Just when you thought the Lord Of The Rings movies couldn't possibly get any more epic, Return Of The King comes along and blows its predecessors completely out of the water. Which is not to say that the other two films weren't great but in terms of sheer cinematic grandeur, this really raised the bar for the swords and sorcery genre big time.
All those plot threads and countless subplots which didn't always feel like they were going anywhere come together and we finally get the epic resolution we deserve. Between those crazy battles involving giant elephants, a Witchking, dragon-type things and about a gazillion people and the more quietly distressing ring-bearer quest, which looks pretty doomed to failure throughout, there's hardly a moment to breathe! It's even a bit hard to list everything that even goes on in this movie. Let's just say that the highlights include John Noble being awesome as crazy old Denethor, Legolas taking down an elephant all by himself, Frodo being hilariously wrapped in a web cocoon by a giant spider, Eowyn kicking ass on the battlefield (and yet she's STILL not on the poster), Aragorn frolicking with green ghost people, Gandalf leading the way after showing Denethor's who's boss and, of course, the final Mount Doom confrontation which is simply intense.
Visually, Return Of The King is by far the most impressive of the trilogy, it's also the most action-packed and involving. This is why, after years of calling The Two Towers my favorite of the bunch, I can finally confirm that this third installment has now become my top Lord Of The Rings flick. Mostly because for the first time you don't feel like you're in the land of exposition or stalling. That said, this conclusion is not without its flaws.
Far from it.
A lot of stuff feels like it was cut out and stuffed into those Extended Editions which means we get some distracting inconsistencies throughout. It feels like we should have been introduced to Denethor way earlier, Arwen once again does f***-all right up until she upstages Eowyn once again right at the end by just showing up (grrr), there's no sign of either Wormtongue or Saruman (boo!) and after seeing The Hobbit, I'm not sure why those giant rock people aren't involved at all! They could have kicked those elephants right out of the park! Not to mention Treebeard and co., did we really spend ALL this time in the last movie just hanging out with them for this one scene at the end?
Oh and then there's the last 5 minutes...
Ok, I like what happens in that ending, I just don't think that the way Peter Jackson went about it really works. As it stands, it's long, cheesy, kinda tedious and redundant, and after such a long movie you really don't need about 5 different endings. Had they focused on Frodo and Sam being carried away by those eagles in a scenic wide-shot before fading back and forth to a nice, complete yet short epilogue with a good flow and not just endless slow-mo shots of people crying I think it could have worked much better.
This is the kind of ending that just works really well in a book but in a movie drags. A shame because, for a while there, that was one epic flick with a lot of momentum and a really cool climax.
Extended Editions-aside (where plot-holes go to be filled, it seems), the theatrical versions of the Lord Of The Rings movies are certainly flawed, at times rushed, at times too slow, at times incomplete but as a whole they form an impressive cinematic achievement and have changed the face of fantasy movies forever. Peter Jackson did an amazing job bringing Tolkien's unique world to life and helping many, many nerds geek out for many years since. I like each of them for their individual merits but Return Of The King really is where it all goes down.
We likes them, yeeeeees, we likes them...