The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003)

Rating: A

Dir: Peter Jackson
Star: Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen, Ian McKellen, Sean Astin

What a long, strange journey it has been. Not just for Frodo and pals though; as adventures go, both Peter Jackson and I could tell some tales. Back in April 1989, in issue 1 of Trash City, I reported on the Black Sunday film festival; it should have been the UK premiere of Jackson’s first feature, Brain Dead, but the film was seized by Customs. If you’d told me then that I’d now be happily married, inhabit Arizona and sell beads for a living, or Peter that he’d be the favourite for this year’s Oscars and could make whatever movie he wants, I’m sure we’d both have laughed hysterically. Yet here we are.

This is what cinema is about: telling a story that’s entirely engrossing on every level, technically and emotionally. I watched the climactic battle with my mouth open, each shot bringing a new wonder with a sense of awe very rarely experienced. Yet my lip still quivered poignantly as Eowen (Miranda Otto) comforted her dying father (Bernard Hill), or when Aragorn and his true love reunite, and I laughed as Gimli and Legolas tallied their kills. “That still only counts as one!”, bickers the dwarf as the elf single-handedly takes out…oh, go see it. Again. On the largest screen possible.

The best tales are the simplest, and for all its trappings, Return is ‘merely’ good vs. evil – just with the world at stake. My sole qualm is an ending which went on several steps beyond what was necessary; everything after Aragorn’s coronation is superfluous bow-tying. But up until then, this fully cements the trilogy’s place in history, surpassing Star Wars or The Matrix to become the greatest work of imaginative cinema ever. Still haven’t read the books – and now, I doubt I ever shall. As Chris pointed out, if Return does not win the Best Picture Oscar it deserves, Hollywood can go fuck itself. After this, any other movie might as well be on bootleg Taiwanese VCD anyway…