The Barenaked Archives – The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

From 2003 up until 2007, I was lucky enough to have “movie reviewer” as my job description. As such, I’ve built up a *lot* of reviews for just about every movie that came out during those years, as well as reviews of classic movies.

The Barenaked Archives are reviews that I did for two previous websites. Sadly, they are both gone, so this is now the only place online you can see these old columns.

Lord of the Rings: Return of the King poster I won’t lie. I’ve been waiting impatiently for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King since December 18, 2002, at about 10 p.m., when I walked out of The Two Towers.

And as December and Return of the King drew nearer, I began to wonder if it would live up to the hype, because so many times the third movie in a trilogy fails to meet the standards set by its predecessors (see: The Godfather III).

I can now say, with great relief and some sadness, that Return of the King meets every expectation you could possibly have set for it, and in some places exceeds it. It is amazing, and caps off perfectly what many are calling the best movie trilogy of our time.

In Return of the King, for the five of you who don’t know, Frodo and Sam continue their dangerous journey into Mordor, led by the deceitful Gollum. Meanwhile, the remaining members of the Fellowship cling to hope as they try to defend Gondor against the forces of Sauron and give Frodo the chance he needs to destroy the One Ring.

I will be forever grateful to Peter Jackson for not going the way of George Lucas and filming the whole movie in front of a green screen. The production design and special effects in this movie are just as fantastic as the first two, and gone is the slightly monotonous color scheme of The Two Towers.

Everything about this film is just outstanding, from the writing and directing to the cinematography and the acting. The acting is phenomenal, with exceptional turns by Ian McKellen as Gandalf the White and Sean Astin as Sam. Although there is less of Legolas and Gimli, which disappointed me, there is more of Merry and Pippin, which balanced it out.

However, the scene that most everybody will be talking about is the Battle of Pelennor Fields. The word has been that it puts Helm’s Deep to shame, and the word is not exaggerating. This battle isn’t so much about the hand-to-hand combat that Helm’s Deep was; this is about huge catapults and armored cave trolls and 200,000 Orcs trying to take down Minas Tirith, the capital city of Gondor. It is the most jaw-dropping action sequence I’ve seen all year, and I will not write more than that for fear of being attacked by the people who hate spoilers.

Intercut with the battle, though, is one of my favorite scenes: the showdown between Sam and Shelob, a creature that will strike fear in the hearts of arachnophobes everywhere. Watching the little hobbit take on this gigantic spider was definitely a highlight of the film for me, in a film where there are too many highlights to name.

And even though the action sequences are great, almost better are the character moments, and there are a lot of them. The bizarre triangle between Frodo, Sam, and Gollum; the relationship between Faramir and his father, Denethor; seeing Merry and Pippin separated for the first time…that’s such a huge part of these films and what makes them successful. You care about the characters and you want to know what happens to them.

That, perhaps, is what makes this movie so sad…it’s over. After spending the past two years waiting on pins and needles for December and the next installment of the trilogy, it’s over. That was the saddest part for me: seeing the words “The End” in black and white on the screen and realizing that this wonderful, grand, epic adventure was finished.

Do yourself a favor this Christmas break, or even this finals week. Go see this movie. Go see it multiple times. It is more than worth the price of admission and the three-and-a-half hour runtime. Return of the King is one of the few films of our time that actually lives up to and exceeds its hype, and no one should miss seeing it.

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