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

PG-13   |    |  Adventure, Drama, Fantasy


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

Gandalf and Aragorn lead the World of Men against Sauron's army to draw his gaze from Frodo and Sam as they approach Mount Doom with the One Ring.

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8.9/10
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  • Billy Boyd in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
  • Peter Jackson in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
  • Peter Jackson and Ian McKellen in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
  • Liv Tyler in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
  • Sean Astin and Elijah Wood in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
  • John Noble at an event for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

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17 December 2003 | Chris_Docker
9
| A monumental film
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 . . .

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Adventure | Drama | Fantasy

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