US Release Date: 12-17-2003
Directed by: Peter Jackson
- Elijah Wood, as
- Frodo Baggins
- Ian McKellen, as
- Viggo Mortensen, as
- Sean Astin, as
- Sam Gamgee
- Orlando Bloom, as
- John Rhys-Davies, as
- Billy Boyd, as
- Dominic Monaghan, as
- Miranda Otto, as
- Andy Serkis, as
- Liv Tyler, as
- Cate Blanchett, as
- Karl Urban, as
- David Wenham, as
- Marton Csokas as
Orlando Bloom and Viggo Mortensen in Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
Like a long hitting streak, all good things must come to an end. The greatest film trilogy ever made reaches its conclusion with The Return of the King.
The movie begins with a brief Smeagol flashback, and then it takes off right where The Two Towers ended. Frodo and Sam are still being lead to Mount Doom by the creepy Gollum. Aragorn, Gandalf, Gimli and Legolas are in Rohan. They meet back up with Merry and Pippin, and soon there after, the movie moves swiftly and directly to the huge battle of Minas Tirith.
The siege of Minas Tirith, as well as other battles, is awesome in every way. The huge cast of extras are right out of a classic blockbuster like Spartacus or The 10 Commandments. The special effects are amazingly state of the art. Other than Gimli and Legolas continuing their killing contest, the fights scenes are all very tense, scary and thrilling.
The action scenes will awe you, but it is the characters that give this movie so much feeling. Through out the movie, Peter Jackson includes many personal and emotional scenes. Merry and Pippin really stand out in this installment. Each has exciting sub plots. However, it is the utterly faithful Samwise Gamgee that will wring your heart and soul.
Sam becomes the hero in every possible way. He fights Orcs as well as a giant spider. My favorite scene of Sam's is where he is comforting an exhausted Frodo on the slope of Mount Doom. Sam says that although he can't carry the ring, he can still carry Frodo. He then lifts his weary friend and walks up the mountain. In the first two films, Sam is little more than Frodo's shadow. In The Return of the King, Sam steps into the spotlight and nearly steals the movie. Sean Astin gives an Oscar worthy performance. He deserves the best supporting actor award.
The Return of the King is a truly amazing film. It satisfies on every level. It has action, drama, romance and a little comedy. Watching this, movie, you escape to the fantastical, yet strangely real world of Middle Earth. It is often a strange and dangerous place, but never a dull one.
Sean Astin in Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
The Return of the King does satisfy on every level except one. It is far too short. Lest you think that is mere fan gushing, let me assure you that I mean it quite literally. Of the three, the final installment feels the most rushed in parts, and it is quite clear where we will see more when the eventual extended edition DVD is released. Do the abbreviated or missing scenes make for a weaker movie? I hesitate to say yes, because this is still the Best Movie of 2003, and yet, with those added scenes this great movie would have been even greater.
Just where are the missing or shortened scenes? With no advance or insider knowledge, I'll go out on a limb and say that when the extended version DVD is released you will see the following additions: Saruman will appear in the beginning of the film, Sam and Frodo's journey across Mordor will actually be shown, as will Aragorn's army's journey to the Black Gate of Mordor, and once there, you will see him talk to the Voice of Sauron and Aragorn and Gandalf will be shown Frodo's armor as in the books.
That minor quibble aside, you are still left with a fantastic movie that, as Eric said it would, left me in total awe. Seeing the scenes come to life that I have read so many, times gave me chills, particularly the final moments on Mount Doom with Frodo, Sam, and Gollum. The benchmark that Peter Jackson and company set with the first two movies is surpassed in this their final effort.
Like Eric, I felt that Sean Astin as Sam really comes into his own here. He is the heart and soul of the movie and without him the mission to destroy the Ring would have failed a dozen times over. Of all the cast he is the one most deserving of an Oscar.
My strongest emotion after leaving the theater after watching The Return of the King, was one of sadness. The thought that this was my final journey to Middle Earth on the Big Screen was a disappointing one. Two thoughts sustain me; the rumors of a Peter Jackson directed The Hobbit, and the thought of the Extended DVD due out next year.
Viggo Mortensen in Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
Let me jump right in by saying that I wholeheartedly concur with my brothers. In a world where the term classic gets tossed around more often than a frisbee at the beach on Memorial Day, Return of the King (along with the first two movies in the trilogy) truly deserves the title. I think J.R.R. Tolkien would be pleased with what Peter Jackson has done with his legendary story and, like Scott, I say bring on The Hobbit.
The special effects, which were impressive from the beginning, have gotten even better. As Eric said, the siege and battle of Minas Tirith is eye-popping. The camera floats seamlessly from thrilling wide-angle shots of thousands of men and orcs in brutal battle to intimate emotion filled close-ups of the heroes.
Peter Jackson has done something very few moviemakers have ever achieved. He has taken a classic work of literature and turned it into a classic movie that stays true to the source and that pleases diehard fans as well as those who have never read the books.
Both my brothers mentioned the climactic scene with Frodo, Sam and Gollum on Mount Doom. Emotionally, this is the high point of the trilogy. Sean Astin is great but then he has the far showier role. Elijah Wood conveys the physical and moral consumption of Frodo as the ring's evil eventually overcomes him, without the crutch of any overtly emotional speeches. Not to take anything away from Sean, he does give an Oscar worthy performance, but let's give the rest of the cast their due as well. Ian McKellen makes Gandalf seem more human and less untouchably wizardish in this installment, especially during the scenes with him and Pippin in Minas Tirith before the battle. And Viggo Mortensen's Aragorn completes his transformation from ranger to regal king before our very eyes.
My favorite moments though are action scenes. The first one is when Éowyn beheads the winged Nazgul and then after a sword fight with the Captain of the Black Riders tears off her helmet to reveal that she is a woman. The other one is Legolas's giddily thrilling fight with the orcs riding on an oliphant. He grabs the tail then climbs up the side using arrows that are stuck in the beasts hide and then proceeds to kill every orc aboard (counting as he goes) before slaughtering the creature and sliding effortlessly down its trunk to where Gimli deadpans, 'It still only counts as one.'
The goodbye scene between Frodo and his fellow hobbit adventurers recalls the tearful farewells in The Wizard of Oz and E.T.. It will choke you up and leave you wanting to visit Tolkien and Jackson's Middle Earth again. I know I do already.
Photos © Copyright New Line Cinema (2003)