‘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’ film trilogy!
‘The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King’ is the best out of the ‘LOTR’ films and is a triumphant conclusion to an epic film trilogy. From watching ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ and ‘The Two Towers’, I was looking forward to how this epic tale would end and how Frodo and Sam would win their quest.
I didn’t see the first two ‘LOTR’ films at the cinema due to my lack of interest in the trilogy at the time. But in the run-up to Christmas 2003, I wanted to see ‘The Return of the King’ at the cinema. I recall seeing ‘ROTK’ four times at the cinema. I immensely loved every minute of the film as it was very uplifting.
Here’s the story so far! Frodo Baggins left the Shire to destroy the One Ring in Mordor. He and a Fellowship went to Mordor, but they soon broke up. Frodo and Sam followed Gollum to Mordor. Meanwhile the battle of Helm’s Deep was won whilst the battle for Middle-Earth was about to begin.
The movie’s title refers to the return of Aragorn, who is destined to become the king of Gondor. The story depicts how Aragorn takes his rightful place to be a king of men and to lead his people in the war against Sauron. Aragorn takes a challenge to prove that he’s worthy to be the new king of Gondor.
My parents and I first had the original 2-disc DVD of ‘ROTK’ before we had the four-disc Special Extended DVD Edition for Christmas 2004. The extended version has new extra footage and special features. My parents and I currently have the film as part of ‘The Hobbit’/’The Lord of the Rings’ 30-disc set on Blu-ray.
The story continues with Sir Ian McKellen as Gandalf the White and his Grey Company as they visit Isengard. They face Christopher Lee as Saruman who’s atop the tower of Orthanc. He’s soon stabbed by Brad Dourif as Gríma Wormtongue. I’m glad ‘The Voice of Saruman’ scene is in the extended version of ‘ROTK’.
Gandalf and the Grey Company soon return to Edoras, the capital city of Rohan. There they celebrate their victory of Helm’s Deep. Later on, Billy Boyd as Pippin looks into the palantír that once belonged to Saruman. And he gets into trouble. He’s soon taken by Gandalf to Minas Tirith in Gondor.
I was so excited about going to Gondor in the movie. The kingdom of Gondor is something exciting. The city of Minas Tirith is spectacular. I enjoyed seeing the full scale model shot of Minas Tirith as well as that scene where Gandalf and Pippin rode on Shadowfax through the city to reach the top.
At the top of the city is the citadel of Minas Tirith. It contains a small garden where the guards of the citadel keep watch and protect the White Tree of Gondor. The White Tree was planted there by Isildur from a long time ago and is known as ‘the tree of the king’. But the tree’s now withered and dead.
The kingdom of Gondor is no longer ruled by a king. Lately, the kingdom has been protected and ruled by the stewards in place of the king until he returns. The current steward of Gondor in the film is John Noble as Denethor and he’s the father of Sean Bean as Boromir and David Wenham as Faramir.
Early on in ‘ROTK’, the strategic defence for Gondor is the city of Osgiliath, which is now in ruins. Osgiliath was once a great city before it got destroyed and ruined by Mordor’s forces. After Osgiliath gets overrun and taken by the Mordor orcs, Faramir gets sent by his father to retake the ruined city.
Gondor soon calls for aid from Rohan. Bernard Hill as King Théoden and his men of Rohan answer the call for help. Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn, Orlando Bloom as Legolas, John Rhys-Davies as Gimli, Dominic Monaghan as Merry, Karl Urban as Éomer, and Miranda Otto as Éowyn accompany the king.
The muster of the Rohirrim commences once Théoden and his company ride to Dunharrow. Merry gets to be a hero as well as Pippin. Merry becomes esquire of Rohan to King Théoden whilst Pippin becomes a knight of Gondor to Denethor. They suit up in Rohan and Gondor fashion suited for hobbits.
In the film, Aragorn receives a visit from Hugo Weaving as Elrond of Rivendell in the middle of the night. Elrond comes to tell Aragorn that his daughter, Liv Tyler as Arwen, is dying. Aragorn gets told to take on ‘the Paths of the Dead’ as Elrond gives him a new sword called Andúril, Flame of the West.
The Paths of the Dead happens to be a challenge for Aragorn to prove that he’s worthy to be the new king of Gondor. Legolas and Gimli accompany Aragorn into the Haunted Mountain where they face the Army of the Dead who were cursed by Isildur from long ago. Will the three survive the challenge?
Meanwhile, Théoden and his men, the Rohirrim, ride for Gondor and war. Merry is denied to fight in the battle against Mordor’s forces by Théoden. But he’s soon picked up by Éowyn who disguises herself as a Rohan rider to fight in the battle against the enemy. Will Éowyn and Merry survive here?
Elsewhere with Elijah Wood as Frodo, Sean Astin as Sam and Andy Serkis as Gollum, the trio are getting closer to Mordor. They take on the road to the Morgul Vale. This is a dangerous path leading to an unknown entrance at Mordor. Despite that, Frodo is determined to get into Mordor via stealth.
Eventually, Frodo, Sam and Gollum come to Minas Morgul. This is a dead city where the Ringwraiths/Nazgûl live. Frodo and Sam follow their dangerous guide Gollum and they climb up the mountain on the winding staircase that leads into Cirith Ungol for Mordor, right next to Minas Morgul.
The Pass of Cirith Ungol is pretty treacherous as Frodo and Sam climb up it. And it’s here where Gollum manages to break Frodo and Sam apart. The scene where Frodo sends Sam away was pretty heart-breaking and upsetting to watch. This was the case at the cinema, on DVD and still the case on Blu-ray.
Meanwhile, the siege of Gondor takes place at Minas Tirith. The army of Mordor orcs arrive to attack the city. They’re led by Lawrence Makoare as Gothmog (voiced by Craig Parker 😀 ). Gothmog is pretty hideous-looking and ferocious. He can break a lot of mirrors with a hideous-looking face like that. 😀
The Nazgûl also return to attack the city of Minas Tirith. They use their Fell Beasts to fly about in the skies. The Nazgûl and the armies of Mordor orcs are led by the Witch-King of Angmar, the Lord of the Nazgul, who is also played by Laurence Makoare, but voiced by Andy Serkis (I believe). It’s said that no living man can kill him.
The soldiers of Minas Tirith are led by Gandalf the White who commands them to defend the city. Initially, the orcs try to break into the city using a battering ram before they use their ‘wolf’s head’ hammer called Grond. Seeing how the orcs utilised their ‘wolf’s head’ called Grond was so intensifying.
Back with Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli, they face the pirate ships – the Corsairs of Umbar – who approach Minas Tirith via Pelargir on the river. Some of the pirates are played by ‘LOTR’ crew members, including director Peter Jackson. 😀 The Army of the Dead soon charges forth to attack the pirates.
At Cirith Ungol, Frodo follows Gollum as they come to a dark tunnel inside the mountain. Afraid at first, Frodo enters the tunnel before he loses Gollum. It was Gollum’s plan to abandon Frodo in the dark tunnel. Very soon, Frodo encounters Shelob, a giant spider that was terrifying to see on screen.
Even to this day, my Mum doesn’t like it when she sees Shelob in the movie. 😀 Frodo eventually gets stung by Shelob. But Sam rescues him by fighting Shelob with Frodo’s sword Sting and Galadriel’s star-glass. After defeating Shelob, Sam becomes upset when he thinks that Frodo is dead.
But it turns out that Frodo is stIll alive as the Cirith Ungol orcs take him away as their prisoner. Back in Gondor, the siege of Minas Tirith doesn’t go very well as it continues. Gandalf and the men of Gondor defend the city, whilst Denethor goes to the Tombs of the Stewards. He’s about to burn his son Faramir onto a pyre.
Denethor has succumbed to despair, especially with his son Faramir wounded and believing that there’s no hope for Gondor. But hope comes at last once the massive Rohirrim army led by Théoden arrives. It felt so triumphant and uplifting to see that as the Battle of the Pelennor Fields takes place.
The Riders trample over the orcs as they seem to be winning the battle. But another army soon approaches as the treacherous Haradrim charge on the battlefield with their giant elephant-like Mûmakil/Oliphaunts. Théoden and his Riders make the desperate charge to take on the Haradrim.
The Mûmakil seem pretty hard to beat at first. Watching the Mûmakil battle on the Pelennor Fields was pretty awe-inspiring on the big screen at the cinema, on DVD and on Blu-ray. The sound design and the CGI effects for the battle are incredible. I couldn’t believe the effort that went into the making of that battle.
During the battle, Théoden gets attacked and thrown to the ground by the Witch-King of Angmar and his Fell Beast. Just as the Witch-King has his Fell-Beast feast on Théoden, Éowyn defends her uncle to the last. Soon with Merry’s help, Éowyn kills the Witch-King with a sword on the battlefield.
Thankfully, more help arrives as Aragorn, Legolas and Gimil turn up with the Army of the Dead on the corsairs’ ships. They take on the orcs as well as the Haradrim on the Pelennor Fields. Soon, the battle is over and Théoden dies as he says farewell to Éowyn. It was very sad to see that scene in the film. 😦
Later on, a debate takes place regarding the situation for Frodo. It’s become critical. Aragorn comes up with the suggestion to distract Sauron from seeing Frodo and Sam whilst they’re in Mordor. After looking into the palantír, Aragorn leads an army of Gondor and Rohan men to the Black Gate of Mordor.
Meanwhile, at the Tower of Cirith Ungol, Sam braves his way into the tower to rescue Frodo from the orcs. He manages to find Frodo and he saves him from the orc leader called Shagrat. Sam also kept the Ring for safekeeping before he gives back to Frodo. Soon, the hobbits head off into Mordor.
Frodo and Sam dress up in orc armour in order to pass their way into Mordor. As they climb down into the land of Mordor, they soon get themselves caught among the orcs heading for the Black Gate. Frodo and Sam manage to escape before they continue their journey to Mount Doom itself.
In Mordor, Frodo and Sam tread through dangerous territory. Not only do they suffer Mordor’s harsh landscapes and foul fumes, but they also have to avoid the Eye of Sauron spotting them. Sauron watches with his flaming red eye atop the tower of Barad-dûr in Mordor. It’s very dangerous territory indeed!
At the Black Gate of Mordor, Aragorn and his company ride there in order to make the challenge to Sauron. There they meet Bruce Spence as the Mouth of Sauron who comes out to talk to them. When I saw the Mouth of Sauron, I found him so horrid and grotesque in that make-up and helmet of his.
The Mouth of Sauron gives a ‘token’ to Aragorn, Gandalf and the others. The token is Frodo’s mithril shirt. Everyone becomes horrified at seeing this and they assume that Frodo is dead. But Aragorn beheads the Mouth of Sauron, refusing to believe Frodo is dead, before the battle at the Black Gate takes places.
Meanwhile with Frodo and Sam, they climb up the fiery mountain of Doom. There’s a really emotional scene between Frodo and Sam. Frodo suffers with being in Mordor and very soon, Sam carries him to the Crack of Doom. Eventually, the two hobbits get attacked by a pretty angry Gollum.
Whilst Sam fights Gollum, Frodo manages to gets inside the Crack of Doom. Sam follows him inside and Frodo is standing on the cliff-edge into Doom. Sam shouts at Frodo to destroy the Ring. But Frodo is unwilling to give up the ring and announces “The ring is mine!” Can this be the end of Middle-Earth?
The special features for ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King’ on ‘The Hobbit’/’The Lord of the Rings’ 30-disc Blu-ray set are as follows. On Disc 25 & 26, there’s the extended edition of ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King – Parts 1 and 2’. There are also four audio commentaries. There’s ‘The Director and Writers’ audio commentary featuring director/writer/producer Peter Jackson, writer/producer Fran Walsh, and writer Philippa Boyens. There’s ‘The Design Team’ audio commentary featuring production designer Grant Major, costume designer Ngila Dickson, Weta Workshop creative supervisor Richard Taylor, conceptual designer Alan Lee, conceptual designer John Howe, supervising art director Dan Hennah, art department manager Chris Hennah, and Weta Workshop manager Tania Rodger. There’s ‘The Production/Post Production Team’ audio commentary featuring producer Barrie M. Osborne, executive producer Mark Ordesky, co-producer/film editor Jamie Selkirk, additional film editor Annie Collins, co-producer Rick Porras, music composer Howard Shore, visual effects supervisor Jim Rygiel, visual effects supervisor Joe Letteri, supervising sound editor Ethan van der Ryn, supervising sound editor Mike Hopkins, animation designer Randy Cook, visual effects art director Christian Rivers, visual effects director of photography Brian Van’t Hul, and miniatures director of photography Alex Funke. And there’s ‘The Cast’ audio commentary featuring 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, Andy Serkis, and Sméagol and Gollum. 😀 There’s also ‘The Lord of the Rings: War in the North – The Untold Story’ trailer and two Easter Eggs to enjoy.
On Disc 27, there are the original Disc 2 DVD special features from the theatrical DVD/Blu-ray release. There’s ‘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 six ‘lordoftherings.net’ featurettes including ‘Aragorn’s Destiny’; ‘Minas Tirith: Capital of Gondor’; ‘The Battle of Pelennor Fields’; ‘Samwise the Brave’; ‘Éowyn: White Lady of Rohan’ and ‘Digital Horse Doubles’. There are also two theatrical trailers for the film; fourteen TV spots, and ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy supertrailer. There’s also a preview by EA on ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Battle For Middle-Earth’ video game. I was disappointed that there wasn’t a music video for ‘Into The West’, performed by Annie Lennox and that there wasn’t the Special Extended DVD Edition preview for ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King’.
On Disc 28, there are ‘The Appendices Part 5: The War of the Ring’. These cover the making of ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King’ from book to screen, including plenty of documentaries. There’s an introduction given by director Peter Jackson who explains what happens in ‘The Appendices’ for ‘The Return of the King’. There’s the ‘J.R.R. Tolkien – The Legacy of Middle-Earth’ documentary, which looks into how Tolkien’s success in ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and the world of Middle-Earth has continued and what inspiration has endured from his work. There’s the ‘From Book to Script’ section which contains the ‘From Book to Script: Forging the Final Chapter’ documentary and the ‘Aragorn Battles Sauron’ abandoned concept. There’s the ‘Designing and Building Middle-Earth’ section which contains the ‘Designing Middle-Earth’ documentary, the ‘Weta Workshop’ documentary, the ‘Big-atures’ documentary, the ‘Costume Design’ documentary and design galleries on the peoples of Middle-Earth, the realms of Middle-Earth and the miniatures. There’s the ‘Home of the Horse-Lords’ documentary which looks into the horses featured in the ‘LOTR’ film trilogy. There’s the ‘Middle-Earth Atlas’, an interactive map that traces the journeys of the Fellowship characters in ‘ROTK’. And there’s ‘New Zealand as Middle-Earth’, which features a map of New Zealand containing behind-the-scenes featurettes looking into the many filming locations of the third ‘LOTR’ film.
On Disc 29, there are ‘The Appendices Part 6: The Passing of an Age’. This covers how the cast got involved in the movie as well as the filming, the post-production process and the eventual release of the film at cinemas. There’s an introduction given by Elijah Wood, Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan who explain what happens on this disc just like what director Peter Jackson did for the first ‘Appendices’ disc for ‘The Return of the King’. There’s the ‘Filming ‘The Return of the King’ section which contains the ‘Cameras in Middle-Earth’ documentary and production photos. There’s the ‘Visual Effects’ section which contains the ‘Weta Digital’ documentary and ‘The Mûmakil Battle’ visual effects demonstration. There’s the ‘Post Production: Journey’s End’ section which contains the ‘Editorial: Completing the Trilogy’ documentary, the ‘Music for Middle-Earth’ documentary, ‘The Soundscapes of Middle-Earth’ documentary, and ‘The End of All Things’ documentary. And there’s ‘The Passing of an Age’ documentary that looks into the film’s release at the cinemas. There’s also the ‘Cameron Duncan: The Inspiration For ‘Into The West’ section which looks into the young New Zealand filmmaker that director Peter Jackson met and knew before he sadly passed away, and this contains the ‘Cameron Duncan: The Inspiration For ‘Into The West’ documentary as well as two short films made by Cameron Duncan including ‘DFK6498’ and ‘Strike Zone’.
On Disc 30, there’s a behind-the-scenes disc created by filmmaker Costa Botes. Costa Botes was personally selected by director Peter Jackson to provide an in-depth look at the making of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ film trilogy.
‘The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King’ is a triumphant, epic conclusion to the ‘LOTR’ film trilogy and it’s my favourite out of the three films. I cherish very fond memories of seeing this film at cinemas. December 2003 was a happy Christmas for me since I felt excitement, thrills, joy and sadness in seeing this film.
The story and the characters are strongly-developed in the final film and Peter Jackson’s filmmaking team have done an incredible job in adapting all three books into films. It was sad to think the ‘LOTR’ film trilogy was finished. I didn’t think there were going to be more films set in Middle-Earth to enjoy back then. 😀
Thrilling, epic, colossal, remarkable, spectacular, majestic and breathtaking are definitely the words to describe this fantastic ‘LOTR’ film trilogy! It comes highly recommended!!! 🙂
‘The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King’ rating – 10/10
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