''I give hope to men. I keep none for myself.''
The former Fellowship of the Ring prepare for the final battle for Middle Earth, while Frodo & Sam approach Mount Doom to destroy the One Ring.
Viggo Mortensen: Aragorn
Return of the King asserts itself as the final and best of the Rings Trilogy. The Lord of the Rings trilogy as a whole became the most nominated film series in Academy Award history with 30 nominations, surpassing both the Godfather trilogy (28) and the Star Wars franchise(21). It broke another record by winning all the Oscars for which it was nominated; including Best Picture, and Best Director(11 out of 11). The previous record was nine out of nine by The Last Emperor(1987) and nine out of nine by Gigi(1958). Also the third of only three films to win 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
The only film to win more than 10 Academy Awards without receiving a single acting nomination, which is ironic considering the immense cast.
I recall seeing it at the cinema when it first was released, then seeing three more times because of the greatness and inspiration it provides. Being a fan of the book trilogy Lord of the Rings which I read many years ago when I was 14, I did have some minor disappointments at Saruman being absent from the theatrical version and others; including certain Witch King scenes and The Mouth Of Sauron at the Black Gate which I loved in the book. Despite these missing from the Theatrical version, Return of the King had me glued to the screen for its three hour duration; the reasons why?, because in essence Return of the King has so much...majestic set pieces, beautiful landscapes, perfect costumes, dazzling earthy effects, deeply portrayed characters and wonderful storytelling.
I'd like to mention as an example; Peter Jackson maybe bending the rules of adapting a book, yet succeeds in giving the story an elevated boost of significance in cinematic and emotional terms. The example; The amazing conversation between Elrond and Aragorn where he gives him the sword. Although in the book his sword is remade and given to him in Fellowship; this interaction between the two simply is great cinema and really sells the pure adrenaline and emotion of Aragorn's beginning transformation into a King. This greatly shows a lever against the over-whelming evil of Middle Earth, against the Dark Lord Sauron whom seems all but invincible. Peter Jackson cleverly succeeds in giving a message of Hope while using it as a vehicle to move the story forth.
Similarly to it's predecessor The Two Towers; we are treated to separated characters; on one side it flicks to Sam, Frodo and Smeagol as they approach Mordor and Mount Doom then back to Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas trekking towards the Paths of the Dead and preparing for eminent battle. But Return of the King Goes one step further than it's prequels, because then we also have all these other pivotal characters; Gandalf and Pippin at the White City, in all it's magnificence with the maddened Denethor. Theoden and Eomer preparing to help Gondor from the descending armies of darkness. The secretive Eowyn with Merry going to Gondor's aid, even though they are not permitted too. Return Of the King gives so much detail and luscious fantasy and story before we even come to the battle scenes its a great film. Chuck in the battle at the White City, the final climactic onslaught at the Black Gate and the powerful scene where Sam carries Frodo up Mount Doom showing the powerful bond of friendship and vigor, bravery and compassion, then what you have is not only a film which is great but one that is the definition of what can only be described as close to perfection.
''Courage, Merry, courage for our friends.''
The musical score retains its beauty, elegance and power that Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers had; Quite simply Howard Shore has made a soundtrack and score on all three films that has unrivalled beauty and depth, that is essentially another invisible character among the cast like any wearer of the ring. When you hear Howard Shore on any Lord of the Rings film, it's like hearing soothing, blaring, powerful, emotional tones from heaven. The score simply is THAT perfect.
The special effects, notably Gollum again, are nothing less than breathtaking, and simply compliment the story; this is Peter Jackson's effect company WETA making not just effects but in essence creative fantastical art reminiscent of Illustrators Alan Lee or Brian Froud whom we're behind the book art.
The battles are monumentally huge and exciting. There are again, some liberties taken with the story; especially during the end with the homecoming, and yet, everything that needed to be covered regarding the main characters Peter Jackson seems to provide anyway. After the greatest moment of the series resolves itself, the aftermath and lengthy goodbye ending provided a breather for not just the characters but the for us, the audiences. Return of the King gives a fond farewell to friends seen on screen for the last three years; and for the cast whom filmed for 7 years if not more, a trilogy which forged friendships on and off screen. It was truly a bittersweet feeling in realizing that there will be no more Rings for 2004. I will miss this talented group and magical escapism although I never tire of experiencing the whole journey again.
At this point of the third book or film, everyone has come to know and love all of the characters and formed emotional ties; thus the stakes have become tremendously high for the characters and this makes viewing even more exciting and enriching. Kingdoms are at their knees, and the only two characters who can save Middle Earth are gradually becoming weaker and weaker. The tension was very high and I can honestly say that out of all 3, this was the only one that had me on the edge of my seat. There were many memorable scenes (one of my favourites including the part with the Shelob; An interesting fact; Peter Jackson is arachnophobic and based the Shelob design on the types of spiders he feared the most.)that made this the classic that it is sure to stay for decades to come.
''Hold your ground, hold your ground! Sons of Gondor, of Rohan, my brothers! I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. An hour of woes and shattered shields, when the age of men comes crashing down! But it is not this day! This day we fight! By all that you hold dear on this good Earth, I bid you stand, Men of the West!''
This is the longest of the series, mostly because of the ending that seems to last, albeit slightly warped from the book (The Book had a Shire incident with Saruman at its peak). This was still a good ending, a feel good conclusion; and it allows us to see why Frodo did what he chose to do effectively. He, and us the audience, have gone through an incredible ordeal and I think we needed that 20 minute linger. When the battle is over, and the celebrations have ended, there is a sad emptiness felt. The films spanned over 3 years, the filming for the trilogy nearly 10 years, as all films were shot simultaneously together.
There have been The Extended Editions, The Limited Editions of course, but after that, it's all over. Peter Jackson gave us so much that resulted in being both appropriate and admirable.
Much to my satisfaction the Extended Version of Return of the King capitalizes on the already dazzling theatrical version and dressing it with details sadly missing. What we now have included; The encounter at Isengard with Saruman and Wormtongue, the Witch King breaking Gandalf's Staff and the Mouth of Sauron at the Black Gate. These scenes provide a new scope and insight into The Return of the King and help it stay true to the book. The Extended edition also sees Peter Jackson include more material from the book to do with Faramir and Pippin, Sam and Frodo's mishaps in Mordor and their disguises as Orcs is given clarity and realism. Aragorn looking finally into the Palantir to make himself known and seen to Sauron is particularly captivating and effective. I should also mention there is alot more humour too especially in the Paths of the Dead extended scenes
''That's for Frodo! And for the Shire! And that's for my old Gaffer!''
For me no film or indeed book, can never be too long or too short, and rarely when you get a film as visionary as Return of the King do you want it to end. I know I surely didn't. It's magical and mesmerizing; be it a moving scene with Ian Mckellan and Billy Boyd preparing for fighting at Minas Tirith or Elijah Wood and Sean Astin struggling with the Ring's evil resonance, this film is in Gollums words: very precious.
A true masterpiece from Peter Jackson, Fran Walsch and all crew and cast fulfill a Tolkein vision, Howard Shore provides the perfect Score and adds to the beauty that is Return of the King. Whats more we are treated to some inspirational credits; accompanied by Annie Lennox performing the song Into The West and gorgeous art-work by Alan Lee of the cast in their roles. This is art. This is a story of friendship and hope. This is The Return of the King.
''Home is behind, the world ahead... And there are many paths to tread. Through shadow, to the edge of night, until the stars are all alight... Mist and shadow, cloud and shade, all shall fade... all... shall... fade...''