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The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King Special Extended Edition Review

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The saga continues. Frodo and Sam edge closer to Mount Doom, but the deceitful Gollum plans to lead them into a trap and have the ring for himself. Meanwhile, the armies of Mordor are marching on the Gondorian city of Minas Tirith, where Gandalf finds Denethor will only comply when Aragorn returns to his Kingdom.

★★★★★

So here we are, at the end of all things. At least, that's what it feels like. This DVD marks the final step in an epoch-making journey whose cinematic closure has left a gaping hole in our festive arrangements; we'd got so used to Christmas round the Jacksonsí, complete with Orc-bashing, Elf-prancing and Hobbit angst.

Return now clocks in at over four hours, yet never feels stretched. Jackson's supreme gift has been one of total immersion; Middle-earth has remained vividly alive, from the sweeping prologue to The Grey Havens, and it swells again to the tune of 52 minutes and 300 added effects shots, taking the film ever closer to its source material.

It now seems pointless to contest idle arguments on theatrical versus extended editions. If you've come this far, you're already sold, and this version completes nearly 12 hours of magnificent storytelling. The pace may slow, but the beauty soars with opulent layers of architecture, geography and dizzyingly complex mythos. That is the beauty of DVD that Jackson has recognised: the chance to gorge ourselves on his breathtaking universe.

So we are at last granted Saruman's death scene, which does add credence to Christopher Lee's griping; it would have settled things much better. The long, talky showdown atop Orthanc reminds you how lovingly he grasped the baroque twine of Tolkienís prose and what a stone of conviction he was at the trilogy's beginning.

Other characters are enriched, while aficionados will squeal with delight at the sleepy sadness of the Houses Of Healing, Frodo and Sam's agonised march across Mordor and the arrival of enemy emissary The Mouth Of Sauron. With the demonic rumble of his voice cutting over a cemetery of brown fangs, he's perhaps the single most revolting vision weíve yet encountered, origin of species tantalisingly unclear - although he may have once fronted for The Sisters Of Mercy.

The director's goofiness also comes to the fore, setting itself sturdily against the booming pomp of the epic format. You've got to love a drinking challenge from Gimli to Legolas (proof that Elves can take their ale) and a kicker of a punchline to PJ's brief cameo as a Corsair.Indulgent? Not half. Even better than the real thing? Well, we now possess the definitive articles to view back to back, again and again, while pondering the question. At any rate, we need never say goodbye.

Indulgent? Not half. Even better than the real thing? Well, we now possess the definitive articles to view back to back, again and again, while pondering the question. At any rate, we need never say goodbye.