Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Best Picture: "Lord of the Rings: Return of the King," 2003

Movie Stats:
Released 2003 (New Zealand)
American & Kiwi, in English (plus some made-up languages, mostly translated)
Director – Peter Jackson
Stars – Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Ian McKellan, Viggo Mortensen, plus loads of others and about half of the population of New Zealand

Plot Summary:
In the final installment of the trilogy, hobbits Frodo Baggins (Wood) and Samwise Gamgee (Astin) struggle to reach Mordor in order to destroy the ring while their friends Aragorn (Mortensen) and Gandalf (McKellan) clash with Sauron’s swarming hoards.

Loads and loads of (mostly war-related) violence.

Bad Stuff:
I find the Frodo/Sam/Smeagol dynamic incredibly tiresome. I like Frodo and Sam together, although there’s no denying that watching them walk around a whole bunch isn’t terribly exciting. When Smeagol is thrown into the mix, I just want to roll my eyes and moan at the screen, “I know the power of the ring is corrupting you, Frodo, but how can you NOT see that Smeagol is totally evil?” I get the importance of the Smeagol character but holy crap is he annoying (especially his voice).

Why do all the elves talk all slow and whispery? Is it supposed to make them seem mysterious? Does one lack the ability to speak normally if one is immortal?

The multiple-ending thing is pretty stupid. I’m told that it’s in line with the books but I’ve never read the books. I remember in the theater, people started to clap as the first ending came to an end but then the movie kept going so people stopped but then the second ending started to end and people started clapping again until it became clear that it wasn’t really the end either. Then everyone gave up. It was very awkward.

Good Stuff:
I like the way this movie intersperses beautiful moments between all of the death and destruction. My three favorites: the lighting of the signal fires; Pippen (Billy Boyd) singing a haunting song as Faramir (David Wenham) rides off to his presumed death; and Frodo saying to Sam, “I’m glad to be with you, Samwise Gamgee, here at the end of all things.”

After 11 years, the special effects have held up surprisingly well. I still really like the ghosts. They’re so creepy. The only stuff I thought looked bad was the stuff I thought looked bad at the time (in particular, in many long-shots, it’s very obvious that the hobbits are being played by children).

I love this soundtrack.

“That still only counts as one!” Makes me laugh every single time.

The Verdict:
Another movie I own. I’ve seen it countless times. I wasn’t going to watch it again but then I realized that I needed to in order to give some specifics on what I like and don’t like. However, I sort of just had it on in the background while I did other stuff.

This is not my favorite of the LOTR movies. That distinction goes to “The Two Towers.” I think that giving Best Picture to one movie in a series is a little strange. It’s obvious that the Academy wanted to reward Jackson for turning this material into three very good films. All three were nominated; the academy waited until the last one to bestow the award. I’m not sure I would have made the same decision, although it is nice to see a fantasy movie win Best Picture for once.

It might not be my favorite but it’s still a good movie. It drags a bit in some parts (especially the never-ending parade of endings). Overall, though, it’s quite enjoyable. The fight scenes are well choreographed. The bad guys are appropriately evil & horrifying. All the actors turn in great performances. I don’t think there’s a clunker in the bunch. There are also some fantastic, rousing speeches, although the credit for those rightly goes to Tolkein, not the moviemakers. If you like high fantasy, you should like these movies, although I recommend you start with the first one or you’ll be lost.

I give the movie 4 stars.


Patricia said...

I was glad when these movies came out because I'd never been able to make it through the books. But here they were for me, as long as I was willing to sit still through them. Just recently, I discovered a letter a friend in high school had written me one summer while he was staying at his fathers house and it was all about LOTR. At the time I had no idea what he was talking about, but now, having seen the movies, it made much more sense.

Is this the only fantasy movie to win best picture?

balyien said...

It is indeed the only fantasy movie to win best picture unless you consider "Around the World in Eighty Days" a fantasy (a case could be made for it, I think, although it's not fantasy in the strictest sense).

To be honest, most fantasy movies are pretty bad. For some reason, science fiction translates better to the big screen.