There is almost no use in viewing a movie, and merely minutes or hours afterwards rate what one have seen. It is easy to be affected by the first visual impact, and forget much else. When we rate a movie we do not only rate this visual impact, but also story, development, scenery, emotion, cinematography, effects, acting, and lots of other parameters. There has now been some time for me to ponder about my opinion on this movie, and compare it to other movies. I am very picky about them. In this review I will try to explain why this movie falls short, as does many other movies in the same category, and also explain why less is more.
The third installment of The Lords of the Ring, called The Return of the King, is the last movie in a trilogy, based on the books by J.R.R. Tolkien. Now, I would prefer to call this a movie based on characters created by Tolkien, because in an adaption of a book, no changes in story can really be made. As another reviewer put it, a director can choose freely in filming parts of a work by Shakespear, but it would be absolutely out of the question for the director to add scenes or change the story to his own liking. Could anyone imagine MacBeth being proclaimed the King of Ireland, and not order the killing of his best friend, just because a director thought it would be a tad nicer? Peter Jackson though, seem to have no problem in doing just that with the works of Tolkien.
Less is more. In The Return of the King, we are constantly being shown the obvious, in excess. Nothing is really left for the viewer to imagine for himself. The fall of evil (which by the way is a character we know almost nothing about) and the dark powers are shown with the explosion of a volcano, the crumbling of a tower and the utter cave-in of an entire domain. All this is obviously to state the already obvious - evil has fallen. Nothing is left for the viewers own imagination. I believe this is the real shortcoming of computer graphics. Since everything is possible to visualise, that is what is done. Back in the old days filmmakers had to rely on imagination, invention, and mere camerawork to create suspense. Nowadays we get all the readymade visuals rubbed in our faces. In great detail. One does no longer need imagination when going to the huge budget movies.
The acting is also one-, or at best, two-dimensional. The acting and actors are, in many cases, only used to make simple statements about the story. Everything is telegraphed in advance, from "this is an evil character", to "I am in doubt", and "He is brave". In clean-cut, simple storylines, there are simply no room for surprises. Even the good versus evil is reduced to good characters only doing good things, and evil characters evil things. In that way the viewer never have to think for himself. One never have to ponder the question "What is this persons true intentions?". I find this over-simplification of characters and acting dull. In The Return of the King, there are plenty of it.
Direction in this movie overuse slowmotion, close-ups, and special effects. One could liken this to a chef building towers of beautiful decorations and details on a dinner plate, but forgetting about the overall taste of the food. Many times, the most delicious and inspiring plate is the one with only a few ingredients, but cooked and served with care and skill. This is what differs Peter Jackson from great directors such as Fellini or Tornatore. Less is more.
The music score is also a disappointment. If one wants to create epic adventure movies, the music score is very important. In this case Return of the King falls short of movies like Star Wars and Indiana Jones where anyone can remember and even whistle the scores by heart, or the achievements and contributions to movies of composers like Ennio Morricone. They are great examples of when emotion is picked up and carried by the music. Even now, I cannot remember a single melody from The Return of the King. The music was drowned out by the overly use of special effects. Last time I saw this happen it was in the Matrix movies.
To come to a conclusion about this movie, it would be that it is a great movie in special effects and grand scenery, but apart from that it is like going to the nearest fast food restaurant to get ones belly stuffed. The only scene that really stuck with me was the lone song in the great hall while the riders set out to their doom. Actually it was the only true scene I can remember where some was left for the viewers own imagination.
A big budget and special effects does not automatically make a good movie.