The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

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The Lord of the Rings- The Return of the King 1The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

Directed by Peter Jackson

Based on The Lord of the Rings novel series by J.R.R. Tolkein

Screenplay by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson

Starring: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Orlando Bloom, Sean Astin, John Rhys-Davies, Viggo Mortensen, and more…

The weight of the One Ring begins to weigh more heavily on Frodo as he and Sam approach Mount Doom. In an effort to gain Sauron’s attention, Gandalf and Aragorn lead a major offensive against his armies.

The Lord of the Rings- The Return of the King 7It’s fitting that the final film in this trilogy earned the win for Best Picture. The win not only recognized this film, but also seemed to validate the collective success of the films in the series. In addition, the film earned 10 other Academy Awards, taking home the awards in every category it was nominated for. Director Peter Jackson (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey) won Best Director, and shared the win for Best Adapted Screenplay with Fran Walsh (The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug) and Philippa Boyens (The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies).

The Lord of the Rings- The Return of the King 3The cast finishes with the same great group that it started with. This includes Elijah Wood (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), Ian McKellen (X-Men: Days of Future Past), Orlando Bloom (New York, I Love You), Sean Astin (Rudy), and Cate Blanchett (The Talented Mr. Ripley). The cast also includes Sean Bean (National Treasure), Christopher Lee (Hugo), Ian Holm (Ratatouille), Andy Serkis (The Prestige), Viggo Mortensen (The Indian Runner), Liv Tyler (The Incredible Hulk), John Rhys-Davies (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade), and Hugo Weaving (Captain America: The First Avenger). Miranda Otto (The Thin Red Line), David Wenham (Public Enemies), Brad Dourif (One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest), and Bernard Hill (Titanic) also returned.

The Lord of the Rings- The Return of the King 6Like The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, this movie needed to maintain the tone and consistency of the first film in the series. The writing nicely picks up where the second film left off, finding a great starting point in the story that doesn’t spend too much time looking back. Like the second film, this one eases back on the lighter moments and dives into the grittier aspects of the story. There are still some moments of comedy, but this is easily the darkest of the three films. The writing also pushes all the right emotional buttons in the story. As the toll of the events works on the characters, the writing really captures the results.

The Lord of the Rings- The Return of the King 5If this film has any issues within the story, it comes from the length. The film runs 201 minutes, and features an extended epilogue that pays off for fans of the trilogy, but might take just a bit too long. Critic Joel Siegel of Good Morning America said, “If it didn’t take forty-five minutes to end, it’d be my best picture of the year. As it is, it’s just one of the great achievements in film history.” While this epilogue doesn’t bother me, less devoted fans of the series might find it a bit lengthy. Otherwise, this pays off on all of the setups throughout the trilogy and works as a memorable conclusion to one of the most ambitious film projects ever undertaken.

The Lord of the Rings- The Return of the King 11As the series wrapped up, the story seemed to narrow the focus back to the central characters who comprised the Fellowship of the Ring. This meant that the performances from the main cast members needed to be great. They were. Elijah Wood and Sean Astin both stepped up their game again, putting together roles that play off of one another and create so many memorable moments. The chemistry between the two is emotionally driven and really helps to keep the story moving along. The relationship between the two is complimented and complicated by the great performance of Andy Serkis. His voice and motion-capture work as Gollum is awesome.

The Lord of the Rings- The Return of the King 10Ian McKellen, Orlando Bloom, Viggo Mortensen, and John Rhys-Davies all do great work as well. Their roles all called for deeper emotions and more intense physical work, and they all rose to the task. Additionally, the performances of everyone else in this movie come together nicely to help bring this conclusion of this epic series the quality it deserved. I think the biggest testament to the acting in this movie is the emotional connection that builds between the audience and the characters. There’s something great about the performances that helps to make this connect very wonderfully with the viewers.

The Lord of the Rings- The Return of the King 8The visuals in this movie continue to have the same success that made the previous two films work so well. The movie earned Oscar wins for Best Film Editing, Best Makeup, Best Costume Design, Best Art Direction – Set Decoration, and Best Visual Effects. The epic battle scenes include an incredible attention to detail that helps to make every aspect feel very real. The more mystical aspects of the story are also given unique visual styling that add a wonderful layer to the film. Overall, the visuals in this film and the trilogy as a whole won’t disappoint.

The Lord of the Rings- The Return of the King 12The sound work for this movie is wonderful as well. The movie earned Oscars for Best Sound Mixing, Best Original Score, and Best Original Song. Howard Shore’s score pays off on all of the themes he wrote, beginning with the first film in the series. The winning song, Into the West, was the result of a combined effort between Howard Shore, Fran Walsh, and Annie Lennox. Shore’s wonderful work over the trilogy would net him three Academy Awards. Overall, the audio work is just as good as every other aspect of production on this movie.

The Lord of the Rings- The Return of the King 13The luxury of seeing these films closer together is a blessing for anyone checking them out now. The wait between releases was an excruciating experience for fans at the time. If you’re able to find them, make sure to watch the extended versions of these movies. If not, you’re still in for quite a treat. If you’re unfamiliar with these movies, make sure to start at the beginning. This film joins Titanic and Ben-Hur, also Best Picture winners, as the only movies to win 11 Academy Awards. I would definitely suggest this to fans of fantasy, adventure, or epics. I give this one 5 out of 5 stars.

Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 201 Minutes


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