The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) Review

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Lord of the Rings The Return of the King

Time: 201 minutes (theatrical), 252 minutes (extended)
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence & fantasy horror
Cast:
Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins
Sean Astin as Samwise Gamgee
Andy Serkis as Sméagol Trahald/Gollum
Ian McKellen as Gandalf the White
Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn Elessar
Cate Blanchett as Galadriel
John Rhys-Davies as Gimli
Bernard Hill as Théoden
Billy Boyd as Peregrin Took
Dominic Monaghan as Meriadoc Brandybuck
Orlando Bloom as Legolas Greenleaf
Hugo Weaving as Elrond
Liv Tyler as Arwen
Miranda Otto as Éowyn
David Wenham as Faramir
Karl Urban as Éomer
John Noble as Denethor
Ian Holm as Bilbo Baggins
Sean Bean as Boromir
Director: Peter Jackson

The Fellowship divides to conquer as Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin), with the help and hindrance of Gollum (Andy Serkis), continue their way to Mount Doom. The members of the fellowship in Rohan are warned of the impending attack when Pippin (Billy Boyd) cannot resist looking into Saruman’s palantir and is briefly contacted by the dark lord. Gandalf (Ian McKellan) and Pippin ride to Minas Tirith to help defend Gondor when the dark lord Sauron sets his sights on Minas Tirith, the capital of Gondor, while Merry (Dominic Monaghan) remains with Eowyn (Miranda Otto) and the other Rohan fighters. The fate of every living creature in Middle Earth will be decided once and for all as the Quest of the Ringbearer reaches its climax.

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The first two entries of Lord of the Rings trilogy were really great, but it’s the conclusion with The Return of the King that’s truly outstanding, grandiose, epic and emotionally satisfying. With the performances, the writing, the direction, and some awe inspiring action, it’s a remarkable cinematic achievement and an excellent film over 17 years later.

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Like with the other Lord of the Rings movies, it’s very hard to review, they’re so ingrained in pop culture, it’s like trying to review the original Star Wars trilogy. This film successfully continues the story from the first two movies, and this one is the most engaging of the series. The first half is pretty good, but it’s the second half where it really shines, particularly the final act. I don’t have many problems with the movie, I guess it occasionally has its silly moments like the other movies, and there are some minor plot points that aren’t so clear and don’t work so well. However it doesn’t even come close to bringing down the experience. One thing that is made fun of a lot is the fact that the film has a lot of endings – the screen fades to black and continues on before fading to black again, etc. While I don’t like the fake outs, the actual endings themselves I do like, it ties up pretty much all the storylines and loose ends. The film is quite strong as its theatrical cut. However the extended cut is quite simply the definitive version of the movie, and provides so many great scenes that add a lot to the movie. An example is a certain scene with Christopher Lee’s Saruman, removing it leaves a pretty big loose end especially considering he was one of the main antagonists of the last film. While I’m not sure the movie feels butchered with the theatrical cut (I haven’t watched that version for a long time), once you see the added scenes from the extended cut, it’s hard to think of the film without it. I understand that it can be quite intimidating, instead of watching the 3 hour and 20 minute long version, watching a version that’s over 4 hours long. However, I do implore you to see the extended cuts of all 3 of the trilogies if you haven’t already, especially for Return of the King.

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The acting from its very large good cast is great as always. They’ve only improved further as the movies have progressed. The only character who got worse as the films progressed was John Rhys Davis’s Gimli. He started off alright in The Fellowship of the Rings, but unfortunately across the movies he just became goofier and goofier, and he’s worst of all in this movie. The rest of the cast on the whole with the likes of Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Andy Serkis, Viggo Mortensen, Ian McKellan, Bernard Hill, Dominic Monaghan, Billy Boyd, Miranda Otto, David Wenham, Karl Urban, Hugo Weaving, and Cate Blanchett and others also brought it to their respective roles, giving some really great performances.

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Peter Jackson’s direction was excellent as usual, but The Return of the King really is his magnum opus. Everything from the production design, makeup, sound effects, cinematography, all outstanding on a technical level. There are a number of great action sequences in this trilogy, but The Return of the King has some of the most spectacular action in the series. They are all filmed greatly but it’s of course the big battle scenes which stand out, and they work really well. The visual effects are really good, some parts aren’t so great and are a little dated, but for a movie released in 2003, they mostly hold up well. The score by Howard Shore also works excellently, and is very memorable.

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While all 3 films are top notch, I’m pretty sure that The Return of the King is my favourite movie of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Peter Jackson and the cast and crew have improved over the course of the series, culminating in a fantastic final film. The Lord of the Rings trilogy are some of my favourite movies, particularly the third film, and they’ll continue to stand the test of time for sure.

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