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The End of the Ring

"The Return of the King" is a flawed, disappointing end to Peter Jackson's exceptional Lord of the Rings trilogy.

11:00 PM, Dec 16, 2003 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
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YET DESPITE EVERYTHING, "Return of the King" will be lavished with praise in the coming days. Critics, only now understanding how badly they shortchanged the first two installments, will paper over the movie's failings. Viewers especially attached to the series will make excuses for it. And who knows? Maybe the Academy will hold to the bargain it struck with its conscience two years ago and award it Best Picture. (I doubt this will come to pass, but if it does, so be it. It wouldn't be the greatest travesty in recent memory and besides, the best movie of the year, "Lost in Translation," has no chance of winning anyway.)

Third chapters are always disappointing and always overpraised upon release: "Return of the Jedi," "Back to the Future 3," "Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade," "Chasing Amy," "The Matrix: Revolutions." Upon its release in 1990, the normally trustworthy New York Times critic Janet Maslin lauded "The Godfather Part III" as a "valid and deeply moving continuation of the Corleone family saga."

No, the real measure will come later down the line. Five years from now, "Fellowship" and "The Two Towers" will be the discs that go in the DVD player when people want to cozy up to The Lord of the Rings. Purchased out of a sense of duty and devotion, "Return of the King" will sit on the shelf, collecting dust.

Jonathan V. Last is online editor of The Weekly Standard.