The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

A satisfying conclusion to the most passionately made trio of movies to come along in many, many years. I can’t believe Jackson pulled this project off as brilliantly and beautifully as he did. Return of the King is an exhilarating, exciting capper to Tolkein’s gorgeous saga about the forces of good and evil battling it out over the fate of the mythical Middle Earth. Frodo and Sam try to outwit the nefarious Gollum as they trudge ever nearer to Mount Doom where they must destroy the so-called One Ring. Meanwhile, the heir-apparent Aragorn, the wizard Gandalf and their allies clash with the gruesome orc-and-troll armies of the evil sorcerer Sauron. The movie boasts a number of memorable action scenes and dramatic stand-offs but the centerpiece of Return is Jackson’s magnificently staged battle sequence. For me, the thunderous dust-up between the enormous oliphants and frenzied horses was a trip back to my own childhood, savoring the stop-motion genius of Ray Harryhausen’s Sinbad adventures. If this wasn’t quite the best movie of 2003, it was definitely the most fun to be had at the movies all year. Jackson’s trilogy masterwork could be the new ne plus ultra of conception and design, outranking even Blade Runner.

Grade: A-

Directed by: Peter Jackson
Written by: Fran Walsh, Philipa Boyens, Peter Jackson
Cast: Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Viggo Mortensen, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Hugo Weaving, Billy Boyd, Orlando Bloom, Dominic Monaghan, John Noble, Ian Holm, Bernard Hill, Andy Serkis

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