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As before, in this concluding part of the trilogy the spectacle never dwarfs (sic) the characters, even during Shelob the spider's pitiless assault, for example, or the unparalleled Battle of the Pelennor Fields, where the white towers of Minas Tirith come under ferocious attack from Troll-powered siege weapons and--in a sequence reminiscent of the Imperial Walkers in The Empire Strikes Back--Mammoth-like Mumakil. The people and their feelings always remain in focus, as emphasised by Jackson's sensitive small touches: Gandalf reassuring a terrified Pippin in the midst of battle that death is not to be feared; Frodo's blazing anger at Sam's apparent betrayal; Faramir's desire to win the approval of his megalomaniac father; Gollum's tragic cupidity and his final, heartbreaking glee. And at the very epicentre of the film is the pure heart of Samwise Gamgee--the real hero of the story.
At over three hours, there are almost inevitably some lulls, and the film still feels as if some key scenes are missing: a problem doubtless to be rectified in the extended DVD edition. But the end, when it does finally arrive--set to Howard Shore's Wagnerian music score--brings us full circle, leaving the departing audience to wonder if they will ever find within themselves even a fraction of the courage of a hobbit. --Mark Walker