‘THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING’
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The Quest Fulfilled – The Journey Ends
This is my ultimate favourite film of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy!
‘The Return of the King’ is the best of the ‘LOTR’ films and is a triumphant conclusion to an epic movie trilogy. From watching ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ and ‘The Two Towers’, I was looking forward to seeing how this story would end and hoped Frodo and Sam would win in their ring quest.
I didn’t see the first two films of ‘LOTR’ in the cinemas due to my lack of interest at the start. But in 2003, in the run-up to Christmas, I wanted to see ‘The Return of the King’ at the cinemas. I remember seeing ‘ROTK’ four times and immensely loved every minute of it, as it was very uplifting.
This is the story so far. Frodo Baggins left the Shire to destroy the One Ring in Mordor. He and a Fellowship went to Mordor, but soon broke up. Frodo with Sam followed Gollum to Mordor. Meanwhile, the battle of Helm’s Deep is now won and the battle for Middle-Earth is about to begin…
The title of this movie refers to the return of Aragorn, who’s destined to become the king of Gondor. The story depicts how Aragorn takes his rightful place as a king of men and leads his people in the war against Sauron. Aragorn takes a challenge to prove he is worthy to become the king of Gondor.
My parents and I did purchase the original 2-disc theatrical version DVD of ‘ROTK’ in 2004. But I was keen to get the four-disc Special Extended DVD Edition for Christmas 2004. The extended version contains 50 extra minutes of the movie. This makes the film over 4 hours long compared to 3 hours.
The film is divided into two parts with Part 1 on Disc 1 and Part 2 on Disc 2. The ‘Scene Index’ inside the booklet identifies which scene is new and which scene is extended with the following legend:
Disc 3 and Disc 4 contain ‘The Appendices’ which are the ‘making-of’ documentaries and extra material from the making of ‘The Return of the King’.
DISC 1 + DISC 2 – SPECIAL EXTENDED EDITION OF THE FILM
The story continues with Sir Ian McKellen’s Gandalf and his company visiting Isengard. They face Christopher Lee’s Saruman on the top of Orthanc, until he is stabbed by Brad Dourif’s Wormtongue.
Gandalf and the company eventually return to Edoras, capital of Rohan. Soon Pippin looks into Saruman’s palantir stone and gets into trouble when he is taken by Gandalf to Minas Tirith, Gondor.
I was so excited about going to Gondor in this movie. The kingdom of Gondor is something exciting. Minas Tirith is spectacular as well as that scene where Gandalf and Pippin ride into it on Shadowfax.
At the top of the city is the citadel of Minas Tirith that contains a small garden. Guards of the citadel protect the White Tree of Gondor that was planted by Isildur so long ago and is ‘the tree of the king’.
Gondor is no longer ruled by kings, as it is protected and ruled by the stewards. The current steward is John Noble as Denethor, the father of both Sean Bean as Boromir and David Wenham as Faramir.
Gondor’s strategic defence in ‘ROTK’ is Osgiliath that was once a great city, before it was ruined by Mordor’s forces. Faramir is sent by his father to recover Osgiliath when it gets overtaken by the orcs.
Meanwhile, Bernard Hill as Théoden and his men of Rohan have been summoned to Gondor’s aid. Théoden with Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Merry; Éomer and Éowyn muster the Rohirrim in Dunharrow.
The two hobbits, Dominic Monaghan as Merry and Billy Boyd as Pippin, get to be heroes. Pippin gets to be a knight of Gondor with Denethor whilst Merry gets to be Esquire of Rohan with King Théoden.
Aragorn receives a visit from Hugo Weaving as Elrond of Rivendell. He comes to tell Aragorn that Liv Tyler as Arwen is dying. Elrond gives Aragorn a new sword called Andúril and gets told to take ‘the Paths of the Dead’.
The Paths of the Dead is a challenge that Viggo Mortenson as Aragorn takes with Orlando Bloom as Legolas and John Rhys-Davies as Gimli in the Haunted Mountain. Will he succeed with the challenge?
Théoden and his men, the Rohirrim, make to ride for Gondor and to war. Merry isn’t allowed to fight in the battle, but he’s picked up by Miranda Otto as Éowyn (disguised as a rider) to ride for Gondor.
With Elijah Wood as Frodo; Sean Astin as Sam and Andy Serkis as Gollum, they are getting closer to Mordor. They take the Morgul Vale road on a dangerous path to an unknown entrance into Mordor.
They eventually come to Minas Morgul where the Ringwraiths/Nazgul live. Frodo and Sam follow Gollum as they climb up the mountain on the winding staircase, which is right next to Minas Morgul.
The Pass of Cirith Ungol is pretty treacherous as Frodo and Sam climb up. It’s here Gollum breaks Frodo and Sam apart. The scene where Frodo sends Sam away was so heart-breaking and upsetting.
The siege of Gondor takes place at Minas Tirith, as the army of Mordor Orcs arrive to attack the city. They are led by Lawrence Makoare as Gothmog, who is pretty hideous-looking and pretty ferocious.
The Nazgul return to attack the city of Minas Tirith, flying on their Fell Beasts. They and the armies of Mordor are led by the Witch-King of Angmar, Lord of the Nazgul, also played by Laurence Makoare.
The men of Minas Tirith are led by Gandalf the White, who commands them to defend the city. The orcs try to break into the city as they use their wolf’s head hammer called Grond, which ends Disc 1.
Disc 2 begins with Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli facing the pirate ships – the Corsairs of Umbar – approaching Minas Tirith via Pelargir. The Army of the Dead soon charges and attacks those pirates.
At Cirith Ungol, Frodo follows Gollum as they come to a dark tunnel inside the mountain. Frodo enters the tunnel but loses Gollum before he encounters Shelob – a giant spider that is so terrifying!
Frodo gets stung by Shelob, but Sam rescues him by fighting ‘her’ with Frodo’s sword Sting and his star-glass. Sam is upset, thinking that Frodo is dead. But when orcs capture Frodo, it turns out he is alive.
Back in Gondor, the siege of Minas Tirith continues. Gandalf and the men of Gondor defend the city, but Denethor goes to the Tombs of the Stewards, as he’s about to burn his son Faramir onto a pyre.
It seems like there’s no hope for Gondor. But hope comes at last, as the massive Rohirrim army led by Théoden arrives. The Battle of the Pelennor Fields takes place as the Riders trample over the orcs.
But another army approaches. It’s the treacherous Haradrim that charge on the battlefield on giant elephant-like Mûmakil. Théoden and his Riders make the desperate charge to take on the Haradrim.
Watching the Mûmakil battle on Pelennor Fields was really awe-inspiring. The sound design and the CGI effects of the battle are so incredible, as I couldn’t believe the effort gone into making the battle.
Théoden gets attacked and thrown to the ground by the Witch-King of Angmar on his Fell Beast. But Éowyn defends her uncle and with Merry’s help, she gets to defeat the Witch-King on the battlefield.
Aragorn; Legolas, Gimil arrive with the Army of the Dead and take on the orcs and the Haradrim on Pelennor. The battle is soon over and Théoden dies as he says goodbye to Éowyn, which was so sad.
Later on, a debate takes place as the situation with Frodo becomes critical. Aragorn suggests that they distract Sauron from seeing Frodo and Sam. He leads an army of Gondor and Rohan to Mordor.
Meanwhile, at the Tower of Cirith Ungol, Sam braves his way into the tower to rescue Frodo. He manages to find Frodo, saves him from the orc leader called Shagrat and both head off into Mordor.
Frodo and Sam dress up in orc armour, as they climb down into the land of Mordor. After managing to escape from being among the orcs, Frodo and Sam continue on the journey before Mount Doom.
In Mordor, Frodo and Sam tread on dangerous territory. Not only do they suffer Mordor’s harsh, foul landscapes and fumes, but Sauron lives in Mordor as he watches with his watching, flaming red eye.
At the Black Gate of Mordor, Aragorn and his company ride to the gate to make their challenge. They meet Bruce Spence as the Mouth of Sauron who looks so horrible and grotesque in that scene.
The Mouth of Sauron gives Aragorn, Gandalf and the others a token – Frodo’s mithril shirt. Everyone is horrified in seeing this. But Aragorn beheads the Mouth before the battle at the Black Gate occurs.
Meanwhile with Frodo and Sam, they climb up the fiery mountain. There’s a really emotional scene between these two, as Sam carries Frodo to the Crack of Doom before they are attacked by Gollum.
Frodo gets inside the Crack of Doom and Sam shouts at him to destroy the ring. But Frodo is unwilling to give the ring up and announces “The ring is mine!” Can this be the end of Middle-Earth?
The DVD special features of ‘The Return of the King’ are as follows. On Discs 1 and 2 of the Special Extended DVD Edition, there are four commentaries by various contributors. The four commentaries are ‘The Director and Writers’; ‘The Design Team’; ‘The Production/Post Production Team’ and ‘The Cast’.
‘The Director and Writers’ commentary features director/writer/producer Peter Jackson with writer/producer Fran Walsh and writer Philippa Boyens.
‘The Design Team’ commentary features production designer Grant Major; costume designer Ngila Dickson, Weta Workshop creative supervisor Richard Taylor; conceptual designers Alan Lee and John Howe; supervising art director Dan Hennah; art department manager Chris Hennah and Weta Workshop manager Tania Rodger.
‘The Production/Post Production Team’ commentary features producer Barrie Osborne; executive producer Mark Ordesky; co-producer/editor Jamie Selkirk; additional editor Annie Collins, co-producer Rick Porras; composer Howard Shore; visual effects supervisor Jim Rygiel; visual effects supervisor Joe Letteri; supervising sound editors Ethan van der Ryn and Mike Hopkins; animation designer Randy Cook; visual effects art director Christian Rivers; visual effects director of photography Brian Vant Hul and miniatures director of photography Alex Funke.
‘The Cast’ commentary features Elijah Wood; Ian McKellen; Liv Tyler; Sean Astin; John Rhys-Davies; Bernard Hill; Christopher Lee; Billy Boyd; Dominic Monaghan; Orlando Bloom; Hugo Weaving; Miranda Otto; David Wenham; Karl Urban; John Noble; Lawrence Makoare and Andy Serkis with special guests Sméagol and Gollum. 😀
There are two Easter Eggs on the first two discs of the Special Extended DVD Edition of ‘The Return of the King’ to look out for. Both of them are very funny and entertaining in their own right.
DISC 3 – THE APPENDICES PART FIVE – THE WAR OF THE RING
Discs 3 and 4 of the four-disc Special Extended DVD Edition of ‘The Return of the King’ are ‘The Appendices’. These conclude the story of the making of the ‘LOTR’ films. These Appendices cover the making of ‘ROTK’ from book to screen, with the in-depth behind-the-scenes documentary material.
The first disc of ‘The Appendices’ for ‘ROTK’ covers how the final film was created. This was in adapting the book to screen and also looking into the design process of Middle-Earth in ‘The Return of the King’. I enjoyed how creative the production term in the scripting and pre-production stages.
There’s an introduction by director Peter Jackson, explaining the coming to the end of the making of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ films; the making of ‘The Return of the King’ and what happens on this disc. There’s a ‘PLAY ALL’ option that allows you as a viewer to watch the documentaries for 3 to 4 hours.
The sections on this DVD are as follows. There’s ‘J. R. R. Tolkien – The Legacy of Middle-Earth’, which looks into how Tolkien’s success in ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and the world of Middle-Earth has carried on and what inspiration has endured from his work. It was so invigorating seeing this documentary.
There’s the ‘From Book to Script’ section which looks into how the final film was adapted from the ‘LOTR’ book. It contains the documentary ‘From Book to Script – Forging the Final Chapter’ and there’s also an abandoned concept via the storyboard/pre-viz form where ‘Aragorn Battles Sauron’.
There’s the ‘Designing and Building Middle-Earth’ section which contains four documentaries including ‘Designing Middle-Earth’; ‘Weta Workshop’; ‘Big-atures’ and ‘Costume Design’. There are also design galleries containing pictures and photographs of the People and Realms of Middle-Earth.
There’s the ‘Home of the Horse-Lords’ behind-the-scenes documentary which looks into the horses featured in the three ‘LOTR’ films. It also features how the actors and the riding doubles interacted with the horses and rode them in the movie trilogy, which was invigorating and enjoyable to watch.
There’s a ‘Middle-Earth Atlas’, which is an interactive map that looks into the journeys of the Fellowship characters in ‘ROTK’, featuring film clips from the movie. There’s also ‘New Zealand as Middle-Earth’, which is an interactive map with featurettes on the ‘LOTR’ locations featured from NZ.
DISC 4 – THE APPENDICES PART SIX – THE PASSING OF AN AGE
The second and final disc of ‘The Appendices’ for ‘The Return of the King’ covers the cast’s involvement in the filming of ‘ROTK’ and how it ended in terms of filming and post-production before the movie’s release in the cinemas. It was very fulfilling and very emotional to watch this disc.
There’s an introduction given by Elijah Wood who plays Frodo; Dominic Monaghan who plays Merry and Billy Boyd who plays Pippin. That’s three hobbits giving it for a change, isn’t it? 😀 This disc contains about 3 to 4 hours of documentary material which can be seen using the ‘PLAY ALL’ option.
The sections on this disc include ‘Filming “The Return of the King”‘ which contains the documentary ‘Cameras in Middle-Earth’. This focuses on the making of ‘ROTK’, which was very detailed and very emotional to watch involving the ‘LOTR’ cast members. There’s also some Production Photos to see.
There’s a ‘Visual Effects’ section containing two items. There’s the ‘Weta Digital’ documentary looking into the movie’s CGI effects. There’s also a ‘Visual Effects Demonstration’ looking into the Mûmakil Battle. It is very impressive how they managed to achieve so many visual effects in ‘ROTK’.
There’s the ‘Post Production: Journey’s End’ section which contains ‘Editorial: Completing the Trilogy’; ‘Music for Middle-Earth’; ‘The Soundscapes of Middle-Earth’ and ‘The End Of All Things’. By this point, things get more chaotic for the post-production team in completing the film for cinemas.
And there’s the finale documentary called ‘The Passing of an Age’, which looks into the film’s release at the World Premiere in New Zealand as well as other premieres. There’s also a segment where ‘ROTK’ wins the Oscars in 2004. The conclusion to ‘The Appendices’ for ‘ROTK’ is emotionally moving.
There’s a special section on this ‘ROTK’ DVD disc called ‘Cameron Duncan: The Inspiration for ‘Into the West”. This section looks into a young New Zealand filmmaker who sadly passed away. This includes the Cameron Duncan documentary and two films by him called ‘DFK6498’ and ‘Strike Zone’.
On the original 2-disc DVD of ‘The Return of the King’, it contains the original theatrical version of the movie on Disc 1. On Disc 2, there are promotional special features including documentaries, featurettes and trailers. These extras are also found on the Blu-ray of the Special Extended Edition for ‘ROTK’.
There are three in-depth documentaries including ‘The Quest Fulfilled: A Director’s Vision’; ‘A Filmmaker’s Journey: Making ‘The Return of the King’ and a National Geographic Special on ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King’ which is an intriguing in-depth examination on the ‘LOTR’ characters.
There are 6 ‘lordoftherings.net’ featurettes that look into the people and places of Middle-Earth. There are two exciting trailers; fourteen TV spots and ‘The Lord of the Rings Trilogy Super-Trailer’. There’s also a preview of the ‘The Battle For Middle-Earth’ video game from EA games.
There’s no music video of ‘Into the West’ by Annie Lennox and there wasn’t an ‘inside look’ of the Special Extended DVD Edition of ‘ROTK’ which I was saddened and annoyed by when I first saw this.
‘The Return of the King’ is a triumphant and epic conclusion to the ‘LOTR’ films and my favourite out of the three movies. I’ve very fond memories of seeing this film at the cinemas and December 2003 was a happy Christmas for me. I felt emotions from excitement to thrills to joy and to sadness here.
The story and characters are strongly-developed in this final film and Peter Jackson’s team have done an incredible job adapting all three books into films. It was sad to think the ‘LOTR’ film trilogy finished, as I did not think there were going to be more films set in Middle-Earth to enjoy back then.
Thrilling, epic, colossal, remarkable, spectacular, majestic and breath-taking are definitely the words to describe this fantastic movie trilogy of ‘The Lord of the Rings’! This comes highly recommended!!!
‘The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King’ rating – 10/10
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