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The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

Joe Sheppard



As I write this, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King has just received the award for the best ensemble cast from the Screen Actors Guild. With trophies from the Golden Globes and the Directors Guild (but not the BAFTAs), Peter Jackson seems on track to win his first Oscar™ for directing, which would be justice for the outstanding work he has done on the trilogy. While Fernando Meirelles probably did the best job as a director for scraping together a motley crew of Brazilian street kids to make the most visually stunning and emotionally powerful film with City of God, the Academy has never seemed to be above giving out statues to consistently good workers or studio favourites, rather than looking specifically at the films nominated. Based on the previous awards ceremonies, all punters have their money on LOTR, which has notched up eleven nominations.
But hang on – what happened to LOTR in 2002, when it was nominated for thirteen awards? The current eleven nominations, plus Andrew Lesnie (who won for best cinematography) and Ian McKellen (who didn’t win the best supporting actor award), resulted in only four Oscars. These aren’t minor awards, by any means, and when compared to the number of Oscar nominations for The Two Towers (a paltry five), the lists confirm my judgement that, like the Star Wars and Indiana Jones trilogies, the first Rings movie is the best, and the second the worst.
Which brings me to the other reason why I don’t think the LOTR will necessarily win the forecast awards: it’s not all that good really. Yes, the battle scenes are magnificent, and Gollum and Gandalf are as engaging as ever, but it’s far too long and ponderous, and the script reads like it was written by four people that weren’t talking to one another (and were probably busier with the bigger picture). Tolkien always had a gift for making the dialogue and characters not seem too much like they were from a Dungeons and Dragons game or a hefty Scandinavian saga, but I swear if I see Legolas look mysteriously to the sky and whisper some eerie premonition one more time, I’ll throw myself into Mt. Doom. Similarly, Frodo (who admittedly wasn’t the coolest cat in the book either) and Aragorn are hampered by a dearth of character, almost to the point of caricaturing themselves.
Judging from the current climate, it seems almost treasonous to criticise the final LOTR film, which is now officially critically acclaimed as well as remarkably popular (the second highest grossing film of all time, at the time of writing). I hope it wins as much as the next guy; I just don’t think that it should.
Director: Peter Jackson
Embassy, Rialto