The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

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The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Review (10/10)
(By Blair Barbesin)

This day was not just one day. No, this day was many in the planning. One day I just thought to see if there were any tickets available for the trilogy viewing. To my dismay, I quickly learned they had sold out. So, I turned to eBay, a trusted source that has not let me down in the past. WOW. People were getting $250 US for a pair of tickets. I don't want to see the movie that bad. I also read somewhere that someone was able to get $700 US for a pair. WOW. So I figured, well I will just go to the midnight showing.

However, as it was so popular I kept checking back online to see if a new block of tickets opened up. This has been so popular I figured that one or two theaters might show it in more than one room. Sure enough, my patience was rewarded. I scored a ticket to a second block release. Oddly enough, on eBay people were no longer getting any bids on their tickets, and people who bought extra and posted them late, got nothing for them at all. Sweet justice!

In my giddy excitement of getting a ticket, I just realized WHAT THE HELL HAVE I DONE?!? Am I insane? Not only did I just spend $50.00 on a movie (okay - three movies) but I spent $50 bucks on a MOVIE! I am insane? It wasn't just three movies I was watching, but it was the special edition version of the first two. Each movie was almost four hours in length. I am really insane. I just committed myself to over 10 hours in a movie theater. To some that may sound like bliss, but the reality is this is a tough challenge there are lots of things to consider. This required planning.

First? I had to get the day off work. My boss being the tyrant that he is, well, I thought I should just call in sick. But that would never work. You can't call in sick at my job, they just make you come in anyway. So I had to arrange something else. I could have just given my shift away, but I just spent $50 on a movie. I couldn't afford to do that. I had to bite the bullet and accept a dreaded Sunday shift - everyone loves to get rid of their Sunday shift. Once I accepted that fate, my Tuesday was in the clear.

Second? Dear GOD! I have to tell my wife. "Ahem... Hi honey, you look lovely today... I just spent $50 on a movie. So, where are the kids?" How do you think this went over? After the dumbfounded look I received, she actually didn't kill me. She just thought I was nuts. This was very strange indeed. I fully expected to get castrated by her but... Hmm. Odd indeed. Then I found her receipt for her new haircut, and all became clear.

Third? Food. Like it or not I am going to have to eat, and damn it I can't watch a movie without a snack. So I made a list of movie snacks. Sunflower seeds and goodies fit the bill. Those along with a refillable popcorn bucket and soda ensured that I could watch and munch.

Fourth? The line. I was worried about the line. Geez I hate getting stuck in the very front row or the very back row. In the front, well it just sucks. You can't encompass the entire screen in your line of sight, your neck hurts and you have to watch at a crappy angle. In the back, well you are so far back that you feel like you are watching TV and not part of the movie experience. A good seat is just as important. One problem - the movie starts at 1:30, and my daughter needs to be at school for 1:00 and the theater was a half hour drive away. So I had arranged for someone else to drive her that day. Perfect. Until that person backed out the last minute and I was stuck. So I took her to school early and waited for the teacher to come out for yard duty. I was able to leave at 12:45. I needed some luck, but being a single I thought a good seat would be easier to find. BONUS. in case you were worried I got a great seat! Everything was going smoothly! And the movie, or movies were about to begin.

I own The Fellowship of the Ring Extended Edition DVD already. However this was the first time I saw in on the big screen. It's amazing how much better it is up there. I loved the movie the first time I saw it. I am sure you can find my review for it somewhere on this site. It wasn't a movie. It was, well, I can't describe the sheer joyful emotion and wonderment I felt after experiencing the film. No, you don't watch - you experience. I actually like the Extended Edition better. It explains a few things a little better (like the gift giving) and even for three hour movie an extra 40 minutes or so gives much more character depth and story flow without dragging us down. I will be honest. I did start to nod off a bit. It had been a long day already, and I was tired. I stared to get the blinks and the nods so I decided to get up and go to the bathroom. This really helped me re-focus and get a second wind.

After the movie we got a 45 minute break. So, I went outside to the pizza joint across the street. The fresh air was a blessing. So was my decision. When I returned the line at the Burger King was crazy. People were still in line by the time the second movie started. The Two Towers Extended Edition.

Cool. I hadn't seen the Extended Edition of The Two Towers yet. I was going to buy it, but I figured that I would get it for Christmas, so I could wait. I am so glad I did. Watching it on the big screen was awesome. This edition was so much better than the theatrical release. There was just so much more to enjoy. Sean Bean had a wonderful flashback role, in probably the longest of the added scenes. The rest were just a few minutes (from what I could tell) but added so much more to the movie. When I first saw The Two Towers, I didn't like it as much as the first one. Well, the Extended Edition changed that (or at least watching it right after the first changed that). I now hold it either on par with the first or better, I am still undecided.

We received another 45 minute break. At the end of The Two Towers everyone stood up and complained how numb their asses were. People were rethinking if this was such a good idea. All three in one sitting? It was rough. Sitting on one spot for almost 4 hours at a time without moving is hard and hard on you.

But - the payoff. The Return of the King was about to start. No one reads a chapter of their book, and then returns a year later to read another chapter. Yet, that is what we had to do with these movies. This is not three movies, but one movie in three parts. The flow from beginning to end was well worth the hours and hours of sitting on my behind. Return of the King is simply amazing.

I am worried that I cannot do the film justice in explaining how wonderful this experience was. Time stood still as I watched the events of Frodo & Sam unfold on the screen. After watching this, I knew that these movies would be the greatest movies of this era. I know - big words - but they were backed up, big time.

I loved the fact that all three were made at the same time. All too often we get one movie that is amazing, only to see the franchise ruined by money and ego. Filming all three eliminated all that. The quality from the first would be the same over all three. No holdouts. No writers on strike. No salary demands. It made for three movies over three years that were unspoiled.

There is so much to contemplate and absorb in this movie. To tell you the actors did a great job would be an injustice and an insult to them. They weren't actors. When you spend three years of your life as someone, you become them. Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen. They didn't exist - Frodo, Sam, Gandalf and Aragorn do. It is the only way that I can explain the despair and burden in Frodo's eyes - that can't be acted, that has to be lived. Then I think about the joyful hobbit from Fellowship and where his journey has taken him and I am amazed.

Never once did I think of Gollum as someone who wasn't there. He is the first CGI character who isn't. You want fake, you want no substance? Don't watch this movie. Every person in this movie is full of emotion and purpose. Gollum is no exception. He is so complex - a mad creature torn between being Gollum and Smeagol. You have so many different emotions for him it's confounding. This is not CGI. I was also very grateful for Gimli not being the comedic oaf I found him to be in the second movie. The Extended Edition of The Two Towers helps correct this. So does the Return of the King. Yes, he has comedic moments, but they are not bumbling moments. He is someone to be taken seriously again, and I liked that.

Return of the King if full of battles. One ends and another starts that is even bigger than the last. Every battle has meaning and importance. There is no fighting just to have a fight. There is fighting to achieve, there is fighting to defeat the enemy to achieve the goal of destroying the ring. And what fights they are. Gladiator. Braveheart. Ben Hur. No, no and no. Nothing comes close to the choreographically perfect battles portrayed. You thought the battle at Helms Deep was impressive? That was nothing compared to the battle at Minas Tirith. The sight of the ohliphaunts and trolls and the dead army were spectacular. Although they still can't get Legolas to climb a CGI animal that looks real. However, it is entirely forgivable. The catapults hurling giant rocks and stones at each other, the battering ram and yet in the midst of all this gigantic turmoil the small personal moments between characters such as the poignant discussion on death between Gandalf and Pippin, are not lost. For every large battle there were smaller ones that were no less amazing. Frodo and Sam battling Shelob was just as intense and emotional as any grand battle. Sam in particular stepped up in this movie, proving that friendship, love and trust are just as powerful as any sword.

The ending was a nice wrap up of all the characters. I suppose you could say there were multiple ending points, but I think the story needed to be told until we learned the fate of Frodo and his best friend Sam. After all, it's really their movie.

I don't know how Peter Jackson pulled this off. I do not know how many times over he must have sold his soul to get this done. I do know that not one person complained when the movie ended. Everyone's ass must have been sore as hell, but no one complained. Everyone realized what they had just seen. This is the movie. No, this is the trilogy that defines epic. These movies define perfection. The bar has been raised pretty high. Who knows how long it will be until anyone comes this close again. I can't wait for the Extended Edition.
 

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