Is “Return of the King” the greatest film of all time?

returnoftheking.jpgI have to admit that I have a habit of exaggerating things sometimes, especially when it comes to film. However, walking away from Return of the King left me with that feeling you get when you know you’ve just witnessed something very special that will be talked about for decades to come. I sat and thought about it for a little while and I just couldn’t escape from the idea that I had just watched, what is in my personal opinion, the greatest achievement in film making in the history of motion pictures. I believe this for 3 main reasons: 1) Moving storytelling, 2) Superb direction and acting and 3) Astonishing and appropriate usage of the modern technologies of visual effects.

I have personally never seen a story so masterfully told as Return of the King. The pace, the characters, the conflict, the love, the heroism, the bravery, the frailty, the victories, the defeats, the loss, the tragedy, the friendship, the loyalty, the strength and the weakness all told with a deep humanity that relentlessly pulls you along for the journey. The story is both complex yet simple at the same time. Moving from character to character and scene to scene the story progresses the way one could imagine telling a tale around a fireplace on a cold night. It never rushes. It never slows. It just moves along allowing you to soak in what has happened without making you wait for what happens next.

WARNING: SOME SPOILERS IN THE NEXT 2 PARAGRAPHS

The best thing one could say about a story is that it makes you “feel it”. You feel the tragedy when Theoden falls. You feel it when Merry and Pippin are reunited. You feel it when Aragorn takes up sword of the King. You feel it when Sam is pushed away by Frodo. You feel the hope and the hopelessness, the disappointment and the excitement. Near the end I could feel tears in my eyes as King Aragorn, Gandalf, Gimli, Legolas and the entire city of Gondor dropped to one knee and bowed to 4 small hobbits.

I’ve always hated it when great movies just suddenly end. The bad guy dies and the credits roll. Return of the King doesn’t do that. When Sauron is defeated the story goes on for about another 20 minutes showing us the Crowning of Aragorn as King, the Hobbits returning to the Shire and Frodo, Bilbo and Gandalf accompanying the Elves in their ships to the west. The story reminds us of what it is the characters have been fighting for and often dying for. It was a beautiful and perfect ending.

The direction and performances of the actors was phenomenal. I just can’t say enough about Sean Astin as Samwise. I think it would be a real shame if he’s overlooked for best supporting actor when the Oscars roll around. Peter Jackson absolutely MUST win for best director. The way he guided us and the actors through the story was nothing short of inspirational. Unlike the recent Star Wars films which often had its wonderful story cluttered with poor direction and acting, Return of the King bleeds all the direction and actors into itself in a breathtaking way that I have never before seen accomplished.

Many films today try to make the special effects the star of the show (ie Star Wars, Matrix, Star Ship Troopers ect.). Return of the King never does this. Although it is the single greatest accomplishment in visual effects in the history of film, the effects are never there for their own sake. They play their part like another actor in the film, only used in such a way to tell the story… nothing more.

The most wonderful thing about film is the pure subjectivity of it. I’m sure many of you will think I’m totally out to lunch with my review. That’s fair. But it is nonetheless what I felt. So, while many people will have many different opinions of Return of the King, the following statement is undeniably true:

“The Return of the King is the single greatest motion picture that I have ever seen.”
John Campea

Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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