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

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I didn’t exactly plan it this way, but it’s sort of fitting that I ended up watching this so close to Thanksgiving.  Some friends of mine hosted a few Friends-givings that involved a daylong stream of the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy back-to-back-to-back.  Which is where I’ve mostly seen the movies, piecemeal and in a room full of chattering people, amid plates of turkey and stuffing.

As a kid, years before I even knew LOTR existed, I played this text-based roguelike game called Moria, whose object was to descend deep into a dungeon and eventually slay the most powerful monster, the Balrog.  I never won.  The closest I got was when I tried playing again several years back – I even got to the point in the game where the Balrog appeared (represented, like everything else in the game, by a single character, B).  But I was afraid to make it that far and die – roguelike means no save points.  So I let the game sit and never finished, apparently deciding that I was happier not accomplishing something than I would have been if I’d failed and died.

I would have been a terrible person to carry the One Ring into Mt. Doom.  Maybe I’d have made an okay Sam.  More likely, I could have been Gimli, or whichever one out of Merry and Pippin was the least helpful.

It’s hard to say anything too effusive or critical of this film.  I like it, sure:  the scale of it alone is amazing, and it’s hard to imagine anyone staging a historical war movie with such detail and expense.  I could have maybe done with a few less shots of horses running headlong into a line of pikes, which seems counterproductive, but hey, I guess this is why I’m not a medieval general.

On the other hand, I came to the story a little too late to really fall in love with it.  I was in college when I heard about the films, and I read the first part in preparation.  I’d grown up reading a lot of Tolkien’s artistic descendants without realizing it (Sword of Shannara, anyone?), so the concept was familiar.  Eventually, I’ll re-read the books, and check out the films (weirdly, I own copies of them, though they are borrowed/unintentionally stolen from someone).  But I’ll never love LOTR like Stephen Colbert loves it.

I think my favorite moment of the film is when Aragorn basically just says, “Oh, you’ve got Orcs?  Well, lemme go get some motherfuckin’ ghosts to fight for us!”

How do you judge a sequel as a standalone film?  I can see where Godfather Part II stands on its own merits – you don’t have to have seen the first one to appreciate the film (and believe me, it won’t help you understand it any better!).  But this is less a sequel and more the third part of one continuous story.  You sort of take it for granted that these individual characters have an arc – to the extent that any of them do, it’s something you’ve had to follow since part one.  It’s more folklore than characterization.  It’s a fun ride, but hard to place within the canon of Best Pictures.

On a completely different note, there is one thing that bothers me above all else in this story.  At the end, the Elves and Gandalf, and finally Frodo get on a boat that is setting sail for…somewhere.  Where the hell are they going?  Why is it when the Men finally come into power, they have to drive out all the cool people?


Theme:  sequel

First Time Watching?  First time in its entirely, in one sitting

Final Verdict:  Precious


One response

  1. Pingback: Meta-post: The Ranking | Year of the Oscar

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