As Frodo (Wood) and loyal friend Sam (Astin) approach Mount Doom, the creature Gollum (Serkis) leads them into a trap to get The One Ring back for himself. Elsewhere, with mankind facing annihilation from the advancing armies of Mordor, Gandalf (McKellen) and the others rally troops to fight back and save Middle-Earth, while Aragorn (Mortensen) embraces his destiny…
Rousing, satisfying and awe-inspiring, The Return Of The King provides a worthy conclusion to what is both an incredible cinematic achievement and the finest fantasy filmmaking ever to grace our screens. Essentially a nine-hour-plus story broken down into three instalments (unless you’re watching the extended versions, in which case it’s an eleven-hour-odd story), this third act is another seamless continuation. Opening with a chilling flashback to Smeagol’s discovery of The Ring, it’s arguably the darkest of the three (giant spider Shelob is worth a nightmare or seventeen), but the usual ingredients are all here. Stunning location work, CGI mixed indistinguishably with practical effects, Howard Shore’s stirring score, involving storytelling, rousing spectacle, and all the epic you can handle.
While none of the three – yes, three – gigantinormous battles equal The Two Towers‘ Helm’s Deep siege, the action here is as impressively realised as always. Moreover, no matter how huge and epic the set pieces get (and they do get huge and epic), Jackson never loses site of the story, details or characters. In a cast full of fantastic performances (Ian McKellen simply is Gandalf), the two most involving arcs have always belonged to Elijah Wood and Viggo Mortensen. The former selling Frodo’s transition from cheerful, ring-resistant chap to burdened Smeagol-in-the-making; the latter detailing Aragorn’s journey from shadow-lurking ranger to troop-rallying king. Though full of stand-up-and-cheer moments (Aragorn charging at The Black Gate, the “You bow to no one” hobbit salute), Sean Astin gets the best of the lot (and arguably the series), as he picks up an exhausted Frodo on Mt. Doom. Okay, so the abundance of endings will test even the most patient film-fan, but Jackson has earned the right to include as many codas as he wants.
Rousing, satisfying and awe-inspiring, The Return Of The King provides a worthy conclusion to what is both an incredible cinematic achievement and the finest fantasy filmmaking ever to grace our screens.