The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

At last, the trilogy is complete. After sitting through, at minimum, three films’ worth of content, we finally get to see the finale to the Lord of the Rings series, Return of the King. The arcs all come to a conclusion, we see all there is to see, and you’re spent by the end of it. It’s amazing just how moving this installment is. I suppose after spending more than nine hours with characters, it makes sense that you’ll care about their lives, but I was genuinely surprised how emotional I got after this movie ended.

This time around, all bets are off. We know that everything has to end. Regardless of happened in the last two chapters, this is the one that brings our story to a close. It has all been building up to this, and while it has taken a long time to get here, the journey is well worth it. This film is the reason we watched the previous two, even though it could stand alone and anyone who didn’t want to sit through more than six hours of film beforehand could still get something out of it. But it’s the loyals, the people who endured, that will get the most out of it.

The Ring must go to Mordor to be destroyed. By this point, we’ve accepted that. It is, however, weighing heavily on the Hobbit carrying it, Frodo (Elijah Wood), and Frodo’s companion, Sam (Sean Astin). Their guide, Gollum (Andy Serkis performs motion capture and voice work), is planning something, telling us at the end of the last film and the beginning of this one that he plans to take the Hobbits to her and then take the Ring for himself, his mind ever corrupted by the centuries he had it in his possession.

Meanwhile, Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) are trying to stop Sauron’s ground forces, the Orcs. Their story arc eventually leads to a massive battle that attempts to rival the one at Helm’s Deep from the previous film. They meet up with the other two Hobbits, Merry and Pippin (Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd), and from there, the story progresses. Men will have to join forces with other Men, Dwarves and Elves will become best of friends, and you will finally see what we’ve been leading up to, assuming you never read the books.

This is, obviously, not how everything winds up. These characters all travel a great distance from beginning to finish, both in distance and in personality. You’ll notice by the end exactly how much these characters have grown and how all of the relationships have played out. Even the minor ones, like the one between Pippin and Gandalf (Ian McKellen), gets a satisfactory conclusion.

That is expected, of course, especially considering the film’s running time. This is the longest film in the trilogy, playing for over three hours, and over four if you watch the Extended Edition on DVD. If you thought the previous films were too long, look out for this one. I found the time to fly by, for the most part, right up until the its conclusion, but I know how long of a time that is and there are a few points when the film drags. There are also multiple points when the film could end, but continues on, which adds to the runtime and some might not approve of the additional time.

Personally, I loved how we got to find out the fate of pretty much all of the characters in the film. We learn what happens to everyone after the main story is complete, and the journey that they took you on really hits you at this point. You’ve spent nine, maybe ten hours with them by now, and leaving what happens to them inconclusive would be unacceptable. I needed to learn what happened to even the smallest of characters — some of whom hadn’t even appeared since the first movie.

While I have no proof of this, I’m sure that this is the most ambitious film of the series when it comes to the visual effects. While each film in the series looks spectacular, this one has the biggest battles, the most impressive effects, and is absolutely gorgeous from start to finish. The massive battle near the end involving thousands of characters might not be quite as fun as the one at Helm’s Deep, if only because of the way it ends, but it’s incredibly exciting nonetheless.

I have no real nitpicks, or any strong criticisms of this film. I enjoyed it from start to finish, and ended up feeling very emotional by the time it ended. It has action, decent drama for this sort of thing, a strong cast of characters acted very well, and is a masterpiece just to look at. That it concludes an already spectacular trilogy in addition to being all of these things is simply astounding. Peter Jackson has done what easily could have been called impossible.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is a fantastic film. It completes a trilogy that is must-see material, and winds up being the best film of the series. It takes no wrong turns, has everything in it that you’ll want, and thanks to the previous two films and the events within this one, is an emotional journey. While the whole trilogy is most definitely worth watching, this film, the one to end the series, is the best of the bunch; it’s the perfect way to end the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

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