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The Return of the King (Frank's Take)

01/02/2004. Contributed by Frank Ochieng

Buy The Return of the King in the USA - or Buy The Return of the King in the UK

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Inherently grand, vibrant, inviting and whimsically overwhelming, Jackson packs an urgent sense of vitality into this third installment that will certainly amaze those who were attentive to the previous colorful two TLoTR epics.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) New Line Cinema. 3 hours. 30 minutes. Starring: Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, John Rhys-Davies. Directed by: Peter Jackson.

What better way to end the big screen adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's trilogy than to cap it off with filmmaker Peter Jackson's magnificent send-off in the masterfully compelling The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.

Inherently grand, vibrant, inviting and whimsically overwhelming, Jackson packs an urgent sense of vitality into this third installment that will certainly amaze those who were attentive to the previous colorful two TLoTR epics (The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers). Jackson has continuously captured our immense appreciation and fascination for the manner in which his animated storytelling methods are impeccably crafted.

This is an enriching story that uniquely highlights the on-going struggle to maintain Middle-Earth and free it from the corruption of evil. Artistically, the robust spirit that is pronounced in The Return of the King is uniquely captivating and one will derive from this awesome spectacle a sense of indescribable exorbitance.

Jackson's eye-popping technical flourishes aren't the only noticeable achievement; the passion and emotional conviction behind his suspenseful and quirky-carved characters are quite convincing. Suffice to say that King is the final glorious chapter that only the envious handlers behind the Matrix and Star Wars movie franchises can only dream about.

The Return of the King is purely magnetic as all its components are forced to come together as one generous force of showy energy where might and miracles systematically test their endurance in Tolkien's inspired narrative accompanied cinematically by Jackson's magnanimous achieving touch. This super-charged saga is gleefully saddled with the frothy ingredients of noteworthy proportions: daring battles, beguiling human conflict, mythical and thunderous beasts such as dragons, mountainous elephants, charging horses and giant spiders, spirituality and its death-ridden conclusions, etc.

Of course all this clashes in the courageous participation of Tolkien's heroic hordes of humans, hobbits, wizards, dwarves and elves that help contribute to this chaotic universe of mind-blowing mysticism. The tale-weaving device that Jackson effortlessly tosses about in mayhem and meditative strides is stimulating and radical to say the least. Alas, Jackson's pulsating project simply takes off with an imaginative, endless bang.

There are various intriguing roadmaps to follow in King that will have the weary viewer engrossed in several capacities. We find the pivotal threesome of deceitful but fan favorite Gollum (played with a combo of ragged flesh and CGI gusto by Andy Serkis) and hobbits Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) as they make their way into Mordor (more specifically heading toward Mount Doom).

The mission in mind: the anticipation of disposing the all-powerful purpose Ring once and for all. Gollum, it appears, has been a naughty and creepy cad as of late. First, he slays his cousin Deagol for obtaining the Ring of the vile Sauron (the heavy duty know-all Evil Eye source of destruction) from the water.

Later, Gollum leads them into a nasty confrontation with an ominous-looking huge spider but they all prevail thanks to Sam s quick thinking heroics and ingenuity. Plus, Gollum has been playing the sneaky role of instigator by trying to subtly stir up conflict between pals Frodo and Sam during the calculating course of their heated travels.

In the meanwhile, Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) must muster up an impressive Army of the Dead in his noble attempt to accomplish some unfinished business. He must dismantle the wicked forces of Sauron from attacking Gondor's capital, Minas Tirith, and contend with the notion of reclaiming the throne that he gallantly seeks out through the vengeance of combat.

Also, Aragorn must try to convince King Theoden of Rohan (Bernard Hill) into siding with him in reference to the preservation of Gondor. Along with trying to put the pieces together regarding Aragorn's drawn out intentions are sidekicks elf Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and dwarf Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) that try to be persuasive in insisting that Theoden help out in the defense of Minas Tirith. After all, it would be to the advantage of all involved in this ploy.

Wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) is asked to oversee the battle of Minas Tirith and compensate for the reluctance of acting leader Denethor (John Noble) to carry out his duties due to the agonizing loss of his sons that linger on tainted Denethor's clouded mind. Assisting Gandalf with his responsibilities is willing hobbit ally Pippen (Billy Boyd).

Voluntarily, Theoden's daughter Eowyn (Mirnada Otto) and her hobbit hanger-on Merry (Dominic Monaghan) secretly join in the fight with the Rohan army and are quite effective and resilient in what they contribute to the combative cause.

The scope of Jackson's flourishing fable is grandiose and compelling in its active composition. The fighting sequences are plenty in nature and do supreme justice to the folklore pertaining to Tolkien's trilogy of unrest and sacrificing need for resounding adventure. The Return of the King does a marvelous job in delivering the descriptive battle for Minas Tirith. Hence, it makes The Two Towers eye-popping scuffle at Helm's Deep look like a squabble between two old ladies arguing over purchasing a package of well-priced pork chops in the middle of a supermarket aisle.

The pacing of the warring amongst these feuding fractions is simply spectacular in King where catapults are manned by hideous specimens of trolls, dragon-like dregs, nasty orcs, elephant-esque looking and beast-minded Mumakils or any other oddball group fueling the grueling affair. Bottom line: can our precious pair of hobnobbing hobbits Frodo and Sam, while on an unpredictable journey to the fierce fires of Mt. Doom, eradicate the potent Ring before the devious Lord Sauron eliminates every living species in the vulnerable Middle-Earth?

The satiable script, courtesy of Jackson and his fellow writers Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, is appropriately filled with the surge of wonderment and whimsy that allows the film to flex profusely about its majestic poignancy. This fantasy-based drama is immense and solely realized thanks to the superb technical tactics and memorable suspense-driven characterizations that give King its soulful and triumphant allure.

The fact that Jackson and his collaborators judiciously juggle the various dimensions to the multi-layered themes that Tolkien's encompassing imagination spouts out in literary abundance is amazing because this vast showcase could have been constructed in a convoluted and cockeyed bundle of over-produced contrivances. Instead, an astute filmmaker such as Jackson is able to control his brilliant and boisterous action-adventure brand with a steady dose of charm and gasping bewilderment that entertains with sheer ease and poise.

Not only is The Return of the King armed with a cinematic spark that is breathtakingly mammoth in its set production, design, special effects and musical score but the acting sticks out as a delightful footnote contained in Jackson's literate and spry Middle-Earth masterpiece.

There's a smorgasbord of feelings and reactions that are so resonant in the performers that strut around confidently in this extravagant exposition. The participants add a comprehensive rainbow of wit, anxiety, bravery, curiosity, romance, sorrow, disillusionment and despair to the proceedings that are already joining the balancing act of the durable realm of pathos being put forth.

Both Wood and Astin are the welcomed foundation that make tandem Frodo and Sam the celebrated guide tours through Tolkien's bountiful and frenetic field trip. Serkis's Gollum continues to steal the show as the conniving cretin that lends a comical cynicism amid the juiced-up sideshow that's taking place. Mortensen is up to speed as a conflicted warrior and would-be ruler looking to seize redemption at any cost.

Rhys-Davies is always fun and fanciful as the flippant Gimli and there are other contributors that gamely push the comic relief chores that level off the angst-ridden sentiments and turbulent excesses that abound. And McKellen's Gandalf provides the profound bits of funny and insightful remedies as the wizard that pleases us with his passionate presence.

The 200 minute-plus The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King surprisingly holds its own in the marathon running time it's allotted. Somehow, we don't seem to mind the long-winded presentation of Jackson's bombastic and high-spirited enterprise because this focused artist understands the embellished intricacies of filmmaking and its ability to whisk eager audiences away with a sumptuous product that appeals to their cinema-induced psyches.

Whether King was conceived as a scant diversion with more disciplined editing or blessed with the lengthy legs it was given in its apparent three-hour existence, Jackson has managed to complete his end of the bargain by gift-wrapping a magnificent moviemaking conclusion. Conversely, this movie series may very well go down as one of filmdom's cherished and dynamic trilogies ever to invade the celluloid consciousness of energetic movie fans and Tolkien tongue-wagging aficionados worldwide. Bravo.

With this assessment in mind, is it safe to say that we can all hail to the King? Maybe an Oscar-gold plated crown can be fitted on mastermind movie maven Peter Jackson's pate for that matter? Ambitious, graceful and uniquely monumental, The Return of the King is a stunning and absolute treat for those that claim they digest great films with vigor and distinction.

Frank Ochieng

(c) Frank Ochieng 2004

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