Directed by: Peter Jackson
Written by:Frances Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson
Starring: Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Ian McKellan, Viggo Mortensen, John Rhys-Davies, Liv Tyler, Hugo Weaving, David Wenham, Bernard Hill, Orlando Bloom, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Miranda Otto
Released: December 26, 2003
Grade: A

It’s a very heavy burden.  I speak not of Frodo’s quest but rather the anticipation and expectations that have engulfed The Return Of The King.  For the third consecutive Boxing Day, cinemas across Australia have been swamped by impatient patrons waiting in long queues.  Overseas, newspapers spread word of the box-office records which have been smashed.  In Hollywood, the film was been crowned as this year’s Oscar winner before even being released!

Such hype always leaves me sceptical and I did scrutinise the film with added vigour in hope of finding something disparaging to speak of.  Sure enough, in its 201 minutes I noted many unflattering qualities.  Why then did I like the film so much?  Well for all my silly nit-picking there’s one quality that matters most – a great story.

The Return Of The King comes from an intricate novel and has been near-perfectly adapted by Peter Jackson.  It has all the action of The Two Towers but in the final half hour develops an added emotional element as the long tale comes to its fitting end.  Tears are shed by our characters and most audience members will also find their eyes a little moist.

If you’re looking for a quick plot review, Frodo (Wood) and Sam (Astin) continue their journey to Mount Doom where the Ring of Fire can be destroyed.  Frodo is tiring under the ring’s pressure and his mind is being poisoned by the creepy Gollum who only wants the ring for himself.  Meanwhile, the wizard Gandalf (McKellan) receives word that the evil Sauron will attack the city of Minas Tirith and asks Aragorn (Mortensen) to assemble army of men to defend it.  With the help of the elf Legolas (Bloom) and the dwarf Gimli (Rhys-Davies), Aragorn not only fulfils his task but also finds another ally deep within the mountains.  It is time for the battle to begin.

Echoing my sentiments from The Two Towers, I most enjoyed watching the mind games between Frodo, Sam and Gollum.  Their story closely follows the essence of the whole Rings saga – that of power and how easily it can corrupt those who wield it.  The performances of Elijah Wood and Sean Astin are simply superb.  Just wait until you see them battle against a giant spider named Shelob – it’s the best individual scene.

The battle at Minas Tirith is a little repetitive and I unfortunately felt the special effects were more evident than they should have been.  Another minor qualm was watching some of the characters (particularly Legolas and Gimli) turn into clichéd action heroes.  Damn, I’m being fussy again!  Why am I focusing on such minor flaws when there is so much to praise?  Ian McKellan is fantastic as Gandalf, Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan deservedly get more screen time and Australian actress Miranda Otto is stunning. 

The Lord Of The Rings has been a wonderful journey to follow on screen.  Two years ago, I knew next to nothing about the production.  Now I look back in awe at one of cinema’s great productions.  It is quite simply the best film trilogy ever made.