ninth symphony films - movie reviews


DIRECTOR  -  peter jackson

RATED  -  pg-13

GENRE  -  fantasy

LENGTH  -  210 minutes

RELEASED  -  17 december 2003

DISTRIBUTOR  -  new line cinema

OFFICIAL SITE  -  the return of the king

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $94,000,000
the lord of the rings: the return of the king - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from the lord of the rings: the return of the king at

buy the dvd from the lord of the rings: the return of the king at

the former fellowship of the ring prepare for the final battle for middle earth, while frodo & sam approach mount doom to destroy the one ring.

steven spielberg was once slated to direct.


picture from the lord of the rings: the return of the king

picture from the lord of the rings: the return of the king

picture from the lord of the rings: the return of the king

picture from the lord of the rings: the return of the king

picture from the lord of the rings: the return of the king

picture from the lord of the rings: the return of the king


five out of four possible stars

How often can a large-scale action film be simultaneously breathtaking and incredibly moving, while creating a sense of cinematic wonder experienced only in the rarest of circumstances? With The Return of the King, director Peter Jackson proves New Line Cinema's massive undertaking of J.R.R. Tolkien's "Rings" trilogy was a rather sound investment. Rather than decrease in effectiveness and originality with each new installment, the Rings films have been steadily more impressive, with Return of the King trumping anything that's been on the screen in quite a while and is by far the most impressive theatrical release this year.

The true magic of Return is not in the film's tirelessly impressive CGI heavy sequences and it's not in the astounding cinematography, though those two elements are certainly worth more than a mention. Where this film truly succeeds is in its casting and the actors' portrayal of Tolkien's fascinating characters. It is their effort at creating the world of Middle Earth that leaves you believing the place actually exists by the time the closing credits come around. And amazingly, in a film that tops three hours, you'll be hard pressed to find a dry eye in the audience round about the end. While some of that sadness stems from the knowledge that the Rings trilogy is actually ending, the film itself is simply emotionally moving.

The almost tangible connection viewers have formed with these characters over the two years since The Fellowship of the Ring was released has and will cause more than a few hankies to come flying out of handbags and pockets at the conclusion of the trilogy. Although a giant budget spectacle like this film is visually stunning from start to finish, other filmmakers would do well to follow director Peter Jackson's example in allowing character to reign as important as the story. The unique world Tolkien created would mean nothing to audiences if there wasn't a character (or ten) with whom the audience could experience the story nearly first-hand. How unimportant would the quest to destroy the One Ring become if Gandalf wasn't torn over his decision to send the innocent Frodo into the belly of hell to do the deed? The relationship between

Given Jackson's decision to let this film run about a half and hour longer than the other two Rings theatrical releases, one might wonder if the end of the film could have been edited down in length. But in looking at the trilogy as a whole, it seems that this third film was never meant to stand alone, though it is easily viewable by those who have not yet seen the first two installments. In a what amounts to a three part, ten hour film, Jackson's reverent and soft ending to the trilogy is perfectly paced and gives viewers a few extra minutes to hold on to characters that have become so dear, even for fans who were or are not devotees of Tolkien's novels.

With a cast that features as many important roles as this film does, a less ingenious set of writers might have failed to bring significance to each and every role, but with the seemingly inspired casting, the gargantuan task of adapting the books for film (which included the horrible hurdle of satisfying both fans of the novels and audience members new to the material) was accomplished by allowing the characters and the actors who play them to be the ones to grab the audience's attention strings, rather than solely the special effects. Saying that Ian McKellen performs well as Gandalf the White, everybody's favorite wizard, might be an understatement. McKellen is Gandalf and owing to his ability to put as much fervor into the smallest gestures and movements as he does in his loudest moments, he creates a much more rounded characterization of Tolkien's beloved character.

Elijah Wood, who is clearly the most soulful of the characters, also fully inhabits his role as "Frodo," the bearer of the evil ring. Perhaps it is because of the large length of time he spent in New Zealand, forced to wear giant prosthetic feet and pretend to be three feet tall. One of the most intriguing aspects of the hobbits is their height. In being the characters with the smallest stature in the film, the hobbits are also the bravest individuals of the film, of which Sean Astin (playing the almost huggable "Samwise") is the best example.

The "friendly" rivalry between the graceful elf, "Legolas," played by Orlando Bloom, and "Gimli," played by John Rhys-Davies, might seem to be some of the requisite comic relief in the film, but by the end of the trilogy, it's clear that though much of their interaction is in jest, the friendship that forms between the two is one of the strongest between any of the characters. And the comedy only enhances this relationship and endears the pair to the audience.

Performances from Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan (playing hobbits Pippen and Merry) deepen in this film and their characters impact the story with just as much drama as humor. Viggo Mortensen, who was brought onto the picture only weeks before filming began, is again mysterious and brooding in his performance as Aragorn, the character for which this installment of the Rings is named. His appearance in the film carries with it a great weight and though he doesn't have pages of dialogue, Mortensen is still able to convey his character's change from nomadic warrior to king.

Fans of Andy Serkis, who plays the tortured "Gollum," will again hear see the incredible vocal abilities of the actor and should also be pleasantly surprised by the first scene in the film. Smaller roles in the movie are almost too numerous to mention individually, but every performance is handled by a more than capable actor. Cate Blanchett, playing the ethereal elf queen, "Galadriel," and Liv Tyler, playing "Arwen," each have but a few scenes to display their abilities, but each handles her valuable role well (valuable in that the film doesn't sport many females). Indeed, the casting of roles for this film seems to have been one of the production's luckiest feats.

But although this film's appeal could stand on the merits of its actors alone, the film's technical feats catapult New Line and the crew of Return into the stratosphere of feature film ingenuity. The intense effort on CGI elements in the film, especially in the closing half, will probably make your jaw drop for a good solid hour. And just when you think the effects couldn't be any more real, your jaw will most likely fall to the floor again. Over and over the breathtaking cinematography and unbeatable special effects (which includes the full gamut of artistry from matte paintings to puppetry to CGI to costuming to endless more departments) simply overload the senses and demand your attention. It would be difficult to take in all the varied aspects of this film if it wasn't so tightly glued together regarding character versus special effects.

In a rare move in a film of this magnitude, through every incredible frame of the film, the characters and their destiny are the strongest focus of the story. During the giant, epic battles that involve countless extras and CGI warriors and animals, viewers will see the camera trained on individual faces more often that one would expect. Keeping sight of how much of a difference in the outcome of events one person (or elf, dwarf, hobbit) can make seems to have been a priority for the film crew, as the audience is never left to wonder how members of the Fellowship are faring. The camera is always focused on at least on of their party (or on one of the antagonists).

Calling the film a triumph of cinematic brilliance might suit the film, but there is so much more to hold on to after you've seen this picture than just a few choice words or fantastic images. Peter Jackson and his crew have accomplished infinitely more than bring a popular novel to the screen. They've taken a series of books that tell not only an interesting story of fantasy, but that also make a clear statement on the cultural and political significance of war, modernization, and industrialization, and make it palatable and interesting for hours on end.

Although the audience of today's Ring films have experienced a different world than the one in which Tolkien lived (the era of World War I and II and the rapid industrialization of the early twentieth century), his ideas on society are still entirely valid. Regarding the international unrest that has plagued the post-Cold War Earth, one can only hope that viewers will learn something valuable about our own world from the films. The technical brilliance, cinematic grandeur, and engrossing performances are just an added bonus to this very intelligent work.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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