Way back in 1998, I have been hearing rumours about the LotR trilogy being adapted for the big screen. Alongside numerous Tolkien fans, I was very much delighted and excited to hear such tidings. As years went on, and still nothing about the film (or shall we say films), I have grown restless and at the same time fearful of what may have happened to the actual project. 2001 came and went, and watching FotR has squashed my greatest fear about an LotR movie, being unfaithful. In fact, despite the number of liberties Peter Jackson took, I praised FotR as a great movie and a great adaptation of the book. The wait for Two Towers was like an eternity and when it came, I was a little disappointed as a reader but the quality of the movie never really did diminish from its predecessor. It was satisfying as a movie. With that said, I turn to Return of the King with much skepticism about being faithful to the book. As a movie fan, I entered the theatre with not much fear since the grand quality was never in question.
In one sentence, RotK is a great movie and satisfactory as an adaptation. Return of the King starts off unexpected for me, showing the scene of Smeagol and Deagol before showing anything else about what happens next. I praise the creativity of Peter Jackson here for trying to tie up some of the mysteries behind the creature Gollum. The grand scale visualization of Middle Earth remains in tact and the visual effects remain astounding. The sweeping views of thousands and thousands of orcs swarming Minas Tirith was truly astounding and the locations were truly breathtaking. The path of the dead was superbly done and the legions and legions of undeads riding to Minas Tirith was really great. In the visual aspect, RotK is truly the best of the trilogy and probably the best in the decades of film history. The sounds were amazing and the musical score was truly inspiring. RotK is a technical spectacle and a visual treat for everyone to enjoy.
However, even basing things only on the movie’s facts and assumptions, the movie does go through a few blemishes. The exaggerating visuals on the count of men seem to jerk me to laugh at times. At the TT, Helm’s deep was in the brink of defeat when the men of Eomer rushes in to smite all enemies and then, when Theoden mobilizes his horsemen, they happen to seem like millions and millions. If King Theoden indeed had that many horsemen, then Helm’s deep wouldn’t be that much of a problem. People can argue that Eomer THAT large a force to bring to Helm’s deep but to me, it seems unlikely, considering that Eomer’s men had to deal with the assault of Saruman’s orcs. There should have been some casualties. Also, after the battle at the Pelennor Fields, Aragorn didn’t seem to have as much men left for him to go and scream at the Black Gates. The dramatic increase and decrease of men drove the points of the movie, that is… when there’s an increase of men, there’s tidings of hope, and when there’s a decrease of men, the forces seem to have no hope at all of surviving. Speaking of Aragorn and the Black Gates, if Aragorn had that small an army, it would’ve been easily seen by Sauron that it was a some sort of a trickery brewing in the midst of the smoke. Also a small nit pick here is that Aragorn seemed to have lost his horse after riding back to his men after the Black Gates opened. The omission of Saruman from the movie did bring a certain frown upon my face. With the many minutes utterly wasted on the ending, it could’ve been used to tie up the lose ends of some of the characters, of which are Saruman and Grima. The ending was good, but I think was overdone and overly-stretched. The establishment of each character’s end was good but many good minutes were used here and could have been used else where.
The performance of the cast is truly remarkable, with the exception of Denethor whose characterization happens to be irritable and too conniving and miserable. While I believe that his character’s portrayal and evolution going in the pyre scene was believable, the character establishment was marred at the start. I believe Elijah Woods as Frodo tried to hard in this film but his portrayal was good in comparison to Denethor. Everyone else did just fantastic.
As an adaptation, the film does better than Two Towers but fails to rival the Fellowship of the Ring. Some of the liberties taken from both movies are irrepairable, such as Eowyn ending up in Helm’s Deep and the forging of Narsil and Elrond’s appearance in Theoden’s camp, but these differences aren’t as damaging as in TT. The one story arc added by Peter Jackson that really had me frowning on was having Gollum deceive Frodo to sending Sam away. It was truly unnecessary, and did little for the film. Some parts were omitted but are supposedly expected in the Extended Edition such as the Voice of Saruman and the House of Healing.
Over all, RotK is without a doubt the best movie to come in 2003. It is also quite satisfying for the readers as well. It is, indeed, a must-see for everyone, movie fans and readers a like.