The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) movie poster

director Peter Jackson
viewed: 09/15/2013

I was already a little burned out on The Lord of the Rings before we began watching The Return of the King.  And it turned out that the kids were as well.  Not that they entirely realized it.

Peter Jackson’s Academy Award-winning finale is the longest of his trilogy and arguably actually the weakest.  It’s not just fatigue with the story and general tiresomeness of sitting through so many hours, but it’s not as compelling, it seems either.  His winning the Oscar for Best Picture for the film was more of a tip of the hat for the overall accomplishment of such a massive epic rendering relayed through the three films.  That seemed clear even at the time.  Besides, Hollywood loves commercial success.

In revisiting the series for the first time in a decade, my main thoughts are that the casting and designs are the best qualities of the films.  Elijah Wood and Sean Astin are quite a good pair as Frodo and Sam and their hobbit bromance.  Ian McKellen is great as Gandalf and everyone else is pretty good as whoever else they are.  And the digitally-enhanced New Zealand is very impressive and awesome.  Heck, even the orcs are lovingly repulsive.

The digital effects have aged okay.  As I’ve noted, there are some digital “camera shots” that I think look more dated than other effects.  I still stand by the statement that digital effects overall seem to age badly.  Gollum still reads pretty well, but I think it’s more to do with the character development in this.  The digital Gollum was a breakthrough in its day, but actor Andy Sirkis brought a lot of that to life in ways that will perhaps keep the film fresh for years to come.

But the finale was all about fatigue.  I asked Felix which film he liked most and he said that he thought The Two Towers (2002) was his favorite.  He couldn’t really say why, but I think that the Gollum character is a key part of the trilogy’s arc (at least the film trilogy) and he has his best moments in The Two Towers.  Both Felix and Clara enjoyed the series overall but focused a lot less throughout this one.  I think we’re all glad it’s over.

It was still very amusing and very “meta” for me and them as they viewed it through the influence of LEGO The Lord of the Rings video gaming, which added familiarity at a removed level, something I encountered only vicariously through them.

Maybe one day, they’ll read the books.

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