The Return of the King

“I will not say: Do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.”

J.R.R. Tolkien

SPOILER ALERT! THIS REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS.

I hadn’t seen the Extended Edition of The Return of the King before, so watching this was like seeing a whole new film.

There may come a day when the strength of men fails…

Well, not quite. But close enough.

…but it is not this day!

In the third and final instalment of the Lord of the Rings films, Frodo, Sam and Gollum close in upon Mount Doom as the armies of Mordor approach Minas Tirith, final bastion of Light upon the shoulders of Darkness. Will Rohan ride to the city’s aid? Will Faramir, captain of Gondor, keep the Orcs from the gate long enough to get vital reinforcements? Will Gollum/Smeagol murder Frodo and Sam in their sleep? And the most vital question of all: who gets to marry Aragorn?

You shall not touch him again!

Gods, I love this film. Sure, it is three and a half hours, and a bit of a tall order after the endless battle scene that is Two Towers. But, truly, it is epic, and very, very faithful to the original – especially the Extended Edition, which, to my delight, featured one of the most stirring scenes of the book:

Look! The king has got his crown again…

What am I talking about. The whole thing, especially the last hour or so, is stirring. It’s one weep-fest after another: the endless march across Mordor and the battle of the Witch-king upon the Pelennor and the sailing of the last ship and the last stand before the Morannon and the betrayal of Gollum and the coronation at Minas Tirith and, oh, the horns of Rohan in the morning!

I am no man!

As an ending to nine or ten hours of film, it’s simply perfect. Because Jackson, like Tolkien, can’t let go of his characters, there are about six different endings –

I am glad you are here with me, Sam, here at the end of all things.

 – and so it just builds and builds until, finally, Sam returns to the Shire (I’ve always thought it nice that the story ends with Sam) and the credits roll and Annie Lennox sings “Into the West” (one of the loveliest songs ever written), and, finally, you have to turn the screen off –

Ride now! Ride to ruin and the world’s ending!

 – and everything goes quiet and everyone feels a little grumpy and no-one really wants to say anything because that would break the spell. If Jackson doesn’t want to leave his characters, then neither do we.

My friends, you bow to no-one.

Oh, but Jackson does appear to have a bit of a nasty streak. I mean, the mind that could come up with the Mouth of Sauron is not one you’d necessarily want to go to the pub with. I’m quite sure Tolkien would never in a million years have come up with that.

That’s for Frodo! That’s for the Shire! And that’s for my old gaffer!

Reading this back, I realise it’s not actually very informative. But I can’t write about Return of the King without wittering. All I can say is: Go watch it. You know you want to.

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