June 9, 2015

My Return to Middle Earth, Part 3: The Cinematography of The Return of the King

Like usual, I got sidetracked and delayed but I still remain in Middle Earth! I finalize the visual examination of the franchise, this time reviewing the somewhat deflating The Return of the King.

The extended cut of The Return of the King is kind of a mess, especially the first hour. When you're watching a nearly five hour film (yes, the extended cut is well over four hours long), a rough hour can kill it. And, sadly, the visual splendor that made the first two parts of the trilogy so spellbinding is missing in most of the running time.

Andrew Lesnie, who recently passed at too young an age, did have some defining moments. I have added screen caps per usual (thanks to the excellent clicking skills of screencapped.net) but I added a YouTube video of what might be the trilogy's finest visual achievement: the lighting of the beacons across the realms of Men. So, despite a let down, The Return of the King has one of the best visual moments of the entire trilogy. So there's that.

Sadly, and this isn't all Lesnie's fault, the visual effects haven't aged well. It has been well over a decade since the film was released and a lot of advancements have been made since then (ironically, likely because of the grandeur of this film). On a side note, I'd still take these visuals over most of the visuals from a more "contemporary" film like ... The Hobbit trilogy.

I almost feel disrespectful saying bad things about the cinematography due to Lesnie's recent death but I think it is a testament to his strengths that a thing of beauty like The Return of the King can be considered a "mediocre" achievement.

As you may or may not know, The Return of the King was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and won all 11 of them (including Best Picture) ... but cinematography was not one of the categories chosen for nomination.


The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Director: Peter Jackson
Cinematographer: Andrew Lesnie (1956-2015)

*click on the images for a larger view; images courtesy of screencapped.net

I had to include this scene too because it is so goddamn weird.

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