The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

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(2003) ★★★★★

Sky Movies Showcase: Wednesday 26 August, 4.40pm

Each treacherous step towards Mount Doom takes stout-hearted Hobbits Frodo and Sam closer to fulfilling the destiny of the Ring. Gollum’s got other ideas, of course, and Aragorn’s depleted army is outnumbered as it prepares to face the might of Sauron’s dark forces at Minas Tirith. Gandalf alone knows that the time has come for all the pieces to fall into place. The magnificent conclusion to Tolkien’s Ring trilogy confirmed New Zealand film-maker Peter Jackson’s place in the movie world’s scheme of things. And that would be: second to no one.

The triumphant Rings trilogy is quite simply one of cinema’s greatest achievements. Under Jackson’s obsessive and sympathetic gaze, its figures of folklore assume the grandeur of myth. If it seems to have several too many endings, that’s simply because – from explosive beginning to elegiac epilogue – Jackson remains steadfastly true to the essence of Tolkien’s epic vision. Why the Academy waited until its conclusion to festoon Jackson with Oscars is something for them to ponder. They got it right in the end. Jackson had it sussed from the beginning. Even so, it’s rare for eleven Oscars to be given to one film.

When The Return of the King was so belatedly honoured at the 2003 Academy Awards, it equalled a record held jointly only by Ben-Hur (1959) and Titanic (1997). But Jackson’s film set a record of its own – it is the only film to win all eleven of its nominations. Ben-Hur failed to win Best Script, while Titanic missed out on its three other nods – none of which, funnily enough, were for James Cameron’s screenplay. (Bafta got it about right with Titanic – it didn’t give it anything.)

All told, the Rings trilogy earned 30 Oscar nominations – two more than The Godfather films, nine more than the Star Wars series, and 26 more than the James Bond movies. Nobody’s done it better… ever. After dealing so adroitly with ‘the unfilmable’, Jackson turned to the unthinkable – a remake of King Kong. And the wonder of it is that he didn’t bellyflop off the Empire State Building.

Certificate: 12
Duration: 192min

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