The final installment of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy was, indeed, awesome. And yet… after watching the extended versions of Fellowship and Two Towers the last two Mondays in the theater, it was also just about what I expected, nothing more nothing less. Few surprises there are, but those are generally pleasant ones.

Let’s face it: You don’t need me to tell you that this is a movie worth seeing. All I can do here is offer my handful of thoughts about specific parts of the movie.

Regarding Faramir: The Two Towers’ extended-version inclusion of the Faramir/Boromir/Denethor flashback is absolutely vital to understanding the relationship between Denethor and Faramir that we see in Return of the King.

One of the things this movie did especially well was conveying a sense of bigness to things. The oliphaunts? Big. The seige weaponry and their projectiles? Way big. Minas Tirith? Awesome. Rocks are lobbed through the air, land, and generally do large-rock-like things to buildings and people in their path. Very, very cool stuff this is.

On a technical side note, Peter Jackson clearly had total faith in his team’s skill with compositing. Wow. Check out Gandalf’s arrival at Minas Tirith.

By the way, I hate spiders. Especially spiders that stand taller than a hobbit while on all eights. (I wouldn’t say “all fours,” now would I? Hmm?)

I’m pleased to say that “Gimli, Comic Relief Dwarf” is at least genuinely funny part of the time… mainly because the lines aren’t so badly written as to require a forced delivery, unlike many of the quips in the first two films.

Watch out for the pair (trio? did I lose count?) of false endings. The screen goes dark… for several seconds… and then it’s time for another scene! This happens more than once! Bleargh! It’s as if the filmmakers couldn’t decide where to end this thing, so they strung along a series of ending scenes for as far as the eye could see, then randomly picked a place and dropped the knife on it. Or something. Minor quibble, but it’s a sad way to leave the theater after such a great movie experience when your head’s reeling from the endings.

When you’ve just sat through and dissected the qualities of the two previous films’ extended versions, you’re naturally going to think about what bits were probably excised from this film that might reappear for its extended edition release. It’s almost certain that there’s more to see of Aragorn’s transition from the ranger who arrives with the Rohirrim and the King who knocks on the Black Gate. One suspects there’s more to see of the fight between orc and Uruk-hai at that guard tower. And so on, and so on.

One also suspects that Christopher Lee won’t be entirely appeased if his appearance in this film is restored when the DVD comes out. We could’ve done without the Smeagol flashback that started the movie, and seen Saruman’s last scenes instead. Ah well.

All told, this is a film… a set of films, to be more accurate… that will stand as the high water mark for genre moviemaking many years from now. It’s an outstanding movie experience, despite quibbles over what was and wasn’t included from the source material.

In a way, I’m glad it’s over. All the weight of years of anticipation is lifted, and the decades of nitpicking can begin at last…