The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King

Directed by Peter Jackson Starring Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen Opened December 17, Cert 12A, 201 mins Now war is declared and battle come down. Armies are mustered, siege weapons unveiled and war elephants saddled. The forces of good line up for a mighty ruck, the outcome of which will dictate the fate of mankind. Hold the line chaps, and watch out for those elephants. The final part of Peter Jackson's Tolkien trilogy is already assured a record-breaking box office haul.

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Directed by Peter Jackson

Starring Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen

Opened December 17, Cert 12A, 201 mins

Now war is declared and battle come down. Armies are mustered, siege weapons unveiled and war elephants saddled. The forces of good line up for a mighty ruck, the outcome of which will dictate the fate of mankind. Hold the line chaps, and watch out for those elephants.

The final part of Peter Jackson’s Tolkien trilogy is already assured a record-breaking box office haul. The trilogy stands as a considerable achievement; a lovingly crafted, exhilarating series which has made that most reviled of genres?fantasy?palatable to millions.

But, but, but…

There are problems here. The first hour seems overly familiar, echoing many of the set-ups from The Two Towers. We get plucky hobbits Frodo and Sam, plus the shifty Gollum, schlepping across wastelands towards Mordor to destroy the One Ring; we get the men of Rohan saddling up and Riding Out (there is much Riding Out done here); we get another city under siege from Orcs. Even Jackson’s reverse tracking shots of the massed hoards of darkness?so impressive in The Two Towers?become tiresome.

Come the second hour and the pace quickens?you steel the gaze as battle is joined. Orlando Bloom’s elf warrior Legolas taking down a war elephant in a two-minute set-piece is jaw-dropping, and, frankly, the sight of Viggo Mortensen’s king-to-be Aragorn charging headfirst into the Orc front line is as stirring as it gets. The siege of Gondor, the last outpost of mankind, is as brutal and bloody as the assault on Helm’s Deep in The Two Towers: pure eye-popping action cinema.

Even outside the battles, Jackson keeps the plot moving briskly along, only slowing for rather irritating soft-focus shots of Liv Tyler looking mimsy and a series of schmaltzy endings. There’s a nifty prequel explaining Gollum’s origins, and a nasty incident with a giant spider halfway through which provides this movie’s water cooler moment.

It may not beat The Two Towers for sheer spectacle and thrill, but this is still some feat. Pass the axe, someone.

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