- Title: Lord of the Rings The Return of the King (2 Disc)
- Director: Peter Jackson
- Date: 2003
- Studio: New Line Cinema
- Genre: Action, Drama, Fantasy
- Cast: Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Ian Holm, Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom, John Rhys-Davies, Liv Tyler, Hugo Weaving, Ian McKellen, Andy Serkis, Bernard Hill, Mirando Otto, Karl Urban, David Wenham, John Noble
- Format: Widescreen, Color
- DVD Format: R1, NTSC, 2-disc Theater Version
“Young Master Gandalf, I’m glad you’ve come. Wood and water, stock and stone I can master. But there is a wizard to manage here.” — Treebeard
“From ashes of fire shall be woken,
A Light from the Shadows shall spring,
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be King.” — Arwen
“A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship — but it is not this day! An hour of wolves and shattered shields when the age of men comes crashing down — but it is not this day! This day we fight! By all that you hold dear on this good Earth, I bid you stand — Men of the West!” — Aragorn
I truly loved re-watching this movie. Yes, Return of the King is long, but it never seems to drag the way The Two Towers does in parts. All the high points of the novels are there and perfectly visualized. The film is a masterpiece of storytelling both visually and verbally, with another excellent score by Howard Shore.
The film opens with Smeagol and Deagol fishing, Deagol is pulled into the water and finds the ring. Smeagol is immediately taken with it, and at first asks Deagol to give it to him as a “birthday present”, then kills Deagol and takes it. Quickly the audience is filled in on Smeagol’s sad story.
Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli arrive, with Gandalf, at Isengard — only to find Saruman’s tower destroyed and Pippin and Merry sitting on a field of victory, enjoying the spoils of battle. Pippin catches a quick glance of the Palantir, one of the Seeing Stones of Gondor, and then hands it to Gandalf at his request. Later the group returns to Rohan. That night, unable to sleep, Pippin has to see the Palantir again, he takes it from Gandalf and looks into it — and is attacked by Sauron. Sauron mind-rapes the Hobbit, but Pippin is able to hide his knowledge about Frodo. Pippin is shocked senseless by the attack. Aragorn is able to take the Palantir from Pippin, and Gandalf questions the young Hobbit, and realizes he gave away no information. Gandalf takes Pippin to Gondor and Merry remains in Rohan. Watching Merry and Pippin being split apart is heart-breaking. This scene of Pippin being attacked via the Palantir is in the novel, The Two Towers, and I must admit I was upset when that scene didn’t appear in that movie. However, it is perfectly visualized here and Jackson doesn’t ease off or wimp out in showing the true horror of what’s happened to Pippin. I definitely liked the way this important scene was shown.
Minas Tirith in Gondor looks perfect! And it is truly gorgeous, and very detailed. The “fly-by” hero shots are particularly breath-taking. In Gondor, Pippin ends up in service to the Steward, Denethor, and the Guard of the Citadel. Gandalf has Pippin light the signal fires, to ask for aide from Rohan, and the scene is truly awesome! I especially liked the calling out of the names of the mountain peaks. King Theoden decides he will respond to aid Gondor — but it will take him a few days to muster his troops. Meanwhile, Aragorn will take a darker road with Gimli and Legolas, The Paths of the Dead.
Osgiliath falls, and is taken by Orcs, Faramir barely escapes and returns to his father, Denethor. Denethor belittles his son, and tells him he wishes Faramir had died instead of Boromir. Pippin is shocked at this, then Denethor sends Faramir on a fool’s errand, with a small cadre of troops Gondor cannot afford to lose — to re-take Osgiliath. Faramir agrees to follow his father’s foolish command. After Faramir leaves, Denethor orders Pippin to sing while Denethor stuffs his face with food. Pippin sings a sad song of mist, shadow and night. This scene is intercut with Faramir’s men leaving Gondor, the women throwing flowers before them, and the slaughter of Faramir’s men. It is sad and depressing. Pippin breaks into tears as he watches Denethor and realizes what is happening.
The injured Faramir is brought back to Minas Tirith by his horse and let into the city. The Orcs then fling the severed heads of the rest of his men into the city using catapults. When Faramir is brought to Denethor, he puts on quite a show of his “sorrow” at the death of his son. Pippin realizes Faramir is still alive but no one will listen. Denethor, now totally insane, decides to burn himself and his son alive. Pippin gets Gandalf to stop this. While Gandalf tries to talk sense to Denethor, Pippin saves Faramir. Denethor burns himself alive. (In a slight twist from the book, rather than burning in the tomb, Denethor, alight, runs from the Citadel and leaps from the walkway. It’s not stated outright, but part of what drove Denethor mad was the use of a Palantir).
Meanwhile, Sam and Frodo, with Gollum as guide, continue their southbound journey. Gollum leads them to the winding stair, but causes a division between the two. Frodo sending Sam away, away home, is heart-breaking. Sam soon realizes Gollum’s played a trick, and follows. He fights and kills Shelob (the giant spider), but finds Frodo dead. He sees Sting turn blue, and hears Orcs coming — and hides. Upon hearing from the Orcs that Frodo isn’t dead, merely poisoned, he follows the Orcs as they take Frodo to Minas Morgul. When Frodo wakes, the Orcs are fighting over his clothes. By the time Sam gets there, nearly all the Orcs are dead, he’s able to fight off the last few, and Sam rescues Frodo. Frodo’s panicked because he thinks the Ring is gone, but Sam returns it to him. They find Orc armor, and leave, entering Mordor, and walking towards Mt. Doom.
Back in Gondor, at Minas Tirith, the Orcs, Nazgul, and other servants of Sauron are attacking the city. The White City is in lockdown, though Gandalf spurs on the men, organizing the fight. Pippin gets involved, briefly, in the fighting, before Gandalf sends him back to the Citadel. Just as it seems all is lost, Rohan arrives, and helps fight the Orcs. Eowyn, dressed as a man, carries Merry, whom Theoden had also forbidden to fight, on her saddle. The Nazgul Witch-King attacks Theoden, who is subsequently crushed by his horse, Snowmane. Eowyn, in anger, chops the head off the Nazgul’s flying beast. She challenges the Witch King, who boasts that he can be killed by no man. Eowyn removes her helmet and responds, “I am no man!” before stabbing him. Merry, seeing Eowyn in danger, also stabs the Witch-King, then screams in agony. The Witch-King dissolves, but both Eowyn and Merry collapse. It was a perfect visualization of one of my favorite scenes in the books.
A fleet of ships arrive, and at first it seems all is lost. But it’s Aragorn, leading the Oathbreakers, ghosts from under the mountain, with Legolas and Gimli. (In the books, his fleet also included allied men from several nations). Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas join the fight, and the dead dispose of the rest of the Orcs and Sauron’s minions. It is a fantastic battle. In it’s wake, Pippin finds Merry on the battle field, but he is injured and will recover. After the battle, the remaining members of the Fellowship, along with Eomer of Rohan, discuss what to do, knowing Frodo still has a journey ahead of him. They decide to create a diversion by riding out to the Black Gate.
There is much intercutting between the battle before the Black Gate, and Sam and Frodo’s final journey up Mount Doom. I hesitate to mention exactly what happens to the Ring, in case anyone hasn’t seen this absolutely brilliant movie or read the books, but it was handled pefectly.
The Eagles, who had previously rescued Gandalf from Saruman’s clutches at Isengard, rescue Sam and Frodo and bring them to Minas Tirith. The four Hobbits, and the remaining members of the Fellowship meet again. Aragorn is crowned king by Gandalf, and Arwen is made his bride. And thirteen months after setting out for their adventure, the four Hobbits return to the Shire. Sam marries Rosie Cotton, and Frodo finishes his part in writing his adventures down, before passing the book to Sam. The Hobbits accompany Frodo to the Grey Havens where he leaves on the Grey ship with Gandalf, Elrond, and Galadriel, and all the remaining Elves (save Legolas, probably — who’s off on a sight-seeing tour of Middle-Earth with Gimli).
Again, though long, Return of the King, is an excellent movie. I absolutely love it. There is as much pure emotion as action in this film, and in all three films. And considering the scope of the books, and the films, it’s really amazing what Peter Jackson was able to accomplish.
Recommendation: See it!
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Next Film: The Fellowship of the Ring (4 disc extended edition)