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A masterpiece fit for a ‘King’

REEL CRITIC

David Silva of Burbank is a Times Community News editor. He can be

reached at david.silva@latimes.com.

It seems almost unfair to judge the “The Lord of the Rings: The

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Return of the King” on its own merits. Certainly, it’s a great film,

one of the most visually stunning and emotionally satisfying movies

I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a lot of movies.

But it feels a bit wrong to critique it as a stand-alone piece of

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cinema because, in the truest sense, it isn’t. Director Peter Jackson

never intended for his “Ring” trilogy to be appreciated as separate

works, just as author J.R.R. Tolkien never intended “The Lord of the

Rings” to be three separate books.

“The Return of the King” is, above all, the third and final act of

a single, grand adventure. Jackson said in a recent interview that

while waiting to see the second or third film, theatergoers should

try to imagine that the projectionist is merely changing reels. All

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told, there is only one “Lord of the Rings.” One film to rule them

all.

Nevertheless, “The Return of the King” is magnificent. From its

opening sequence depicting the downfall of the river hobbit Smeagol

and the birth of the creature Gollum, to the apocalyptic battle of

the Pelennor Fields, to the fiery chasm of Mount Doom and beyond,

this film takes hold of you like no other. It took hold of me, and

I’m still waiting for it to let go.

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If “The Fellowship of the Ring” will be remembered for its

dazzling beauty and the “The Two Towers” for its dizzying action,

“The Return of the King” will be remembered for its sheer nobility.

It is brimming over with heroes, some so pure of character their

actions tear at the heart. The hobbit Frodo (Elijah Wood) is nothing

less than heroic sacrifice personified, and his struggles could not

resonate so strongly were we living in less warlike times. When the

warrior Faramir (David Wenham) proves he would ride into the gates of

ruin to honor his father (John Noble, positively unnerving in his

role as an unhinged ruler), it is a lesson in filial duty almost too

powerful to take.

The film abounds with great performances, and perhaps the

strongest comes from the most unlikely of sources. With his portrayal

of the valiant and loyal Samwise Gamgee, Sean Astin has at last shown

he is every bit the actor of his legendary parents, John Astin and

Patty Duke. In a role everyone expected to be pivotal but

second-tier, Sean Astin almost steals the film.

With “The Return of the King,” Director Jackson and company have

not simply given us the greatest film trilogy of our time, but one of

the best films of all time. It is a new masterpiece for the ages.

“The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” is rated PG-13 for

intense epic battle sequences and frightening images.


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