leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh
The marathon conclusion to Peter Jackson's epic adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy trilogy is, like its predecessors, a spectacle of the first order. The balance of its 210-minute running time is weighted in favor of breathtaking battle sequences, but THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING (2001) and THE TWO TOWERS (2002) laid a firm foundation for the relationships that bind and divide the characters, and it's hard to imagine anyone going into this film without having seen its predecessors. As the story opens, the fellowship of humans and fantastic beings dedicated to ridding Middle Earth of the ring of power forged by the Dark Lord Sauron has been sundered. Human prince Boromir (Sean Bean) is dead, and gentle hobbits Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) are making their painful way to the blasted land of Mordor, where the ring was forged and where it can be destroyed. Their guide, the cringing, duplicitous Gollum (Andy Serkis), has kept his promise to lead them safely through dangerous lands, but Sam suspects the creature — which once possessed the ring and was warped, body and soul, by its malevolent influence — is plotting secretly to murder them and take it back. Fellow hobbits Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd) remain in the custody of a group of ancient, walking trees, while wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen), elfin archer Legolas (Orlando Bloom), belligerent dwarf Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) and dispossessed king Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), the rightful ruler of Gondor, are recovering in Rohan, where King Theoden (Bernard Hill) has just led his people to victory against Mordor's army of mutants, beasts and monsters at Helm's Deep. But Aragorn must unite the diverse people of Middle Earth against Mordor if its dark forces are to be beaten back. After Pippin and Merry are reunited with Aragorn's group, Gandalf and Pippin set off for Gondor's capital, Minas Tirith. There Gandalf finds that Denethor (John Noble), one of the line of stewards meant to mind Gondor's throne until the rightful king returns, has no intention of relinquishing his power. Meanwhile, Gollum shows his true colors, unjustly casting the loyal Sam in a bad light and then leading Frodo into the lair of a giant spider. Jackson wraps up the strands of Tolkien's complicated story with alacrity, and despite its length, the film only starts feeling as long at the end — or, more correctly, ends. Serious fans of the novels will be prepared for the serial codicils, but the uninitiated are likely to think the film is over several times before it actually is.