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2003-12-19 life & times
Visuals make 'Return of King' best of trilogy
Cletus Turner

Director Peter Jackson confers with Ian McKellen who plays Gandalf the White. (click for larger version)
After three years of waiting, the final installment to the Lord of the Rings trilogy finally hit theaters at midnight on Dec. 17. In 126 theaters around the nation, fans were treated to a showing of the extended versions of the first two films culminating in the premiere of The Return of the King at midnight.

When we last left Middle Earth, Frodo, played by Elijah Wood, was on his way to try to through the ring of power into the fires of Mount Doom. By his side is his faithful friend Sam, played by Sean Astin, and the sad, but evil Golem. The threesome have already went through a lot of pain, hunger, thirst and emotional torture and haven't even finished the quest. The ring of power is still slowly attempting to turn Frodo into something evil that it can use to finally reunite it with its master, Sauron.

Now, we see that Frodo and his friends are moving slowly, but surely toward their destination. Sam and Golem are continually at each other's throats, but Golem seems to be convincing Frodo that Sam wants the ring. Jealousy seems to be a large weapon in the ring's arsenal. In a flashback at the beginning of the movie, we see Golem as he was before he was perverted by the ring. His jealousy over the ring causes him to kill another hobbit and hide so that nobody could take the ring from him.

Our other friends, Aragorn, played by Viggo Mortensen; Gimli, played by John Rhys-Davies; Legolas, played by Orlando Bloom; Gandalf, played by Ian McKellen; Pippin, played by Billy Boyd and Merry, played by Dominic Monaghan have finally come together and are celebrating the victory of Helm's Deep seen in the last film. This calm before the storm doesn't last long as Gandalf reminds everyone in the kingdom of Rohan that the kingdom of men, Gondor will be next on the list for destruction by the evil lord Sauron. Gandalf isn't able to convince the men of Rohan to march and leaves with Merry to visit Gondor. When they arrive in Minas Tirith, the capital city of Gondor, they find the caretaker of the realm Denethor, played by John Noble, insane with grief over the death of his son Boromir, played by Sean Bean. Denethor accuses Gandalf of wanting to bring aid from Rohan simply because of Aragorn, who is the descendant of the kings of Gondor and the country's rightful king. Denethor believes that if Aragorn comes to Gondor, it will be to become king and supplant Denethor. The caretaker seems to feel that destruction by evil is better than losing his power. Gandalf has Merry sneak up the mountain and light a bonfire that has been maintained for centuries in case of war. The bonfire sets off a chain reaction as bonfires are set in a line that finally is seen in the capital city of Rohan. The lighting of the bonfires is a call for help to Rohan from Gondor. Theoden, king of Rohan, orders a muster of troops to march to help Gondor.

Sauron's orc armies take the river near Minas Tirith and lay siege to the mighty city. This battle is both larger in scope than the battle of Helm's Deep, and grander in scale. We have flying dragons as part of the battle, huge elephants and trolls. The men of Gondor begin to panic, but Gandalf brings them back together.

Back at Mount Doom, Golem is able to convince Frodo that Sam wants the ring, and Frodo tells Sam to go home. Golem then leads Frodo into a trap where a giant spider awaits.

Here, the narrative for the movie will end. If I give away the ending, a trilogy, not just a movie, will be ruined.

Enough cannot be said about the visual effects of the film. The grand scale washes over you like a huge tidal wave. The sight of a huge army being attacked by a huge army is nothing short of breath-taking. Watching some of our beloved characters in desperate situations, clinging to one last hope that Frodo will destroy the ring of power, had me sitting on the edge of my seat. How will it all play out? Who will die? The fact that director Peter Jackson had me caring about the characters after waiting a year for the film shows just how well the film was put together. We want the fellowship to succeed, and care about whether Frodo lives or dies. Whether Aragorn lives to be king and marry Arwen, played by Liv Tyler is important to us.

Characterization and how the characters mingle is important and writing is important, but the actors and the life they breathe into their roles is just as important. The unlikely friendship between Gimli and Legolas is one of the finest achievements of the film. In the books, I am told, they make snide comments, but the film creates a friendship that makes you root for them even more. Rhys-Davis and Bloom made them hilarious during even the most emotional of moments. Bloom has had a great year with Pirates of the Caribbean and, now, King.

The only problem I saw was that after all the battles and adversities, we get to see everyone after all is said and done, going back to life. While this is important to sum up the film, I think the ending part with how life continues didn't have to be as long as it was. The film could have been two-and-a-half hours instead of over three. However, for a satisfying conclusion, we get to see everyone and what happens to them.

Overall, King is the best of the three Lord of the Rings films. All the major characters are present, all the actors are excellent, and the visual effects and grand scale cinematography are superb. Story-telling at its rip-roaring best. If the film doesn't win an Oscar, no one deserves to.

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