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


Starring: Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Orlando Bloom, John Noble, Billy Boyd, Miranda Otto, Liv Tyler, William Monaghan, Bernard Hill, Karl Urban, et al.

Director: Peter Jackson

Rating: PG-13

Distributor: New Line Home Entertainment

Release Date: May 25, 2004
Review posted: May 24, 2004

Spoilers: Minor


Reviewed by Jon Bjorling




The final battle for Middle-Earth has begun. As Frodo and Sam approach Mount Doom, Aragorn and the others must fend off the hordes of Sauron.




Picking up where The Two Towers ended, Saruman has been vanquished and Helms Deep has survived. Frodo and Sam, led by the twisted creature Gollum, are quickly closing in on Mordor. However, Sauron doesnít take defeat lightly and sets his sights on the destruction of Minas Tirith, the capital city of Gondor. Will Aragon and Rohan arrive in time to aid Gandalf in the protection of the city? Will Frodo and Sam make it to Mount Doom, or will they be snared in Gollumís trap? After a point, I didnít really care.


As much as I have enjoyed The Lord of the Rings films, this is the least of the three. By this point, weíve seen everything that Jackson has to offer us. Weíve seen the hordes of CG monsters attacking giant stone cities. Weíve seen Gollum, who actually looks a little less convincing at times in this film than he did in the previous one. Weíve seen it all. This film offers us nothing that we havenít seen in the previous films. Visually, this film is, I would say, a failure. I was never wowed like I was in the other films. The eye candy just doesnít have the flavor it once had.


Emotionally, this is a full film. The story is beautifully told and the actors continue to deliver powerful performances. While Viggo Mortensen and his allies are good, the true stars of this film are Elijah Wood and Sean Austen. The Frodo and Sam journey is the core of the story and filled with the most drama. Sean Austen proves to the audience why Sam is the true hero of these films. Samís bravery and heart are the only things that keep Frodo going to fulfill his quest.


The filmís biggest flaw lies in its length. The film truly goes on for far too long. Weíve seen the CG creatures fighting against CG soldiers. We really donít need the excessively long battle scenes this time around. Granted, the film is an epic and these are wars that will be remembered forever, but we donít need to spend as much time on them as the filmmakers do. Does anyone remember the film A.I. and the complaints about its ending? Jackson does the same thing here. The ending lasts an eternity and is filled with things that we honestly donít need to see. I understand the emotional reasoning for it, but it is still excessive.


Overall, The Return of the King is a well crafted film. I like it, but I donít believe it is the best of the series. Itís not an unsatisfying conclusion, just one that could have used a little tightening.




The transfer is beautiful, just like the films before it. The colors are vivid and the black levels are consistent. The effects transfer, however, is not so good. Many of the computer effects look like computer effects and never blend in to the film. This can be distracting at times.




The film is presented in Dolby Digital EX 5.1 Surround, and Stereo Surround. Both mixes are great and use the surround to its fullest.




The Quest Fulfilled: A Directorís Vision; A Filmmakerís Journey: Making of Return of the King; featurettes (Aragonís Destiny, Minas Tirith: Capital of Gondor, Battle of Pelennor Fields, Samwise the Brave, Eowyn: White Lady of Rohan, Digital Horse Doubles)


All of these featurettes are just like the ones on the previous discs. They have recycled interviews and, by this point, give little to no information. These documentaries are good for those who havenít seen any of the previous documentaries, but a waste for everyone else.


National Geographic Special: Return of the King: This special takes a look at the Lord of the Rings characters and compares them to famous historical figures. Itís interesting for a while, but it never seems to go anywhere.


A look at EA Gamesí Lord of the Rings games: Gamer fans of Lord of the Rings will be pleased to get a chance to see the action platform Return of the King as well as the RTS Battle for Middle Earth.


Lord of the Rings Supertrailer: A poorly edited 6-minute trailer for all three films in one.


Trailers and TV Spots: The usual trailer bits.




A good film, not a great one. A must for those who love the series. Itís a shame the extras on this disc arenít worth your time.




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