I cannot justify delaying the ranking of this film any longer. I realise that this film is often heralded as the greatest film of the last decade, and it did achieve both commercial and critical success, but it’s not one of the greatest Best Picture winners ever.
‘The Return of the King’ is the final part of the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy, and it’s difficult to review one without reviewing them all. The story is a faithful adaptation of Tolkien’s novel about a fellowship of nine folk (a mixture of 4 hobbits, 2 men, a dwarf, an elf and a wizard) who need to destroy a ring in order to prevent the evil lord from taking over Middle Earth. This is a very abridged synopsis for a ten hour trilogy which is to be expected!
‘The Lord of the Rings’ succeeds where many fantasy films fail. It is a brilliant story. The story of Middle Earth is complex with many interwoven stories. It resists taking a linear form and the characters, whilst often basic are all relevant to the story and you rarely feel that your time is being wasted with irrelevant details.
The film is mainly a success on a technical level. The film won all of the eleven awards that it was nominated for, but bizarrely it did not receive a nomination for cinematography, and the cinematography is simply beautiful. From wonderful sweeping vistas of Middle Earth (filmed in New Zealand), to the close up shots: every scene is beautiful and nobody could surely deny that. I am no expert on awards like sound and editing, but I gather that this film was pretty much groundbreaking in all these categories.
There are two reasons why this film doesn’t really make a great film for me. The first thing is the ending. After three hours of wonderful story we are subjected to an epilogue section which drags, really drags. It’s totally unnecessary and could have been done much quicker and in a much more effective way. This does not bother me too much. I can stop the film before the end.
The second reason is much more serious. The acting is the worst in any Best Picture winner. Some films rely totally on acting and some do not. There are very serious parts in ‘The Return of the King’ that are totally ruined by over the top and, to be honest, hideous acting. The worst culprits of this are Sean Austin as Sam and Orlando Bloom as Legolas. It makes it worst that the film features Ian McKellan who is faultless throughout. Next to him the acting all seems totally brittle and the characters unbelievable. There are a few scenes between Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Austin’s Sam where deep friendship is meant to be portrayed and they act like lovers. This is a massive problem with this film.
Everyone should see this trilogy as it is a spectacular set of films, but do not expect to see high quality method acting here.