After the rebels have been brutally overpowered by the Empire on their newly established base, Luke Skywalker takes advanced Jedi training with Master Yoda, while his friends are pursued by Darth Vader as part of his plan to capture Luke.
Luke Skywalker joins forces with a Jedi Knight, a cocky pilot, a wookiee and two droids to save the universe from the Empire's world-destroying battle-station, while also attempting to rescue Princess Leia from the evil Darth Vader.
While Frodo & Sam continue to approach Mount Doom to destroy the One Ring, unaware of the path Gollum is leading them, the former Fellowship aid Rohan & Gondor in a great battle in the Pelennor Fields, Minas Tirith and the Black Gates as Sauron wages his last war against Middle-Earth. Written by
The journey comes to an end. For me the final installment ensures that the Lord of the Rings replaces Star Wars as my favourite fantasy movie franchise. In time the film will look dated, but the story and characterisation far surpass that of Star Wars. The Empire Strikes Back is the only one of the Star Wars films that is in the same league as LOR.
As with Two Towers, the Return of the King doesn't recap the story so far, so don't even think of seeing this film if you're unfamiliar with the story. It starts with a flashback to Smeagol and means Andy Serkis gets to appear on the finished print. Frodo, Sam and Smeagol then continue on their quest, whilst the remaining members of the fellowship are briefly reunited at Isengard before taking different paths to Minas Tirith.
The action is unrelenting and most people will not notice the running time is over 3 hours. As with the previous films the combination of sets, models and cgi brings middle earth to life.
I suspect quite a few of the performers will be in with a chance of Oscar recognition. Miranda Otto is the stand out performer and is outstanding as Eowyn and surely deserves the Best Supporting Actress honour. I'm sure that Viggo Mortensen, Ian McKellen, Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, and Orlando Bloom will all have their supporters for acting honours and rightly so, as they all put in fine performances. I'm not sure whether Andy Serkis is elligable, but I suspect the success of Smeagol/Gollum owes as much to him as the animators. Bernhard Hill should also be in with a shout for recognition for his performance as King Theoden. My guess is that it'll miss out on the acting awards with the exception of Miranda Otto. It's absolutely certain to take Best Director, Best Picture and a string of technical awards though. My guess is that it will be nominated for about 12 categories and take 8 gongs.
Return of the King isn't flawless however. Saruman was cut entirely from the theatrical release of the film. We therefore missed out on the final face off between Gandalf and Saruman at Isengard. This was certainly filmed and will no doubt be on the extended edition. When the Hobbits return to the Shire it looks remarkably like when they left. No sign that Saruman has arrived back before them and taken over. In the book Merry, Pippin, Sam and Frodo help rally the rest of the Hobbits to retake the Shire, but at some cost to both the hobbits and the environment. Merry, Pippin and Sam become heros to the rest of the hobbits who are largely unaware of Frodo's adventure and exploits. I'm not sure if any of this was shot, but it would be a welcome addition to the extended addition. Personally I would have followed Tolkien and got rid of 7 minutes of Arwen footage and kept Saruman in. Bearing in mind Christopher Lee's passion for the trilogy it is also sad to see him removed from the final episode. I'm quite sure Peter Jackson must have had a few sleepless nights over that decision.
If Saruman's exclusion was the biggest blunder of the film, Gimli's consignment to comic interlude was also a bit disappointing. I'm not against a bit of light hearted relief every so often, especially in such a long film, but it seemed that every time Gimli appeared on screen it was for light entertainment. The "That still only counts as one" line to Legolas was very funny though.
Despite these gripes Peter Jackson can certainly be very proud of the Lord of the Rings. Very few people thought it possible to do justice to the book. He has crafted a film that many people will enjoy for many years.
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