All hail the king!
By Lady Liberty
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
**** out of ****
One year ago, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King won the Oscar for Best Picture. I can't recall being so delighted with an award in some years. Its popularity alone I thought might skew its chances; certainly, the fact that none of its actors were nominated for awards (a significant oversight, I think, where Viggo Mortenson and Sean Astin are concerned) didn't help its viability. And yet the Academy voted rightly anyway, and the best film of the year (of several years, I think!) actually won the award it so richly deserved. In the event you're still wondering: yes, I liked The Lord of The Rings: The Return of the King quite a bit.
On this year's Oscar weekend, there was quite frankly nothing in my local theatres that was calling me to see it (ironic, on this weekend of all weekends). But there was a beautiful new package of DVDs on my coffee table (courtesy of a Christmas gift from my sister), and it seemed to me that it was a singularly suitable time to sit down and enjoy—again—The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. And so that's what I did.
One of the joys of this Special Edition DVD set is the fact that 50 minutes of original footage has been restored to the movie. Now when you consider that the theatrical release was a butt-numbing three and a half hours long, you've got to wonder just how important those 50 minutes could possibly have been to the movie itself. That's one reason I sat down to watch the DVD with a list in hand of the new and extended scenes so as to more accurately compare the two versions. And now, having seen this longer cut of the film, I have to say that the movie's Oscar for film editing was even more deserved even than I'd thought at the time! With very few exceptions (perhaps a couple of minutes at most), the added footage is relevant and as flawlessly rendered as is the rest of the film. It even added some insight into a few characters that I consider important and which added to the impact of later scenes in the film (the last scenes of the movie are unaltered from the theatrical version).
The "extras" in this DVD set are as impressive as the movie itself. Two full DVDs offer such delights as the transition from epic book series to epic script; the creation of the sets of Middle Earth; designing the costumes and the species inhabiting the world of Lord of the Rings; interviews and commentaries; and much, much more. Whether you're a fan of Tolkien's stories, a film afficianado, or both, the extended edition of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is unquestionably the way to go.
As far as the movie itself is concerned, I have to say that it wears well. I'm not one of those people who can watch just any movie more than once. Considering the very real movie fan I am, you'd likely be surprised at how few movies I actually own. I'm very selective largely because I don't want to waste the money on a DVD that will collect dust on a shelf. Once I know a story's twists and turns and how everything turns out, I'm not typically inclined to read the book or see the movie again, particularly since there are so many books and movies I've not yet read or seen. But in this repeat viewing of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, I still found my heart rate speeding up for battles, and my heart breaking for scenes of love and friendship. And although I'd hoped I might be able to spend some time watching sets and backgrounds for new revelations and finishing touches I'd previously been too engrossed to see, that didn't happen. You guessed it: I was too engrossed yet again to pay attention to peripheral things.
The Special Extended DVD Edition of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is significantly more expensive than the original DVD release of the movie, which seems fair since it includes quite a bit more material. It's also worth every penny of whatever you have to pay for it. Whatever film ends up winning this year's Oscar, and no matter how deserving it might be (or not—see my Oscar picks), there's been nothing since The Return of the King that approaches its impact, scope, or sheer movie-making brilliance. The DVD for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King gets the same high praise and rating from me that the original release did, not least because it's so deserving of repeat viewings. The extras, nice as they are, are just some very sweet icing on an already incredibly satisfying cake.
POLITICAL NOTES: There are some interesting comparisons between the entire Lord of the Rings series and present-day real world politics. There are so many, in fact, that I wrote an entire editorial commentary about them.
FAMILY SUITABILITY: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King was rated PG-13 for "intense epic battle sequences and frightening images." The new material added to the film is unrated. There's still no sex, nudity, or foul language in the film, but some of the additional footage does involve more graphically detailed battle scenes. Fantasy it may be, but The Lord of the Rings is no fairy tale, and it's unsuitable for young children in both its horror and its complexity. With the exception of those under the age of 13 or 14, however, I recommend all of The Lord of the Rings movies to everyone. Each is brilliant, the conclusion of the trilogy most of all.
Lady Liberty is a graphic designer and pro-freedom activist currently residing in the Midwest. More of her writings and other political and educational information is available on her web site, Lady Liberty's Constitution Clearing House, at http://www.ladylibrty.com. E-mail Lady Liberty at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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