Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, The Odeon, Leicester Square, London

All hail Gollum and the orcs after Jackson's maddening goodbye to the world of Tolkien

From the start, director Peter Jackson said the finalinstalment would be the best. Hundreds turned up in the wee hours of yesterday morning, despite the rain, so they would have a good view ofcast members such as Liv Tyler, Orlando Bloom and Sir Ian McKellen walking into thepremiere at London's Odeon Leicester Square.

Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy has morphed from being a quirky gamble ­ a fantasy adventure too frightening for kids and possibly too silly for adults ­ into the surest thing in town. Harry Potter 3 didn't dare take it on this Christmas. The battle for the West has been fought and Jackson, the hairy, humble New Zealander who met his wife while working on the BBC's Worzel Gummidge, would seem to have won.

Expectations for The Return of the King have peaked somewhere around the Himalayas. The opening sequence leaves us giddier still. Gollum ­ the hissing, bubble-eyed, two-timing maniac who stole the show in The Two Towers ­ is here seen as a harmless hobbit, Smeagol, before the precious ring came into his life, and as he raspingly puts it, "Cursed us!"

Andy Serkis, the British actor formerly invisible "beneath" the computer animation, undergoes an electrifying transformation ­ sinking, like the most desperate of junkies, into the squalid ecstasy of self-annihilation. Jackson has taken a risk, but it pays off.

After that, Jackson gets on with the more conventional business of setting up the various plot-strands (for those unfamiliar with Tolkien, or the previous two films, I apologise for the confusion that's about to ensue). Frodo Baggins and Sam are led off by Gollum (the world's least reliable tourist guide) to Mordor; Gandalf goes with Pippin to the aid of a besieged castle in Gondor; Theoden and his niece and Merry prepare to meet him there later; Arwen persuades her father that she really, really, really is prepared to die for Aragorn; and the latter (with Legolas and Gimli in tow) tries to whip up an army amongst the undead. I've missed one or two people out, but you get the gist. Everyone's busy and there's not a minute to lose.

The New Zealand landscape, as ever, shovels its way into your psyche and the huge battle scenes feel as personal and fraught with tension as domestic dramas. Meanwhile, the actors say their lines with such fierce commitment that you daren't miss a word. Aragorn (Viggo Mortenson) and Gandalf (Ian McKellen) are the crucial authority figures, but the little hobbits, this time, play a much bigger (ahem) part.

Every now and again we may get a little restless, but mostly we're right in there, weeping softly when a certain person passes away; laughing madly at the carefully paced jokes; keeping an eye on the increasingly agitated and Byronic Frodo.

And then ­ disaster! Having stroked and stimulated us into submission, Jackson just can't think how to wrap things up. At one of the film's many climaxes, Sam implores Frodo to let go of the ring. Jackson's fingers show a similar unwillingness to unfurl. The magic has time to wear off. Who are this portentous lot? You suddenly find yourself wondering, and why have they stolen so much of my time (three and a half hours, and that's before all the DVDs)?

Reverence is crucial to this project. But, as our heroes say soppy farewells to each other for the umpteenth time, all sorts of blasphemous thoughts come to mind. Such as that the real battle here is between two sorts of men's hairdo: the wet-look perm and the samurai pony-tail.

I came out of The Two Towers feeling like I'd been converted to the Church of Tolkien; I emerged from The Return of the King on the side of the gargoyles. Those orcs may have bad teeth and kill you without thinking. On the up-side, they probably wouldn't chew your ears off with long goodbyes.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in the first-look Fifty Shades of Grey movie still

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

film
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

film
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

books
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

    Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on