Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King


The film begins with a flashback of how Sméagol acquired the One Ring, before his degeneration and name change to ‘Gollum’, taking Frodo and Sam to Minas Morgul. Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Gandalf, Théoden and Éomer meet up with Merry, Pippin and Treebeard at Isengard, now under the Ents’ control, and Gandalf deduces that Saruman will pose no further threat. They also recover the palantír. Pippin’s curiosity gets the better of him at Edoras, and he looks into it. The vision he sees (of a dead white tree in a burning stone courtyard) alerts Gandalf that Sauron is planning to attack Minas Tirith, and he rides off there with Pippin. In Rivendell, on her way to the Undying Lands, Arwen has a vision of her son by Aragorn and convinces Elrond to reforge Narsil, the sword that cut the Ring from Sauron’s finger long ago. She then forsakes the gift of immortality to be with Aragorn. Her fate now rests with the outcome of the war.

Gandalf and Pippin arrive at Minas Tirith to find the steward Denethor mourning over Boromir, and Pippin swears loyalty to him. Meanwhile, the Witch-king dispatches his immense Orc army from Minas Morgul, heralding the start of the war, as Frodo, Sam, and Gollum begin climbing the stairs nearby. The Morgul army drives the Gondorians out of Osgiliath, and Faramir is forced to take a doomed ride to reclaim the city. Near Minas Morgul, Gollum convinces Frodo to send Sam home in the belief that he wants the Ring. At the urging of Gandalf, Pippin lights the first of the beacon signals to Edoras, alerting Théoden and the rest of the Rohirrim and prompting them to ride to Dunharrow to prepare for war. While preparing for battle in Dunharrow, Aragorn meets Elrond, who presents the future king with the newly reforged sword Andúril. Aragorn then sets off with Legolas and Gimli to brave the Paths of the Dead, enlisting the help of the cursed Army of Dead in capturing the ships of the Corsairs of Umbar (Sauron was planning to use the corsairs to launch a surprise attack on Minas Tirith while the defenders were preoccupied with the Orcs). Théoden rides off to war with six thousand riders, unaware that Éowyn and Merry are also part of the army.

The Morgul forces, composed mostly of Orcs, begin the siege of Minas Tirith, and many missiles are traded, while the Witch-king and the other Ringwraiths on their Fell Beasts also attack, destroying siege weapons and sowing terror among the defenders. The Morgul army break into the city using the enormous battering ram Grond. At the same time, Gollum betrays Frodo to the large spider Shelob, but Sam returns to fight her off. Sam believes Frodo is dead and takes the Ring from him, but when Orcs from the Tower of Cirith Ungol take Frodo, Sam overhears that he is still alive. At Minas Tirith, Denethor has gone mad and prepares a funeral pyre for himself and the unconscious Faramir. Gandalf and Pippin arrive on the scene and manage to save Faramir, but despite Gandalf’s best efforts, Denethor dies. The Rohirrim arrive and charge into the Orcs, but the Witch-king responds with a counter-attack, attempting to rout the Rohirrim with the forces of Harad, including the immense Mûmakil. The Witch-king descends on Théoden, fatally wounding him. Aragorn finally arrives with the undead on the captured Corsair ships and proceeds to annihilate the Orcs and Mûmakil, while Éowyn and Merry kill the Witch-king. Théoden dies of his wounds, and Aragorn holds the Dead Army’s oath fulfilled, releasing them from their curse at last.

Sam rescues Frodo from Cirith Ungol, which is mostly empty following a fight between the two factions of the Tower’s Orc garrison over the mithrilshirt, and they begin the long trek across Mordor to Mount Doom. Gandalf realizes that ten thousand Orcs stand between Cirith Ungol and Mount Doom, which will prevent Frodo from reaching his destination. Aragorn proposes they lead the remaining soldiers to the Black Gate to draw the Orcs away from Frodo’s path. Sam carries Frodo up to Mount Doom, but Gollum arrives and attacks them, just as the Men of the West furiously battle the Orcs. At the Crack of Doom, Frodo, instead of dropping the ring into the lava, succumbs to its power and puts it on, disappearing from sight. Gollum renders Sam unconscious, seizes Frodo’s finger, and bites it off. As he begins to celebrate reclaiming the ring, Frodo gathers his strength (and his senses) and charges at him. After a brief struggle, they both fall over the edge. Gollum falls into the lava flow with the Ring, while Frodo hangs onto the edge of the cliff. Sam rescues Frodo as the Ring finally sinks into the lava and is destroyed. The Tower of Barad-dûr collapses, Sauron’s essence fades and then explodes, destroying him for good, and the Orcs are killed in the ensuing shockwave and earthquakes. Frodo and Sam are stranded until Gandalf arrives with the Eagles, and they awake in Minas Tirith, reuniting with their friends.

Aragorn is crowned King, heralding the new age of peace, and is reunited with Arwen. The hobbits return to the Shire, where Sam marries Rosie Cotton. Frodo, having finished writing the story of the Lord of the Rings and still exhausted from his quest as the Ring-bearer, decides to leave Middle-earth with Gandalf, Bilbo, Elrond and Galadriel at the Grey Havens, leaving his account of the story to Sam, who peacefully continues his family life.


This is my favorite of the trilogy, even though, at 252 minutes, it is the longest.

As with the previous films, the cast is amazing, but the action really takes center stage in this one. The battle scenes are very well shot and you really feel like you’re in Middle Earth. I can only imagine what this would have been like in the theaters in IMAX or 3-D.

The biggest issue I have with this film is the multiple epilogue endings. They add a good 30-45 minutes onto an already exceedingly long film, and don’t really resolve anything. Of course, I may have been influenced by Randal’s commentary on this in Clerks II.

So, if you’ve seen the previous films, then of course you’re going to want to see this. If not, then though you may be lost as far as some plot points and whatnot, it’s still an enjoyable film, except for the length. Clear your day, watch and enjoy!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars


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