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

Let’s give credit where credit is due: Viggo still looks regal as Aragorn son of Arathorn son of Araporn son of Aralorn son of… hell, he has a geneaology to make a Mormon salivate.
Our Rating

Genre(s): Adventure, Fantasy

Director: Peter Jackson

Actors: Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen, Ian McKellen, Miranda Otto, John Rhys-Davies, Liv Tyler, Hugo Weaving, Orlando Bloom, Dominic Monaghan, Billy Boyd, Sean Astin, Bernard Hill, Cate Blanchett

Year: 2003

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Country: New Zealand / USA

My favorite thing about Lord of the Rings: Return of the King is that I finally figured out that R. Wynn and A.O. Wynn are not related. During the first two movies, I kept thinking they must both be members of the legendary House of Wynn—though for the life of me I couldn’t figure out how an elf could be related to a human. Can they have sex?

LOTR: ROTK (as we cognoscenti refer to it) begins with a series of visually stunning scenes, including Gollum’s schizophrenic dialogue while staring into a rippling pool (hats off to WETA!), then a rather long scene involving the synchronized ingnition of large bonfires on New Zealand mountaintops. But as soon as these beautiful scenes are complete, the movie reverts to its Fellowship-like fixation on Hobbit-loving. No biggie, but I kind of got my fill of halfling homoeroticism and Frodo-feet fetishism in the first film.

Let’s give credit where credit is due: Viggo still looks regal as Aragorn son of Arathorn son of Araporn son of Aralorn son of… hell, he has a genealogy to make a Mormon salivate. I really like the character of Aragorn, even though the guy has to *name* his sword. “Narsil” is kind of a cool name, but isn’t it kind of queer to give your weapon a name?

Speaking of queer: Legolas still kicks ass like he did in The Two Towers. I only make fun of him because I find myself oddly attracted to this pretty elf. Maybe it’s because he obviously doesn’t have to shave. No chafing. Think about it.

Another favorite character of mine who features prominently in this last film is Theoden, King of Rogaine. Rogaine strikes me as an ironic name for a land inhabited by men with such great hair. Hell, A.O. Wynn has great hair. I didn’t know Rogaine worked on women, too. In any case, Theoden rises above pettiness and shows his quality while coming to the aid of those at Minas Tirinth. Theoden captures my attention because, while quoting Shakespeare/Homer/Tolkien, his dramatic delivery is reminiscent of Captain Kirk: “We must… ride out… and assist… those who need… it. Their very… lives… depend on it.” You could drive an army of Iroquois (yes, the Native American tribe makes an appearance in the LOTR trilogy) through his dramatic pauses. Did I mention he has great hair?

And his daughter. Where do I begin? I think I’m in love with A. O. Wynn (come to think of it: is Theoden’s last name “Wynn”?). And I was SO happy to see she didn’t shack up with Aragorn at the end of the film. She’s still available! Though, I did see her standing by Gamling son of Someone during the coronation of Aragorn. Hopefully he’s a pervy hobbit fancier and will leave her to me. She pulls off the greatest heroic feat of the Battle on the Peloponnesus (oh yeah, the Greeks were NOT going to be left out of this trilogy; no way). After she chops off the head of one of the Nazi birds, she slays Scary Empty-Faced Dude. But even better than that, she shows her quality by quoting Homer in the midst of such stress (she takes after her father). After Scary Empty-Faced Dude tells her “No man can kill me”, she rams her sword through his empty face, rips off her helmet with a flair and declares: “I am no man”. I sure hope she sent Odysseus a thank-you card for that little bit of cleverness.

Perhaps my biggest disappointment in this third film is that the family drama involving Faramir, Boromir, and their pyromaniac father is not further explored. I’m told that Tolkien’s books thoroughly explore their relationships, and I presume Peter Jackson filmed more scenes involving this family, but evidently those scenes are sitting on the cutting room floor. Will someone who has read the books please tell me where Faramir and Boromir got their big noses? Not from their dad. Those are some BIG noses! But they are both men of quality; perhaps their mysteriously-missing mother is responsible for their innate quality and their noses. Papa-Mir, Steward of Gondor, certainly isn’t.

The crowd favorite in this trilogy has to be Gandalf. Ian McKellen is perfect as Gandalf. Gandalf is NOT to be confused with Sour-Mon, the other tall, skinny guy in a white robe who carries a long staff—and who does not, I’m sad to say, make an appearance in the third movie (at least the theatrical cut). Christopher Lee’s Sour-Mon is sorely missed in this third part—a movie without a clear and present antagonist. Sour-mon’s distant cousin Sour-Ron is probably the focal point of the good guys’ antagonism—but he’s an Eye in the Sky and really stretches this viewer’s ability to become emotionally entangled. It is so much easier to hate the wannabe wizard whose 60-year movie career includes such greats as 1968’s Dracula Has Riven From the Grave and 1977’s Meatcleaver Massacre.

Now for the hobbits: Merry and Pippin initially provide a sort of foil for Sam and Frodo. While Merry and Pippin chill at watery Isengard drinking large mugs o’ meade and puffing on middle-earth marijuana, Sam and Frodo continue to follow Gollum along the super-secret shortcut to Mordor where Frodo intends to destroy The Ring. Eventually, Merry and Pippin get drawn into the action and take the opportunity to show their quality. Sam remains the incorruptibly loyal servant to “master” Frodo. (I remember hearing that Tolkien’s depiction of the hobbits clearly shows that Sam is of a lower “class” than Frodo—oh yeah, Tolkien’s British. Forgot about that…). The director takes every opportunity to show off the floppy hobbit feet in this third film, after Sean Astin complained to Peter Jackson about the enormous amount of time spent preparing the prosthetic feet in comparison to the very little screen time the feet received in the first two movies. I could almost hear Jackson saying “There, Sean. Happy now?” every time those hairy rubber feet flopped against a styrofoam rock.

I absolutely recommend this movie. In spite of the few criticisms I have of it, I have to admit that the 3 hours and 21 minutes went by in a flash and I was wanting more at the end. See it! Frodo lives!


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