The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King (2003)

Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) and Gandalf (Ian McKellen) lead a united Middle Earth on one last battle against the armies of Mordor. Frodo (Elijah Wood) continues his quest to destroy the ring.

Director: Peter Jackson

Cast: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Sean Astin, Viggo Mortensen, Andy Serkis, Orlando Bloom

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense epic battle sequences and frightening images

Fun Fact: Peter Jackson hated the army of the dead believing it was too unbelievable. He only kept it in the script to appease die hard fans of the book.

At last we have reached the end of the epic journey of the series. This film won the Best Picture Oscar for 2003 and swept the Academy Awards that night. It was an amazing eleven wins out of eleven nominations. I remember after The Two Towers I was excited for this one to come out and saw it with some friends in the theater. After the credits rolled, I left the theater with a meh feeling along with some of my friends in the group.

The biggest complaint of this film is the length. It clocks in at three and a half hours long and that’s not the extended cut, it’s the theatrical version and that was the one I watched for this review. To me the last hour drags on after the big battle sequences and I think Peter Jackson could’ve cut a further half hour out of it and the pacing might have been better. When a film drags on it can be a chore trying to get through it and it felt like a chore for me to finish it and that’s how I also felt back in 2003 when I first saw it.

I will dare say it that I think The Return of the King is the weakest one in the trilogy. We get a solid battle scene in Gondor, but I don’t think it really lives up to Helms Deep from The Two Towers. We are expecting another big battle because the characters hinted it in the previous installment so there really isn’t a build up to it and we are just waiting for it to happen because we expect it. For someone that hasn’t read the books and only scene the films, that might be a little disappointment for a film going experience. I’ve read the books before, even though its been a few years, so I knew what to expect and I do agree with Peter Jackson with the army of the dead. It just felt too easy so to say and since you have this dead army why don’t you just send them into Mordor to kill all the Orcs?

Another gripe I have with this one is the sense of adventure is low. It’s the tail end of the trilogy and we are getting closer to Mt. Doom to finish off the quest. While the first film is more of an adventure film this one and like the previous installment must split two stories and that can be challenging. It’s not anyone’s fault it’s just how the stories were written, and you must go by the source material if you want a fateful adaptation. While it’s the end of a quest, I just had to accept the adventure is over.

Once again, the visuals, music, and cast all deliver the best parts of the film. The battle scenes are shot nicely, and you have clear images of the characters doing what they must do. The cast is at it’s strongest after three films and many years of filming and the chemistry would never be broken or fell flat. The score is at its finest as its music we all know and love at this point. Those positive elements bring the trilogy to a close.

Overall, The Return of the King in my opinion is the weaker film of the trilogy. I wouldn’t say that is a horrible film, but I wouldn’t say its amazing either. I just never saw or felt the presence of adventure and it’s something I missed. Some might even justify the length of this one too. When I first saw it, I felt in the middle and to this day I still do, and I think it will always be that way. I have always preferred The Fellowship of the Ring and I think I always will. I’m interested to see what others think of this one as well.

Verdict: Middle Ground

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