January 4, 2013

Queer Review: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Director: Peter Jackson
Writers: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Peter Jackson. Based upon the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien.
Cast: Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Viggo Mortensen, Ian McKellen, Andy Serkis, Orlando Bloom, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Bernard Hill, John Noble, Miranda Otto, John Rhys-Davies, Hugo Weaving, David Wenham, Brad Dourif, Christopher Lee, Bruce Spence, Cate Blanchett, Sean Bean, Ian Holm, Liv Tyler, Karl Urban,

Note: The following review applies to the Extended Edition, as that is what I watched.

The Return of the King concludes the Lord of the Rings trilogy in a fashion befitting an epic of epic epicness.

Led by the treacherous Gollum (Andy Serkis), Frodo (Elijah Wood) and his trusty servant Samwise (Sean Astin) continue their quest to destroy the one Ring, which will takes them into Mordor where a giant spider called Shelob will be the least of their worries. Meanwhile, Sauron is launching an attack against Gondor, aided by the fact that the city's steward, Denothor (John Noble), has fallen into madness. Thus the task of defending the city falls to the Wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and the currently exiled king Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen).

The Queering
As I did with the previous reviews, I'll just jump into the subtexts. The idea that the one ring is a metaphor for the development of nuclear weaponry during World War II is once again in effect. Given how the whole quest is about the necessity of destroying the one ring, it would appear that Tolkien was trying to warn against the nuclear arms race that would take place during the Cold War. In fact, the idea of limiting power as a necessity for evil to be defeated is omnipresent in The Return of the King, particularly during the scene were Aragorn releases the Dead Army from his service. The Orwellian claim of "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely" can be heard in this scene and whenever the one ring attempts to seduce any of the characters.

As for the queer subtexts, I'll start with Pippin (Billy Boyd) as everybody loves Pippin this time around. Merry is understandably devastated when he is forced to part company with Pippin and there are plenty of other scenes that play into the two being a couple. Denethor treats Pippin like a new boy toy after Pippin swears loyalty to him, going so far as to treat Pippin with greater affection than he does his own son Faramir (David Wenham). Of course, the whole battle for Minas Tirith is launched by Sauron because he is mistakenly led to believe that the little hobbit has the ring.

Of course there is also Eowyn who dresses up as a man so she can fight in the battle of Minas Tirith. In doing so, she is partaking in a long tradition of women dressing as men in order to fight in battle. During the Civil War for example, it is estimated that around 400 woman did exactly that. This allows her one of the greatest scenes in the whole trilogy where she teaches Sauron a lesson as to why sexism is not a good element to include in one's defense strategy.

Then there is the relationship between Samwise and Frodo, which ends up enduring in spite of Gollum's attempts to break up the two. Sam not only ends up going mano to mano with the gargantuan spider named Shelob in order to protect Frodo, but ends up being the primary motivator during the trek across Mordor to Mount Doom as well. The scene where the two hobbits cuddle together while Mount Doom erupts around them emphasizes the depth of their relationship, even while Samwise blathers on about his beloved Rosie.

It would be worth traveling all the way to Mount Doom to see this movie, even if one was not going to be rescued by dues ex machina eagles at the end.

The Rating
**** out of ****


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