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    Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) – Movie Review

    By Robert L. Jones | December 23, 2003

    Frodo, you're nothing to me now. You're not a brother, you're not a friend. I don't want to know you or what you do. I don't want to see you at the inn, I don't want you near my castle. When you see our mother, I want to know a day in advance, so I won't be there. You understand?

    Frodo, you're nothing to me now. You're not a brother, you're not a friend. I don't want to know you or what you do. I don't want to see you at the mead hall, I don't want you near my castle. When you see our mother, I want to know a day in advance, so I won't be there. You understand?


    [xrr rating=3/5]

    Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Starring Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen, Ian MacKellan, Sean Astin, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Miranda Otto, Orlando Bloom, and Cate Blanchett. Music by Howard Shore. Cinematography by Andrew Lesnie.  Production design by Grant Major. Costume design by Ngila Dickson and Richard Taylor. Edited by Jamie Selkirk. Screenplay by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Peter Jackson. Based on the novel by J.R.R. Tolkein. Directed by Peter Jackson. (New Line Cinema, 2003, Color, 201 minutes. MPAA Rating: PG-13.)

    I did not seek out this movie, because I never could get into D&D costume flicks. I suppose that the closest I came to being a potential reveller in these movies is that I am a fan of Ronnie James Dio’s album “Killing the Dragon,” but that really is quite a stretch.

    First of all, the cinematography is gorgeous: Lots of light streaming in nooks and crannies and crevices. A lot of muted tones of pewter, forest green and cobalt blue–it made me wonder why Peter Jackson didn’t have it filmed in black and white; would have made more sense, but most people have an irrational aversion to black and white, particularly those who are epic movie fans.

    The costumes and sets were very good and very believeable, as were the special effects. Lots of Indiana Jones stuff, but without Indiana Jones.

    Mostly, though, my chief complaint is with the script and the acting. I’m sure glad that Michael Medved was there on his “Movie Minutes” radio sidebar to tell me that this was about good and evil. I sort of gathered that from Elijah Wood running aroud everywhere toting this gold ring which has supernatural, but very unlucky powers. He really wants to get rid of it bad, sort of like a Medieval “Talking Tina” doll.

    There’s only one way to totally get rid of it, though, and that’s why what otherwise would have been a half-hour “Twilight Zone” episode has been turned into a mini-series Renaissance faire that’s longer than Wagner’s (coincidentally) Ring cycle.

    Actually, this plot would have been better as a “Star Trek” episode. After an hour of the ring causing Tribbles in the cargo hold and invading Klingons, Jim Kirk could have soliloquy’d:

    “Got….to….get….rid…of…ring,” whereupon Spock would have replied, “Captain, the logical course of action is to send it back to the jeweler, and get a refund. It’s still under warranty.”

    Although this collection of celluloid deals with nerds before the advent of daily bathing,  I often wondered, “did this fellowship of crusaders get their perfect 21st century teeth because the ring comes with a comprehensive dental plan?”

    The main weakness of this movie is the acting. Sure, Sir Lord Knight Ian MacKellen gives a believeable performance as the Old Guy in the Witch’s Hat. The rest of the movie, however, consists of a bunch of pretty fair haired lads and lasses who impart inscrutable piffle to each other in the form of deeply profound sounding monologues, delivered in a deeply anesthetizing monotone. Everything is so gosh darned deep and weighty, but when these folks lock their glassy Jim Jones Unification Church eyes, we in the audience are sure to know: “Ah ha! Here comes another clue! Now we can get out our Little Orphan Bilbo decoder rings to try and figure out just what in Hades they’re talking about!”

    Now, this may be my fault. When I was in high school, I scoffed at the D&D playing, “Chronicles of Narnia” reading, Hobbit-obsessing nerds. I was a more socially well-adjusted nerd, belonging to the far more sensible backgammon club and into new wave music like Devo and Duran Duran. So, I can’t exactly relate to all this knights of the ringtable esoterica. So, if you’re inclined to be one who’s into this sort of thing, I’m sure it will have you on the edge of your seat, comparing the movie to the book.

    But, for the unconverted, I really wish that the actors had been primed for these pictures by being forced to watch movies by Errol Flynn, Ronald Colman, Charlton Heston, and Orson Welles, to see how to breathe some life into their anemic performances. My God, it was as though the whole cast somnambulated their way through the script on Prozac. Heston wouldn’t have done it that way. Oh, no: He would have had a “damn it all to hell, you damn dirty apes are all made out of soylent green!” moment or two.

    Orson Welles would have waddled through the enchanted forest, drawling in Southern dialect some about how the corrupt ring could be bribed, and the dashing Colman and Flynn would have swashbuckled away the dragons and flying monkeys from Wizard of Oz without even getting a run in their tights. But, that would have been seen in this sophisticated era as less profound and more entertaining. Entertaining don’t get Oscars nowadays.

    I was dragged to watch this by a cousin who’s into all this sort of thing. When it was over, I informed him not to take me to the movies again and be forced to sit through an entire trilogy. When he told me I had only sat through but one installment of this burnished blather, I–unable to quite believe him–thanked him for not subjecting me to the other two.

    My time is valuable, and I have more important things to do with it.

    Such as sitting on my back porch and watching the grass grow.

    Robert L. Jones is a photojournalist living and working in Minnesota. His work has appeared in Black & White Magazine, Entrepreneur, Hoy! New York, the New York Post, RCA Victor (Japan), Scene in San Antonio, Spirit Magazine (Canada), Top Producer,  and the Trenton Times. Mr. Jones is a past entertainment editor of The New Individualist.

    Topics: Costume Dramas, Dramas, Epic Movies, Fantasy Movies, Movie Reviews, Sequels | Comments Off on Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) – Movie Review