2004-01-09 / Columnists

MovieScope By Robert Snyder ‘The Lord Of The Rings’ –

The Return Of The King Epic Ends
MovieScope By Robert Snyder ‘The Lord Of The Rings’ – The Return Of The King Epic Ends

MovieScope By Robert Snyder
‘The Lord Of The Rings’ –

Audiences who made "The "Lord of the Rings" film trilogy a spectacular hit should congratulate themselves. The last in the series, "The Return of the King," has in its second week grossed $224 million and is just beginning to see the big bucks. But, the real reason for the success of this and the other two films is that audiences appreciate and anticipate the movies’ literary allegiance to the J.R.R. Tolkien classic novels. This means that the moviegoers are smart and well read... a fact which Hollywood, in this case, knows, respects and is happy to cash in on.

Produced, directed and written by Peter Jackson, the film trilogy is brilliant in its execution... especially since the three masterful films were shot simultaneously. Although the actors now seem a bit war weary, they have not aged as they would have if the shooting was done years or even decades apart. And, thanks to Jackson’s intense understanding of the material, his cast appears to be up on all the intricacies of the multi-layered  plot (as are my 13-year-old son, Robby, and 16-year-old daughter, Maggie, who fill me in on each story point and every character from orc to elf).

At the opening of  "King," we see hobbit Smeagol sliding a worm onto a fishhook. The wormlike Gollum (voice of Andy Serkis) is what Smeagol is to become after he kills a friend for the evil ring found in the riverbed. The computer-created Gollum is the best actor in the entire epic as he struggles with the two sides of his personality, always losing to the sinister one obsessed with the ring. Frodo (Elijah Wood), the ring bearer, is the innocent hobbit caught in the crossfire, who is saved from destruction by devoted buddy Sam (Sean Astin).

While Frodo and Sam’s "suicide mission" is to destroy the ring in the fires of Mount Doom, the coalition of good forces of Middle Earth under the guidance of the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellan) defends the attack by the armies of fiery eye Sauron on the Gondorian capital, Minas Tirith. The coalition later diverts the eye from Frodo’s mission with a mammoth assault on Mordor, where Sauron dwells.

The battle scenes are nothing short of stupendous as catapults hurl boulders and body parts into what appears to be the front row in the movie theater and huge elephants scatter soldiers right and left with a wave of their tusks. The computer imagery surpasses anything previously seen (including the "Star Wars" series), particularly in a sequence where elf archer Legolas (Orlando Bloom) climbs up and topples a humongous hulking pachyderm.

Despite Jackson’s Sisyphusian effort to end the epic with all loose ends tightly tied, at least one strand is left hanging. At the finale of the second installment, Saruman (Christopher Lee) was left trapped by the Ents (tree creatures) in his tower. "Return of the King" leaves the evil wizard’s fate unresolved. (My kids tell me that in the book, Saruman’s lackey, Wormtongue, kills him.)

With money rolling in at box office, Hollywood will certainly be tempted to pull together a fourth installment... though there is no book to back it up. However, it may be like succumbing to the evil, avaricious element which can only lead to one thing... becoming a Gollum.

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