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Cinema Signal:

"The Lord of the Rings"

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"The Hobbit"
by J.R.R. Tolkien

(Leatherette Collector's Edition)

"The Silmarillion"
by J.R.R. Tolkien

(Edited by Christopher Tolkien)

"Atlas of Middle-earth"

by Karen Wynn Fonstad

"Tolkien's Ordinary Virtues:
Exploring the Spiritual Themes of the Lord of the Rings"

by Mark Eddy Smith

. "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King"

The followers of this epic tale who enjoy producer-director Peter Jackson's film adaptation will love this final installment as it brings our warriors into final combat against the hellish hordes of Sauron while the Hobbit half of The Fellowship treads its dangerous way into certain danger and hell itself. The fight is for nothing less than the future of man.

Jackson manages to keep all combatants engaged and alive in this many-charactered struggle and complex narrative. Through balanced cutting, he sets off the big scale combat actions against the relative modesty of the Hobbits' mission-- modest in size but not in importance. The opening sequence, through a clever bit of serendipity, explains the creation of the dual-sided DGI character, Gollum (Andy Serkis) out of the two unworthies, Deagol (Thomas Robins) and Smeagol (also Andy Serkis).

After Sauron's troops of 10,000 fell in defeat at King Theoden's Helms Deep in Rohan, Sauron still seeks to vanquish Middle Earth and the human kingdom, and, in a final siege, sends out his full Orc army of over 200,000 against the 700 foot, seven-level white-stoned kingdom, Minas Tirith in Gondor. As they march, we are introduced to the caretaker and would-be king of this White City, a self-absorbed tyrant Denethor (John Noble) who laments the loss of his favorite son in the prior battle. His agony impairs his judgment and he rejects the counsel from wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) that he needs to call on other armies for the defense of his kingdom.

The odds, ugliness and sheer power of the Orc legions are evidemt as they reach the city and assemble in attack formation before the city-fortress. We stand in awe as their giant Trolls assemble the massive slingshots that will start their invasion. As it does start, Sauron unleashes his support force of flying dragons, the Fell Beasts.

Valiant human Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) and brave Elf archer Legolas (Orlando Bloom) lead the army of the nobles against them with Gandalf at their backs. Gandalf, who set The Fellowship's quest in motion and influences the strategies, bolsters the men of The Fellowship and summons special powers when needed. He calls on his eagles to neutralize Sauron's flying pterodactyls. The foreboding sense of ultimate failure, however, and the consequent defeat of Middle Earth pervades the dramatic landscape as they fight against the superior invasionary army.

While the battle is being waged, Frodo the ringbearer, and his faithful sidekick Sam make their barefooted way across stony mountains and overrun forests in pursuit of their goal to reach Sauron's cauldron on Mount Doom in Mordor, the only place where the ring and its power can be unmade. Frodo insists on using the sniveling Gollum as a guide, even against Sam's counsel that he's deceptive. Sam senses clearly that Gollum's overriding interest is in obtaining the ring and the power its wearer obtains. Under the burden of bearing the ring, Frodo weakens and becomes disoriented, until he accepts Gollum's repeated assertion of Sam's disloyalty, putting himself and his mission in grave danger.

The charge of the gigantic mumakil elephants, the Tolkien-Jackson equivalent of an Abrams tank, is a ferocious display of overwhelming might, providing a delicious opportunity to exploit Elf Legolas' unique combat skills, among other things. This rowdy, menacing sequence adds to the insurmountable odds against our heroes, prolonguing hopelessness and despair and evincing great courage, as when Eowyn (Miranda Otto) faces the Fell Beast, a seemingly invincible monster, with nothing but her sword.

Mystifying his army, Aragorn leaves just when the Orcs' final assault seems imminent. He goes to enlist the aid of the terrible mountain men, the ephemeral, green-hued army of the Dead to whom the promise of release from their curse is the only thing that can arouse them to remanifest themselves in order to help defend the Kingdom.

Frodo is betrayed by Gollum, who brings him into the grasp of the giant spider, Shelob. The terrifying encounter, ending with Frodo being cocooned alive and in agony, leads to a rescue that becomes capture and imprisonment. Will he ever reach Mount Doom? If and when he does, what will he be up against? Will he be up to the challenges? We witness his terrors and pain as the grown up Wood's maturity in the role increases the level of emotional torment.

It all comes together in this episode, with all the players reaching their final destinies. It's bold and heroic Aragorn to whom the title refers, a man who has been struggling against what his destiny seems to be because of the corrupting influence of power. His return is one that becomes possible only after he resolves doubts and fears about assuming the highest responsibility among men.

Those who anticipate this final episode as one that will outdo what came before can look forward to satisfaction in all areas. This chapter achieves the strongest emotional tie to the characters. The fields are stages for some fiercely original designs to convey power, with all the magic of CGI and aural accompaniment to render them awesome. The effects are at least as well conceived and created as in the two previous episodes, with some that are even better.

Cate Blanchett is her loveliest and most enchanting as Gladriel whose role in the drama seems more comprehensible than in previous installments. Similarly with Elf princess Arwen (Liv Tyler) in her new and susceptible mortality as she and Elvin leader Elrond (Hugo Weaving), her father, exerting their influences on the fate of civilization. (I must say, it's disconcerting seeing Weaving in this context after his multiple appearances as the arch villain of that other event series, "The Matrix.")

"The Return of the King" is the best in the series and not so much because of the knock down action and original creations. It's more because of the clarity that Jackson achieves in the story progression and its characters, and the ultimate fulfillment of their roles.

The final coda of the story changes the pace and becomes indulgently extended, bringing to mind that I'd been in my theatre seat for well over 3 hours -- more than enough time to strain my attention span. I expect "Ring" fans and fanatics will love every second of it.

Jackson's devotion to Tolkien and his state of the art construction of a 1,000 page mythology deserves our praise for a hearty job well done. It's a phenomenon of energy and dedication, and an achievement he'll not soon improve upon. Perhaps, in the finale, he should have been just a mite less enchanted. It's as though he simply couldn't let go, a feeling, I suspect, that will be shared by more fans than Sauron's army. But, despite that small carp about the ending, this is a movie that's not to be missed for anything.

[Episode One
Episode Two] Click for full list of movie reviews

                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

The Soundtrack Album


Opinion Section
Comments from readers:
Well written
I agree with the review
Site Rating: 10

It is the best movie of the year and the best in the trilogy. Unlike "The Matrix" trilogy, "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy continues to become better and better, and the climax is 10x better than "The Matrix Revolutions". A superb film in all measures. I hope this will win Best Picture and will probably give Peter Jackson a chance for winning Best Director, he totally deserves it. The biggest threat for this movie at Oscar time is "Big Fish", which I heard is a movie beyond imagination, and Tim Burton gotta be awarded as a very talented director too.

                                                          ~~ Tom O.

Very well written
I'll read more by this reviewer
Site Rating: 9

Thanks - reassurance that my numb ass will be worth it.

                                                          ~~ Ricos
Well written
I agree with the review
Site rating: 9

The movie was simply brilliant

                                                          ~~ Aryn B.
Well written
I agree with the review
Site rating: 7

I thought the movie was AWESOME!

                                                          ~~ Jennifer P.
Site rating: 6

personally thought that the "Return of the King" as a movie could have been better, as i found that it was just a little too grand.It could have done with a bit more o the personal.Prehaps the extended version on DVD will be better.

                                                          ~~ S. Hartendorf
Very well written
I agree with the review
It influences me to recommend this reviewer
Site rating: 10

Absolutely fantastic, so much so that we saw it twice. Frodo and Samwise Gangee were magnificent, as were all the cast. Congratulations to ALL concerned.

                                                          ~~ Lynda J.
Well written Site rating: 9


                                                          ~~ Reilly

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