Thursday Night Movie Club
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
star rating graphicstar rating graphicstar rating graphicstar rating graphic
Release Date: December 17, 2003

Director: Peter Jackson
Sean Astin
Cate Blanchett
Orlando Bloom
Billy Boyd
Bernard Hill
Ian McKellen
Dominic Monaghan
Viggo Mortensen
John Noble
Miranda Otto
John Rhys-Davies
Andy Serkis
Karl Urban
Hugo Weaving
David Wenham
Elijah Wood
Alan Howard
Gimli/Voice of Treebeard
The Ring (voice)
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King movie poster The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King movie poster The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King movie poster
The Adventure Ends! Well, that's the tagline anyway. The Return of the King is the final chapter in the movie trilogy based on the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien. The Ring is having an effect on my. I'm going to tell you how the movie ends. It's called The Return of the King because... O.K., I didn't ruin the ending, but you can pretty much be assured that this movie will have a happy ending, eventually. Some of our good friends do not live to see the end of the tale, but I won't ruin that.

Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins Once again, I was most curious as to how director Peter Jackson would start the telling of this tale. Once again, the opening was something I did not expect. Jackson starts be retelling the finding of the Ring of Power by Deagol during a mishap while fishing with his brother, Smeagol. The Ring immediately ensnares both of them. But since there can be only one master, a fight to the death ensues. It's no surprise who won!

The third installment is every bit as complex as the previous The Two Towers. Frodo and Sam are being guided by Gollum into a horrific trap, Saruman has been overthrown in Isengard, and Rohan is safe for the moment. If you haven't guessed by now, nothing is ever easy for the heroes in this tale. Things quickly turn ugly. The Ring is consuming Frodo to the point where he begins to trust Gollum rather than his "old" Sam. Meanwhile, Pippin can't control his impulses and puts everyone in grave peril. The river city of Osgilliath is over run by hosts of Orcs from Mordor leaving Minas Tirith the last stand of resistance for the free peoples of Middle Earth. The old Steward of Gondor has also done something rash and the stress of a lifetime of fighting Mordor is taking its toll.

Complex, I'll show you comples. In this movie, there are 4 stories being told simultaneously: Frodo's attempt to destroy the Ring, the seige of Minas Tirith, the Ride of the Rohirrim, Aragorn's side journey on the Paths of the Dead. For lovers of the novel, we've read the story dozens of times so this movie is very comprehensible for us. I am not so sure if the uninitiated will be able to follow all of the overlapping stories.

The oliphants attack Minas Tirith Once again, the effects are stunning. There are some terrifying sequences here as all nine Nazgul attack Minas Tirith on the backs of their flying beasts. The Rohirrim confront more than a dozen fully laden oliphants. Gollum leads Frodo to "her". I won't reveal who "she" is, lets just say, I was sitting on pins and needles and I already know what the scene entails. Jackson absolutely nails this sequence. It is scary and amazing at how true to the novel this scene is recreated.

Denethor (John Noble), the last Steward of Gondor, is one of the few new characters here. The other new characters are mostly digital (the King of the Paths of the Dead for example). Andy Serkis is frighteningly wonderful as Gollum tricks Frodo into trusting him so that he can lay his final trump card and finally reclaim his precious. By having Serkis (in a blue skin-tight suit) act along side Wood and Astin, the interactions between the characters is very real and thus adding to the tension.

Ian McKellan as Gandalf Everything about this final installment is perfect except for the closing theme. Annie Lennox voice does not lend itself to this "Old English" tale. The song is good, Lennox voice just doesn't do it for me unlike with the prior closing theme songs.

The trilogy has ended. Middle-Earth has been saved. There is nothing left to look forward to... Well, Peter Jackson has expressed interest in filming the prequel, The Hobbit. Maybe Peter Jackson will really go off the deep end and attempt to film The Silmarillian. I think not!

Favorite scenes: the panoramic vistas for the lighting of the beacons of Gondor, Shelob's Lair, the unleashing of the armies of Cirith Ungol, the Nazgul, Samwise carrying Frodo until he drops from exhaustion, Gimli and Legolas keeping track of the number of the enemy they've killed, the final battle and the destruction that follows. (Note: I'll probably think up more to add later. I have.) The first shot of Sam saving Frodo from Shelob. Gimli smoking his pipe while sitting in Denethor's chair. "That still only counts as one", Gimli's comment after Legolas takes down an Oliphant. The crunching sound of bone and tendons as Aragorn grabs the King of the Dead around the throat. Frodo is finally able to remember the Shire and Sam can only think of Rosie Cotton. Gandalf's eye-roll as Pippen swears allegiance to Denethor.

I'm going to leave the world of Middle-Earth with a question: Does anyone know who the fourth elf is at the Grey Havens? I say it is Cirdan, the shipwright. Jake disagrees!

NEW: Two Errors in The Return of the King:

  • When the Orcs attack Osgilliath, they are very careful to not make noise when rowing the boats. However, they are just dumb enough to have lighted torches on each boat.
  • When Shelob attacks Frodo, it is presumed that She strikes him in the stomach. Frodo is wearing his mithril coat which is impenatrable.
You've seen too many movies when:
  • Gandalf asks Faramir to tell him everything, your first thought is: First the dinosaurs came. Then they died. Then there was oil.
  • When King Theoden rides down the line of spears with his drawn sword clinking the spears, you see the ends of the spears sheared off.