Friday, April 17, 2015

The Lord of the Rings III (Best Picture 2003)

The Return of the King is the third and final episode in The Lord of the Ring trilogy. It began with The Fellowship of the Ring (nominated for Best Picture in 2001), then continued with The Two Towers (nominated in 2002), before finally winning with the last chapter. It's fair to say that the Academy was probably bestowing the awards on the entire series, as all three movies were written, produced, and filmed at the same time. This is only the second time in history that all films in a series were nominated for Best Picture. The first were, of course, The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, and The Godfather Part III. 

Besides that, really, what is there to say? This is the film adaptation of the well-known fantasy novel series by J.R.R. Tolkien. You know what it is going in; you'll either love it or hate it. I saw the films when they first came out, and enjoyed them....although they were way WAAAAAY too long. It was as if director Peter Jackson was thinking, "Here I am in New Zealand with all these people in my cast and crew, so let's just keep shooting...."

For this review I pointedly did NOT see the first two films, wondering if The Return of the King would (could?) stand on its own. Well....uh...not really. Here's the "I never liked the books and I didn't re-watch the first two" plot summary:
Bad guys living in Modor want to take over and kill all the humans living in the-city-built-in-the-side-of-the-mountain. They ask other human cities for help, in a last-ditch effort to save Mankind from these monster people. There's a Good Witch Wizard named Gandalf who seems to be the point man. The other cities send their armies, but they all think it's hopeless. Meanwhile, there are four little people (called "hobbits" to differentiate them from elves and dwarves) who are having various misadventures of their own in the Fight For Mankind. Two of them, Frodo and Sam, are especially important. They are heading to Bald Evil Mountain to throw an Evil gold ring named Precious into the lava in order to defeat Big Creepy Bad Guy named Sauron who is really only a Fiery Eye. A creepy computer-graphic called Gollum (or maybe Smeagol) is trying to help-- and also to hinder-- them. Aragorn is the Henry V of the proceedings: he is the rightful heir to the throne, but walked away from his obligations as a youngster but is back now. He's the King who Returns (see film title). There are a lot of terrific battle scenes, a lot of cheesy computer graphics, a lot of *angst*, and a lot of really good emotional moments in-between the fighting. There are quite a few scenes that made no sense to me whatsoever, and should have been deleted in order to make the film more clear (and SHORTER!). In fact, this film just never knows when to has something like three perfectly fine "endings" before it actually does a way that is confusing to me, but is probably as clear as Middle-Earthen crystal to the Tolkien fans out there.  

My advice to you if you are not a fan of fantasy films but want to watch this because it's a Best Picture: watch the last hour of it. Start at about the 2 hour mark (scene 37/61 in my version) and just watch the last third. You'll have no trouble picking up the story, because luckily the Good Guys are the Humans, and the Bad Guys are the...well, they're the Ugly, Mean, Monster guys. The dramatic moments between Frodo (an excellent Elijah Wood) and Sam (a terrific Sean Astin) create the emotional heart of the film. The scenes between Bernard Hill and Miranda Otto as the older King and his daughter are wonderful. And the scenes of playful competition between John Rhys-Davies as Gimli the dwarf and Orlando Bloom as Legolas the elf are fun. Trust me, one hour is about all you need. If you want to watch any more than one hour, you will probably want to watch the whole thing, anyway.

The Lord of the Rings: 
The Return of the King
*Academy Award Best Picture of 2003*
Produced by Barrie M. Osborne, Peter Jackson, and Fran Walsh
Directed  by Peter Jackson
Screenplay by Fran Walsh, Phillippa Boyens, and Peter Jackson
Based on the book by J.R.R. Tolkien

"The Eye of the Enemy is moving...."
well, not fast enough for this film reviewer!

Also Nominated:
(in alphabetical order)
Lost in Translation
Master and Commander
Mystic River
This is another year where I did not see the majority of the nominees. I had heard that Lost in Translation, about Bill Murray filming a television commercial in Japan, was good, but I knew that I would not appreciate it quite so much because I actually speak Japanese. I did eventually see it, and, yes, it was okay, but I did not find it as "exotic" as everyone else did. Mystic River I saw because I had heard good things about Sean Penn and Tim Robbins (both won acting awards for their work). It is the story of three friends that are kidnapped as children, and then must continue to deal with the ramifications as adults. Master and Commander as a longer, duller Horatio Hornblower adventure yarn holds no interest for me. And although my sister swears that I would enjoy Seabiscuit if I saw it, I have yet to make the time.

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