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NESP Reviews


The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Theatrical Release

Directed by Peter Jackson

Review by Alfta Svanni Lothursdottir

        Anyone who enjoys going to see a movie, will know what I speak of when I talk of the "movie-going experience," which I will call, simply, the experience. It is a rather risky business at the best of times, because there is no way to tell if the experience will be a good one or not. You do not know if you will get a rude and annoying person sitting right behind who thinks he is Howard Cossell and must grace you, and the rest of the audience, with a running commentary on the movie. You do not now if the movie itself will be any good. A number of other factors go into the mix, but when it is a good experience, it is good indeed. A few of these good experiences approach being nearly spiritual. It is these experiences that are the measure for all other movies you see. Then there is that one experience. It surpasses all the others, and all other movies are measured against that movie, and either fall short of it or perhaps even approach it. It is unlikely it will ever be equaled.
        I have had a few of those experiences, in my time. There was the time I saw the first Jurassic Park on opening night with an SDDS sound system and was nearly blasted out of my seat when the Tyrannosaurus Rex roared. When I saw the first Lord of the Rings movie, it took its place as the ultimate experience in movie-going and I was doubtful it would ever be topped. Last night it was topped.
        How does one put such an experience into words? I am sure whatever talent with words, that I may have, will be insufficient, but I shall try nonetheless. What I saw last night was nothing short of pure brilliance in filmmaking. Before I continue this review, if you have not seen the movie or have not read the books, I would suggest seeing the movie before reading the rest of this review. If you need a recommendation, then here it is. GO SEE IT!
        When asked what kind of movie ROTK (Return of the King) is, many might be tempted to give the patent and generic answer, "It is a movie about dragons, hobbits, magic and other fantastic creatures, you know, a fantasy movie." Such a description would fall far short of the reality. This is not a movie about hobbits, though there are hobbits in it. This is not a movie about dragons, though there are dragons in it. This is not a movie about magic, though there is magic in it. This is a movie about a long lost ethic and world-view that, nevertheless, is reawakening again (and that is a subject for another article.) This is a movie about ideals that men once had, and that they need to have once again. It is a movie about loyalty to friend and lord; about the grim consequences of oaths not kept, and the honor of those who live without fear. It is a movie about the venom that greed and fear are, and how they eat a hole in one's heart until there is nothing left but an empty, pathetic shell. It is a movie about men and women who do what is needed, not because they want to, but because it is required of them. Why is it required? It is required, not because someone is making them, but because of their love of kin and clan. They put themselves in harm's way for love of family, friends and homeland. That is what this movie is about.
        You will not be disappointed if you want to see some amazing special affects. nor will you be disappointed if you want to see some amazing battle scenes. As great as these aspects of the movie are (and they are the best I have ever seen), they pale in comparison to the emotion and pure love in which the ideals present in Tolkien's work (which we contend has deep roots in the ethic and world-view the North) are presented. Some of the best scenes in the movie are not the great battle scenes, but those very simple scenes where a character must make that choice that lies between fear and courage.
        One of the major themes in this movie are the results of swearing an oath. The oath is a Holy affair in Heithni and it is presented as such here. The grim aspects of breaking an oath, are seen in the betrayers of Isildur who are cursed never to rest because they did not fulfill their oaths. It is only when they finally fulfill them, that they are allowed rest. The affects of a foolish oath are seen when Pipin swears an oath to the gluttonous Denethor. Pipin must sing a song while Denethor greedily stuffs his face, while at the same time, his son, Faramir rides to certain death on his orders. But more than these negative examples there are the examples of oaths kept and loyalty held.
        An interesting scene occurs when the Rohirrim are preparing for their great charge at Minas Tirith. Here we see an example of the Northern concept of hamingja. Hamingja was a quality that only leaders possessed and were able to pass on to their followers in times of need. It is commonly translated as luck, but that does not really explain the quality. It is a quality of being able to do things that others cannot do. It is a quality of being able to take advantage of the moment. In the Northern world-view, a chieftain or leader, could pass this hamingja to his followers, and in effect, loan it out. When preparing for their great charge, Theoden rides the length of the lines holding his sword up and allowing it to hit each rider's spear as he rides by. What he is doing here is imparting his hamingja to his warriors. This is an example of a very old Heithinn practice, and it was quite surprising to see it. The charge itself was inspiring. Thousands of Rohirrim charging a vastly larger number of orcs, is one of the high points of the movie.
        It is during this part of the battle that Theoden has his chance to reclaim his honor, when the charge of the oliphaunts occurs. In the Two Towers, he feels his honor was diminished because of his moment of weakness near the end of the battle of Helm's Deep, in which Aragorn is able to snap him out of it, just in time. The Rohirrim cannot hope to fight against such massive beasts but Theoden regroups his riders and charges them anyway. He is eventually dealt his death-blow by the witch-king but before he dies, he expressed the most Heithinn of sentiments, when he says that he has regained his honor and can go to the halls of his fathers proudly now.
        Aragorn, as he is presented throughout the trilogy and especially in this film, is the perfect example of a Heithinn chieftain. Modest, courteous and unflinchingly courageous. The examples of courage and loyalty in this movie abound and are played perfectly by the actors. There is Eowyn, the perfect example of a shield-maiden, who faces down the witch-king and his dragon. There are Merry and Pipin, who both participate in the battle, and perhaps more than any other character, there is Sam. His courage and devotion to his friend are unparalleled.
        I could go on, but it would be better if you just go and see the movie for yourself. There is so much heart and genuine emotion in this movie that even men in the audience could be seen with a tear in their eyes. The Lord of the Rings takes its place as the ultimate movie-going experience for me. If you liked the other two movies, I would be willing to bet it will be the same for you.

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