journey ends.”
Director: Peter Jackson
Cast: Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen, Ian McKellen
Synopsis: Gandalf and Aragorn lead the World of Men against Sauron’s army to draw his gaze from Frodo and Sam as they approach Mount Doom with the One Ring.
And so it ends. Finally. Oh, no – wait a minute: still twenty minutes to go. There – finished. Little bloke’s got on the boat, ready to sail off into the sunset. Middle Earth is safe, at last. Sometimes it felt as if the entire quest was shot in real time, and after more than nine hours I felt as if I’d taken every step with Frodo and his mates.
Return of the King naturally takes up where The Two Towers concluded and serves up a similar dish. It’s all particularly humourless, with plenty of meaningful gazes between key characters punctuated every now and then by the by-now familiar hokey dialogue. ’The very warmth of my blood seems stolen,’ Gimli utters at one point, and you can just imagine writer Fran Walsh hunched over her PC struggling to come up with another way of saying ‘it makes my blood run cold.’
The series’ loss of momentum, only infrequently evident in part two, becomes glaringly obvious in Return of the King as a large section of the movie is taken up with most of the key players sitting around as they prepare for battle with Sauron’s infernal army. Perhaps Jackson was attempting to convey the curious combination of anxiety and boredom felt by soldiers as they await the order into battle, but all he succeeds in doing is reminding the audience of how boring a poorly paced movie can be. And Return of the King is one of the most bloated, over-produced movies to come out of Hollywood in a generation.
The film briefly comes alive once the battle is under way, but proves to be the first – and best – of four climaxes. What follows is a protracted – and anti-climactic – duel of wills as Frodo (Elijah Wood) struggles to destroy the ring he has carried for so long. At least Gollum (Andy Serkis) is there to liven things up as he hides his malicious intent behind a wheedling obsequiousness that is the most memorable aspect of the movie.
The Lord of the Rings movies have won the wholesale approval of fans of the Tolkien novel, so the makers have clearly succeeded in catering for their target market. What the film’s producers haven’t done is take into consideration the demands of more mainstream moviegoers who perhaps aren’t so enamoured of a kingdom full of dwarves and elves, etc. Some of us aren’t so enraptured by the sight of this fantasy land brought to life that we’re prepared to put our critical faculties on hold.