I went into ROTK with high expectations, and, as a spoiler fiend, a few known disappointments. Her is what I took away from it:
I thought the story had been well adapted to the screen ,especially considering the fact that the book has none of the inter cutting that is so vital in films. I was glad to see a lot of the most powerful lines had been put in the film, even if sometimes they were given to other characters. I didn’t like Frodo kicking Sam to the curb, but in light of all they had been through I find it plausible.
The cinematography was on par with the rest of the films, even if a little more gritty. I did think though that the opening sequence with Smeagol and Deagol was a little too green. It looked fake.
As I said before I’m a spoiler fiend so I had heard a lot of advance praise for Sean Astin’s performance as Sam. I found his performance very externally emotive and very in character, but I was not surprised or impressed by anything I saw. I think Miranda Otto and Billy Boyd really got a chance to shine. Boyd’s portrayal of Pippin losing his innocence and coming to grips with death was especially moving and a welcome change from the usual ignorance and clumsiness of his character. The rest of the acting was very much in keeping with the quality of it in the previous two films, but in some cases slightly diminished. I would say Elijah Wood was the big surprise for me. His rather boring character in the Two Towers had led me to believe that he would be less then brilliant in ROTK. But I was pleasantly surprised by his ability to show Frodo wrestling with his conflicting emotions as his determination to destroy The Ring and his affection for Sam were pitted against his own dependence on the ring and Gollum’s shameless manipulation of his mind.
In terms of the soundtrack I would defiantly say it is my favorite of the three. Howard Shore’s use of musical symbolism allowed him to maintain a unifying theme in all three films while at the same time turning out a unique and fresh sound for each film. I thought the solo’s by soprano Renee Fleming were especially haunting and a very beautiful finale. I did not like Into the West when I first heard it, but it has grown on me considerably and I now consider it one of my favorites.
In sum I consider the Return of the King the best of the three films and my personal favorite. I am so sad it is over, but I am looking forward to the extended editions in November!
P.S. In light of the recent debate over Frodo being downsized in the movies all I can say is that he was portrayed as a character that lost everything, and gained nothing. But despite it all he was content that those he loved were happy and could live out the rest of their lives in peace, even if he could not. If that is not a hero, then I am very glad that Peter Jackson did not make Frodo one. Heroism is more then physical strength.