Sunday, December 07, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) ****

PG-13, 251 min. (special extended edition)
Director: Peter Jackson
Writers: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, J.R.R. Tolkien (novel)
Starring: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Andy Serkis, Miranda Otto, David Wenham, Bernard Hill, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, John Rhys-Davies, John Noble, Hugo Weaving, Ian Holm, Liv Tyler, Karl Urban, Alan Howard (voice), Sala Baker, Marton Csokas, Bruce Hopkins, Sean Bean, Brad Dourif, Christopher Lee, Bruce Spence

When you ask children to sit through a four-hour movie, it had better have a lot of action within it to keep them checked in. If anything, “The Lord of the Ring: The Return of the King” accomplishes that task in spades. What’s really impressive is that it isn’t merely action. Jackson juggles several different storylines all filled with their own catharsis and depth and masterfully edited together in such a way that the action keeps things moving but never runs over the depth and sentiment.

From Frodo’s fateful encounter with Shelob to Aragorn’s side mission into the city of the dead to Eowyn’s feminist warrior rights to Denethor’s sad madness, all gets exactly the attention it deserves. Perhaps too much time is spent with the endings. If so, it is excusable due to how excellently the rest is put together. As for the ending, I figured the four distinct endings that play on a little longer than they should would be a problem for my boys. As it turns out, they didn’t seem to notice anything wrong with the ending. Perhaps Jackson has tapped into an inner child need for closure so complete that it seems over done to an adult. I don’t know.

What’s truly remarkable is how well these movies stand up over time. That must be satisfying for a filmmaker who spends a good portion of his professional career assuring that his dream project come to fruition in exactly the way he wants. At more than a decade old, “The Lord of the Rings” carries the same weight and affect the films had upon their initial release, something I’m not entirely sure will be the case with his current series of “The Hobbit” films.

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