When I got word that I’d be talking with producer Barrie Osborne, I didn’t have to think twice about the first thing I wanted to ask him. Taking on the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy was something that no one had done before, so what prepares you for it? Then, of course, when we could expect Peter Jackson’s version of THE HOBBIT. When we sat down on January 14, 2004, we went from preparation to execution, as in keeping communications current across three continents and riding herd on a talented bunch of young actors far from home. It was interesting and delightful to see that even after several years of dedicating his life to this project, Osborne was an enthusiastic about it as ever.
Not to beat around the bush, this film is soul-stirring perfection. At 210 minutes, there is not a wasted frame of film. From the smallest moment of quiet conversation to epic battle sequences full of sweeping vistas black with ravaging hordes of Orcs and worse, we are swept into this mythical world with an emotional immediacy that is as compelling as it is enthralling. A broken heart resonates with the same thunderclap of dragons wings. In this, the darkest of the films, the characters grow as each fulfills his or her destiny so that they, as well as the story itself, achieve a kind of closure. Bittersweet, though it may be.
The film begins where THE TWO TOWERS left off, with Gollum, but not the creature we’ve seen before. We see his finding of the ring as Smeagol (Andy Serkis briefly as himself, not a digital effect), what he does to get it, what he does to keep it, and the horrifying metamorphosis from hobbit-like river folk into the thing that worships the ring. If you have never noticed it before, there is now no mistaking the similarity between Gollum’s eyes and Frodo’s (Elijah Wood). In both they are large and blue and full of wonder. Here at beginning the third film, Jackson and company unequivocally lay out Frodo’s fate and tie it to Gollums and by extension, the fate that awaits Middle Earth should Frodo and his companions fail in their mission, The loss of free will, replaced by madness and complete negation of self becomes the persistant backdrop to all that follows.
LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING is fabulous in every sense. With its companion films in the trilogy, it’s in a category of it’s own that is so far above the usual cinematic entertainment in scope and execution, that any attempt at comparisons is an exercise in futility.