Film: The Lord of the Rings: Part 3. The Return of the King

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Film:

The Lord of the Rings

Series: Part 3. The Return of the King
Director: Peter Jackson
Honors:
Genres:
Distributor: Entertainment in Video

Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, triumphantly completed by the 11-Oscar-winning The Return of the King, sets out to show that Tolkien’s epic work, once derided as mere adolescent escapism, is not just fodder for the best mass entertainment spectacle ever seen on the big screen, but is also replete with emotionally satisfying meditations on the human condition. What is the nature of true friendship? What constitutes real courage? Why is it important for us to care about people living beyond our borders? What does it mean to live in harmony…

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Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, triumphantly completed by the 11-Oscar-winning The Return of the King, sets out to show that Tolkien’s epic work, once derided as mere adolescent escapism, is not just fodder for the best mass entertainment spectacle ever seen on the big screen, but is also replete with emotionally satisfying meditations on the human condition. What is the nature of true friendship? What constitutes real courage? Why is it important for us to care about people living beyond our borders? What does it mean to live in harmony with the environment and what are the consequences when we do not? When is war justifiable and when is it not? What things are really worth fighting for? These are the questions that resonate with a contemporary audience: to see our current social and political concerns mirrored—and here finally resolved—in Middle-earth is to recognise that Jackson’s Lord of the Rings is both a parable for our times and magical cinematic escapism.

As before, in this concluding part of the trilogy the spectacle never dwarfs (sic) the characters, even during Shelob the spider’s pitiless assault, for example, or the unparalleled Battle of the Pelennor Fields, where the white towers of Minas Tirith come under ferocious attack from Troll-powered siege weapons and—in a sequence reminiscent of the Imperial Walkers in The Empire Strikes Back—Mammoth-like Mumakil. The people and their feelings always remain in focus, as emphasised by Jackson’s sensitive small touches: Gandalf reassuring a terrified Pippin in the midst of battle that death is not to be feared; Frodo’s blazing anger at Sam’s apparent betrayal; Faramir’s desire to win the approval of his megalomaniac father; Gollum’s tragic cupidity and his final, heartbreaking glee. And at the very epicentre of the film is the pure heart of Samwise Gamgee—the real hero of the story.

At over three hours, there are almost inevitably some lulls, and the film still feels as if some key scenes are missing: a problem doubtless to be rectified in the extended DVD edition. But the end, when it does finally arrive—set to Howard Shore’s Wagnerian music score—brings us full circle, leaving the departing audience to wonder if they will ever find within themselves even a fraction of the courage of a hobbit. —Mark Walker

Related Works

Album:The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King: Music from the Motion Picture

Howard Shore

This final chapter of Peter Jackson’s sprawling adaptation of Tolkien’s “Ring” trilogy closes out one of the most accomplished cycles in cinema—and film music—history. As he’s done for the saga’s first two installments, composer Howard Shore has honed a mature, brooding orchestral masterpiece that’s long on subtle shadings of mood and nuance, while eschewing the hollow bombast that’s characterized all too many mainstream action and adventure films for three decades. If anything, he’s pared this chapter of his music for Middle Earth even closer to the bone, the…

Book:The Return of the King

The Return of the King: Book 3 of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

J.R.R. Tolkien

As the Shadow of Mordor grows across the land, Aragorn is revealed as the hidden heir of the ancient kings. Gandalf miraculously returns and defeats the evil wizard, Saruman. Sam leaves his master for dead after a battle with the giant spider, Shelob; but Frodo is still alive—in the hands of the Orcs. And all the while the armies of the Dark Lord are massing—and the One Ring comes ever closer to the Cracks of Doom.

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