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Lord of the Rings_The Return of the King

Peter Jackson's award-winning 2003 film adaptation of the second and third volumes of Tolkien's epic fantasy novel.

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Frodo Lives Forever on the Silver Screen!

  • Feb 11, 2004
Rating:
+5
Pros: An outstanding adaptation of the books

Cons: Getting up to go to the bathroom during the movie

The Bottom Line: I said I'd review this when it came out, and I did!

Gigundus! Gargantuan! Place your favorite adjectives for “really, really big” here! I’m not talking about the movie! I’m talking about the elephants IN the movie! I have never in my animal-watching lifetime seen an elephant that big. Or with tusks that big. They serve a purpose, too. In the battle of Minas Tirith, these titans use their titanic tusks to mow down large numbers of Rohirrim (they’re the good guys) at once. In real life, a time like this would mean the complete annihilation of our heroes. But this is Lord of the Rings, and just when all is lost, Aragorn shows up leading an army of dead people who sweep the battlegrounds. Normally a scene like this would be camp, something out of a low-rent zombie movie. But somehow you can take it seriously here.

It’s good news for Tolkien nuts as the third and final installment of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Return of the King, sweeps into the theaters like the way all those dead soldiers sweep the Uruk-hai army. And it’s even bigger than all the elephants, dragon-riding Nazgul, orcs, ents, Mordor mountain ranges, trolls, and Shelobs in Middle-earth put together. It’s so big, you’ll walk out of the theater saying “Holy &%#@ that was %^&* big!”

It’s also the longest. Since Peter Jackson decided to end The Two Towers prematurely, all of the Helm’s Deep aftermath which got axed from the movie version finally show up here. This means the reunion of Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli with Merry and Pippin at Isenguard is finally seen - it’s one of the opening scenes. We also get to see Frodo and Sam nearly get eaten by Shelob. But the whole spectacle actually begins with a short history of Gollum. He’s a regular, average Joe hobbit who is out fishing with a friend who finds the One Ring. When Gollum sees the ring for the first time, he tells his friend to give it to him. It’s his birthday, after all, and he wants it. His friend is like, nuh-uh, find your own mind-corrupting ring of death, this one’s mine. Well, this is just fine with Gollum. His friend is being a mere inconvenience. He still wants the ring. But since the court system doesn’t exist in the Shire, Gollum resorts to a time-tested method of taking the ring: Killing his friend, claiming the ring as a birthday present, and retreating to the mountains so he can go nuts without being tossed into the loony bin. Life goes on. And on. And on. And on. Until that fateful day years and years later when Bilbo Baggins finds the ring. Then life goes on for a few more years until Saruman’s minions drag him into Mordor kicking and screaming.

As was once sang, gray skies are gonna clear up, put on a happy face! The skies over Isenguard cleared up after the ents flooded the place, and so Merry and Pippin greet Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, and Gandalf with an enthusiastic “Welcome to Isenguard!” It’s a nice little ray of sunshine for everyone to enjoy, because it’s not a sign of the things to come. Instead, we get another 45 minutes of politics building up to the siege of Minas Tirith. Then more politics before the survivors of the Minas Tirith debacle knock on the gates of Mordor and ask the orcs inside for a suicidal duel. Then another battle between the obviously insane good guys and an army of orcs which outnumbers them by a ratio of at least 500 to 1. All the while, Frodo and Sam are in pretty much the same spot they were at the beginning of The Two Towers: Stuck on the outskirts of Mordor, Frodo is half-dead, Sam acting as his personal care aid, and Gollum plotting to take his precious back. The difference is in the method Gollum uses in his attempt to get the ring back: Now that the Smeagol side of him is thinking in the same way as the Gollum side, Gollum is now playing the two hobbits off each other. After being found out, he resorts to his old method of jumping out from behind a big rock shouting “Gimme!”

The Shelob confrontation made it into the movie. The movie version of Shelob is certain to make Tolkien readers cower in their seats. Sure, she’s just another computer-generated spider, but the way she is presented to the audience, chewing the scenery which is her lair, gives her a degree of believability. When you first see her creeping up behind the unknowing Frodo with the precision of any predator, you’ll be able to take your second eye off your raisinettes for the big scene. It’s a great scene with a lot of suspense, as Shelob doesn’t move as slowly as her huge body would suggest.

A die-hard Tolkien fan is sure to notice just how much of the book was cut from The Return of the King. Even with a three and a half hour running time, much of the book had to be axed due to constraints - probably because the movie also covers a considerable portion of The Two Towers, aside from the primary story. None of the minor characters from the book made it into the movie, everyone you see in the movie version of Return of the King was introduced to you in one of the first two films. There is only one new character who notes should be taken for. The seemingly insane Denethor, king of Minas Tirith and father of Faramir and Boromir. While he is mourning the death of Boromir when the audience first meets him, his remembrances really don’t mean he’s a very good father. He openly wishes Faramir had died instead of Boromir, and he just doesn’t seem to appreciate the brilliant warrior Faramir is. He doesn’t seem to be a very good king or battle tactician either, and he’s really not a likable character at all. The only real useful thing he does in the entire movie is take his fiery flying leap off his palace to kill himself.

The journey home, so thoroughly detailed in the book, is given only a few scenes in the movie. The reunion of the Fellowship at Rivendell is shown, the wedding of Aragorn and Arwen is shown, and Frodo’s ultimate departure from the Shire is shown, along with a few other, less noteworthy scenes. Some of these scenes actually hurt the movie more than they help it, and they make it longer than it really needs to be. Did Sam’s return home after Frodo’s departure really need to be shown? No, not after the way the last scene ended: The ship sailing into the open, and a blinding flash of light taking us to the very last scene in the movie. It would have been better if the movie had just ended with the ship sailing into the open, and “The End” appearing right there after the flash of light.

It’s possible that, for all of the battles, characters, and storylines shown, the most endearing thing about the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy is the Fellowship itself. Betrayal is a very common theme in movies today, particularly among epic flicks. It even happens, in its own way, in The Two Towers when Gollum’s good side, Smeagol, shows up and takes over for a hot minute. It also takes a more obvious form in The Fellowship of the Ring when Boromir succumbs to the temptation of the One Ring, but this shouldn’t be held against him because he wasn’t acting by his own will, and he redeemed himself when he rescued Merry and Pippin. Yet, the eight main characters of the trilogy, Frodo, Sam, Merry, Pippin, Legolas, Gimli, Aragorn, and Gandalf remain completely, 100 percent spiritually bonded to each other throughout EVERYTHING. The way these guys act towards each other is heartfelt, true blue friendship, the kind of friendship that often only develops after 20 years between real people. Ask someone about some of the most powerful, heart-tugging scenes in the trilogy, and you’ll likely be reminded of Gandalf’s self sacrifice in The Fellowship of the Ring. Or the way Boromir flew out of nowhere to slaughter a bunch of orcs to save Merry and Pippin in Fellowship, as a bid at redemption. Or any of the happenings between Sam and Frodo. A personal favorite Sam and Frodo moment comes in The Return of the King, when Frodo finally gives in under the weight of the ring, right on Mount Doom. Sam says “I can’t carry the ring for you. But I can carry you!” And he literally carries Frodo the remainder of the way up Mount Doom.

The characters were the stars of The Fellowship of the Ring. The scenery was the star of The Two Towers. The battles are the stars of The Return of the King. There are some truly brilliant battle scenes here, the most memorable probably being the siege of Minas Tirith. There are others, like Faramir’s defense of the city ruins, the Shelob confrontation, and the battle at the gate of Mordor. But the Minas Tirith battle is the one with the elephants, flying Nazgul, orc siege towers, and ghost army. It’s in some ways better than the defense of Helm’s Deep battle seen in The Two Towers. The difference is the forces of darkness, which are far more prevalent in Return. So much of the movie carries an aura of darkness over it, kind of like The Empire Strikes Back from the Star Wars trilogy. Don’t worry though, it all ends well for the forces of good.

Somehow I don’t think Andy Serkis was supposed to be the best actor in the trilogy. Good, yes, but his digitization as Gollum clearly says he wasn’t meant to steal the show. But The Lord of the Rings was his breakthrough, and he should be given some kind of kudos for it. At least he has the fans’ kudos, and that’s kudos enough. In The Return of the King, he continues playing Gollum the same way he did in The Two Towers, even bickering with himself at one point. In performances, Ian McKellan’s Gandalf is number two for the trilogy, and Viggo Mortensen’s Aragorn ranks number three. Everyone else does just fine, but against the big three, they just don’t stand out as much. Although John Rhys-Davies should also be granted recognition for providing the movie’s comic relief as Gimli, they used too many short jokes.

That’s all there is to it, really. The Return of the King is fit for anyone - action movie buffs especially, Return being the most action-oriented addition to The Lord of the Rings. It’s a fittingly explosive conclusion to what is certain to go down as one of the great movie trilogies of all time, if not THE greatest. Star what? Indiana who? George Lucas, you’ve had an incredible run, but now it’s time for you to gracefully step aside for the three Rings which will surely rule them all.




Recommended:
Yes

Video Occasion: None of the Above
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 9 - 12

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More The Lord of the Rings: The Ret... reviews
review by . March 13, 2010
   The only thing bad I can say about this movie is that I didn't want it to end! Just as good as the first two (I wonder why this was the only one to win Best Picture). If you are unfamiliar with the books then some of the suspense may overwhelm you, especially one of the climatic scenes between Sam, Frodo and Smeagle and the Ring.    Some of the band fall and you wonder when things get bleak if Aragon will indeed return as king. I don't want to give it a way but some ghosts …
Quick Tip by . April 20, 2010
Peter Jackson has done something truly incredible! First fantasy film to win best picture
review by . September 09, 2009
The only thing bad I can say about this movie is that I didn't want it to end! Just as good as the first two (I wonder why this was the only one to win Best Picture). If you are unfamiliar with the books then some of the suspense may overwhelm you, especially one of the climatic scenes between Sam, Frodo and Smeagle and the Ring.    Some of the band fall and you wonder when things get bleak if Aragon will indeed return as king. I don't want to give it a way but some ghosts play a big part …
review by . February 02, 2009
While the first two LOTR films, "Fellowship of the Ring" and "The Two Towers" alike, sat easier on my mind and ended up being more enjoyable, Return of the King stands as a positive conclusion, a satisfactory wrapping up of Peter Jackson's vision of J.R.R. Tolkein's masterpiece. While purists are given more missing elements to complain about (as was the case with each of these films; to translate the entire weight of Tolkein's books would take at least 24 hours worth of film), all of the major elements …
review by . May 26, 2004
posted in Movie Hype
The film, of course, is magnificent. Featuring the denouement of all that has come before, with great actors to play the parts, gorgeous visuals to enchant us, fantastic special effects, and a glorious score throughout the film, "Return of the King" represents over 3 hours of cinematic genius. It is a nearly-perfect conclusion to the story that was begun in "Fellowship of the Ring" and continued in "The Two Towers." This should not be a surprise to anyone.The DVD presentation of "Return of the King" …
review by . March 18, 2004
Why do I need to write about something that swept through the Oscars? Because it is that good, if not better! The movie is 3 1/2 hours long and my only complaint is that it had to end!There are some really tense moments in this film especially when Frodo, Sam, and Smeagle battle over the ring. Some of the band of characters fall in this film but I do not want to give it away. Will Aragon become King? Perhaps if he can get the help of some ghost knights.Some phenominal battle scenes including some …
review by . March 18, 2004
posted in Movie Hype
The only thing bad I can say about this movie is that I didn't want it to end! Just as good as the first two (I wonder why this was the only one to win Best Picture). If you are unfamiliar with the books then some of the suspense may overwhelm you, especially one of the climatic scenes between Sam, Frodo and Smeagle and the Ring.Some of the band fall and you wonder when things get bleak if Aragon will indeed return as king. I don't want to give it a way but some ghosts play a big part in how things …
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The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is a 2003 fantasy-adventure film directed by Sir Peter Jackson that is based on the second and third volumes of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. It is the concluding film in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, following The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) and The Two Towers (2002).

As Sauron launches the final stages of his conquest of Middle-earth, Gandalf the Wizard, and Théoden King of Rohan rally their forces to help defend Gondor's capital Minas Tirith from the looming threat. Aragorn finally claims the throne of Gondor and summons an army of ghosts to help him defeat Sauron. Ultimately, even with full strength of arms, they realize they cannot win; so it comes down to the Hobbits, Frodo and Sam, to bear the burden of the Ring and deal with the treachery of Gollum. After a long journey they finally arrive in the dangerous lands of Mordor, seeking to destroy the One Ring in the place it was created, the volcanic fires of Mount Doom.

Released on December 17, 2003, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King received rave reviews and became one of the greatest box-office successes of all time. Notably, it won all eleven Academy Awards for which it was nominated.
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Details

Director: Peter Jackson
Genre: Adventure, Classics, Drama, Fantasy
Release Date: December 17, 2003
MPAA Rating: PG-13
DVD Release Date: May 25, 2004
Runtime: 201 minutes
Studio: New Line Cinema, Wingnut Films
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