Okay for the last day of Sword and Sorcery week, we have Peter Jackson’s masterpiece The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King extended version. Only this third film in the trilogy is available on Netflix instant play.
WATCH: The Return of the King (2003) – Rated PG-13 for intense epic battle sequences and frightening images
“Accompanied by the duplicitous Gollum (Andy Serkis), hobbits Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) continue their mission to obliterate the One Ring of power in the final chapter of director Peter Jackson’s epic trilogy based on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. Meanwhile, Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) must confront his destiny and lead the fight that will determine Middle Earth’s future. This fantasy tale for the ages bagged 11 Oscars”
Finishing off Sword and Sorcery week with The Return of the King was a no-brainer. The Fellowship of the Ring captured 4 of the 13 Oscars it was nominated for. The Two Towers got 2 of the 6 Oscars it was nominated for and was royally snubbed. It received no nomination at all for costume design, cinematography, makeup, or any of the performances. Oscar’s tepid response to the first two films in the trilogy was worrisome. An Oscar should not be a popularity contest (though by definition it is) but a recognition of the pinnacle of excellence by one’s peers. Sadly it has always been very hard for genre material to be taken seriously by the Oscars.
Thankfully the people voting decided to recognize Peter Jackson’s achievement with The Return of the King. On the other hand they may have gone too far because The Return of the King swept the awards winning all 11 Oscars that it was nominated for (though still no acting awards). Still it was nice to see a fantasy movie so feted at the Oscars.
There’s really not much to be said review-wise about this movie. If you have not seen The Fellowship of the Ring or The Two Towers, not only should this not interest you but it would be far too confusing to watch. If you have seen them then this movie concludes the story quite well.
Clocking in at well over 4 hours, this version is quite bloated. In fact the denouement seems to go on forever (and they still leave out the scouring of the shire from the book). If you have seen the regular version and wonder whatever happened to Saruman, that question is answered here. That is my favorite added scene and not just because Christopher Lee, one of my favorite actors, is in it. Many other small scenes flesh out the epic storyline but the ending which was too long in the theatrical version is even longer here.
As might be guessed at from the Oscar awards, all the technical aspects of this film are incredible. The music is inspiring – dire, rousing, or uplifting as needed and cued in perfectly. Cinematography has to have boosted New Zealand’s tourism by an amazing amount. Makeup, costuming, and special effects all make this seem real.
The performances, while ignored by the Oscars, are pitch-perfect for the most part. You can really tell and feel that Sam loves Frodo, that Gollum and Frodo are both tormented, that Aragorn is noble and determined, and that Merry and Pippin are frightened and committed.
In short, this film is still amazing some 6 years down the road. We think our children will always think of this as the trilogy and that it will hold up over time even more so than Star Wars did for my generation. By the way while Frodo is most often thought of as the hero or protagonist of the story, our family is in agreement that Sam is the actual hero.
People Watch: Look for Fringe’s resident eccentric genius Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble) in excellent form as Denethor