We come at last, intones Gandalf, to the great battle of our time. It sounds like the worst kind of marketing hype dressed up as a stirring morale booster. But with Return Of The King, Peter Jackson delivers on that promise and has 11 Oscars to show for it.
Hurtling forwards from where Two Towers left off Helm's Deep, lest you forget King continues to skip between characters and plotlines as our fractured Fellowship scrabbles towards Mount Doom to destroy the One Ring. Their paths are littered with monumental dangers (ghostly warriors, super-spider Shelob, the ferocious battle at Pelennor Fields), but, through it all, Jackson never loses sight of the smaller moments, the minor tragedies. How else could Sam materialise as the true hero, Sean Astin emerging from the wringer as the proud owner of an award-worthy (though sadly overlooked) performance?
Yet for all the poignant musings on greed and sacrifice, heroism and friendship, this final instalment to a historic trilogy will be most remembered for its awe-inspiring, enormous battle. Gigantic Nazgul-ridden beasts pluck horses from the ground. Mumakils stamp on men and orcs, splattering them into the hard mud. And thousands upon thousands of armed warriors clash with enough force to shake Middle-earth all the way to Wellington. It's a triumph of computer effects, Weta's groundbreaking CGI throwing us straight into the heart of the bloody combat. Well, as bloody as you possibly can be with a 12A rating...
If there are any nits to be picked, it's that Aragorn's victory, via the help of some spook supporters, comes just a little too easily, and the ending (or endings) feels overstuffed as Jackson crams as much as he can into the final 20 minutes. These are mere minor mis-steps, however, in a film that takes incredible strides.