To say that The Lord of the Rings film saga is spectacular would be an understatement. It is a timeless epic. One that achieves a perfect balance between style and substance. If you've been there since the beginning but have not been completely smitten by the first two films, then The Return of the King may just be the key to make you fall completely in love. Not only does it wrap things up, it also combines the best aspects of its predecessors. Whereas The Fellowship of the Ring focused on compelling character development The Two Towers had action sequences aplenty, this film has a bit of both and so much more.
Getting You Acquainted
The Return of the King begins with a flashback scene which reveals the origin of Gollum (Andy Serkis) and how fate has brought him the One ring -- a sequence of vital importance for those who have not gotten their hands on the novels. Relying on the somewhat unpredictable assistance of the creature known as Gollum (Andy Serkis), Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) continue their quest to destroy the One Ring using the fires of Mount Doom. Meanwhile, Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and Pippin (Billy Boyd) aid in the defense of Gondor, Eowyn (Miranda Otto) gives Merry (Dominic Monaghan) the chance to fight for his friends and Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) rides alongside Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) to make an Army of the Dead fulfill an oath sworn long before. As the War of the Ring draws to a close, the remaining members of the Fellowship must work separately but triumph together if they are to defeat the Dark Lord Sauron.
There’s Also an Extended Edition
The film lasts a good three hours and twenty minutes and, though that may seem daunting to some, we can say that not a single moment has been wasted. There are a number of scenes worth noting for many different reasons. We were at the edge of our seats when the forces of Mordor charge into the Gates of Minas Tirith and a wave of armored trolls and orcs stream through. We felt horrified when Denethor (John Noble) readies to burn Faramir (David Wenham) alive and laughed at Gimli's lopsided competition with Legolas.
And while Frodo and Sam's memorable scenes at the slopes of Mount Doom where touching, our favorite sequences would have to be those which involve Eowyn and Merry. It was hard not to get teary-eyed when the Shieldmaiden of Rohan gives Merry courage before the great charge of the Rohirrim. Then the dynamic duo manages to slay the Witch-king and Eowyn's goodbye to a dying Theoden was heartbreaking. In a good way.
That's not all of course, there are many more scenes which serve to remind us what we loved about these characters in the first place. Because of the beautiful writing, each of the actors also had their chance to shine. Mortensen's Aragorn for instance, was played perfectly. He delivered his lines with conviction as he takes his place as the rightful King of Men. Even subtle gestures such as Frodo's wistful look in the end connects straight to the heart.
Old School Cinema and Modern Day Filmmaking
The graphics are consistent with those from the first two films. In general, they are fantastic, making you believe that the world a living breathing entity. The scale is simply massive. You'd think that seeing thousands of CG characters would make things look artificial but, rest assured, they don't stand out in a bad way. The direction is clever, guiding your eyes towards elements which are living flesh to make the scenes look believable. There are a few mishaps which have survived past editing but these do not deter from the beauty of the film.
The soundtrack is also absolutely amazing. Although the sequences are already impactful as they are, Return of the King's beautiful score makes them even more emotionally engaging. The sound effects were all on point, some even make the room vibrate in a way which sets the beat of the action. Howard Shore's work for the trilogy has been hailed one of the most popular film scores of all time and it's easy to see why.
You Will Be Back Again
Simply put, this film is magnificent. As an adaptation, it stays true to the major ideas of the book itself and adds a dash of movie magic to make it translate better on screen. The ending is sweet, yet we can't help but look at the credits with a bit of sadness. The grand journey is over, after all.
That is, until we watch the trilogy all over again.