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The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

4. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Peter Jackson, 2003
Screenplay by Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh & Philippa Boyens based on the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien
Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen & Viggo Mortensen

"Certainty of death. Small chance of success. What are we waiting for?"

I really believe that this trilogy is the closest any film or series of films has gotten to manifesting the definition of that intangible idea known as "movie magic". There are countless other movies that have done one or two things superbly well; confined themselves to a concept or an aim - and all the better for it - that have become favourites of mine and, I'm sure, yours. But the Lord of the Rings series is the only one I've yet encountered that has everything yet doesn't try to do too much.

The majestic ensemble acting is the first thing that come to mind. In addition to the three "leads" listed up top, we have, and it's a long list:

Sean Astin, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, Sean Bean, Andy Serkis, Cate Blanchett, Billy Boyd, Bernard Hill, Ian Holm, Dominic Monaghan, John Noble, John Rhys-Davies, Liv Tyler, Karl Urban, Hugo Weaving, David Wenham, Brad Dourif and Miranda Otto...

...and there is not a single bad or even below-average showing. They are all consummate performances, however large or small, because they are all vitally important in creating this world.

"They had no honor in life. They have none now in death."

Visually, these films are among the most beautiful, the most brilliantly realised cinematic creations I have ever seen. Flawlessly shot and with magnificent art, set direction and costumes, again delivering a large part of what makes LOTR so engrossing and transporting. There's something wonderful about the look and feel of these films, mostly due, I think, to the meticulous attention to detail in how Middle Earth is presented to us on screen.

Finally, of course, these are films that leave very little behind thematically and in terms of story. There's so much that could be said here had I some more time, but suffice to say that I think it's absolutely miraculous that it manages to give the sufficient attention to each of its multitude of stories, that it covers so much ground thematically and emotionally, yet never feels overlong or even remotely boring or long-winded. Every battle scene is stirring and epic and each character's path brings stunning pathos.

There are an incredible amount of individual moments in Return of the King that are awe-inspiring on their own - Aaragorn, Legolas and Gimli's trip down the Paths of the Dead, Shelob's lair, the siege of Minas Tirith - it would be too difficult to name them all. The ending always gets me though. Some say it's dragged out but personally, I see a masterfully constructed finale that brings the experience to a close in superb fashion.