Barbara is a professional movie critic in Germany. She sent this great review in – some spoilers here in that it really does pick out some of the best bits. But most importantly, her overall impression is emotionally charged admiration and pleasure in the achievement.
The Return of the King
“I’ve been writing movie reviews for thirteen years now. Never before have I sat in a theater with my heart pounding in my ears as the lights went down. So it’s no use denying that I went to see The Return of the King” hoping that I’d like it. And, oh, I did. While in The Two Towers” Peter Jackson faced — and mastered — the task of continuing a storyline split in three, he now has to follow an even greater number of threads that do not all lead to the one end as the fates of over a dozen main players unfold. More overshadowed than guided by the twisted creature Gollum, Frodo and Sam carry the Ring of Power into Mordor, hoping against hope to destroy it. At the same time, another battle awaits their former companions. Gandalf the wizard and Aragorn, heir to the throne of Gondor, once more call the world of men to arms to ward off the final attack of the evil Lord of Mordor. This battle for Gondor is not only one of the turning points that define the future of the men of Middle Earth, it is also the great canvas on which much smaller fates are painted. As promised by the Lady Galadriel much earlier in the trilogy, it is here that the remaining Hobbits Pippin and Merry find their place in the story, it is here that the unhappy Eowyn shows her true merit — it is here that mass action and singled-out faces find their perfect balance.
“Yes, there are quibbles. The film takes some time to find its pace — time it would dearly need later on, when only those who have read the books can guess how Eowyn and Faramir end up where they do. The ghost army doesn’t look nearly as tormented as I’d imagined it. There is the sad matter of the missing, magic-voiced Saruman. (And the German translation, which I saw, is often unnecessarily clumsy, not to mention the fact that not for the first time, some of Jackson’s Wagnerian imagery stirs uneasy historical memories in the German mind.) But they don’t really matter, and if anything, they whet the viewer’s appetite for the extended DVD version. What they cannot touch is the powerful vision that underlies it all, a vision that once more captures the essence, if not all the details of the book, turning its words into cinematic moments of the unforgettable kind. The beacon fires of Gondor calling for Rohan’s help. The Steward of Gondor feasting at his table as his son Faramir rides to meet his death on the Pelennor and Pippin’s voice accompanies him in a simple lament. Aragorn sending his men into one last fight, not for honor, not for Gondor — but for Frodo.
“So, this is the long-awaited third film after which no other will follow, a much anticipated event that is also a farewell. And Peter Jackson takes his time to conclude not only Return” but the whole trilogy with it, to let the homecoming Hobbits experience a sense of loss that may well express what the filmmakers felt at the time the shooting drew to a close, and what many viewers may assume to feel as the credits start to roll. But this is the point where The Return of the King” has one last surprise in store for you, because Jackson does not send you home feeling sad. As the lights go on again, the unexpected feeling that prevails is joy.”