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The Return of the King

The Worst Road-Trip, Ever

The buck stops here. After waiting three long years for the final segment of director Peter Jackson's epic Lord of the Rings films, based on the astounding books of J.R.R. Tolkien, the tale sadly comes to an end. And what an end it is.

From the very beginning, the movie will have you in its grip. Frodo (Elijah "I have eerily blue eyes" Wood) and his trusty bat-man Sam (Sean Astin) are slowly but surely making their way towards Mount Doom to destroy the Ring with the "help" of Gollum/Smeagol (Andy Serkis); the Ring is doing its number on poor Frodo who looks like he's going through heroin withdrawal and as always Sam is the rock on which he leans. Meanwhile, Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd) meet-up with Gandalf (Sir Ian McKellen) and the gang (Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Legolas (Orlando Bloom), Gimli (John Rhys-Davies), Eomer (Karl Urban) and King Theoden (Bernard Hill)) post-Isengard/post-Helm's Deep to gear up for the battle for Middle Earth against Sauron, the Dark Lord.

After an incident of mistaken identity forces Gandalf to harbor Pippin from harm, the two travel to Minis Tirith, the majestic City of Kings, where they encounter the crazy Steward of Gondor (John Noble), Boromir (Sean Bean) and Faramir's (David Wenham) dysfunctional father, in order to persuade him to call for help and join forces with the free peoples of Middle Earth (what's left of them at least). Things really start to get rolling when the enemy's forces are unleashed by the Witch King of Angmar, Lord of the Nazgul.

The alliance of Men - with some women, Hobbits, ghosts, wizards, Elves and Dwarves thrown in for good measure- heartily battles the forces of evil, Sauron's army consisting of filthy humans (some of whom, donning turbans and such, making the people of the Middle East and South Asia look bad), Trolls and Orcs led by what seems to be an all grown-up Sloth from The Goonies in which Sean Astin was the leader of the pack.

Just like that eighties cult film, Astin leads here. This movie belongs to the Hobbits. People might think the Elves are the coolest because, well, they're all really good-looking and can kick some serious ass or perhaps people favor the Men for their bravery and honor. But this story's heroes, without a doubt, are the child-like, unassuming Hobbits, particularly Samwise Gamgee and Mr. Frodo Baggins. Sam brings the word loyalty to a whole new level.

If it weren't for his efforts, the whole world would literally fall apart. In a scenario of a million-to-one on which even the most reckless of gamblers wouldn't bet, in a war in which the 'good guys' are viscously outnumbered, thousands upon thousands of Men still go to battle, risking their lives and/or dying just to buy the two Hobbits some time to make it to Mount Doom and destroy the infamous Ring.

The character who keeps this hope alive and strong during the all fighting is Aragorn, who is trying to find his own path in life - to be King or not to be King? - he is also involved in some kind of love triangle (the Hollywood insert which detracts, more than anything else, from the books) between himself, Eowyn (Miranda Otto) and Arwen (Liv Tyler). Some guys have all the luck. While this is all occurring, Legolas, who seems to have mastered the art of speaking in Haiku, just stands around making weird faces. To be fair, although there's not too much of him to be seen in this film, he does have one great scene in battle that involves a very big elephant and a whole lot of Elven grace. Once again, Gimli can be relied on for wise cracks. As for Merry and Pippin, well, they represent how innocence and naiveté can so quickly be shattered; they carry the harsh lesson of 'growing up' and opening your eyes to the world.

Sometimes, in the middle of it all, you forget the magic and then out it comes, and when you least expect it there is hope (and even some humor). No other epic will compare to this- the bar has been raised for sure. Most action/epic movies lack character development and substitute melodrama for poignancy. The LOTR movies have it all- strong, resounding characters, splendor and tons of action- and that is a rare combination indeed.

No one does majestic better than Peter Jackson and his WETA crew (the effects and direction are so realistic and so grand, it's mind-blowing). For example, one of the standout scenes includes the lighting of the Beacon of Gondor, which brings the world of Middle Earth to life like no other, it provides an incredible sense of grandeur and inspiration to the movie. Another knockout scene includes the indelible Eowyn in a showdown with the Witch King that will have you clapping and cheering in your seats.

For those of you who haven't read the books, the ending may seem rushed and confusing. You'll have to either read the books (which you should do anyway) or wait until the extended version is released when they'll, hopefully, go into more details. This version, however, leaves a good deal of the close to the imagination.

I feel like I'm writing about a movie of which I haven't seen all. There are numerous parts of this film that you know have been edited; you can see it. I, for one, would have preferred to sit through a five-hour film (with a thirty-minute intermission, of course) with all the parts intact rather than a filtered movie with so many gaps.

That being said, get ready Mr. Jackson- rent a tux, comb your hair and buy a ticket to Hollywood- you're going to (or definitely should) get a well-deserved Oscar. You too Mr. Astin.

This story, this film carries a great message of hope. Something we all could use and can carry away with us long after the movie comes to a close.