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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  • Elijah Wood in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
  • Liv Tyler and Jarl Benzon in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
  • Peter Jackson and Bernard Hill in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
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Reviews & Commentary

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

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Did You Know?

Trivia

Viggo Mortensen estimates that during the course of filming the trilogy, and including all of takes, he "killed" every stuntman on the production at least fifty times.


Quotes

Deagol: Smeagol, I've got one! I've got a fish, Smeag. Smeagol!
Smeagol: Pull it in. Go on. Go on. Go on. Pull it in.


Goofs

When Sam is holding Frodo on his lap during the climb up Mt. Doom, the wound on Frodo's face has moved from his right cheek to his left. The footage for the entire scene has been flipped.


Crazy Credits

The credits are accompanied by preproduction sketches that appear along the left and right sides of the screen. The final sketch, in the center of the screen, is The One Ring.


Alternate Versions

In December 2004, an extended edition of the movie was released on DVD, containing 50 minutes of new footage. It a complete re-cut of the movie and so almost every scene contains small changes in pacing, music, framing, etc. Some use slightly altered takes. Major changes are listed below (spoiler warning):

  • a) Some extra dialog in Merry and Pippin's first scene at Isengard, making them seem a little "stoned" from the pipe-weed.
  • b) A final confrontation between Gandalf and Saruman has been restored, including the final fates of Saruman and Grima Wormtongue and a slightly different acquisition of the Palantir.
  • c) The celebration at Edoras has a few extra little snippets, most notably a drinking game between Legolas and Gimli.
  • d) Right before Pippin takes the Palantir, Aragorn enters the Great Hall and has a conversation with Eowyn about a dream she had.
  • e) Extra dialog from Merry when Gandalf and Pippin leave.
  • f) An extra line of dialog when Pippin meets Denethor.
  • g) After Gandalf storms out of the White Tower, he has a long monologue explaining the history of Gondor to Pippin.
  • h) A new scene with Frodo, Sam and Gollum centered on the discovery of a ruined and defaced statue at the crossroads.
  • i) When Pippin and Gandalf are talking on the balcony, an alternate take is used in which Gandalf chokes on the smoke from his pipe.
  • j) After Frodo and Sam begin climbing the stairs, Sam warns and threatens Gollum not to betray them.
  • k) Additional footage when the Orcs cross the river showing they take the Gondorians by surprise.
  • l) More dialog from Faramir and more violence as well.
  • m) A scene in which Merry asks to serve Theoden and Gimli and Legolas wonder what is happening in Gimli's home.
  • n) After Faramir arrives in Gondor, there is a scene where Denethor confronts him for not taking the Ring, which includes an appearance by Boromir.
  • o) An additional scene between Pippin and Faramir before the former swears fealty to Denethor.
  • p) Additional dialog when Faramir is riding out of Gondor.
  • q) Additional lines from Eomer after he tells Eowyn not to encourage Merry.
  • r) An additional line of dialog when Aragorn says farewell to Eowyn.
  • s) More dialog from Legolas when he explains the Paths of the Dead. The Paths of the Dead sequence is heavily revised, including the appearance of thousands of skulls, wispy ghosts, an earthquake and Aragorn's emergence from the mountain.
  • t) We see Gothmog dismounting a warg as the siege of Gondor begins; additional action during the siege of Gondor, including the Orcs using a small battering ram on the gates and cheering on the approach of the huge battering ram, Grond.
  • u) A new scene in which Aragorn attacks the Corsair ships, which includes a cameo by Peter Jackson (he's the one killed by Legolas).
  • v) A scouting report is brought to Theoden on his way to Gondor; a conversation between Merry and Eowyn.
  • w) More footage as Denethor takes Faramir to be cremated alive.
  • x) As Gandalf is riding to rescue Faramir, he is attacked by the Witch King.
  • y) The charge of the Rohirrim is moved to after this scene.
  • z) Another line of dialog before Denethor lights his pyre.
  • aa) More action during the battle of the Pelennor, including a fight between Gothmog and Eowyn.
  • bb) After Eowyn kills the Witch King, Gothmog tries to finish her off.
  • cc) Pippin's search for Merry is much longer and he finds him at night.
  • dd) Eomer finds Eowyn on the field and mourns when he thinks she is dead. A restored healing sequence between Aragorn and Eowyn.
  • ee) A much longer fight among the Orcs in the tower of Cirith Ungol.
  • ff) After Sam rescues Frodo, we see a surviving Orc sneaking off with the Mithril shirt.
  • gg) Aragorn finds a Palantir in the White Tower and uses it to reveal himself to Sauron.
  • hh) Faramir and Eowyn meet in Minas Tirith after Aragorn leaves.
  • ii) Frodo and Sam, wearing a disguise of orc armor, are found and forced to march with a detachment of Orcs while trying to reach Mount Doom.
  • jj) Near Mt. Doom, Frodo and Sam throw away the last of their gear.
  • kk) While resting, Sam sees a star through the clouds.
  • ll) At the Black Gate, the Aragorn, Gandalf, Legolas, Gimli, Pippin, Merry, and Eomer are first confronted by the Mouth of Sauron. (This also induces a goof as his body & horse have disappeared when they retreat from the gate.)
  • mm) More dialog when Gollum (acting as Smeagol) attacks Frodo on Mt. Doom.


Soundtracks

Into the West
Words and Music by
Howard Shore, Fran Walsh, and Annie Lennox
Performed by Annie Lennox
Annie Lennox appears courtesy of BMG Ariola Munchen GmbH

Storyline

Plot Summary


Synopsis (WARNING: Spoilers)


Genres

Adventure | Drama | Fantasy

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