WARNING: THIS REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS FOR THE FILMS THE LORD OF THE RINGS: FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING AND THE TWO TOWERS
The Lord of the Rings: the Return of the King is the culmination of Peter Jackson’s trilogy, and the best of the lot. If Fellowship was an adventure film, and Two Towers showing the preparations for battle, Return of the King is a balance of the two. Taking everything that was good about the first two films and improving on it, half of the film shows the journey of Sam and Frodo, the other telling of the all-out war between Sauron’s forces and the men of Middle Earth. The stunning final part of this motion picture trilogy gets this balance perfect: the pacing of the story is great, and the swapping between the two major storylines comes exactly when needed.
Starting with the major battle sequences, they are presented really well, with the battle of Minas Tirith standing out. All of the major characters pull their weight again, and the stand-out performances still come from Ian McKellan and Viggo Mortensen. On the other side to this, the dynamic between Frodo and Sam that was touched on in the last film really comes into play, with both Elijah Wood and Sean Astin demonstrating how things like the Ring, Gollum and temptation has an effect on their relationship. Their interactions are so good, it’s as if they are real people. The film opens with an origin story for Gollum, which Andy Serkis portrays really well as the audience watches the deterioration of the character into what we know today.
There are very few faults that can be found with this film. It’s only nit-picking, and doesn’t really detract from the experience, but the sub-plot with Arwen (Liv Tyler) feels underdone and needlessly tacked on. I can see that it was necessary for the character development of Aragorn and the general advancement of the plot, but I just wish it could have been done better. Also, there are two points in the film (I won’t spoil them) that are an annoying use of Deus Ex Machina, and the exclusion of two key scenes in the theatrical edition (but are included in the extended edition, which I haven’t seen). These are the Fall of Saruman- which really should have been put at the end of The Two Towers– and the Mouth of Sauron. For the latter, I can see why it was cut (it’s quite unintentionally comical), but it does affect the tone. Of course, they can be viewed online, but it still detracts from the experience.
But after all this considered, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is still a neigh-on perfect film. It’s got fantastic battle scenes and superb dialogue with a supreme quality of acting. The third film is definitely the best of the three, a fantastic conclusion to the trilogy and one of the greatest fantasy films of all time.