Well my friends, I stayed up all night on Tuesday, Dec. 16th to see The Return of the King at midnight. I went to sleep at 4 a.m., woke up at 11 a.m., lurched into lab around 2 p.m. and little work was done. But boy, was it worth it!
Unfortunately my husband, who has a real job, was unable to attend so that means I get to see the movie at least two more times. Yay!
Let me begin the review by saying that those that haven't read the books and even Tolkien purists (like myself) will enjoy this movie (given you've seen the first two). The acting is superb, the cinematography and special effects are stunning, and there's plenty of action for the guys and some romance for the ladies (there could have been more, see below).
MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW!!!! I WARNED YOU!!!
The movie starts out with Smeagol and Deagol fishing in a boat. Deagol finds the Ring by chance and Smeagol kills him to get it for himself. We see the physical and mental transformation of Smeagol into Gollum over th 500 years he has the ring. Gollum is twice as evil in this movie as in TTT as he leads Frodo to the gluttonous spider Shelob. I really think Andy Serkis deserves some recognition for his superb work. Sean Austin and Elijah Wood are also excellent in their depiction of Sam's fierce protectiveness and Frodo's exhausted determination to destroy the ring.
We then pick up the story with Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas, and Gandalf arriving at Isengard. The fellowship splits up again after Pippin looks into Saruman's palantir, and he and Gandalf rush off to Minas Tirith. The Rohirrim gather their forces to journey to fight the armies of Sauron at Minas Tirith. Aragorn receives his sword Anduril (Narsil reforged) from Elrond and decides to follow the paths of the Dead to recruit an army of spirits that are in debt to the heir of Isildur for desertion.
I love the depiction of Eowyn's character by Miranda Otto. She goes from joy to complete despair and then the flatness of depression as she discovers that Aragorn doesn't love her. She disguises herself and rides to war with Merry. She kicks major butt in the battle of Pellenor Fields as she takes down an oliphant and the Witch King.
Unfortunately, two of my favorite scenes involving Eowyn were cut. The first is the scene where Eomer discovers that both Theoden and Eowyn are dead (he thinks). I saw this scene in the trailer and the depiction of Eomer's grief as he hold is sister is heart-rending. I don't know why it was cut because it's one of the most emotional scenes in the book.
After the battle, the scenes in the House of Healing are also cut out and we go right to the scene where Aragorn decides to take their armies to the Black Gate. It's a little disjointed because we don't know what happens to Eowyn or Faramir. We just see her at the end with Faramir, but we don't know how they get together. All I can say is that BOTH of these scenes had better be in the extended version, or I will be most seriously displeased!
The rest of the movie is pretty true to the book except the plundering of the Shire and the death of Saruman are not depicted. I expect to see more of Saruman in the extended version.
The battle at Pellenor Fields is awesome, but at times too busy to see all that's going on. Perhaps Jackson wanted to give the audience the same sense of frantic helplessness that the warriors probably felt as their comrades are falling by the hundreds around them.
I know how the book (and thus the movie) ends but at times I was wondering how are the characters going to make it through all this.
One final comment: do not drink a Mr. Pibb (don't tell my bishop) an hour or two before the movie even if you think you need it to stay awake! Towards the end, I didn't know if I would make it to the end. The ending is quite drawn out, but I think it works well.
On a scale of 1-10 (10 being the highest), I'd give ROTK a 9. I'm docking a point for leaving out my two favorite scenes. If it were up to me, I'd give ROTK the Oscar for best picture, Miranda Otto for best supporting actress, and Sean Astin or Andy Serkis best supporting actor. But it's not, so some lame artsy fartsy movie will probably get all the honors. Humph!