Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King; fantasy, USA / New Zealand, 2003; D: Peter Jackson, S: Viggo Mortensen, Ian McKellen, Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Andy Serkis, Orlando Bloom, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd, Bernard Hill, Karl Urban, Liv Tyler, Miranda Otto, Cate Blanchett, Christopher Lee, Ian Holm

Evil Sauron ordered his army of Orcs to attack Minas Tirith, capital of kingdom Gondor. In order to save people from the invasion, Legolas, Aragorn, Gandalf and Gimil join the fight against the Orcs, managing to save Minas Tirith. Meanwhile, Gollum manages to separate Frodo from Sam, and lead him to a trap, in a cave of a giant spider. But Frodo survives and manages to enter the volcano of Mordo, dropping the ring and Gollum into the lava. Sauron disappears. Frodo leaves with Gandalf in a ship into the unknown.

"The Return of the King", the last part of the "Lord of the Rings" movie trilogy, is the best of the lot because Peter Jackson finally managed to be fully inspired while transforming the dark fairy tale to the screen, lifting all virtues to the maximum and all flaws to the minimum, resulting in the film getting recognized with numerous awards, including in the category best picture. But, despite being the best contribution to the trilogy, even "The King" has its problems that get apparent after frequent re-watching: the first third has all the flaws from the previous two films: shallow dialogues, aggressively dark mood and a few inadvertently comical situations (Gandalf sleeping with his eyes open, Gollum speaking "My precious"...) while the apparently crucial character, the main hero Frodo, is once again marginalized. Still, during its course, the story rises to the occasion at the latest in the brilliant sequence of the siege laid by the army of the Orcs on Minas Tirith (a wonderfully designed city built in few layers on a hill) which starts dominating the film, whose virtuoso directed action sequences can even cope with the drama "Saving Private Ryan". One gets the overall impression that J. R. R. Tolkien described a World War in a fantasy world.

In it, the large army of Orcs starts attacking Minas Tirith, so people use catapults to start throwing large stone blocks from it onto them - in one astonishing scene, the camera follows one of those blocks from the fortress up to it's fall on the mass of Orc soldiers, while one of the commanders spits on it from contempt. In another, sightly feminist scene, Nazgul on his dragon attacks the human king Theodon, but his "pet" gets killed by a warrior. And challenges him to a duel. Nazgul tells to the warrior: "Fool! No man can kill me!" But the warrior takes her mask of, revealing it to be a woman, replying to him: "I'm not a man!" and then simply kills him with her sword. And the exciting sequence where Legolas courageously climbs upon a giant Elephant that is squashing human soldiers and kills its master, an Orc, is truly amazing. On the other hand, the use of ghosts as soldiers who help people, seems rather as a bizarre choice. It also reveals the major flaw of the entire trilogy: its characters are stiff and lifeless when they are not fighting. Still, in spite of all this, "The King" is a wild 4-hour fantasy "sword and sorcery" epic, featuring a staggering level of ingenuity and passion rarely seen in big budget films of its time, and even the biggest "Lord of the Rings" haters will have to recognize its impressive style and the dramatic finale, while also staying true to Tolkien's underlaying message: "Even the smallest person can change the course of the future".


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