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"The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King"

Directed by Peter Jackson.
Written by Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens.  Based on the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien. 
Starring Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortenson and Ian McKellan.
Release Year:  2003 
Review Date:  12/17/03 


Of the 124 flicks I have seen this year, “LOTR: ROTK” is the best of them all.  This is saying a lot, I think.  Further, this is the best of the three films of the trilogy.  Further than that, this is one of the ten best films I have ever seen, and save for the fact that director Peter Jackson just doesn’t seem to know when to walk away—there are at least six times when the film could have ended—it is a perfect piece of filmmaking.  And, unlike some other filmmakers this year, Jackson understands his assets better than anyone when it comes to giving us what we want.  We get more Gollum, we get more Legolas, we get more action, we get more beautiful castles, we get more Liv Tyler as Arwen...hell, we even get to watch Gandalf (Ian McKellan) whoop a little ass with a big sword.

I’m also prepared to say that Jackson should get an award from the Academy in February for Most Incredible Direction Ever, because this is the new gold standard.  Never ever ever ever ever has a film so large been so intimate; I haven’t cried like this since Mom took my blanket away when I was ten years old.  Huge, ginormous, special effects-laden battle sequences are then followed by the quietest, most sentimental of moments...then you get terror, then you get laughs, then you get great movie moments, like when Legolas (Orlando Bloom) finishes off a kill by sliding off of an elephant’s trunk.  I cried when the troops from Rohan showed up, I cried when key characters died in the field, I cried when the trilogy’s theme song came on...I think I even cried when those two elves were hammering the legendary sword back together for Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen).  Three different times I started to get up to use the restroom, but I just couldn’t stand the idea of missing even a frame of this beautiful film.  If you see this film in a packed house, there will be at least 8 times when your audience will erupt in cheers.

Given the pressure that he was under, “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy is the greatest film business achievement ever, period.  New Line Cinema was essentially out of business when they gave Jackson more than $300 million to make three movies with no bankable stars.  $2 billion later—before the current film’s gross is even calculated—New Line ought to buy Jackson whatever he wants for the rest of his life, since he has saved their ass six ways to Sunday.  Oh, and the first two films were nominated for Best Picture, and there is almost no chance that “ROTK” doesn’t get nominated, too.  And, with the DVD money that everyone will make on the inevitable 3-disc trilogy set—which will then become the gold standard for DVD trilogy sets, since with director’s cuts, deleted scenes, bonus footage, commentary and other stuff we’re talking more than 30 hours of goods, which will probably run around $100 next summer—New Line can look to one man (and his team of minions that worked on the trilogy) to see why they are still in operations.  And, finally, by and large Tolkien fans and fans of the books love the movies...which may have been the toughest sell of them all.

Wow.  Wow.  Wow.  I don’t like clichés all that much, but even I have to say:  if you only see one film this year, see “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.”  Rarely do you get to see passionate filmmakers do so well with every aspect of their work.  You know what I was saying when I left the theater?  “Damn.  I wonder how good the ‘Matrix’ sequels would have been if Peter Jackson had directed them.”

Rating:  Opening Weekend


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09