THE LORD OF THE RINGS movie trilogy is a cinematic tour de force, and RETURN OF THE KING is a masterpiece.
The very first scene shows the hobbit Smeagol fishing with his friend. At first you think the camera is focusing on a ring, but the image turns out to be a worm, which Smeagol’s friend Deagol puts on a fishhook. The fishhook catches a fish that drags Deagol to the bottom, where he finds the evil ring. Smeagol kills Deagol to get the ring and is shown slowly transforming into Gollum.
Although Saruman has been locked in the tower of Isengard, Gandalf says the greatest battles are yet to come. Thus, he tries to encourage the king of Rohan, Theoden, to go to the aid of Gondor, which will soon be under siege by the demonic forces led by Sauron. When Aragorn says that he will go to Gondor himself, Theoden agrees. As they assemble the troops, Aragorn is told that he has to go to the Land of the Dead to secure their pledge to serve the King, a pledge which they once broke to his ancestor, so that now they’re cursed by being caught between two worlds.
While their friends head for another great battle, Frodo and Sam are trying to get to Mount Doom and the Crack of Doom to cast the evil ring into the volcano’s fire. Sam recognizes that Gollum intends to kill Frodo and get back the ring, but Frodo, weakened by the burden of the ring, is susceptible to Gollum’s lies. With great dramatic skill, all the threads of the story are woven into a magnificent tapestry.
There’s so much in RETURN OF THE KING to commend that it would take pages to unpack it. There are many biblical principles and allegorical Christian metaphors woven throughout the story. Gandalf assures Pippin that there is a better life beyond death. There’s a clear reference to the biblical dictums that the Gates of Hell shall not prevail and that the little things of the world will confound the wise. The good guys have their flaws, but even so they manifest cardinal virtues. The bad guys, in turn, manifest paganism, license, child sacrifice, deceit, and all kinds of evil, and are soundly and definitively rebuked, often bringing upon themselves their own destruction. For instance, the steward of Gondor, Denethor, mourns the death of his son Boromir and is even willing to sacrifice his wounded son Faramir on a pagan altar of fire. When Pippin saves Faramir, it is Denethor who falls into the fire.
For all the heroes in the movie, and all the villains, Sam is probably one of the great heroes of cinema history. He consciously makes the right choices in favor of duty and honor against overwhelming odds. He is even willing to carry Frodo when Frodo can go no further. Sean Astin does a wonderful job of capturing all of this and stretches the role of Sam into a heroic character. Of all the villains, Gollum is probably one of the greatest villains in film history. He is sly and cunning, deceitful and obsequious, an incredible portrait of a twisted personality. Andy Serkis transforms the role of Gollum from a CGI voiced character to a unique villain who is innocent and yet evil at the same time.
If you want scary monster sequences, the spider attacking Frodo is as frightening as anything in the ALIEN movies. For action, the battle scenes and the precipices take your breath away.
There is very little to be concerned about in this movie for older children, teenagers and adults, but PG-13 is an accurate rating. The movie is too frightening for little children who often confuse fact and fiction. This movie has lot of frightening characters and situations. However, it has been shot and edited with a deft hand. Much of the fear comes from suspense, not actually showing blood and gore, although there is some blood and gore in the movie. Certainly, however, there are no spouting plumes of blood, gory entrails, and other items that our friend Ron Maxwell calls porno violence. In fact, Peter Jackson the director should serve as a role model for Hollywood on how to make exciting movies without crossing the line into gory excess.
Everyone is to be commended for doing such a good job with this timeless, beloved story. Peter Jackson is has masterminded a great movie. He knew what he wanted, and yet he allowed the actors to grow into their roles. Sean Astin and Andy Serkis should go down in film history. Everything from the score to the costumes is perfect.
Although this is a movie and cannot replace the breadth and depth of Tolkien’s original masterpiece, it certainly deserves an Academy Award. It is one of the top one hundred movies of all time. Bravo!
(CCC, BBB, VV, N, D, M) Very strong implied Christian worldview with allegorical references to Heaven, redemption, the kingdom of man on earth, a refutation of paganism and evil, and commendations of honor, duty, decency, loyalty; no foul language; action violence (but nothing bloody and gruesome as LAST SAMURAI, MASTER AND COMMANDER or other 2003 epics) includes scary creatures such as a large spider who stings Frodo, the all-seeing evil eye who stuns Pippin, the wraithrider who shocks several heroes, and many battle sequences including sword fighting, hand to hand combat, arrows, and heads used in catapult but not in a gruesome way; no sex scenes but a couple of kisses; naturalistic nudity includes upper male nudity where one creature wears nothing but a skimpy loincloth; smoking and too much smoking rebuked; and, many characters do evil things, but they are rebuked.