Tuesday, December 11, 2007

THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING (Altlantis Alliance 2003) Alliance Home Entertainment


Although it remains the only time in Oscar history that a final installment of any trilogy has been the recipient of the Best Picture statuette – and ten additional awards - The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) is a convoluted mess of untidy plot entanglements – hold-overs and leftovers from the first and second installments of this series that director Peter Jackson weaves into his final chapter in the cinematic adaptation of J.R.R. Tolken’s literary masterwork.

Beginning with Frodo’s (Elijah Wood) capture and – yet again, and near death experience - this time at the talons of a gargantuan spider, this finale degenerates into familiar territory already explored in the first and second installments. Frodo’s demise is thwarted by his ever loyal traveling companion, Sam (Sean Aston) who instructs that the ring must be returned to the fires of Mordor at all costs in order to spare the world from great evil.

But Frodo – whose heart thus far has always remains pure – has begun to be seduced by the ring’s dark side; his mind in constant conflict over what to do next. It doesn’t help matters any that Gollum (voiced by Andy Serkis) is ever-taunting him with an insatiable thirst for “my precious.”

Meanwhile, an equally drawn out, technically proficient, but otherwise laborious battle sequence is taking place with the other valiant crusaders; Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Boromir (Sean Bean) and Legolas (Orlando Bloom); this time staged at the gates of Mordor overseen by Sarumon (Christopher Lee – oddly absent from theatrical release, but present and accounted for in the director’s cut).

Beyond the spectacle of mind-numbing special effects, director Jackson and his narrative emerge more troubled than ever within a rapid succession of layered endings that fade to black but continue to outlive their welcome long after the average audience attendee’s attention span has been severely exhausted.

What is commendable about Jackson’s mammoth undertaking is the sheer size of the project and the considerable amount of narrative content he manages to cover – or that is, squeeze in. Though large portions of the epic sets exist only inside computer generated templates from which blue screen trick photography and matte process work is exhaustively utilized, there are enough tangible assets to make this last installment mildly impressive and compelling on an emotional level.

Clearly, the Academy thought so. The question however remains for the ages: where does the greatness in Jackson’s vision ultimately end within the cinema firmament? Only time will tell.

Alliance Atlantis DVD transfer exhibit exemplary quality. Available separately or together, in both full screen and widescreen 2-disc theatrical cuts and extended director cuts, the director's cuts are not so much a revelation as they merely add length to the already lengthy excursion.The stylized picture exhibits a refined clarity that is quite stunning. Colors are fully saturated and bold. Blacks are deep and velvety. Whites are pristine.

Occasionally, edge enhancement crops up – particularly midway through the first film, but its distraction is brief.The audio on all films is 5.1 Dolby Digital and delivers a powerful spread across all five channels. Extras include extensive featurettes covering every aspect of each film’s production, interviews with cast members, intimate critiques of Tolken’s works, special effects deconstruction, a shameless promo for the video game equivalent and the film’s original theatrical trailer.

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)



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