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The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King: Theatrical VS Cinematic Essay

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Updated: Mar 21st, 2019

The Lord of the Rings trilogy is considered to be one of the most successful movie franchises of all time due its combination of the theatrical and the cinematic which resonated well with global audiences (Bennett, 91).

Its cinematic quality can be seen in the finely detailed CGI graphics and backdrops that the characters were immersed in (Bennett, 91). The picturesque landscapes, the lifelike realism of the climactic battle scenes, the use of magic, fantasy and vivid imagery creates a world that no theatre could possibly create.

The film itself was meant to “wow” audiences with the way in which it represented Middle Earth in the way that J.R.R Tolkien saw envisaged his own eyes. The film franchise is also known for its use of theatrics as it can be seen in the speeches, dialogue and mannerisms of the characters themselves.

Unlike modern films where the characters seem to blend in with other characters and the very backdrop of the film itself the dramatic and often times exaggerated acting of the actors, Hugo Weaving in particular, gives audiences the impression that they are not watching a move at all but rather a dramatic theatrical play where the main actors act in overly operatic and melodramatic ways in order to better connect with the audience and bring them into the film itself.

One scene in the movie in particular draws out this feeling of theatrics, namely the speech of Aragorn before the attack on the Black Gates of Mordor. When Hugo Weaving speaks in this particular scene one cannot help but be drawn into the speech itself, there are no cinematic effects shown rather all focus is on Aragorn not virtue of any focused effect but rather due to the power of his speech, the emotion resonating in his voice and his ability to garner the attention of the audience through his voice alone.

This particular form of acting is often seen in various theatrical plays as the actors act in an overly melodramatic way in order to capture the attention of the audience. In this particular scene Aragorn is capturing the full attention of the audience so that instead of the audience realizing the small size of Aragorn’s army compared to the massive army of Mordor they still place their faith on Aragorn’s men due to the sheer power of his speech in which people cannot help but want to support him.

Another scene which captures the theatrical aspects of the film is the scene involving Gandalf and the Witch King wherein both adversaries confront each other on top of one of the towers in the city. While this scene does include some cinematic effects such as the CGI monster that Witch King was riding what must be taken into consideration in this particular scene is the fact that the interaction between the two characters through speech alone creates such a feeling of hopelessness that one cannot help but feel that the cause is lost.

What must be understood is that theatrical presentations often rely on speech as a method of inciting a particular reaction in various audiences as such the dramatic use of speech in this particular case was the complete opposite of that utilized by Aragorn rather it was meant to instill a sense of hopelessness in the audiences for the fate of Gondar and the fellowship.

So far what has been presented are various cases of theatrical presentations in the film however what Return of the King is most known for is not just its use of theatrics but rather in its stunning use of cinematics where one cannot help but marvel at the scenes, backdrops and battles that seem to get better and better after each passing scene in the film.

One particular example of the use of cinematics in the film was the use of CGI in order to portray the lifelike battle on the fields of Pellenor. This particular scene involved thousands of CGI representations in order to create a vivid and realistic battle between two opposing armies.

The level of detail was so good that one cannot help but be fascinated by the sheer scale of the fighting especially in the use of CGI graphics to create the Oliphant’s (yes they were named that way in book and the movie).

Another case of brilliant cinematic imagery was the scene entitled “the Charge of the Rohirrim”, in it audiences are treated to a climactic battle scene where literally thousands of riders come streaming down a hill in a triangle formation battering into the enemy army below.

This scene can be considered cinematic due to the detailed and vivid charge of army and its subsequent clash wherein the very sounds of bodies crashing in spears, swords hitting swords and the sounds of death and murder echo around which gives the scene a greater degree of cinematic realism.

It must be noted that cinematic representations often involve visual and auditory effects in order to capture the attention of the audience. Speeches, dialog or even good acting is not exactly required in such instances as it can be seen in the battle scenes in the movie wherein people just scream and attempt to batter each other.

It is based on this that it can said that theatrical representations often rely on dialog and the sheer talent of the actor in order to properly capture the attention of an audience while cinematic representations rely more on visual cues and effects in order to capture an audience’s attention.

After viewing the film it can not really be said that either theatrical or cinematic elements work better for this particular type of movie franchise. The reason behind this is the fact that since the movie itself is based off of a book the movie tries to incorporate certain aspects of the book itself which are inherently theatrical.

On the other hand in order to properly portray the needed battle scenes and backdrops a certain degree of cinematic quality needed to be incorporated into the film itself. It is due to this that it really cannot be stated that one element of the film (theatrical or cinematic) works better since both are inherently needed in order to properly portray the movie as it was envisaged in the book.

Works Cited

Bennett, Ray, and Peter Pryor. “Oscar crown on head of ‘King’.” Hollywood Reporter – International Edition 382.42 (2004): 91. MasterFILE Premier. EBSCO. Web.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King: Theatrical VS Cinematic." March 21, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-lord-of-the-rings-return-of-the-king-theatrical-vs-cinematic/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King: Theatrical VS Cinematic'. 21 March.

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