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

Title: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Release Date: 17 December 2003
Director: Peter Jackson
Production Company: New Line Cinema | WingNut Films

The trilogy finishes with a bang with the most action-packed and exciting film of the series.  Once again, Jackson emphasizes being an epic war movie, but in this case it is appropriate since the story concludes in an epic war.  Plus we get great character entries as Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd) are split up and become members of the Rohan and Gondor forces.  Meanwhile, Eowyn (Miranda Otto), has the greatest character moment in the enter series when she declares “I am no man!”

The quest of Frodo (Elijah Wood), Sam (Sean Astin), and their guide Gollum (Andy Serkis) is not given short-shrift.  Frodo and Sam are put through the wringer and their pure exhaustion is evident. The whole trilogy is a wonderful movie-going experience, and a great story of hope in time of strife, collaborative effort, and friendship.

By the way, my daughter is now fully on board with The Lord of the Rings and wants to dress as Legolas for Halloween.

Rating: ****

Movie Review: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)

Title: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Release Date: 18 December 2002
Director: Peter Jackson
Production Company: New Line Cinema | WingNut Films

The middle film of The Lord of the Rings trilogy is still an immensely entertaining movie, but it feels like a step back after the majesty of Fellowship. The biggest flaw in the movie is that it is an epic war movie that overshadows the quest of the hobbits, who I believe are the heart of the story.  Helm’s Deep is given way too much significance, with scenes of Legolas (Orlando Bloom) surfing on a shield and elves dying in slow-motion to New Age music just making it all too silly.

When the movie does focus on hobbits, though, it excels.  The growing burden of bearing the ring is deftly shown in Elijah Wood’s performance as Frodo and Sean Astin’s Sam’s efforts to support his friend.  Andy Serkis does a remarkable job of bringing out the Gollum/Smeagol divide in an early motion-capture performance.  Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin’s (Billy Boyd) adventures and alliance with the Ents is also well done. And I think Miranda Otto’s portrayal of Eowyn adds a necessary heroic women character without falling into the “strong woman” trope.

After my kids not showing much interest in The Fellowship of the Ring, this movie did win my daughter over, so that’s a plus! I wrote a review of this movie back in 2003 where I said basically the same thing, so you can see that my mind doesn’t change much in 18 years.

Rating: ***1/2

Classic Movie Review: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

Title: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Release Date: 19 December 2001
Director: Peter Jackson
Production Company: New Line Cinema | WingNut Films

I revisited this movie for the first time since it was in the theaters which was really too long to wait because I’ve always loved The Lord of the Rings. I watched with my kids who were not quite sold on Tolkien, alas.  There’s a lot to love of about this movie, mostly in that you can’t deny the imagination that went into adapting Tolkien’s work. It may not be what YOU imagined when reading the books, but you can’t deny that that it is a possible recreation of Middle Earth.  The cast is chosen well, and Elijah Wood does an excellent job at expressing Frodo’s emotion despite not having a lot of dialogue for a lead character.

The movie does have some flaws.  For example, it relies way too much on slow motion.  And like the book it based on it is overwhelmingly male. Jackson attempted to address this by giving Arwen (Liv Tyler) a bigger role although it feels like an attempt to force in a romance story without any effort to write romance well.  I do appreciate Cate Blanchett’s work as Galadriel since she appears to be really an ethereal and eerie elf in real life.

The changes this movie makes from it’s source material are largely beneficial to the story’s pacing and character development.  Tom Bombadil’s story is rightly ditched because it would be a too ponderous side trip.  And the ending is actually improved by using the climactic battle and dissolution of the Fellowship from the beginning of The Two Towers as a cliffhanger.  It’s really an excellent example of adaptation that the ensuing two movies did not live up to.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gave the Best Picture to Return of the King and AFI included Fellowship on the 100 Years list.  I think they both intended to reward the entire trilogy, but it is my belief that Fellowship is the best film of the three.

Rating: ****1/2