Lord of the Rings: Return of the King – Brilliant Beyond Belief! True to Tolkien’s Spirit

by Jan 21, 2004Reviews

Peter Jackson has often times been criticized for altering the storyline of this 20th Century Classic – but be that as it may, he choose in all three outings to stick close to Tolkien’s theme, spirit and motivation. Tolkien tells a story, makes us believe in Middle Earth and avoids a concise ending. Peter Jackson preserves Tolkien’s spirit on all three points.

I held the first two movies in awe and could not think how the third movie could be less; but, I was carried away by what must be the most brilliant film footage in the history of the media. It is brilliant beyond belief. The spectacle of the Battle of Pellanor Fields, the Paths of the Dead, Shelob, the Beacon lighting, the Halls of the King, Minas Tirith and Minas Morgul, all bring to the addicted reader (like myself, reading and rereading the work since the 1960’s) the iconic moments we had only drempt of through Tolkien’s breathtaking words. For me, the Ride of the Rohirrim had me weeping for joy as it does when I read it from the author’s pen. Bravo Jackson for that.

Film is a careful responsibility when it comes to translating and adapting great literary works; and the director, writers, crew and cast manage it wonderfully. Unlike the books, where the two srtands of storyline are separated for most of its course into an East and West plotline, Peter Jackson (as in The Two Towers) marries the strands together and integrates them to Tolkien’s timeline (which places events from the Two Towers in the time space of The Return of the King). Tolkien was fastidious in his timeline; however, when he wrote the work he had no idea that it would be divided into three parts.

The acting was genuinely great, building on the continuous development from the previous movies. There’s less Gimli, Legolas, Arwen, Elrond and Galadriel (but their roles are pivotal); however the materials allow Aragorn, Theoden, Eowyn, Merry, Pippin – and Gollum, Frodo and Sam, of course – to shine. Merry and Pippin develop strongly, as they do in the book, but still hold their mirth and merriment. Billy Boyd’s song brought tears. Dom Monaghan’s moment (we all know that moment – I do not wish to spoil) was truly an iconic deliverable. Sean Astin showed his true acting quality in some of the most pitiable portrayls I have seen to date; while Elijah Wood took us through the main, most human Tolkien theme, with clarity and power. That Gollum CGI character (that is Andy Serkis) was wonderful again, and Andy gets to be himself (at least not CGI) at a magical point of the movie. Miranda Otto – WOW – well, her MacDuff lines, eagerly awaited, had the entire audience cheering and applauding. Viggo grew to Kinghood, and remained sufficiently Strider at the end to make us proud. Bernard Hill’s Theoden was forceful; while Ian McKellan – well what can we say, was Oscar-material again. Plus, the last of the major characters to be introduced, Denethor, played by John Noble, conjured up a villainy of Shakespearean proportion – pathos plus.

Having read a number of other reviews which expressed a disappointment at the ending, or I should say endings, I say this. I was very curious how Peter Jackson would end this movie – considering that Tolkien had difficulty wrapping it up (in his own words, he was a niggler – never letting anything be truly finalized). To my delight, Jackson did not sell-out a la Hollywood and end the work some 150 pages short of the end in some Star Wars fashion. Instead he opted to take a few of Tolkien’s dozen or so denouements and ease us out. Tolkien’s main themes are in those denouements. If we ended at Minas Tirth and not at the Grey Havens, I would have been disappointed – and as an extra bonus, Peter Jackson ends the movie with the very last lines of the book. It was Sam who Tolkien most related to and saw as himself. Afterall, Tolkien in German means “half-wit” and “half-wit” in Old English is Samwise.
So, movie-goer, you can go see a movie or go see THIS movie, which is unlike any other ever screened on the planet. You will excuse me now. I must consult my Palentir to see if Oscar will deliver.

E C Patterson


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