Lightning Review: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the KingSynopsis
Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) finally reach Mordor. Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) leads the World of Men against Sauron’s army in order to give Frodo and Sam an opening to take the One Ring to Mt. Doom.

Review
Now this, this is what I have been expecting out of this series. After two movies of moving pieces, everything finally all comes together. This movie hits the ground running, and it needs to because of the many threads it needs to tie up. I can’t think of many new things to say that I haven’t already in my reviews of The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers. I do wish there was more Gimli because I absolutely loved all of his scenes in the previous movies and always enjoy watching him, especially with Legolas. The character makeup and costumes from the previous films were some of the best I have seen but wow does The Return of the King blow them both out of the water! My only complaint is the long run time. It’s nearly four hours long and has like five endings. Every time it would fade to black, it felt like a clean ending… then another scene would happen. It is great to see everyone’s stories wrapped up so it’s not too terrible, but it made a long film feel even longer.

I thought The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King was GREAT :-D. The action was the best of the trilogy, the costumes were the best of any recent movie I’ve seen, and every story thread gets wrapped up. I can see why this trilogy is well beloved. It may have even found its way to the top of some of my lists.

Also check out my reviews for the rest of The Lord of the Rings trilogy: The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Peter Jackson – Director / Screenplay
Fran Walsh – Screenplay
Philippa Boyens – Screenplay
Howard Shore – Composer

Elijah Wood – Frodo
Sean Astin – Sam
Viggo Mortensen – Aragorn
Orlando Bloom – Legolas
Ian McKellen – Gandalf
John Rhys-Davies – Gimli
Billy Boyd – Pippin
Dominic Monaghan – Merry
Christopher Lee – Saruman
Andy Serkis – Gollum (voice) / Smeagol
Hugo Weaving – Elrond
Liv Tyler – Arwem
Cate Blanchett – Galandrie
Marron Csokas – Celeborn
Bernard Hill – Theoden
David Wenham – Faramir
Miranda Otto – Eowyn
Karl Urban – Eomer
John Bach – Madril
Sean Bean – Boromir
Ian Holm – Bilbo

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Review

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers movie posterSynopsis
The Fellowship of the Ring has been separated. Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) slowly make their way towards Mordor with the assistance of Gollum (Andy Serkis (voice)). Meanwhile, the rest of the fellowship helps defend the kingdom of Rohan from Sarumon (Christopher Lee) and his orc army.

Review
In The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, most of the movie was spent introducing the characters, the conflict, and the world of Middle Earth itself. Having much of that out of the way, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers begins to shift into more of what I was expecting out of this series.

There is still a lot of time spent with the characters on their journey, but the action isn’t saved until the very end (although the best action scenes are) like the previous film. The Battle of Helm’s Deep is absolutely stunning. It was big, it was bold, and it was beautifully chaotic. As thrilling as it was, it was even more exciting when the attack on Isengard begins and there are parallels between the two. Despite jumping back and forth amidst all the pandemonium of either battle, it was surprisingly smooth and not that jarring like I would have expected. Maybe because I was so enthralled by what was going on I didn’t care.

The cast is just as large as the previous movie and even grows. They are split into groups so there is a lot of jumping back and forth between everybody. This is where the run time begins to really grow. Trying to fit development for each of these characters’ story arcs is time consuming. Although it made the movie seem long, it was probably a good thing because then several characters would have gotten short changed and not developed very well.

One such relationship was the relationship between Gimli and Legolas. Dwarfs and elves have a shaky relationship in Middle Earth and it was clear in the beginning they were more reluctant partners than friends. By the end, they had this playful bond that was fun to watch bloom. The best moments were when they were competing to see who could defeat the most enemies.

Out of all the characters, Gimli is quickly becoming my favorite. I mentioned this in my review of Fellowship, but he is extremely funny. I’m not sure why but it took me by surprise. Maybe because I wasn’t expecting much in terms of comedy from this series. Regardless, the laughs are most welcome to take my mind away from the length of the film.

As this series goes on, I’m beginning to appreciate Sam more and more. He is Frodo’s rock. Where relationships like Gimli’s and Legolas’ were built during this epic journey, Sam’s and Frodo’s relationship is strengthened by it. Despite the darker tone, there is still a lot to feel good about in this movie.

I thought The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers was GOOD :-). Although it ran long, the time was necessary to continue building the characters and didn’t feel like it dragged on. The stakes were higher and the action was better. In most trilogies, the middle chapter usually is the one that stumbles the most but The Two Towers doesn’t and even stands taller than in predecessor.

Also check out my reviews for the rest of The Lord of the Rings trilogy: The Fellowship of the Ring and The Return of the King.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Peter Jackson – Director / Screenplay
Fran Walsh – Screenplay
Philippa Boyens – Screenplay
Stephen Sinclair – Screenplay
Howard Shore – Composer

Elijah Wood – Frodo
Sean Astin – Sam
Viggo Mortensen – Aragorn
Orlando Bloom – Legolas
Ian McKellen – Gandalf
John Rhys-Davies – Gimli / Treebeard (voice)
Billy Boyd – Pippin
Dominic Monaghan – Merry
Christopher Lee – Saruman
Andy Serkis – Gollum (voice)
Hugo Weaving – Elrond
Liv Tyler – Arwem
Cate Blanchett – Galandrie
Bernard Hill – Theoden
David Wenham – Faramir
Miranda Otto – Eowyn
Karl Urban – Eomer
John Bach – Madril
Bruce Allpress – Aldor
Sala Baker – Man Flesh Uruk
Jed Brophy – Sharku / Snaga
Sam Comery – Eothain
Brad Dourif – Wormtongue

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Review

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring movie posterSynopsis
The hobbit Frodo (Elijah Woods) is tasked with heading to Mordor to destroy the One Ring, a powerful relic, so it cannot be used by the evil Sauron to conquer Middle Earth.

Review
I can still picture the looks on people’s faces when I told them I hadn’t seen The Lord of the Rings films. I feel like it was the same look I gave people when they said they hadn’t seen Star Wars. But with the insistence of my buddy, I finally sat down and watched The Lord of the Rings series, and no longer have to worry about receiving those looks again. We of course started with The Fellowship of the Ring.

Right off the bat the film put a smile on my face. The opening was so much fun! Knowing that the characters are going to have a long journey ahead of them, Gandalf and the hobbits are introduced in a large celebration. This made it clear that although the scale of these films are grand, there is going to be some fun along the way. I especially liked Pippin and Merry’s introduction as mischievous hobbits when they took some of Gandalf’s magic fireworks.

Many of the core characters were well cast. Ian McKellen was particularly perfect as the wizard Gandalf. His experience added a lot of weight to the film, and you know that Peter Jackson wants to do the source material right. I liked Orlando Bloom as the elf Legolas. I’m not familiar with Viggo Mortensen but he was good as Aragorn. However, the most surprising to me was John Rhys-Davies as the dwarf Gimli. He was funnier than I was expecting and was great as the comedic relief.

There is only one way to describe the score composed by Howard Shore: epic. I’m not very familiar with his works but I loved his score for The Fellowship of the Ring. Shore’s score is so dynamic and moving. This is up there with John William’s Star Wars score or Jurassic Park score in terms of building emotion.

It seems more and more today that movies opt for CGI for their sets and characters instead of make-up or physical sets. When a film minimizes its use of CGI and goes with more practical effects, it is such a breath of fresh air. All the sets, from the Shire to Mordor, were absolutely beautiful. Each facet of the set design was breathtaking. Even more impressive were the costumes and make-up. The details given to the orcs especially was wonderful. It is tough to find that much attention to detail in costume design.

Now with all that praise I just gave the film, there were still several things I didn’t like about it. For one, there is a lot of set up for the over-arching narrative of the series. A great deal of time is spent bringing all the members of the fellowship together, as well as setting up the supporting characters that will be seen throughout the trilogy. These characters spent a lot of time giving the audience the information they need through exposition. They also spent time traveling between meeting each major character. Things didn’t really get exciting until towards the end.

It is easy to tell this is part of a larger series. Like I said above, there is a lot of character set up. Also, despite feeling like an epic story, the scale was also kind of small. Normally I don’t like when films aren’t very self contained, even if they are part of a series. However, since it is an adaptation of such a beloved series, I’m willing to loosen up a bit.

I thought The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring was OK :-|. Much of the movie is spent getting to know the characters, which is good because a lot is learned about them. But this means that the movie only picks up near the end. Hopefully this means that the next film will hit the ground running.

Also check out my reviews for the rest of The Lord of the Rings trilogy: The Two Towers and The Return of the King.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Peter Jackson – Director / Screenplay
Fran Walsh – Screenplay
Philippa Boyens – Screenplay
Howard Shore – Composer

Elijah Wood – Frodo
Sean Astin – Sam
Viggo Mortensen – Aragorn
Orlando Bloom – Legolas
Ian McKellen – Gandalf
John Rhys-Davies – Gimli
Billy Boyd – Pippin
Dominic Monaghan – Merry
Sean Bean – Boromir
Christopher Lee – Saruman
Andy Serkis – Gollum (voice)
Hugo Weaving – Elrond
Liv Tyler – Arwem
Marron Csokas – Celeborn
Cate Blanchett – Galandrie
Ian Holm – Bilbo
Sala baker – Sauron
Alan Howard – Voice of the Ring (voice)
Brent McIntyre – Witch-king
Mark Ferguson – Gil-galad
Lawrence Makoare – Lurtz
Peter McKenzie – Elendil