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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon January 5, 2004
Any review of "Return of the King" has to start from first principles: First, the books are too long to make into a movie, even a trilogy. Second, not everyone has read the books, or liked what they read. Sad but true. Third, of those who have read and liked the books, only a few of us have them mostly memorized. So any successful film production must take into account that parts of the books must be dropped, that the story has to be interesting and accessible to those who haven't read the trilogy, and that the movies must still honor the trilogy for those who have read - or memorized - Tolkien's life work. Those are the realities; we must judge the movie on those realities.
You can quibble over some very minor details, but Peter Jackson's telling of Return of the King balances these principles masterfully. Compression? Yes, of course. When Aragorn and Legolas lost the horses at the entrance to the Paths of the Dead, how, I asked myself, were they going to cross the hundreds of leagues from Erech to the Anduin? Excision? Yes, of course. The confrontation of Gandalf and Saruman. The confrontation with the Mouth of Saruman. The Houses of Healing. Imrahil. But the book trilogy is just too long to fit into three manageable movies. The absolutely critical scenes are all there. The story line is not lost or compromised. I will never know if it appears choppy to those unfamiliar with the books, but for me the compressions and excisions did not seriously detract.
Jackson also had to find a way to make the movie accessible to those who have never read the books. Those challenges included finding some way of demonstrating the pure evil of the One Ring. Those who have not read or do not remember the books don't know Tolkien's extended descriptions of what Frodo was experiencing. A movie maker's tools for making that introspection into exposition are pretty limited. The opening scene between Deagol and Smeagol brilliantly reminds viewers of the absolutely corrupting influence of the one Ring. Only by watching every character be tempted by the Ring, and watching many of those tempted succumb, can strangers to the Trilogy begin to know what Frodo was experiencing. The books are full of other, equally challenging problems for a scriptwriter and a director. Jackson handles them all quite well.
But Jackson also brought his own talents and imagination to the story. Is there anyone who wasn't transfixed by Jackson's invented sequence of Faramir's doomed charge on Osgiliath while Pippin is made to sing for Denethor? It's the difference between merely filming the book and making a movie. Jackson's additions range from brilliant to interesting; none of them detract from the story.
Finally, Jackson had to preserve the attention and respect of the sizeable minority of us who cherish the books. Speaking for myself, that moment came when Jackson had Aragorn turn to the crowd after his coronation, and recite, in Elvish, the words of Elendil when he came to Middle Earth. No subtitles; no explanation. Obviously, that line was for hard core fans alone. Having Aragron chant the lines was just icing on the cake.
Brilliant special effects. Superb unity of plot, theme, and character across the three movies - compare Isildur's half smile when he declines to destroy the Ring at Elrond's urging with the look on Frodo's face at the penultimate moment. And the knife's edge balancing of these principles. This is an excellent adaptation, nearly flawless. Highly recommended.
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54 of 64 people found the following review helpful
Peter Jackson's epic adaptation of "Lord of the Rings" reaches its pinnacle in "Return of the King." The stellar cast, mind-blowing special effects and heartbreaking script are all present in the third movie, which is not only the last of the "Lord of the Rings" films, but the best.

Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) are still following the treacherous Gollum (Andy Serkis) on the path to Mordor, with the increasingly strained Frodo unaware that Gollum is sowing suspicion between the two best friends. By the time he realizes his mistake, he's been dragged into the lair of Shelob, a monstrous spider, and then abducted by orcs who want the Ring he carries. Determined to find his friend, Sam heads into an orc citadel...

Meanwhile, Gandalf (Ian McKellen) takes Pippin (Billy Boyd) with him to Minas Tirith, after the hobbit has a close encounter with Sauron through a palantir. \Not only is the city under siege, but the Steward Denethor is slowly going insane, even sending his one remaining son, Faramir (David Wenham), on a suicide mission to reclaim a dead city. With Minas Tirith crumbling, Aragorn's (Viggo Mortensen) only hope may to be summon an army of the dead, who will only obey the King of Gondor. But even the dead won't help him if Frodo doesn't destroy the Ring...

The "Lord of the Rings" trilogy is one of those once-in-a-lifetime movie experiences. There has never been anything quite like it in movie history, and there probably never will be again. It seems somehow fitting that the book that every other fantasy has to measure up to, has now become a sweeping cinematic triumph that actually stays halfway loyal to the books. Good things come to fans who wait, I guess.

Peter Jackson really outdoes himself. You know those battle scenes in "Two Towers" and "Fellowship of the Ring," with the swooping camera and thousands of orcs, clashing with men on a gloomy battlefield? In "Return of the King," Jackson surpasses that. There's everything from volcanic eruptions to an invasion of howling ghosts to the attack of the oliphaunts (like elephants, only bigger). Each action scene a shattering ride, and there's no guarantee that all the beloved characters will make it out alive. Some of them don't.

But if Jackson manages the epic battles well, he does an even better job with the gentler, quieter moments. The action slows down, and the characters take a moment to support and comfort each other. They cry, they hug, they think about home -- such as Gandalf comforting the frightened Pippin with a description of the afterlife. Jackson and his fellow screenwriters Fran Walsh and Phillippa Boyens throw themselves into the semi-formal language of Tolkien's world, resculpting Tolkien's words into equally rich movie dialogue.

Elijah Wood gives an unparalleled performance as Frodo Baggins. Frodo's gradual deterioration is wrenching to watch, and the climactic scene at Mount Doom displays just what the Ring can do to even the pure-hearted hobbit. Sean Astin follows up with his powerful performance as Sam, who is increasingly the "strong" hobbit, rather than the follower. The final scenes between these two outstanding actors are beautiful and understated.

But all the supporting cast also give powerful performances -- Boyd and Dominic Monaghan put their characters through some intense growing pains, and the "I'm going to take care of you" scene is enough to bring tears to your eyes. Mortensen gets more kingly every moment, while Ian McKellen balances action with grandfatherly wisdom. Bernard Hill has a quietly moving final scene, while Miranda Otto makes the despairing Eowyn a strong, kick-butt heroine.

Perhaps the most striking thing about "Return of the King" is the final fourth of the film. While the "multiple endings" may annoy some viewers, it seems somehow right to gently let go of these characters rather than have a sudden, splashy finale. And whether they have a happy or sad ending, Jackson never lets us forget that they all made sacrifices to battle Sauron.

"Return of the King" brings the epic "Lord of the Rings" trilogy to a close, and cements Jackson's reputation as a master filmmaker. With the outstanding cast, beautiful scripting and amazing direction, this is the best of the "Lord" films -- and that's saying something.
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167 of 207 people found the following review helpful
on February 14, 2004
I was crying when the movie ended and for so many reasons. This movie is easily the greatest and most powerful of the three movies in Peter Jackson's future classic legacy "Lord Of The Rings" and will go down into the same category as "Wizard Of Oz", "The Godfather" and "Citizen Kane" as one of the greatest movies that has ever been made.
Perfectly picking up where "The Two Towers" left off, Frodo, Sam and Gollum are approaching ever closer to Mt. Doom in Mordor but Frodo is falling further and further into despair as the power of the Ring is increasing. Meanwhile, Gollum has some nefarious plans of his own that they aren't aware of yet. Meanwhile Minas Tirith, the capitol of Gondor, is under seige by massive armies loyal to Sauron and the dark powers are spreading all over Middle Earth, causing death and destruction in the process.
Time is running out, friendships are tested, powers both good and evil, start breaking down, armies start moving, and the days are growing darker as the fate of Middle Earth hangs by a thread.
This movie is extremely intense.
Arguably the darkest of the three, this brings the epic trilogy to a powerful and tearjerking end.
I cried not only because of the powerful ending but because a great era in moviemaking has come to a conclusion.
But we will someday see this again on the big screen someday and perhaps the extended editions back to back. We'll see....
Until then, go and see this movie right away. You will never experience anything like this again.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on December 24, 2003
Even with a thousand plus word review, I can never even begin to explain the sheer power and the scope that "Return of the King" really is. The final chapter in this great and apocalyptic trilogy is by far the darkest and most riveting of the three LOTR movies and in my opinion, the pinnacle of filmmaking in just about every way you can look at it.
In this epic finale, Frodo Baggins, his companion Samwise Gamgee and their guide Gollum, also known as Sméagol continue on their quest to reach Mt. Doom and destroy the ring by tossing it back into the fiery chasm where it was made. The power of the Ring though has become so strong that it is now causing Frodo's unraveling, his friendship with Samwise is becoming strained from the stress of resisting the Rings power, and Gollum and Samwise are coming into major conflict with each other and Frodo, already carrying a huge burden, has the choice of either going with Sam's or Gollum's advice. However, Gollum secretly has devious plans of his own. Meanwhile, Sauron's massive armies now launch a swift and brutal assault against the Race of Man's remaining refuge Minas Tirith and their remaining king Denethor II, driven mad after knowing of the death of his son Boromir, shuts himself off from the outside kingdom. Sauron is gaining power by every passing minute but the ultimate fate of Middle Earth lies in the hands of one Hobbit, which is Frodo Baggins who is becoming increasingly influenced by the Ring and also is facing decisions to listen to Gollum or his longtime friend Samwise Gamgee who has been coming into fights with Gollum.
This movie is the longest of all of the three, coming in at a grand length of 3 hours and 17 minutes but even then, as the movie ended, I did not want it to end. If there is anything that occasionally pokes at my side, it's the omission of Saruman's fate. I originally have passed the news of it off as just media pap but sadly, his demise has been omitted from this movie and I was really eager to see how it happened but we may not be seeing it until the extended edition of this movie comes out. Other than this omission, "Return of the King" is just about as perfect as movies can go. This movie blows any of the Star Wars, and Harry Potter movies right out of the water and into orbit around the earth. Those are great trilogies but nothing rivals the multiple dimensions of the Lord Of The Rings novels that Tolkien created. He created entire languages, entire landscapes and different races of human beings ranging from Elves, to Dwarfs, to Orcs, and the Race of Man, along with countless others too.
All of the characters were excellent but there are two I especially want to take note of. Samwise Gamgee to me felt more like just a sidekick to Frodo Baggins but on here, even amidst the setbacks he has gone through, he comes off as being every bit a hero as much as Frodo himself. The other one is Miranda Otto as Eowyn. Eowyn, who was asked to stay behind by her uncle King Théoden, she however defies orders to stay behind, disguises herself and becomes a woman warrior like no other character in any other movie. I would go far to say that she even beats out Ellen Ripley from Aliens as the greatest woman fighter in movie history.
The late 1970s and early 1980s animated screen adaptations of the novels were awful in my opinion as the hobbits looked more like giant coconuts and Gandalf and Saruman looked more like bearded figures from bad Christmas Cartoon outtakes. Those animated versions failed so miserably at bringing the novels to life that they turned many away from the series. On the other extreme, Peter Jackson's adaptation of these three novels though, he brings the images that I had imagined from reading the books right onto the big screen. There are some occasional areas where he deviates from some of the story elements but overall, no movie series has ever been so faithful to their books the way Lord of the Rings has and "Return Of The King" does the best job at it.
I stated in one of my reviews on the last movie "The Two Towers" that that one was what had the most substance of them all but now I have to contradict that as this final epic installment in the trilogy is by far the greatest of them all and not only to best but also the most heartbreaking masterpiece that has ever been made. This whole movie trilogy will never be surpassed again in any of our lifetimes, if ever, and Peter Jackson has already sealed his status as a directing legend. I have never cried at the ending of any movie the way I did with "Return of The King". Not even "Titanic" from years back broke my heart the way ROTK did. It really brings to mind just the exact things that our world seems to be going through right now, the evil forces of terrorism are moving, corruption in corporations is rampant, and the forces of good who aim to counteract these problems seem to be scattered and in shambles but hope always remains for a better future. As the elves left Middle Earth to the race of men as the Age of Men dawned, I really cannot help but say that if the age of Man continues to this very day, according to Tolkien's timeline, I feel saddened at what man has done to the Earth since the end of the Third Age.
Anyhow, go and see this movie. You will never experience moviemaking on an epic scale like this ever again in your lifetime. You will cry, you will laugh, many emotions will come up. I guarantee it.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on December 27, 2004
As with so many other Tolkein fans out there, I've been anxiously awaiting this release and was finally treated to it after receiving it as a holiday gift. By way of background, when I initially saw Return of the King in the movie theater (2 or 3 times), I thoroughly enjoyed it but was somewhat disappointed. Generally, I felt that the filmmakers made certain decisions as to content (i.e., what to include and what not to include) that I would not have made. Of course, the thing to realize is that the films are derivative of the original books and given the volume of material included in Tolkein's masterwork, it is impossible to include everything in the films. Nonetheless, I could tell that there were several scenes in the theatrical version which would be expanded in the Platinum Series.

While the extended edition of Return of the King does not include "everything I would liked to have seen," it adds so much flavor to an already brilliant film. For anyone who loves Tolkein or anyone who never read Tolkein but loved the movies, this (and each of the extended editions) are must-haves. My favorite added/extended scenes are: (i) the additional details concerning the many battle scenes; (ii) the Mouth of Sauron scene; and, (iii) the scenes w/ Frodo and Sam in Cirith Ungol and Mordor. I was somewhat disappointed with the scene in which "Aragorn Masters the Palantir" (started out well but the ending was not in keeping with the character of soon-to-be King Elessar). Likewise, "the Voice of Saruman" scene fails to included Gandalf's warning re: the pursuasiveness of the wizard's voice). The "Hour of the Witch King" also left something to be desired although I loved the courage and bravery of Shadowfax). Also, it would have been very useful to the plot had the filmmakers included a scene with Denethor using the Palantir of Minas Tirith -- it would give newcomers to Tolkein a better understanding of what drove the Steward to madness. Finally, it would also have been fun to see a scene at Cirith Ungol where Sam breaks the "Will of the Watchers."

I know I'm a harsh critic because I love the books so much but, all in all, this was a wonderful adaptation. Beautifully done. Waiting anxiously for Peter Jackson and crew to get working on the Hobbit.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on January 13, 2004
This isn't so much a review (I am writing one soon) as a short response to certain individuals who believe The Lord of the Rings films to be racist.
The colors of black and white have been used to symbolize many things, and yes at times they represent evil and good - "black" symbolizes darkness and the unknown while "white" represents clarity and light. In this case, skin color is a non-factor.
If anything, this film series turns the notion of white and black as good and evil on it's ear, because the villainous Sarumon was a "White" Wizard before Gandalf became so...and it's his evil army that bore the mark of the "White Hand of Sarumon" on their faces and armor!
Obviously the African American Film Critics Association didn't detect any racism when they chose Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King as the best film of the year, and neither should anyone else!
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on December 14, 2004
I approached this extended edition of Return of the King with more enthusiasm than the other two extended editions because of the information that 50 minutes were added to the film! This was more than a fan of the books and films could have hoped for. There is so much added in the extra footage that sets the mood for the film much more concretely right from the get go, that I was completely enthralled all over again like I was when I saw the film in theaters. I think that there is no one who will dislike the additions; they are extremely well incorporated into the flow of the film. What follows is a review of the extended cut of Return of the King (the first two dvd's). I have not watched the appendices but am sure they are phenomenal as well.

Now for some spoilers. Smeagol and Deagols sequence is a bit longer and more intense, The Saruman sequence is worth seeing, because we did not really get closure to his storyline in the theatrical cut... It is good to see Christopher Lee as Saruman and Brad Douriff as Grima Wormtongue one more time... It makes sense that Lee was upset that his part in the third film was cut for the theaters, it is a great final scene for the character, and is integrated here.

We get extra details about the decline of Gondor, well worth it.. We also get more Palantir scenes (one extended with Pippin, and a brand new sequence with Aragorn). There is a scene with the Witch King and Gandalf that just blew me away, as well as The Mouth of Sauron at the gates of Mordor, a tense moment in the books, and here reinserted for fans... There is an extra scene with the Dead army. In addition, there is some extra development of the romance that Faramir and Eowyn will share (like the books) which was only shown in one scene in theaters at the end when the two appear together in frame. We even get a very small Boromir cameo!!!

The extended sequences are integrated so well it is hard to see when the theatrical version ends and the extra footage begins. But that is besides the point, this is a reworked version, and includes the theatrical version and 50 minutes of new footage for a total running time of over four hours! Even new music has been integrated!!! Now we all can go and watch the three extended cuts as one long film and enjoy the experience all over again... Peter Jackson has outdone himself again. Frodo Lives!
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on December 24, 2003
About midway through watching ROTK, I realized that I was witnessing a milestone in movie history -- a movie that like Birth of a Nation, Citizen Kane and Star Wars, will one day be looked back on as a turning point in cinema history. Even those who don't like LOTR will acknowledge that it has suddenly changed what is possible on the silver screen. For an amateur student of film such as myself, that alone made the movie worth watching.
But even ignoring the place that LOTR will have in movie history, this is a stunning film, the crowning achievement to the biggest epic in movie history. Many have asked which movie I like best. But that's a question that's impossible to answer because this is all one glorious epic. Of course, I loved ROTK best because it is the conclusion, the payoff, the finale. We finally get those moment of triumph and tragedy and catharsis that Peter Jackson has been promising us ever since Cate Blanchett's luminous voice whispered in elvish on silver screens across the world in 2001.
Adjectives fail me. This is not just a simple action movie -- although it works wondorously on that level. The Battle of the Pelennor fields is electrifying -- even for someone who's read the book a dozen times. The lighting of the Beacons of Gondor may be my favorite scene in the movie. But what makes this movie stand over the crowd is the emotional story -- the resolution of Arwen and Aragorn's tale (a scene near the very beginning might bring tears to your eyes), the incomparable bond between Sam and Frodo, the tragic heart-rending character arc of Gollum and the apocalyptic climax. If you don't at least get choked up watching this movie, run, do not walk, to the nearest psychiatrist.
The cast is, as always, superb. We expect greatness from Sir Ian McKellan, but who would have though that Elijah Wood, Sean Astin and even Liv Tyler (!!) would bring such emotional resonance to the screen? But the best performance -- one that will unfortunately never be rewarded by Hollywood -- is again Andy Serkis as Gollum. We even get to see him without WETA's digital skin and his performance is no less amazing. Peter Jackson's direction is sure -- bringing grandeour to the action scenes and intimacy to the character scenes. And mention should be made of Howard Shore's operatic score -- that can soar in some scenes and mourn in others. Amazing.
There has been some compaint about the "multiple ending" of the movie. But I liked this. I liked that the movie showed there was a price to pay for what happened, that some wounds never heal. I liked that it eased us out of the stunning climax and let us see that this was just one part of the ongoing tale.
Well, I guess I've waxed rhapsodic enough.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on September 3, 2006
...I've been seeing a lot of negative reviews for the re-release of these three films on DVD. A lot of them are from people that don't even own them giving them a low rating simply because they are mad they already own the extended cuts, and want the documentaries on the new ones, but don't want to purchase them again. Now I don't blame them. I hate when a DVD is re-released many times over with little or no extras that than its predecessor. I however, disagree that they should be rated low simply because angry consumers that already own the previous versions are mad that they don't want to purchase them again. Now they have the right to be angry, but if you don't own them, you should not review them, let alone rate them the lowest score.

In short, you already know how great these movies are, if you do not already own them all, then they make a great buy. I purchased all three since I only owned the Theatrical Cut of "The Fellowship of the Ring." I was watching the extended cut last night and it got me all excited again. The box art is pretty freaking cool too, and the fact that they are not huge like the extended editions was a plus for me. They don't take a lot of room, which is good for me because I have soo many movies that the more space I can save the better. The only thing you should know is that although both theatrical and extended cuts are on one disc, you still have to switch the disc over in between the movie--which is really not a big deal. I highly recommend getting these to those that don't own them yet.
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28 of 33 people found the following review helpful
I am sure I am by no means alone in having arranged my day to enjoy the entire trilogy, watching both of the special edition DVDs of "The Fellowship of the Ring" and "The Two Towers," taking a break only to go to the theater to buy tickets for the late night showing so I could end the day seeing "The Return of the King." After the disappointments of "The Return of the Jedi," "The Matrix: Revolutions," and even "The Godfather: Part III," we come to a world in which "The Trilogy" will now refer to Peter Jackson's films in the world of cinema the same way it does to J.R.R. Tolkien's novels in the realm of literature.
Things I am savoring the morning after:
The ride of the Rohirrim at the Battle of the Pelennor Field. This ends up being the greatest cavalry charge in cinematic history, as well as the biggest battle scene of all time. Not only do you have the attack, but the counter-attack, and then the Lord of the Nazgul. I wish such scenes did not rely so much on hand-held cameras and jump cuts, but that is the way of the cinematic world. However, it was especially gratifying that the biggest cheer of the night came in my favorite scene from the trilogy, when Eowyn faces the foul dwimmerlaik, although I think Jackson really could have heightened the drama of the moment a lot better and I missed hearing her laugh and speak in a clear voice like the ring of steel.
The army of Sauron laying siege of Gondor. The oliphants were impressive, but so were the catapults flings rocks and pieces of masonry at each other, and the great trolls working the machines of war. For that matter, the first sight of Minas Tirith was as grand as our first look at Rivendell.
The emergence of Pippin as a strong character. My only serious complaint early on was that Merry and Pippin were the comic relief, a role that was passed on to Gimli (but really belongs to Sam if anybody), and in his service to the Steward of Gondor we finally see Pippin, well, grow up. And who would have expected that a particularly poignant moment in the film would be Pippin singing a song?
Getting to see Andy Serkis as a non-computer generated Smeago. This is a nice cameo for someone who put on one of the greatest vocal performances in movie history. The Smeagol-Gollum argument in "The Two Towers" actually created sympathy for this sad little creature, and the credit goes to what Serkis did with his voice, so it seems right that we get to see his face.
The idea that in the end, this really is Sam's story. Not only because he gets the last line in the movie as he does the book, but also because when all is said and done he is the most heroic figure of them all, fighting on for the best of reasons.
In the end I was most impressed by how Jackson changed the pivotal moment at Mount Doom, which was a brief scene in the book, into something much more in keeping with the characters and their situation. Jackson not only sets this up with the flashback that opens the film, but even after the final fate of the ring, where it echoes in a conversation between Bilbo and Frodo.
Overall Jackson's tinkering with the sacred text worked well, with expanding the role of Arwen Undomiel so that she was more than King Elessar's Midsummer bride and having Eowyn fix her eye upon Aragorn. I always appreciated the scouring of the Shire as being appropriate to the sensibilities of an English audience that had endured the Blitz and World War II, but times have changed and the characters clearly bear their own physical and emotional scarring.
Yes, devotes of Tolkien's work will all have quibbles with what has been omitted (e.g., Gandalf's confrontation with the Lord of the Nazgul), but hopefully for most of us that just means waiting eleven months for the special edition DVD to be released. Maybe they will do it sooner next year since it will not have to prime us for the next movie.
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