… and in the Oscar bind them.

[Warning – spoilers included, but if you haven’t read the books, you should be fed slowly to Shelob anyway. By the way, the film’s title is Return of the King – which may be a bit of a plot spoiler … ]

Peter Jackson’s final installment of the Lord of the Rings was, quite simply, a wonderful conclusion to a brilliant revision of Tolkien’s masterpiece. Sure, there were some melodramatic moments (years of literary graduate study means that my wife and I both just can’t help but snicker when characters tenderly and reverently caress the pommel before ‘drawing their swords’ while others gaze on with admiration; those who haven’t seen Return yet can just reference the scene in Towers where Gandalf rather dramatically suggests to King Theoden of Rohan: “Your fingers would remember their old strength better— if they grasped your sword.” But I digress.) – given the epic scale, melodramatic moments are to be expected. Most were handled very well, such as the subtle scene where Aragorn tells Eowyn that he, alas, cannot return her love.

In fact, one thing I liked about the film was that (for me, at least) the usually awe-inspiring speeches and calls for battle were surpassed by the more subtle scenes – Pippin’s song, Eowyn’s relationship with Merry, Faramir’s realization that he doesn’t measure up to Boramir in his father’s eyes, just to name a few.

The battle scenes were no different: while I expected to see some awesome fighting on the part of the Amazing Trio (Aragorn of the Stringy Hair, Gimli the Comedian, and Legolas the Rapid-Fire Elf), Jackson really spread the wealth. A catapult battle leads into a scene where Gandalf wields his wicked elven blade in one hand while smacking orcs with his staff in the other; Eowyn was sheer brilliance as she dropped a giant elephant by hamstringing it on her way to punctuating a woman’s right to battle by shoving her sword through the Witch-King’s face (I agree with Liz, Eowyn rocks); and – best of all – the hobbits had some of the best fighting scenes, especially one Mr. Sam-Wise Gamgee, who reminded me not to be afraid of spiders.

Unlike Tolkien’s novel, where I frequently wanted to speed-read through the sections detailing Sam and Frodo’s journey (“Oh look Mr. Frodo. More desolate landscape. More heavy ring carrying. We should take a break – why don’t you rest your head in my lap?”), Jackson managed to glean the gems without making the journey tedious. Pulling Shelob the Spider in from Tolkien’s Two Towers helped achieve this balance and the stunning work of Andy Serkis as Gollum always enhances these scenes.

The few critical reviews I read did point out perhaps the one – very slight – flaw of the film, which really only mimics that of the book: the difficulty of the ending. As many critics pointed out, there are about six of them, each of which I think should be named. There is what must certainly be summarily called the “Wizard of Oz Ending,” wherein Frodo awakes to find the fellowship slowly spilling into his room in slow motion while he mouths each of their names: Why Gandalf! I had the weirdest dream … and you were there … and you … and Gimli, you were there! … Of course, this is also the “Pillow Fight Ending,” wherein a bunch of hobbits bounced on the clean linens of Frodo’s bed and tickled each other. If they had dressed in lace and had a pillow fight, theatres could have charged an extra $4.99 (discreetly, of course) to each viewer’s credit card.

But the problem of the ending isn’t really Jackson’s so much as Tolkien’s – I simply expected Jackson, who has both preserved the spirit of the series while not fearing to revision it for his own purposes, to come up with a smoother series of transitions.

These are minor details. The film felt much shorter that its approximately 200 minute run-time and I’ll happily sit through the extra hour or so when the extended version is released.


5 Responses to One Film to Rule Them All …

  1. Marc says:

    Nice review, Jason. I’ve seen it twice already. My favorite scene by far has to be Bilbo’d request to hold the ring once more on the way to the port. There’s a reason why they could no longer live in Middle Earth. Jackson does well reminding us.

  2. Jason says:

    Ooo … great point Marc. That should go under the “subtle scenes I liked” portion.

    Twice? It’s been out for, what, 52 hours? 😉

  3. JBJ says:

    I thought that the film’s ending suffered from simultaneously wanting to preserve the novel’s ending (good thing) with cutting the Scouring of the Shire (understandable thing). Without the Scouring of the Shire material, it’s harder to understand why Sam might feel “torn,” and we can’t understand quite as powerfully why some wounds can’t be mended by time. Instead, we just get Frodo grimacing a little, and that’s it.

  4. Geoffrey says:

    I find it offensive that you post blogs at 6:25 am. How wrong is that?

  5. jen says:

    The movie was great i loved soooo much i could watch it over and oaver again. I loved pippin’s song i could listen to that twice as long as the movie.
    ” lallalalalallla”

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