Weary beyond words, Hobbit companions Frodo and Sam continue their journey to destroy the One Ring, with the sinister Gollum still their guide. The film opens interestingly with Gollum’s origin story, capturing his descent into depravity and madness, finding the ring in much the same manner in which he lost it. The ring has the power to affect it’s bearer, and not for good.
With the battle of Helm’s Deep over and Saruman’s power gone, the attention focuses on the capital of Gondor, Minas Tirith. There the race of men must make a last stand before the growing might of an unseen enemy, while those visible are more of a threat than ever. “The Return of the King” in it’s way is as much Aragorn’s story as it is Frodo’s; a reluctant noble struggling to find his destiny who comes to accept and eventually embrace it under the tutelage of the White Wizard Gandalf. The subtle subtext of Aragorn’s relationship with Lady Arwen of the Elven realm leads to his triumph with no illusions for Eowyn, establishing a noble grace and dignity for the new King.
Upon my second viewing of the entire trilogy, I was surprised at how my attention was continually drawn to the character of Samwise Gamgee, Frodo’s faithful companion. This in large part to the excellent portrayal by Sean Astin, showing a range of emotions throughout the film that proffered him as the most well developed character of the story. He’s a loyal friend through thick and thin, understanding clearly that by the journey’s near end, Frodo’s mind may no longer be his own.
Gimli is another character to keep a close eye on for the understated humor John Rhys-Davies brings to the story. The personal competition he began with Legolas (Orlando Bloom) in “The Two Towers” finds comic resonance here; as Legolas brings down a rampaging olyphant on the Pelennor Fields, Gimli tempers his congratulations with “That still only counts as one” – marvelous!
With the One Ring destroyed, so is Sauron’s awesome power, and a quest resolved for the fortunes of mankind. The film’s multiple endings encapsulate just as many feelings in the viewer, those of loyalty, honor, love, sacrifice and friendship. As a unit, the Lord of the Rings Trilogy stand as probably the ultimate in cinematic adventure to this point in time. Truly, I can only make one suggestion to make the series even more poignant, that for a film that reveals the discovery of the One Ring by Bilbo Baggins, the basis for the adventure that begins in “The Hobbit”.