The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
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Aragorn is revealed as the heir to the ancient kings as he, Gandalf and the other members of the broken fellowship struggle to save Gondor from Sauron's forces. Meanwhile, Frodo and Sam bring the ring closer to the heart of Mordor, the dark lord's realm.

Title:The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Release Date:December 1, 2003
Runtime:
MPAA Rating:PG-13
Genres:Adventure, Fantasy, Action
Production Co.:WingNut Films, New Line Cinema
Production Countries:New Zealand, United States of America
Director:Peter Jackson
Writers:, , ,
Casts:, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Plot Keywords:elves, orcs, middle-earth (tolkien), based on novel, suspicion, bravery, war, honor, crushed to death, troll, brutality, ghost, end of trilogy, quest, sword and sorcery
Alternative Titles:
  • The Lord of the Rings - The Return of the King - [BE]
  • Taru Sormusten Herrasta - Kuninkaan Paluu - [FI]
  • The Return of the King - [US]
  • Lord of The Rings III - The Return of The King - [US]
  • The Lord of the Rings 3 - The Return of the King - [US]
  • Il signore degli anelli - Il ritorno del Re - [IT]
  • Il signore degli anelli III - Il ritorno del Re - [IT]
  • El Señor de los Anillos: El Retorno del Rey - [ES]
  • The Lord of the Rings III - The Return of the King - [US]
  • Le Seigneur des anneaux : le retour du roi - [FR]
  • 指环王3:王者归来 - [CN]
  • Властелин колец: Возвращение Короля - [RU]
  • The Lord of the Rings - The Return of the King - [US]
  • Ringenes Herre - Kongen vender tilbage - [DK]
  • TLOTR The Return of the King - [US]
  • LOTR 3 - [US]
  • Le Seigneur des Anneaux - Le Retour du Roi - [FR]
  • Sagan om Konungens återkomst - [SE]
  • Władca Pierścieni: Powrót Króla - [PL]
  • O Senhor dos Anéis - O Retorno do Rei - [PT]
  • O Senhor dos Anéis: O Retorno do Rei - [BR]
  • The Lord of the Rings The Return of the King - [CA]
  • 魔戒三部曲:王者再臨 - [TW]
  • Ringenes Herre 3 - Atter en konge - [NO]
  • El señor de los anillos III: El retorno del rey - [ES]
  • The Lord of the Rings 3 - The Return of the King - Extended Edition - [US]
  • The Lord of the Rings III - The Return of the King - Extended Edition - [US]
  • Lord of the Rings 3 - The Return of the King - Extended Edition - [US]
  • Lord of the Rings III - The Return of the King - Extended Edition - [US]
  • The Lord of the Rings - The Return of the King (Special Extended Edition) - [GB]
  • The Lord of the Rings - The Return of the King (Special Extended Edition) - [US]
  • Sõrmuste isand: Kuninga tagasitulek - [EE]
  • Le Seigneur des Anneaux 3 - Le Retour du Roi - [FR]
  • Lord of the Rings 3 - The Return of the King - Extended Edition Part 1 - [US]
  • Lord of the Rings 3 - The Return of the King - Extended Edition Part 2 - [US]
  • The.Lord.of.the.Rings.III.The.Return.of.the.King - [US]
  • 반지의 제왕 3 - 왕의 귀환 - [KR]
  • The Lord of the Rings - The Return of the King - [GB]
  • O Senhor dos Anéis - O Retorno do Rei - [BR]
  • Le Seigneur des Anneaux - Le Retour du Roi - Version longue - [FR]
  • Ο Άρχοντας Των Δαχτυλιδιών: Η Επιστροφή Του Βασιλιά - [GR]
  • El Señor de los Anillos El Retorno del Rey - [SV]
  • LOTR3 - The Return of the King - [GB]
  • The Lord of the Rings The Return of the King disc-1 - [US]
  • The Lord of the Rings The Return of the King disc-2 - [US]
  • ارباب حلقه ها: بازگشت پادشاه - [IR]
  • The Lord Of The Rings - The Return Of The King - DC - [AU]
  • 반지의 제왕 3: 왕의 귀환 - [KR]

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Reviews

  • Unprecedented.
    by GuyCC on 17 December 2003

    975 out of 1168 people found the following review useful:

    Peter Jackson has done it. He has created an all-encompassing epic saga of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings books, and after coming away from the final chapter, how does this rate not only as a film on its own, but as a part of the whole?

    Perfect.

    I've never seen a series like this. A trilogy of movies created with such love and care and utter perfection of craft that you can't help but walk away and wonder how did Peter Jackson make this possible? I have always loved the original "Star Wars" and "Indiana Jones" series for their epic storytelling, and just for just fitting in as a great moment in cinema. This should be, will be, remembered with as much revered fondness for generations to come. They do not make films like these anymore.

    As a stand alone film, it picks up immediately where "Two Towers" ends, so brush up before seeing it. I've read the books, and the anticipation of seeing some of the more profound moments in this film made me kind of view it with a rushed sense of perspective. I wanted to make sure everything in this film was done "right". And when it happened, it was. I will need to see this again to enjoy everything on a more casual level.

    The cast comes through once more. The musical score retains its beauty, elegance and power. The special effects, notably Gollum again, are nothing less than breathtaking, and simply move the story along. The battles are monumentally huge and exciting. There are some liberties taken with the story, especially during the end with the homecoming, and yet, everything that needed to be covered regarding the main characters was handled. After the greatest moment of the series resolves itself, the story provided a breather. And gives a good-bye to friends seen on screen for the last three years. It was truly a bittersweet feeling in realizing that there will be no "Rings" movie in 2004. I will miss this talented group of actors.

    As with the first two, the film is very long, but goes by without you ever truly realizing it. This film is so much more than a simple "fantasy" epic. It's a story about strength of character, friendship, loyalty and love. And while every member of the Fellowship has their part to play, I finally understood why some critics have said this series is a story about Sam. It's his unwavering resolve that led the quest to its victory. Sean Astin is a true credit for adding the inspirational heart to this epic. As as far as the ending goes, they ended it the way that it had to be ended. Jackson ended this film the way it should have been.

    I will miss looking forward to a new "Rings" movie, but these movies provide hope that high-quality films can still be made without special effects taking over a story, bathroom humor, or a "Top 40" soundtrack. George Lucas could learn a lot from these films about how not to alienate the fanbase.

    Each film has earned a "10" from me for the last two years, which for me to give is a rarity. This one, however, is as equally deserving as its two predecessors. The Academy had better not look over this film for "Best Picture" of 2003. To do so would be greatly disrespectful of the craft and care that anyone involved with these films put into them.

  • Not only the best of the "Lord of the Rings" series, but sets a new standard of epic filmmaking.
    by (dan.longino@gmail.com) on 16 December 2003

    771 out of 943 people found the following review useful:

    Saying that this film starts where `Two Towers' left off is somewhat misleading, for the film starts a great distance from the walls of Helm's Deep. `Return of the King' opens with a flashback of Smeagol (Andy Serkis) obtaining the one ring of power and an origin of his deterioration into the creature Gollum. This opening recaptures an emphasis that was somewhat lost within the epic battles of `Two Towers,' at that's the ring. The first installment, `The Fellowship of the Ring,' provided heaps of exposition on the ring's importance and influence, and in `Return of the King,' we see it pay off, big time.

    After the armies of Isengard have been defeated due to an allegiance between Theoden (Bernard Hill), the king of Rohan, and the elves, the main threat to middle earth is now concentrated in the kingdom of Mordor, controlled by the dark lord Sauron. Sauron has turned his eye towards the realm of Gondor, the last free kingdom of men, and the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellan) must warn Denethor (John Noble), Steward of Gondor of the impending attack, while Aragorn (Viggo Mortenson), heir to the throne of Gondor, and Theoden gather men to aid against the armies of Mordor. The dark lord Sauron needs only to regain the one ring of power to conquer all of middle earth, and two hobbits, Frodo (Elijah Wood) the ring-bearer and Sam (Sean Astin), must continue their journey, directed by Gollum, to Mount Doom, the only place where the ring can be destroyed. Got all that? If not, you need to bone up on your `Lord of the Rings' before expecting to follow this film.

    Since all three epics were filmed simultaneously, each individually has the feel of being part of a larger picture - except for this one. `The Return of the King' is just too big, the most epic of a set of epic films. Now that director Peter Jackson has brilliantly constructed the characters and plotlines throughout the first two films, he puts them to use.

    All of the characters have their best moments within this film. The pair of mischievous hobbits, Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd), are no longer the tree ornaments they were from `Two Towers,' but are split-up, and take their characters in completely new directions. Aragorn, played with an unmatched sense of honor by Viggo Mortenson, is about to meet his destiny as the future king of all men, while Andy Serkis continues his expert portrayal of Gollum (Serkis' provided not only the voice of Gollum, but also assisted during production by acting out the scenes of the computer-generated character with his fellow actors).

    However, the real acting triumph of the film is Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins. He continues his descent into corruption with an incredible talent that many could not pull off. Wood's performance is so critical to the film because it determines the ring's power to corrupt, which, needless to say, is absolute.

    The first two films established Jackson as an incredible visionary, shooting vast landscapes from his native New Zealand. With `Return of the King,' Jackson really gets a chance to show off. With, hands down, the most beautiful visuals of the trilogy, Jackson makes `Return of the King' a gorgeous feast for the eyes, while never resorting to McG level over-the-topness. Jackson stays very grounded in his characters, not letting the effects tell the story, but only assist the wonderful dialogue and characters. Think of `Return' as a mix of `Fellowship' and `Two Towers,' with enough action and character development worthy of ending a film event of this magnitude.

    The bottom line, fans of the films will not be disappointed. Hardcore Tolkien lovers might be upset by plot changes and interpretations made by Jackson and the other writers, however, it is unrealistic to expect a completely true adaptation of the novels, being that film is an entirely different medium. Despite the alterations, Jackson consistently stays true to the major themes and ideas from the original text, while adding some of the finest filmmaking ever put to screen. `The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King' is one of the most finely tuned and cinematically perfect films ever made. Not only the best of the trilogy, but a crowning achievement in epic filmmaking.

  • The first great cinematic masterpiece of the twenty-first century.
    by James Hitchcock on 4 February 2004

    572 out of 733 people found the following review useful:

    I am, I admit, an unlikely convert to the religion of Tolkienism. I have never read the books, having, I thought, been put off them for life by the sort of obsessive freaks who read them when I was at school. (One classmate, then aged about sixteen, told me with great pride that he had read the whole of 'The Lord of the Rings' at least fifty times). I also have never been a great admirer of the 'sword and sorcery' school of fantasy writing or film-making; indeed, some of this genre (mostly those starring the current governor of California) struck me as being among the worst films ever made. I was, however, persuaded to see the first in the trilogy, 'The Fellowship of the Ring', by its overwhelmingly positive reception from the critics, and was quickly won over by the scope of Peter Jackson's vision. I had been expecting some twee tale of elves, gnomes and fairies; what I experienced was a genuine epic (in the true sense of that overused word). Ever since December 2001, I have been waiting for parts two and three of the trilogy to be released. Neither has disappointed me. The story of 'The Lord of the Rings' is too complex to be told in a review such as this. Suffice it to say that it revolves around a magic ring which will give its possessor immense power. The power-hungry Dark Lord Sauron (a figure who is never actually seen on screen) desires to obtain the ring in order to dominate Middle Earth. His enemies, led by the wizard Gandalf, are seeking to destroy the ring, which can only be used for evil purposes, not for good. At the beginning of the final part of the trilogy, Sauron's forces are massing for an attack on the kingdom of Gondor. The film relates the story of the conflict which follows, and this leads to some of the most spectacular battle sequences I have seen, even more impressive than those in 'The Two Towers'. Inevitably, the film makes much use of computer-generated effects, but unlike many films dominated by special effects, plot and character are not neglected. The acting is uniformly good, and in some cases outstanding. Special mentions must also go to the camera-work, which made the best possible use of the magnificent New Zealand scenery, and to Howard Shore's memorable musical score. So, looking forward to the Oscar ceremony, I have no doubt that this should be the best film and that Peter Jackson, who has amply fulfilled the promise shown in the excellent 'Heavenly Creatures', should be best director. Best Actor? I would find it difficult to decide between the competing claims of Sir Ian McKellen, who brings wisdom, kindliness and the required touch of steel to his portrait of Gandalf, and of Elijah Wood, who plays the brave and resourceful hobbit Frodo to whom falls the dangerous task of ensuring the ring's destruction. Best Supporting Actor? My own nomination would be for Sean Astin, as Frodo's loyal companion Sam, but several others might have claims, notably Viggo Mortensen or Bernard Hill. Is this the best movie ever made, as some of its admirers have claimed? Possibly not- that is, after all, a very large claim to make. I have no doubt, however, that the trilogy as a whole is the first great cinematic masterpiece of the twenty-first century. It has certainly inspired me to start reading Tolkien's original novels. 10/10.

  • A Brilliant Conclusion
    by eiratan on 17 December 2003

    549 out of 692 people found the following review useful:

    As a movie watcher, I tend to become bored with the constant, overdone, overdrawn, underplayed, overdramatized performance and production quality of most Hollywood films. It's a trait that in recent years has sadly driven me away from most big budget American films. A decent idea will become mangled by the money making machine that is Hollywood, hoping to pump the most raw cash they can out of it before it drops dead in the street.

    We all saw the catastophre of a failure that arose from the Matrix Franchise. Such immense hype and professed genius only made the failure all the more poignant for those of us that really wanted and expected more from the franchise.

    That all being said, I must say that The Lord of the Rings is an amazingly powerful visual experience. Not even just a visual experience. Peter Jackson has crafted one of the finest written pieces of our era into THE quintessential epic. He supplements the brilliant storytelling of JRR Tolkien with one of the most awe-inspiring collection of films ever created.

    The 7 hours of film that leads up to the Return of the King is only precursor though, when you sit and watch this film. It's just plain brilliance. Everything about the film is wonderful. The manner in which Jackson has arranged the scenes, detracting slightly from the original flow of the novel really helps to keep the suspense strong in all three story branches. The Tolkien humor is intact perfectly and the gallantry and just plain coolness of these heroes is plain amazing. (Check out Legolas in the BIG battle) It's all just too much for words.

    If one were to gripe, and I suppose there will never be a film made that one cannot find a point at which to grip, it is painfully long running time here. I personally believe that this is the only way such a film could be made, true to the source material and completely engrossing, but I found myself more worried about the pain in my posterior than the emotional final minutes after 4 hours (including ads and previews) that I had spent in a cramped seat. As such, this will be all the better (at least for me) when it's release on DVD (can't wait for the extended...get to see the Sauroman scenes that they cut out).

    As a film though, this is amazing. A true lasting legacy in story telling and now cinema. Bravo Mr. Jackson.

  • They saved the best for last
    by Derek237 on 16 March 2005

    471 out of 565 people found the following review useful:

    Obviously, I'm aware of the fact that the Lord of the Rings trilogy is actually one giant movie, but since it was released in parts, that's how I'm judging them. The Return Of The King is the final chapter, and since it is the climax and resolution of the epic journey, it has a little more intensity and urgency than the previous installments.

    At this point everyone has come to know and love all of the characters, and the stakes have become tremendously high. Kingdoms are at their knees, and the only two characters who can save the day are getting weaker and weaker. The tension was very high in this episode and I can honestly say that out of all 3 this was the only one that had me on the edge of my seat. There were many memorable scenes (one of my favourites including the part with the giant spider)that made this the classic that it is sure to stay for decades to come.

    This is the longest of the series, mostly because of the ending that seems to last a while. This was a good ending, and I can see why Frodo did what he did. He, and us the audience, have gone through an incredible ordeal and I think we needed that 20 minute linger. When the battle is over, and the celebrations have ended, there is a sad emptiness felt. The films spanned over 3 years, there have been the extended cuts of course, but after that, it's all over. Peter Jackson gave us an ending that was both appropriate and admirable.

    These were some amazing movies and this one in particular is the best, in my opinion. As whole, the Lord Of The Rings is a phenomenon. An absolute phenomenon. Much more than just movies. They have a universal appeal and have touched the hearts and imaginations of millions. I'm one of them.

    Sorry if I'm being all fanboyish and kissing this movie's ass, but I really admire it. It may not be among my personal favourites but generally this seems to be the movie event of the century. There will never be another Lord of the Rings film, and that's a bit depressing.

    My rating: 10/10

  • My objective and unhyped view? Stunning. Simply stunning.
    by bob the moo on 25 December 2003

    343 out of 468 people found the following review useful:

    Frodo and Sam continue their quest to destroy the ring, led by the untrustworthy Gollum. Meanwhile the rest of the Fellowship prepare for another battle to hold a human city against an onslaught of orcs.

    If you check my other reviews you will note that I wasn't a massive fan of the first two films - I loved them, but was not blind to their faults. However, let me just lay my cards out here, I was totally blown away by this film. For the vast majority (and more of that later) the narrative flowed really well where the other two films had struggled to really keep consistent. Here the various strands work well together and, while characters have only brief times to tell stories, on the whole it manages it well. I got the feeling that the film really let rip - it knew this was the ending and it did feel that everything came together in a collection of noise and energy which really made it feel like the final part of a trilogy rather than just a stand alone film.

    The one area where the film really stutters (and actually caused people to leave the cinema in annoying numbers) is ironically the place where Jackson is true to the book, and that's the final 20 minutes. There is a clear scene where the film ends, however it then runs for another 20 minutes - which is a mix of scenes that all fade out like they were the end. To Joe Public (ie me!) I would have been happy not to have all the loose ends tied up in the way the book does it - the film should have ended on a high (with the King being crowned etc) but instead it seems to crawl to an end in a way that is not in line with the momentum of the film (if not the whole trilogy!) This problem is minor on the grand scheme of things, but I would rather have left the cinema on my high than be made to wonder `when's this ending? Is this the end now? Oh, maybe this is it now?' - but I do understand why it was done this way.

    The cast, as they have been all the way, are excellent. Wood's Frodo changes well during this film while Astin is touching in his portrayal of unerring friendship. Bloom and Rhys-Davis had less to do but came into their own during the battle scenes - adding both action and the odd comic touch (`that still counts as one' being accepted by the audience as a chance to break the tension). Mortensen is the title character and serves it well, with McKellen also continuing his strong role. I could list through the whole cast but I will stick with noting two things. Firstly, both Monaghan and Boyd had bigger and more meaningful roles and rose to them well. Secondly I continue with my belief from the second film that Serkis is the stand out actor of the trilogy. His Gollum is so much more than an effect - he is tragic, fearsome, hateful and funny. Praise of course goes to the special effects for making this character tell so much with an expression but to pretend that the work of the actor is secondary to the character (as opposed the look) is foolish. He deserved one for Two Towers so I hope an Oscar goes his way. It was a shame to not have screen time for Lee but the film works well without him and it was a brave move by the editors.

    The special effects do not stand out - and that's a compliment. Even in state of the art movies of late I have been aware that I could be watching a video game. Here I only occasionally noticed that things were clear computer effects, even though the majority of the film was! This is how they SHOULD be used - not as a draw in their own right but as part of the film. Whether it be the massive battle scenes that are spectacular or the animated spider or just the fact that I forget that Gollum is only an effect, I cannot fault it's use of effects or the sheer visual feast that is this film.

    I have tried not to gush because there will be plenty of others to do that without me joining them, but it is hard to really fault this film. It is the strongest of the trilogy and brings it all together really well, it is an emotional event more than a film and, if Jackson needs 20 minutes of slow closure to finish it to his satisfaction then I can give him that in return for all the hours of wonderful cinema that he has given me.

  • Five out of five decapitated orcs
    by eviltimmy on 20 December 2003

    317 out of 426 people found the following review useful:

    This is the final movie in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and certainly doesn't disappoint like some other trilogies *coughMatrixcough*. The three films had their principal shooting all done at the same time, which lowers their overall costs and keeps a good sense of continuity for the films.

    The special effects, first of all, are excellent. While there's a few little things (a reversed shot with smoke flowing back into chimneys and occasional lighting that's a bit off), by and large they're excellent. The most impressive thing about them is the sheer scale. This isn't a small or simple scene; it often includes thousands of digital characters combined with filmed actors and action, sweeping landscapes, and dozens of things happening at once. This is a good reason to see it in theatres; even on DVD, there's little details that you can only catch when it's on a massive screen.

    The filming is good, although there are a few evidences of digital smoothing and cutting that can nag at the mind and eyes of a picky movie-goer. There are a few interesting shots, but most are fairly plain and straight on, getting the point across without being dazzling. New Zealand's landscapes provide a great backdrop for everything going on, and there really are some beautiful places, especially up in the mountains. I hear land prices are quite good, what with the orcs warring and everything, so you may want to look into real estate purchases now.

    Sound has been said to make 75% of the emotional impact of any production. This is a loud 75%. All the sound effects are very well pulled off, sound appropriate, and are generally loud. The Nazgul screeching was bordering on painful, but in a good way. Most everything has a distinct sound, and it's rare that anything feels out of place. In some of the battles, the roof of the theatre was shaking. The soundtrack fits the movie well, and Howard Shore has done an excellent job, as with the last two films in the series.

    Performances all around were good, but Sean Astin as Sam and Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn really dominated the film. They performed their roles perfectly, and came away giving a good picture of the characters. Elijah Wood seemed to be stuck with the same terrified expression on his face through most of the movie, almost Max Payne-style, and it grew old quickly. Ian McKellen, the ever-wise white wizard, had a fair bit of dialogue which he delivered well; my only complaint is he had too much in the way of wistful sayings leading to scene changes. Orlando Bloom, favorite of young teenage girls everywhere, had a few more action sequences (which got cheers from the aforementioned girls) which were quite well pulled off, but his acting wasn't much tested by this film. John Rhys-Davies continued with Gimli's joking performance; he's really too amusing to take seriously, but does a good job at it.

    For the old Tolkien fans, this movie stays quite close to the book, although they did have to omit some portions, most notably the taking and retaking of the Shire and the time spent in the Halls of Healing in Minas Tirith. Hopefully some of this will show up in the Extended Edition on DVD. Shelob's attack was left until this film, and much of the time spent in Mordor was shortened for the sake of pacing, and it was a good decision.

    My favorite scene would have to be the battle at Minas Tirith. The incredible scope of the battle, with the special effects, sounds, and many close-ups of pieces of the action, make for an exciting scene. The visual effects especially are stunning; the 'oliphaunts' play a big part in the action, and they're entirely created by computer. There's also some wide shots with tens of thousands of digital characters marching on the field of battle, and even the individual actions have the masses warring as a backdrop. It's worth your movie-going dollar simply to watch this on a large screen. It was also intermingled with some smaller events inside Minas Tirith, so it's not pure battle for the whole of the scene, and it keeps it from being dreary or heavy-handed.

    Overall, this is a movie well worth watching, and even paying to see in a theatre. I'd recommend against bringing small children, as there are some scary images, and they'd also be a distraction during the final movie in what will probably remain the series of the decade. Not a particularly great date movie, either...this is a real, bring-your-friends big movie. Five out of five decapitated orcs (and trust me, there were a lot more than that).

  • A monumental film
    by Chris_Docker on 17 December 2003

    282 out of 363 people found the following review useful:

    Feeling weary and battle-worn, I have just staggered out of the cinema after three and a half hours of special effects creatures fighting other special effects creatures. I had taken refreshments but barely touched them - probably because the film I had watched is one of the most mesmerising, evocative, inspiring, and awesome I have witnessed of any big adventure epic. Not to mention superb ensemble acting, moods that shift effortlessly between mediaeval battles of colossal proportions and convincing bloodshed, beauty and wonderment, fantastic natural and artificial landscapes and cityscapes, touches of humour, well-paced dramatic tension, and human bonding that is moving enough to just let you dry your eyes as the unassuming credits flash by.

    Return of the King is the greatest of the Tolkien trilogy by New Zealand director Peter Jackson. Although I've seen the other two and read the book, I felt it would also stand alone well enough for people who hadn't done either.

    The storytelling is much more professional that the first one - which maybe laboured to introduce so much information - or the second one - which has little let up from the tension of long battle scenes. In Return of the King, there is an emotional sting at the start, as we watch the transformation of Gollum from warm, fun-loving guy to murderous, mutated wretch. The movie then moves deftly between different segments of the story - the sadness of the lovely soft-focus Liv Tyler as fated Arwen whose travails and woman's love succeeds in having the Sword that was Broken mended, the comradeship of Sam and Frodo (Sean Astin & Elijah Wood) that is tested to the limits, the strong commanding presence of Gandalf (Ian McKellen) who keeps an eye on things whilst turning in an Oscar-worthy performance, the ingenious and very varied battle scenes, and the mythical cities of that rise out of the screen and provide key plot elements.

    This is a fairy story of human endeavour, the defeating of power cliques and the triumph of the human spirit that could almost be compared to Wagner's Gotterdammerung. It is a fairy story without any sugary sweetness, a fairy story the likes of which hasn't been told so well before, and is even unlikely to be done so well in the future. The haunting scream of the Nasgul stays with you, the physical attractions are not airbrushed, and the battles are about as far from pantomime characters waving wooden swords as you can get. The ingenious monsters keep you on the edge of your seat. The whole narrative maintains the spirit (if not archival, detailed accuracy) of the original and makes you want to read the book (or read the book again!)

    The worst I can say about it is that it is maybe a tad long - but not that you'd notice . . .

  • Summary: Film and extended DVD versions
    by Harry T. Yung (harry_tk_yung@yahoo.com) on 13 January 2005

    257 out of 346 people found the following review useful:

    ***SPOILERS*** ***SPOILERS***

    Over the years, I've read Lord of the Rings four times. During the holiday season of 2003/4, I watched Return of the King four times. While I embraced ROTK as the third part of a dream come true, I was not totally happy, left wondering why so many things vital were missing. The 4-hour extended DVD version explains a lot.

    My biggest beef was on so much missing about Aragon, and I found most of them in the DVD. One of the vital elements in the Fellowship's strategy is to draw Sauron's eye away from Frodo, and here Aragon's role is crucial. The "last debate" in the movie is totally inadequate in explaining the suicidal march to the Black gate but the DVD makes it very clear, with the additional scene of Aragon revealing himself to Sauron though the Palantir. He is the bait that Sauron cannot resist.

    Another important aspect is that Aragon comes into the city of Minas Tirith first and foremost as a HEALER, not as a king. The kingship comes afterwards. This is again brought out in the additional scenes in the DVD, although still missing a lot of details from the book.

    Still disappointing, even for the DVD, is that so little is given to the story of Eowyn and Faramir. The dialogue through which they come to accept each other could very well be the most beautiful in the entire book. The few shots in the DVD that trace the development of their relationship are far from adequate, although that's a least a slight improvement from the film version.

    Another disappointment is Aragon's arrival at the Pelennor Fields, which is hopelessly lame compared with the original treatment in the book: amidst the despair of the Rohan and Gondor soldiers in witnessing the approaching black ships, Aragon's standard suddenly unfurls at the main mast: "There flowered a White Tree, and that was for Gondor; but seven stars were about it, and a high crown above it, the signs of Elendil that no lord had borne for years beyond count. And the stars flamed in the sunlight, for they were wrought of gems by Arwen daughter of Elrond; and the crown was bright in the morning, for it was wrought of mithril gold."

    The treatment of Gandalf's confrontation of the Witch King in the DVD departs from the book, in which the two are locked in a face off, then Rohan's horns are heard and the Witch King swings around and leaves. What in heaven's name is in Peter Jackson's mind when he had Gandalf's staff broken by the Witch King. But this did explain a mystery that has been bugging me for a year – why Gandalf had to snatch a spear from the guard when he saved Faramir from the pyre of Denethor.

    Enough on the DVD.I shall be remiss if I do not pay tribute to Peter Jackson for the wonderful film he and his dedicated crew have created.

    Most inspired is the lighting of the beacons to summon help from Rohan. In the book, this is observed by Pippin in the ride to Minas Tirith. To satisfy Pippin's curiosity, Gandalf explains the background to him in a somewhat factual manner. Jackson turns this into one of the most exciting moments in the film, with aesthetically superb shots of the 13 beacons (yes, I counted them) being lit up in succession, accompanied by beautifully rousing music score, culminating in Theoden's heroic utterance of "Rohan will answer". Watching this has to be among the most uplifting moments one can experience in a cinema.

    Most poignant is the Faramir's suicidal attempt to retake Osgilaith, under the orders of an unloving father. Starting from the soldiers of Gondor filing out of Minas Tirith in what looks almost like a funeral march to the letting loose of the swarm of arrows by the orcs in Osgilaith, every image of this scene is so hauntingly heartrending. It reminds me of John Woo's favourite scenes, although here, the music is Pipppin's actual singing rather than adapted background music, rendering the tragic mood even more devastating.

    Directly opposite in mood is Rohan's charge in the Battle of Pelennor Fields. Even if this mission is, in a way, equally suicidal, the spirit is sky high, radiating dauntless heroism and lust for battle. This scene also reminds me of the legendary battle scene in Spartacus (1960) which is universally recognised as the model in depiction of battle strategies. Rohan's charge in Pelennor Field, no the other hand, exemplifies heroism unsurpassed.

    Although ROTK is first and foremost the King's story, we should not forget, in the overall scheme of things, the ring bearers (no typo here because Frodo did acknowledge Sam as a fellow ring bearer in the end of the book). Elijah Wood and Sean Astin (particularly Astin) have played their roles to perfection. Towards the end of the quest, when Frodo's strength was almost fully spent, to hear Sam say "I cannot carry it (the ring) for you, Mr. Frodo, but I can carry you" and not be moved, one will have to be a hopelessly and irreversibly hardened cynic. The background music, incidentally, is "Into the west".

    It is certainly a good sign that the general audience worldwide has reacted favourably to the long aftermath following the destruction of the ring, indicated that their capacity to appreciate has not been impaired by the proliferation of Hollywood style slam-bang endings. Viggo Mortensen's line to the Hobbits "My friends, you bow to no one" is delivered with sincerity and conviction. The final scene at the Grey Havens is graceful, touching, stylish. However, there is one shot that I must mention: Galadriel's final enigmatic, alluring, half-smiling glance at Frodo before she disappears into the ship. Cate Blanchett is among the most versatile actresses around today and in LOTR, she is Galadriel incarnate.

  • Part 3: It's Not Really the Thought that Counts
    by mstomaso on 30 November 2007

    68 out of 84 people found the following review useful:

    Just as Peter Jackson felt that LOTR had to be made as one large, three-part, cinematic piece, I decided to write my IMDb review of all three movies as a single, multi-part essay. Click on my screen-name and hit "Chronological" to view my reviews of the Fellowship and Two Towers. I make no guarantees about the quality and consistence of my review, but I do guarantee that these three films offer very high and very consistent quality from beginning to end. The acting, cinematography, art, and direction simply can not be beat.

    Which of the three movies is my favorite varies with my mood – and the same holds true for Tolkien's books. When I am immersed in the story, ROTK is my favorite. When I simply want to have fun with the whole experience, I love Fellowship. And when I want something intense, evocative and thoughtful, I go for the Two Towers.

    Frodo, Sam and Golem are on their way to Mount Doom and their bodies, nerves, and relationships have borne the greatest burden on middle earth. The rest of the fellowship is rallying to the defense of Minas Tirith, and preparing for even more deadly battles to come.

    The heroism and romance are incredibly moving - when was the last time you saw an entire audience leaving a theater after a fantasy movie rubbing their eyes? The sets are breathtaking - even moreso than in the previous two films.

    The casting and acting are superb.

    The film delivers at every level and is the jewel in the trilogy's well-earned crown.

    Return of the King offers a resolution of all of the major story arcs in LOTR. As with the classic Tolkien trilogy, however, you may be able to predict some of what will occur, but never all of it and you'll never guess how you will get there. The same fatalistic and paradoxically unpredictable feeling of Tolkien's grand plots is present throughout ROTK especially. The major theme in ROTK, however, is the varied ways and means of heroism – both intentional and unintended, and Tolkien's examination of sacrifice and heroism is as inspiring as it is subtle. Amazingly, it all comes through in the films.

    Even more than the previous two films, Jackson and his writers took liberties with the story-line. Like the others, however, this serves the film better than simple adaptation from one medium to another. By reordering some of the chronology and adding scenes and plot devices which are consistent with Tolkien's world and characterizations, the film-makers actually do a better job of preserving the concepts and themes of the story than they could have with a pure adaptation. The lengthy epilogue in Tolkien's book is greatly reduced, reordered, and somewhat changed in order to work in the film. Some parts actually appear very early in ROTK. And some aspects of Tolkien's epilogue are disclosed in the Two Towers, though not directly depicted. But all of the really important components of the epilogue are, at least strongly implied if not well illustrated in ROTK.

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