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STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
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Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
12A
Cast
Elijah Wood
Ian McKellen
Miranda Otto
Phillippa Boyens
Sean Astin
Viggo Mortensen.
Directors
Peter Jackson.
Screenwriters
Fran Walsh
Peter Jackson.
Running Time
201 minutes

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Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King
The final Oscar-winning chapter of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.


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Plot
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, father of Boromir and Faramir, losing his sanity…


Review
And so all good things come to an end. For three years in a row, Peter Jackson has banished our winter blues with the individual instalments of his Tolkien trilogy, effectively shifting the focus of our cinematic excitement from the summer months to the end of the year. But now that his epic has been unveiled in its entirety, what will be the lasting effects of his achievement?

Well, grand-scale fantasy filmmaking is back on the menu, laying down the gauntlet to George Lucas and Star Wars Episode III. Jackson has also proved that notions of risk and ambition needn't be confined to the low-budget, indie end of the spectrum; nor does California have an exclusive stranglehold on groundbreaking special effects.

And then there's the DVD factor. Just as The Lord Of The Rings was upping the stakes in theatres, so too was its DVD release pattern defining what can (and should) be done on disc for major movies.

In particular, the four-disc extended editions seem to have affected the director's thinking as to what he can get away with in his theatrical final cut. Hence the public grumbles from Christopher Lee about the non-appearance of Saruman in this final instalment. While it might have been fair to grant Lee a curtain call, Jackson quite rightly realises that it is Sauron, not Saruman, whose fiery eye encompasses all the narrative strands of the climax.

The Return Of The King marks the first time in the series when Jackson's roots as a horror filmmaker creep through. As the orcs catapult severed Gondorian heads beyond the walls of Minas Tirith, flesh-rotted ghosts draw swords alongside Aragorn and giant spider Shelob stalks Frodo through dark, web-shrouded tunnels, the film pushes the boundaries of its 12A certificate.

And so it should, because the look and tone must necessarily grow darker as the Hobbits near Mount Doom and Mordor's evil hand grips Middle-earth ever tighter.

Character nuances have been crafted over an unprecedented ten hours-plus of cinematic storytelling: from Strider lurking in the shadowy corner to Aragorn rallying the troops; from Merry and Pippin as bumbling fools to stout-hearted, pint-sized warriors. Only Legolas and Gimli seem to have regressed (in screen time at least) to set-piece archer and comedy sidekick respectively. At least Andy Serkis is rewarded for his Gollum voice work with an early flashback that gets his face on screen, as well as warning us that, under the ring's power, Smeagol can be as murderous as Gollum.

Jackson has kept the momentum of the series rolling on and on though the traditionally 'difficult' middle part and 'weak' finale, delivering a climax to the story that's neater and more affecting than what Tolkien managed on the printed page. Some viewers might feel that the director sprinkles some cheese on his extended coda, adding at least one false ending too many (even if he does ignore the book's Scouring of The Shire).

But those who have walked beside these heroes every step of the way on such a long journey deserve the emotional pay-off as well as the action peaks, and they will be genuinely touched as the final credits roll. Yes, the Ring is dead. Long live King Kong.


Verdict
The resounding climax to a landmark in cinema history. But the King has now returned, the story is over and the ships are leaving Middle-earth. Ladies and gentlemen, Elvish has left the building.


Reviewed by Alan Morrison

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King
Empire Star Rating

There and back again.

A triumphant, awe-inspiring, stunning and perfect send off of the trilogy ...I think Tolkien would be very proud. A milestone ...pure and simple. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Jericho117 at 09:48, 21 October 2013 | Report This Post


RE:

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) The final chapter in this epic story and its an all out conquest that most probably gave all orkshoppersasm. The last film was for 'battle whores' where as this film is most surely for the complete 'war sluts' haha. There isn't really all that much story left in this final segment, the way Jackson has arranged it. Its merely about the last struggle up to Mount Doom for 'Frodo' and 'Sam' and lots of battles for everyone else. I have ... More

Posted by Phubbs at 06:37, 10 December 2012 | Report This Post


Its time for Middle Earth to get its war on in the third installment of the series. A film purely made of magic and action it's good for the whole family to enjoy. As Frodo closes his epic quest war falls upon the world. This film gets you deep in the story line and and gets you into the true powers of Gandalfs magic. I rate this movie a 5. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by silence1 at 13:14, 15 June 2012 | Report This Post


Its time for Middle Earth to get its war on in the third installment of the series. A film purely made of magic and action it's good for the whole family to enjoy. As Frodo closes his epic quest war falls upon the world. This film gets you deep in the story line and and gets you into the true powers of Gandalfs magic. I rate this movie a 5. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by silence1 at 13:14, 15 June 2012 | Report This Post


The action scenes are brilliant, rohan charge is one of the greatest war charges to ever grace the screen, Sean Astin, Ian Mckellen, Andy Serkis, John Rhys Davies and Bernard Hill are all amazing in the film. To be honest I wish they had more endings because i really wanted to know what happened to characters like Legolas and Gimli. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Gears of Kong at 04:05, 10 June 2012 | Report This Post


The first one was enough!

says it all to add to my earlier comment ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by stp123192 at 18:15, 10 February 2012 | Report This Post


Don't Bother with the films

Try and Read the books I will! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by stp123192 at 18:14, 10 February 2012 | Report This Post


Epic Ending to the series

Return of the Kings is breathtaking and exciting fantasy entertainment, you couldnt ask for a better ending to a great series of films. I think some people unfairly criticise the later two Lord of the rings, I think they are all just as brilliant as each other. It is an ending which achieves the emotional and climatic scale deserved. To be honest if you dont like watching the ending ending of the hobbits returning to the Shire you can always press skip on your DVD. However that doesnt make it un... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by trainedasninja at 12:12, 30 July 2011 | Report This Post


RE: The end to the Greatest movie trilogy in history and the Godfather of fantasy films

i was disappointed. A film of many endings, certainly but Jackson's conclusion is fatally flawed by its departure from Tolkien. Rgirvan4413:00, 03 October 2010 rightly notes the centrality of the experience of the hobbits but the elision of the 'scouring of the shire' robs the saga of its essential denouement. The transformation of the young hobbits, the soldier's return - is the homecoming scene, the righting of wrongs, it's Odysseus in the wedding party. It returns us to where we began, in Ho... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by gullibal at 13:19, 03 December 2010 | Report This Post


RE: The end to the Greatest movie trilogy in history and the Godfather of fantasy films

Actully, I would say that the film is tied together by the experiences of the Hobbits in ROTK. You have the central thread of Sam and Frodos journey - but much of the rest of the film is through the eyes of Merry and Pippin. The Two Towers was much more focused on the story of the Aragon and Co, but here the Hobbits really take centre stage. So many wonderful moments in this film, we are almost spolied. The Pippin singing as Faramir charges, his talk with Gandalf about death, Merry having ... More

Posted by Rgirvan44 at 13:00, 03 October 2010 | Report This Post


RE: The end to the Greatest movie trilogy in history and the Godfather of fantasy films

I thought ROTK was the weakest of the trilogy by some distance. Its been a decade since I read them but I remember feeling the same way about the books; the first was the best, the second was good, the third was OK. I think however the problems with the third act as such, are exacerbated in the cinematic adaptation. For me FOTR works so well because the story is well written, the characters given space to breathe, the tension allowed time to develop. This means that when the punches come, ... More

Posted by Giant Green Rabbit at 11:58, 03 October 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

You know what I hate about this movie? It ends. I know it has to end, but this trilogy is just too awesome for words. I don't ever want this film to end. I really don't think I could ever get tired of watching it over and over. I have to pull myself away. And yes, I think of the trilogy as one film, but that's a minor point. If I began to write about all the great things of this film, or any part of the trilogy, I would be awake for three days at least. How I envy those who got to be... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by drystyx at 11:28, 03 October 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Who am I Gamling?

Why do you think it's dire ilas ... More

Posted by Emyr Thy King at 21:26, 02 October 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Who am I Gamling?

Shite. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by darth silas at 18:48, 02 October 2010 | Report This Post


Who am I Gamling?

L: RLHaylor Critics of the film should just keep quiet and appreciate the hard work that went into these films ight, so we shouldn't bother with reviews then? L: shitmovie Very emotional and great. I thimk the best scene was the speach at the black gates given by aragorn. I thought Aragorn's speech was a little underwhelming. Perhaps Viggo Mortensen doesn't have the sort of voice to rouse and rally his fellow man to battle. He is an introverted character and that suited his port... More

Posted by Emyr Thy King at 16:31, 01 October 2010 | Report This Post


FORGET THIS ! GET THE EXTENDED EDITION NOW !

THE EXEDENDED EDITION IS 1 HOUR AND 25 MIN LONGER AND IT TIGHS UP ALL THE LOOSE ENDS ASWELL ! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by spartan24 at 11:41, 14 March 2010 | Report This Post


amazing ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by kris9209 at 23:00, 29 July 2009 | Report This Post


amazing ... More

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Posted by kris9209 at 23:00, 29 July 2009 | Report This Post


Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

I think that the Lord of the Rings is the greatest movie triligy of all time and should be in every movie lovers collection. Return of the King does not dissapoint on action, plot and characters. The most impressive character being Smegal/Gollum played by Andy Serkis. This film would 100% deserve a 5 star review but it is just tooooooo long and alot of people loose interest after the Minas Tirith scene where Aragon becomes King. The screen goes black and everyone in the cinema got up thinking th... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Jamiecurthagin17 at 13:58, 31 March 2009 | Report This Post


The Climax Of The Century

In most cases, a trilogy has lost its spark by the third instalment (The Godfather is a prime example) but Return Of The King exceeds the first two. Visually stunning and at a dynamite pace, Peter Jackson was paid his dues for a film series that is to be revered. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by cinerator at 00:57, 10 March 2009 | Report This Post


The Climax Of The Century

In most cases, a trilogy has lost its spark by the third instalment (The Godfather is a prime example) but Return Of The King exceeds the first two. Visually stunning and at a dynamite pace, Peter Jackson was paid his dues for a film series that is to be revered. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by cinerator at 00:57, 10 March 2009 | Report This Post


THE BEST OF THE BUNCH

Where do I begin? Oh god I really don't know. It's simply one the best movies ever. ... More

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Posted by !xHoTRoDx! at 15:42, 21 December 2008 | Report This Post


BEST OF THEM ALL and i dont care what any one else thinks.

One of my fav movies.Its weird it won 11 oscars though.AMAZING film. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by JohnPaul1996 at 15:58, 27 June 2008 | Report This Post


this was my least faverite at the cimema as there were so many holes in the script. special edition answers the lot so now its my favurite (se that is) ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bobbyperu at 23:27, 24 October 2007 | Report This Post


this was my least faverite at the cimema as there were so many holes in the script. special edition answers the lot so now its my favurite (se that is) ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bobbyperu at 23:27, 24 October 2007 | Report This Post


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