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

lord of the rings the return of the king poster 2003 movie
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 10/10

A dramatic conclusion to the big-budget trilogy

Too long of an ending

Movie Info

Movie Name: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Studio: WingNut Films

Genre(s): Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Action/Adventure

Release Date(s): December 17, 2003

MPAA Rating: PG-13

lord of the rings the return of the king viggo mortensen army of the dead

It’s time for war!!!

The Ring is getting closer to Mordor, and Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) are in more danger. Now Smeagol (Andy Serkis) is falling to his dark Gollum persona, and Gollum is set to turn Frodo against Sam to get the ring for himself. The Riders of Rohan wait to hear from Minas Tirith, and Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Gimli (John Rys-Davies) under the leadership of Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) seek out more warriors to fight the upcoming battle.  Eowyn (Miranda Otto) battles with her feelings for Aragorn and her fears of not being able to fight like the men while Merry (Dominic Monaghan) finds himself drawn into the battle with Pippin (Billy Boyd) discovering his actions could turn the course of the war. The Eye of Sauron is forever watching, and Frodo is in danger.

lord of the rings the return of the king eye of sauron

Visine gets the red out, Sauron!

Directed by Peter Jackson, The Lord of the Rings:  The Return of the King is the third installment in Jackson’s adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings which adapts the final part of the story first published in 1955.  Following The Lord of the Rings:  The Two Towers in 2002, the film won eleven Academy Awards (every award it was nominated for) which included Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup, Best Original Score, Best Original Song (“Into the West”), Best Sound Mixing, and Best Visual Effects.

Trilogies always seem to run into problems in the third act.  It is often the part where characters you have become attached to take desperate measures which sometimes contradict what you expect or want the outcome to be.  The Lord of the Rings:  The Return of the King has problems, but the problems are more due to the faithful nature of the adaptation.

lord of the rings the return of the king frodo mount doom elijah wood

Frodo…don’t be a tool

The story is just simply too long.  Unlike The Lord of the Rings:  The Two Towers, the series has dead parts where you simply want the action to get back to Frodo, Sam, and Gollum.  It demonstrates weaknesses in Tolkien’s writings with the eagles once again swooping in to save the day (which could have been done at almost any time).  It is climactic, but the desire to make it faithful has ending after ending…leading you to want the movie just to end (and Jackson even cut down the endings with the destruction of the Shire taken out)…it is a conclusion, but you feel like it could have been shorter.

The cast has completely gelled and as seen through interviews and talks with the cast, they genuinely seem to like each other.  The movie’s theatrical cut did limit aspects of the story by taking out Christopher Lee’s Saruman’s fate.  It is a bit of a flaw since they spent so much time on the character in The Two Towers.  It was presented in the extended edition, but proved to be a change from Tolkien’s novel which had Saruman involved in the scouring of the Shire.

lord of the rings the return of the king ending

Ok…seriously…is this the end…wait…no? More Sam…?!?!

The visuals have been mastered by this point as well.  Since the movie is a complete “trilogy”, you expect the visuals to be even throughout all three movies, but I feel next to the first movie, The Lord of the Rings:  The Return of the King does look better simply due to the advancements in special effects in the few short years between the films.

The Lord of the Rings is a monumental achievement. Because of it, other movies like Harry Potter were helped, and the idea of massive serial movies was reborn.  Other movies like The Golden Compass and The Chronicles of Narnia have failed to complete because they didn’t have the vision (and financial backing) that Lord of the Rings had.  After a brief break, The Lord of the Rings:  The Return of the King was followed by the first film of a second trilogy which adapts The Hobbit beginning with The Hobbit:  An Unexpected Journey in 2012.

Related Links:

The Hobbit:  An Unexpected Journey (2012)

The Hobbit:  The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

The Hobbit:  The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)

The Lord of the Rings:  The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

The Lord of the Rings:  The Two Towers (2002)

The Hobbit (1977)

The Return of the King (1978)

The Lord of the Rings (1978)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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