A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

September 6, 2010

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

We first saw this movie with friends on opening night as part of a day long motion picture trilogy event. We watched the extended versions of The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers before finally, after two years had passed since we saw the first Lord of the Rings movie, we reached the epic end to this amazing film trilogy. It was a twelve hour marathon. The hardest part of the whole affair was subsisting on greasy movie theater food for the whole time. But in spite of the challenges it was he perfect way to first experience this movie. Seeing it as part of the trilogy, and with a crowd of fans was an adventure I will never forget. By the end we in the theater were exhausted and battle-weary. We were worn out and spent, much as Frodo and Sam are by the end of their quest.

Every time I watch this movie I am overwhelmed again as I was that first time. It’s not just the enormous scale of the picture, with its lengthy battle on the plains before the white city of Minas Tirith. The battles are amazing, and the effort that must have gone into creating them practically unprecedented in film making. The power of the movie lies more in the writing, the direction, the score, and the powerful performances of the cast.

Peter Jackson has this amazing knack. He stages these massive impossible battles with thousands of orcs and knights in armor and oliphants and undead warriors, but then he pushes in for these human moments. Pippin singing for Denethor while Faromir leads the doomed charge on Osgiliath. Gandalf telling Pippin about the Grey Havens at the peak of the siege on Minas Tirith. Eowyn and Theodin on the field of battle. Sam and Frodo on the slopes of Mount Doom. It’s these little human moments that really sell the movie.

To this end Peter has collected a fantastic group of talented actors to bring this epic to life and to imbue it with a heart and soul. The amount of superior acting craftsmanship on display here is truly daunting. There’s the classic Shakespearean power of Ian McKellen who perfectly fills out the robes and pointy wizard hat of Gadalf. For moments of unbelievable heroism there’s newcomer (at that time) Orlando Bloom as Legolas. For comic relief you have John Rhys-Davies as Gimli and the fantastic comedy duo of Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd as Merry and Pippin. Viggo Mortensen, as Argorn, is a particular treat for me. He’s an actor I would probably never have discovered but for this film, and he’s one who throws himself with such passion into every role he undertakes that it’s always a treat to watch him. I could just go on and on. Karl Urban, David Wenham, Christopher Lee, Ian Holm, Bernard Hill, Miranda Otto, Hugo Weaving, Brad Douris, Cate Blanchette… every one of them lends gravitas and reality to their roles. Everybody involved treats Middle Earth with deadly seriousness. Nobody plays it for camp or seems to indicate that just because this is a fantasy it has any lesser worth than any other epic or drama.

Of course as with the quest at the heart of the series everything ultimately rests with two simple Hobbits and their twisted guide. Andy Serkis gave such a powerful performance as the sad, corrupted creature Gollum that even though he only has a very few minutes of actual screen time at the start of this movie I can still recognise him in the expressions of the computer generated character the wizards at Weta modeled on him. Elijah Wood and his captivating eyes is able to show just how destructive the One Ring is to Frodo’s very soul. As the film progresses you see the corruption set up in the prologue setting in, so that the climactic scene in Mount Doom is all the more perilous and powerful. And by far the biggest hero in the movie for me is the steadfast Samwise Gamgee. Sean Astin brings such a wonderful heartfelt dedication to the role that I can’t help loving him for it. When I read the books Sam came off to me as almost a servant to Frodo, a lackey who waits on him throughout the series. Astin, along with the writing of Peter, Fran and Philippa, makes Sam into a much more powerful character. He alone, more than any other character, is the force that brings the quest to its successful conclusion. (It’s worth it to listen to the commentaries and look at the making of interviews to get some insight into Sean Astin’s process as an actor. He talks a lot about finding ways to act out emotions that his character is feeling.)

Some have said that this movie has too many endings. The movie goes on for more than twenty minutes after the great climactic battle and the confrontation in Mount Doom. Twenty minutes of sniffles and tears on my part. The movie fades to black an fades to white and many times looks as though it has reached its conclusion only to go on with another scene. But the movie, and the trilogy, needs all this I think. Part of what the Lord of the Rings is all about is endings. It’s the end of the age of elves and the start of the age of men. It’s about all this magic and wonder leaving Middle Earth.

You have to picture me there in a darkened theater, exhausted after twelve hours of watching Lord of the Rings and a little sick to my stomach from too much popcorn and greasy theater chicken fingers. There I am, barely able to see the screen because there are tears streaming down my face. And I never wanted the movie to end. I still don’t. After watching the trilogy again this weekend I once again feel that these movies are among the greatest movies ever made. They brought to life a trilogy of books that were influential not just in my life but in the entire genre of fantasy which was the center piece of my adolescent life. And they did so with such class and power that I can’t imagine anything ever topping them. What a grand adventure.

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September 6, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

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