‘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’ in 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 to Mordor. He and a Fellowship went to Mordor, but soon broke up. Frodo with Sam follow Gollum to Mordor. Meanwhile the battle of Helm’s Deep is won and and the battle for Middle-Earth is about to begin…
The title of this movie refers to the return of Aragorn who is 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.
I did buy the original 2-disc theatrical version DVD of ‘ROTK’ in 2004. But I was also keen to get the 4-disc Special Extended DVD Edition with more special features in it. The extended version contains 50 extra minutes of the movie, which makes the movie 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 extended with the following legend:
- *new scene
- **extended scene
Disc 3 and Disc 4 contain ‘The Appendices’ which are `making-of’ documentaries and extra material from the making of the film.
DISC 1 + DISC 2 – SPECIAL EXTENDED EDITION OF THE FILM
The story continues with Ian McKellen as Gandalf and his company visiting Isengard. They confront Christopher Lee as Saruman who is on top of Orthanc and is stabbed by Brad Dourif as Wormtongue.
Gandalf and the company eventually return to Edoras, capital of Rohan. Soon Pippin looks into Saruman’s palantir stone and gets into trouble as 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 and so is that sequence where Gandalf and Pippin ride 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 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 who is father of both Boromir (Sean Bean) and Faramir (David Wenham).
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 taken over by orcs.
Meanwhile Bernard Hill as Theoden and his men of Rohan have been summoned to Gondor’s aid. They muster the Rohirrim in Dunharrow with Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Merry; Eomer and Eowyn.
The two hobbits Dominic Monaghan as Merry and Billy Boyd as Pippin get to be heroes. Pippin gets to be a knight of Gondor for Denethor whilst Merry gets to be Esquire of Rohan for King Théoden.
Aragorn receives a visit from Hugo Weaving as Elrond of Rivendell. He comes to tell Aragorn that Arwen (Liv Tyler) is dying. Elrond gives Aragorn a new sword and is told 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 in this challenge?
Theoden and his men, the Rohirrim make to ride to Gondor and to war. Merry isn’t allowed to fight in the battle, but he’s picked up by Eowyn (disguised as a Rohan rider) to ride to Gondor for war.
With Frodo (Elijah Wood); Sam (Sean Astin) and Gollum (Andy Serkis), 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 staircases that are 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 is 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 Gothmog (Lawrence Makoare), who is pretty hideous-looking and 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 who commands them to defend the city, as the orcs try to break in their wolf’s head hammer caled 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 Pelagir. Aragorn denies them entry and but the pirates jeer at them.
At Cirith Ungol, Frodo follows Gollum as they come to a dark tunnel inside the mountain. Frodo enters the tunnel but loses Gollum before encountering Shelob – a giant spider that was terrifying.
Frodo gets stung by Shelob, but Sam rescues him by fighting ‘her’ with Frodo’s sword and star-glass. Sam is upset thinking that Frodo is dead. But when Orcs capture Frodo, it turns out he’s 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 Theoden arrives. The Battle of the Pelennor Fields takes place as the Riders trample over the orcs.
Another army approaches. It is the treacherous Haradrim as they charge on the battlefield on giant elephant-like Mumakil. Theoden and his men make a desperate charge to take on the Haradrim.
Watching the Mumakil battle on Pelennor Fields was really awe-inspiring. The sound design and CGI effects of the battle are incredible as I couldn’t believe the effort gone into making the battle.
Theoden gets attacked and thrown to the ground by the Witch-King of Angmar on his Fell Beast. But Eowyn defends her uncle and with Merry’s help manages to kill the Witch-King on the battlefield.
Aragorn; Legolas, Gimil arrive with their army and take on the Orcs and Haradrim on Pelennor. The battle is soon over and sadly Theoden dies as he says goodbye to Eowyn, which was heart-breaking.
Later on, a debate takes place as the situation with Frodo becomes critical. Aragorn suggests distracting Sauron from seeing Frodo and Sam as 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, saving him from the Orc leader Shagrat, and both set 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 amongst the orcs, Frodo and Sam continue on the way to 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 watching as a watching flaming red eye.
At the Black Gate of Mordor, Aragorn and his company ride to the gate to make their challenge. They meet the Mouth of Sauron (Bruce Spence) who looks really horrible and grotesque in his scene.
The Mouth of Sauron gives Aragorn, Gandalf and the others a token – Frodo’s mithril shirt. Everyone is horrified at seeing this, but Aragorn cuts his head off and the battle at the Black Gate takes place.
Meanwhile with Frodo and Sam, they climb up the fiery mountain. There’s a really emotional scene between them 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 to him to destroy the ring. But Frodo is unwilling to give the ring up and announces “The ring is mine!” Is this end for Middle-Earth?
The DVD special features of ‘The Return of the King’ are as follows. On both discs of the film, there are four full-length commentaries by various contributors. The four commentaries are ‘The Director and Writers’; ‘The Design Team’; ‘The Production/Post Production Team’ and ‘The Cast’.
There are two Easter Eggs on the first two discs 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
The third and fourth discs of the four-disc DVD set are ‘The Appendices’ which is the concluding story of the making of the ‘LOTR’ films covering the making of ‘The Return of the King’ from book to screen.
The first disc of ‘The Appendices’ covers how the final film was created in adapting the book to screen and also looking into the design process of Middle-Earth in ‘The Return of the King’.
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 -4 hours.
The sections on this DVD include the following. 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.
There’s a ‘From Book to Script’ section which looks into how the final film was adapted from the books. It contains the documentary ‘From Book to Script – Forging the Final Chapter’ and an abandoned concept in 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’ documentary which looks into the horses featured in the three films and how the actors and riding doubles interacted with them and rode them in the trilogy.
There’s a ‘Middle-Earth Atlas’ that is an interactive map looking into the journeys in ‘ROTK’ and ‘New Zealand as Middle-Earth’, an interactive map with featurettes on how the ‘LOTR’ locations in NZ.
DISC 4 – THE APPENDICES PART SIX – THE PASSING OF AN AGE
The second and final disc of ‘The Appendices’ 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.
There’s an introduction by Elijah Wood (Frodo); Dominic Monaghan (Merry) and Billy Boyd (Pippin). This disc contains about 3-4 hours of documentary material which can be seen using ‘PLAY ALL’.
The sections on this disc include ‘Filming “The Return of the King”‘ which contains the documentary ‘Cameras in Middle-Earth’ focusing on the making of ‘ROTK’. There’s also some Production Photos to see.
There’s a ‘Visual Effects’ section containing two items. There’s the ‘Weta Digital’ documentary looking at the film’s CGI effects and a ‘Visual Effect Demonstration’ looking into the Mûmakil Battle.
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’.
And there’s the finale documentary called ‘The Passing of an Age’, looking into the film’s release at World Premiere in New Zealand; other premieres and winning the Oscars in 2004.
There’s a special section called ‘Cameron Duncan: The Inspiration for ‘Into the West”. This section includes the Cameron Duncan documentary and two films by him called ‘DFK6498’ and ‘Strike Zone’.
On the original 2-disc DVD of ‘ROTK’, 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.
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 a very interesting in-depth examination on the characters of ‘LOTR’.
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 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.
‘The Return of the King’ is a triumphant and epic conclusion to the ‘LOTR’ films and is my favourite out of the three movies. I have very fond memories of seeing this film in the cinemas and December 2003 was a happy Christmas for me. I felt emotions that ranged from excitement to thrills to joy and sadness.
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 and I didn’t think there would be going to be more films set in Middle-Earth to enjoy back then.
Thrilling, epic, colossal, remarkable, spectacular, majestic and breath-taking are the words to describe this fantastic movie trilogy of ‘The Lord of the Rings’! Highly recommended!
‘The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King’ rating – 10/10
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