Long Haul in Middle Earth

Return of the KingFor fans who don’t want the J.R.R. Tolkien “Lord of the Rings” trilogy to ever come to an end, director Peter Jackson has apparently done his very best to fulfill that wish with his interminable, ass-numbing, bladder-busting “Return of the King.” It clocks in somewhere in the neighborhood of a hundred hours and goes to great pains to bring satisfying resolutions to nearly every one of the bakers’s dozen of protagonists and almost all eight billion of the supporting characters in this epic tale of short people and cloak-lovers.

Of the three installments in Jackson’s herculean adaptations, this is easily the least interesting in that, halfway through its course, it takes on an air of inevitability, weighed down by its obligation to tie up everything too neatly and by its unwillingness to ever put any of its central characters truly at risk. For a casual fan like myself, this painfully deflated my suspension of disbelief, and I spent the last several hours — through every one of Jackson’s eight or nine endings, conclusions, epilogues, postscripts and fourth, fifth and sixth acts — wishing that the whole thing would be over.

Not All Bad

All that said, Jackson has still managed to deliver an hour and forty-five minutes of the same top-notch fantasy, inventiveness and masterful storytelling that made his previous efforts so wonderful. There is very little here that does not meet the high standards Jackson has previously set for himself, at least until the members of the audience first start checking their watches.

Even as bad as it is, none of the second half manages to substantially detract from Jackson’s overall accomplishment, which will remain one of the towering achievements of early 21st century cinema. This is still an amazing trilogy that has easily trounced its popcorn competition with regard to sheer scope, beauty, art, vision and entertainment value. And, I’m quite sure, none of what I’ve written here will dissuade anyone who enjoyed the books or the first two films from going to see this movie. Nor should it.