It’s one of the biggest Oscar mysteries – to me at least. When The Return of the King swept the ceremony was it being praised as the best of the trilogy or was the Academy simply rewarding the entire venture at once? Who knows?
It’s strange, even though the actual film only covers a few months it’s striking to note how much change occurs, and none more than in the Hobbits. The dirtiness of Sam and Frodo (Gollum can’t get any dirtier) is remarkable when we consider how sheltered the two were at the beginning of the journey. I like Elijah Wood, but for the life of me I often find myself bored with him. I’m not sure, though, if my issue is with him or Frodo because he’s really playing the part as well as it can be played. It’s no wonder that with his stoic reserve and Sam’s overanxious sidekick I end up more interested in the other two hobbits, even though they’re not the centre of the instalment. I’ll forever say that Boyd is the best of the four, and it’s in Minas Tirith where he shows it best. When we consider the childlike nature that Tolkien intends with the hobbits, no one brings it out as much as Boyd. Of course, that’s because of the craziness of Pippin but even silently as he takes that fateful look into the ball his mannerisms are childlike. His “maturing” is played realistically, and I always single out the entire Minis Tirith portion of the film as my favourite. John Noble is exquisite is a bit eerie as the troubled king and Boyd does an excellent job of balancing Pippin’s fear with his inquisitiveness.
I’m probably one of the few persons who don’t understand the anticlimactic claims put forward for this instalment (they should read the actual book for that). It fits with the concept of the story resting with the Hobbits, and Bilbo. It’s actually one of the deviations I particularly love. Even Wood seems to be feeling the moment, there’s a weird sort of serenity as he tells Sam goodbye (probably convection from Cate’s Galadriel). It really is about the hobbits, though. When I think of The Return of the King the first image that pops into my head is this one:
Sure, Jackson is not exactly subtle – but sometimes a little bit of blatancy works and in a way in reminds of the first step they took beginning the journey since way back when.
It’s true, The Return of the King is very epilogue-ish, but if it’s an epilogue it’s one hell of an epilogue. It does make me conscious that the appreciation for it, and perhaps the whole series is probably more fanatical and less serious than I’d care to note – but since I began making this list last year and I realised the quandary I’d be in I knew that this was going to be a list of favourites and not best…and you will remember, I want to ban that word from the dictionary nonetheless.