25 December 2003 | bob the moo
My objective and unhyped view? Stunning. Simply stunning.
Frodo and Sam continue their quest to destroy the ring, led by the untrustworthy Gollum. Meanwhile the rest of the Fellowship prepare for another battle to hold a human city against an onslaught of orcs.
If you check my other reviews you will note that I wasn't a massive fan of the first two films - I loved them, but was not blind to their faults. However, let me just lay my cards out here, I was totally blown away by this film. For the vast majority (and more of that later) the narrative flowed really well where the other two films had struggled to really keep consistent. Here the various strands work well together and, while characters have only brief times to tell stories, on the whole it manages it well. I got the feeling that the film really let rip - it knew this was the ending and it did feel that everything came together in a collection of noise and energy which really made it feel like the final part of a trilogy rather than just a stand alone film.
The one area where the film really stutters (and actually caused people to leave the cinema in annoying numbers) is ironically the place where Jackson is true to the book, and that's the final 20 minutes. There is a clear scene where the film ends, however it then runs for another 20 minutes - which is a mix of scenes that all fade out like they were the end. To Joe Public (ie me!) I would have been happy not to have all the loose ends tied up in the way the book does it - the film should have ended on a high (with the King being crowned etc) but instead it seems to crawl to an end in a way that is not in line with the momentum of the film (if not the whole trilogy!) This problem is minor on the grand scheme of things, but I would rather have left the cinema on my high than be made to wonder `when's this ending? Is this the end now? Oh, maybe this is it now?' - but I do understand why it was done this way.
The cast, as they have been all the way, are excellent. Wood's Frodo changes well during this film while Astin is touching in his portrayal of unerring friendship. Bloom and Rhys-Davis had less to do but came into their own during the battle scenes - adding both action and the odd comic touch (`that still counts as one' being accepted by the audience as a chance to break the tension). Mortensen is the title character and serves it well, with McKellen also continuing his strong role. I could list through the whole cast but I will stick with noting two things. Firstly, both Monaghan and Boyd had bigger and more meaningful roles and rose to them well. Secondly I continue with my belief from the second film that Serkis is the stand out actor of the trilogy. His Gollum is so much more than an effect - he is tragic, fearsome, hateful and funny. Praise of course goes to the special effects for making this character tell so much with an expression but to pretend that the work of the actor is secondary to the character (as opposed the look) is foolish. He deserved one for Two Towers so I hope an Oscar goes his way. It was a shame to not have screen time for Lee but the film works well without him and it was a brave move by the editors.
The special effects do not stand out - and that's a compliment. Even in state of the art movies of late I have been aware that I could be watching a video game. Here I only occasionally noticed that things were clear computer effects, even though the majority of the film was! This is how they SHOULD be used - not as a draw in their own right but as part of the film. Whether it be the massive battle scenes that are spectacular or the animated spider or just the fact that I forget that Gollum is only an effect, I cannot fault it's use of effects or the sheer visual feast that is this film.
I have tried not to gush because there will be plenty of others to do that without me joining them, but it is hard to really fault this film. It is the strongest of the trilogy and brings it all together really well, it is an emotional event more than a film and, if Jackson needs 20 minutes of slow closure to finish it to his satisfaction then I can give him that in return for all the hours of wonderful cinema that he has given me.