I was a little apprehensive about The Return of the King. I mean, I knew it would be great — it was, after all, filmed concurrently with the other films, with the same cast and director and source material. But Peter Jackson was passed over for the “Best Director” award in the last two Academy Awards ceremonies, and I was worried that, if the final installment was not as over-the-top great as the first and second, he might not get his due.
I needn’t have feared; The Return of the King lives up to the astounding precedent set by The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, and Jackson will almost certainly get his statuette.
And yet, I couldn’t help but be ever-so-slightly disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, I thought it was fantastic — my favorite movie of the year, even. But after investing so much time into watching and rewatching the first two films, I wanted a Big Finish, I wanted the last movie to be even grander and more sublime. But, honestly, how could it? With the characters and cinematography showcased in Fellowship, the war scenes and the eerily realist Gollum on display in Two Towers, Return was left with little new ground to break. And I knew that, even before entering the cinema. But, still. When RotK failed to exceed the films before it, a little voice inside of me kinda went “darn.”
My enjoyment of the film was also vaguely sullied by the fact that I didn’t rewatch The Two Towers before going to see RotK. I had honestly intended to do so in the weeks before the premiere, but I never got around to it. Consequentially, I spent much of the first hour of the film trying to remember all that had happened before. As with TTT, Return gives viewers no “Previous On Lord Of The Rings” recap –which, frankly, is how it should be — so those who didn’t refresh their memories before heading into the theaters may have found their transcendental viewing-experience occasionally interrupted by thoughts of “wait — who’s that guy, again?” So if you’re the one guy in America who hasn’t seen RotK yet (Brent Wilson of Gerbil Junction, Iowa,) and you happen to be reading this, take my advice: rewatch the first two films now.
(Return of the King also contains the only deviation from the books that I object to — a matter, for the sake of Mr. Wilson, I will discuss in the comments, so as to keep spoilers off this page.)
Well, enough carping — Jackson gives me three of the greatest movies I’ve ever seen and all I can do is bitch. Seriously: Return of the King is, like its predecessors, a wondrous and enthralling experience. Even at three-and-a-half-hours I never felt it to be overlong or ponderous, and at times I found myself marveling that such a lengthy film could move at a breakneck pace. And, having read the book, I knew how things wrapped up, so I had no objection to the plethora of endings.
The Fellowship Of The Ring will always be my favorite of the three, simply because I vividly remember the moment when amazement washed over me halfway through the film as i realized they weren’t going to screw it up after all. And then Two Towers came along and somehow managed to be every bit as good. Return of the King didn’t exceed my expectations, per se, but it was every bit as good as I’d hoped. And taken as a whole, the Lord of the Rings trilogy is surely one of the finest achievements in the history of cinema. Jackson deserves ever single award he is bound to receive.
Note: The comments are not spoiler-free.