By Marc S. Sanders
I remember film critic Gene Siskel once said that to take issue with the length of a film is not entirely fair. After all, you are getting more movie for your buck. Would Siskel have felt that way about The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King? Peter Jackson closes out the film adaptation of JRR Tolkien’s sweeping fantasy with an epic that allows you to marvel at everything you see, but does that mean we want to feel as overly exhausted as its main protagonist, Frodo Baggins, feels? Trust me. Poor Frodo looks wiped.
More battles are enacted in the third film. Jackson just changes the dynamics up a little bit. Now armies don elephants with a number of enormous, curved tusks. Another army has a different looking giant troll. Haven’t seen elephants before. Haven’t seen that kind of troll yet either. As well, there is another King who is apprehensive to cooperate in the fight against Sauran and his Orc minions. There’s also a green glowing ghost army. Meanwhile, Frodo and Sam (Elijah Wood and Sean Astin) continue their journey to Mount Doom where the almighty Ring must be destroyed. Gollum (Andy Serkis) remains as their untrustworthy guide.
Jackson seemingly covers every page written by Tolkien. I’m talking about depicting every dream each character has or line they utter or slow motion expression they offer, or walk that they take. Peter Jackson is a completist.
The Return Of The King won Best Picture along with a bevy of other Oscars. Seemingly it should have won anyway. The first two films were recognized with Best Picture nominations as well. For the third film to win was to honor the entire trilogy and its achievements in filmmaking. The Lord Of The Rings trilogy reinvented movie making as a whole. The bar was set so much higher following its release and huge reception of these films.
That being said, it takes endurance to stay with the picture. Most especially with The Return Of The King as the film has multiple endings. Just when you think it’s over, it’s not, and it’s tedious and a little frustrating. Jackson seemed to have too hard a time saying farewell to his digital Middle Earth with its endearing characters.
The length is a problem I have with the film, but none of it seems wasteful either. Every caption and scene carry an importance to it. At least that’s how Jackson wants you to feel. The question is, if a number of momentary scenes had not been woven into the final edit, would I miss it, and my answer would be likely not.