Saturday, 28 March 2009

Movie Review - The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

The Story So Far…

Before I go on, I’ll recap the plot so far. The great Ring of Power, which has the power to control all other rings if it gets into the hands of the Dark Lord Sauron (who made it in the days when he could fool the races into thinking he was good), is found by a small creature called a Hobbbit called Bilbo (Ian Holm)). In time this ring is passed to his nephew Frodo (Elijah Wood). When the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellan) finds out what this ring truly is, it is decided that Frodo and several companions, including fellow Hobbits Sam (Sean Astin), Merry, (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd), along with other companions, must take it to Mount Doom, where it was forged and is the only place it can be destroyed. This is the only option as, since it was created by the Dark Lord himself it cannot be worn by anyone without turning them to evil. The companions include Gandalf, the heir-apparent to the throne of Gondor, Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), the elf Legolas (Orlando Bloom), and the dwarf Gimil (John Rhys-Davies) - these two start out as enemies but become friends during the course of their travels.

The party starts out but is split up, with Frodo and Sam taking the route to Mordor and Mount Doom, led be a creature called Gollum (voiced and body-acted by Andy Serkis - he’s a CGI character), who was once a creature similar to a Hobbit, but has been corrupted by the ring, which he wore for many years.

Gandalf is thought dead and the other Hobbits captured, so Aragorn along with Legolas and Gimli follow the trail of the Hobbits. A King (Theoden – played by ) is released from the grip of a good turned evil wizard, Gandalf comes back from the dead, the Dark Forces begin to move, and the Ring moves into the region of Mordor.

Enough of that, you’ll have to either watch the other films (or better, read the book – or better still, both) for more detail. On to this film review…

To begin with

The film starts with Gollum remembering his past. This scene is quie well done, but Gollum quickly begins to irritate in the opening scenes. However, he’s back on form later on. Meanwhile, Gandalf and the others travel to Isengard, where the first of the major omissions / changes from the book’s plot comes to light – there is no exchange between Gandalf and Saruman (Christopher Lee), and Wormtongue () does not throw the Palantir at them – Pippin just finds it. This change is probably forgivable as they needed to save time – or would have been if they hadn’t wasted time on over-long scenes later one… A short time later, he looks into the Palantir and Sauron sees him, but misinterprets what is seen. The plan to attack Minis Tirith sooner than anticipated also comes to light through this, and thus Gandalf along with Pippin set out for Minis Tirith. The men of Rohan need some persuading to come to the aid of Gondor, who have failed them in the past, but this is done through another plot change. Almost forgiveable.

Most of the plot changes before the end of the film are a case of changing the cause rather than effect. Unless my memory is very much mistaken, the shards of Narsil were re-forged during the stay at Rivendell (in the middle of Fellowship of the Ring), and the reason that Aragorn ventured into Dimwood certainly wasn’t anything to do with Elrond. The scene with the Corsair’s ships coming in was handled to far less effect than it would have been had they stuck to the book. If you’ve never read the book these changes will mean nothing to you, but speaking as someone who has read the book several times, I can’t see the reason for these changes and it did annoy me. (Although not as much as the stupid tart on my right who insisted on making lots of noise with her bag of sweets, loudly making banal observations, and laughing at ludicrously inappropriate places…)


All in all it started rather weakly, had a great middle section (although I do not agree with those who said that the battle scene at Minis Tirith outdoes the battle of Helm’s Deep in The Two Towers, and ended badly. The biggest change in the plot came at the end, and resulted in a tedious end sequence that really should have been anything but.

I’ve focused on the negatives though (okay one more - Cate Blanchet as Galadriel was even more annoying in this than the first film) – there were plenty of good aspects to this film too, which almost made it an excellent movie.

The Good Bits

As a whole the plot was superb – well let’s face it, the bits that stuck faithfully to the book were superb, the other bits not so great. The acting ranged from good to astounding – to me the best performances were from Elijah Wood as Frodo and Sean Astin as Sam (the real hero of the piece as far as I’m concerned), while Bloom and Rhys-Davies were typically good. Ian McKellan was slightly less convincing than in the first two films, and while Viggo Mortensen was great except for his stirring speech at the Black Gate, which was rather less than stirring. Boyd and Monaghan shone as the other Hobbits.

The effects were nothing short of stunning, everything from the monsters to the explosions were realistic and, basically, awesome. The curesed dead blokeys were amazing, and Shelob is fantastic! There was probably some tension there if you hadn’t read the book and didn’t already know what was basically going to happen – so far this week three people have asked me if Frodo dies…

The battle scenes were epic, and while there wasn’t really much in the way of romance (a touch of it, but not much), the camaraderie between Legolas and Gimli, Frodo and Sam, and Merry and Pippin was nicely handled.

Wrapping it up…

Some characters from the book that had small but important parts (like Beregond and Gothmog – well that huge guy might have been Gothmog I guess…) were missing, as were some great lines. Bits of the plot were changed, never for the better and, at the end, disastrously. But if you’re watching the film without having read the book first, this is unlikely to worry you much. There are a lot of things to like about the film, and it’s definitely worth seeing. But I still don’t think it’s a patch on The Two Towers.

See also:


suzanne said...

its a beautiful thing when movie reviews are still happening after 7 years.xxoo

CaptainD said...

Hi Suzanne!

Well I have to admit the review was written back when the film came out in the cinema, but I'm posting my back catalogue of movie reviews on this blog in chronological order! Just reaching the end of 2003.

Thanks for reading and commenting! :-D