Directed by Peter Jackson
(2003, New Line Cinema)
Starring Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin,
Liv Tyler, and John Rhys-Davies
Aragorn defends Gondor, buying time for Frodo and Sam to make their
way to Mount Doom in an attempt to destroy the Ring.
March 18th to 19th, 2016 on Blu-Ray for the
Once again -spectacular. It's interesting to note how
the colors change between the three movies. In The
Fellowship of the Ring, the
settings are mostly forests and grasslands (with many exceptions, such
as Moria), and these are green and brown. The
Two Towers is mostly grey, both on Frodo's journey and Aragorn's.
Here, the colors are so white they are almost washed out. Minas Tirith
and Osgiliath are so white, but with a shade of dirt, for lack of a
better word. Maybe it's age.
October 14th, 2015 on Blu-Ray for the 10th time
I just love this movie. There is so much detail, and
although the battle takes up most of the movie, the characters are
defined by it, and grow throughout. I still get a heartache at the music
to the Rohirim attack on the Pelenor armies, and the visuals to that
scene are truly wonderful, as well.
September 6th to 7th,
2011 on Blu-Ray for the 9th time
The extended edition on Blu-Ray is even more
beautiful. Unlike The Two Towers, which was dark and brown and grey
throughout (even the old forest of Fanghorn, somehow), this movie has a
lot of green in it, and the white cities of Minas Tirith and Osgiliath
had sharp contrasts in them. The only scene that looks a little fake is
the approach to Minas Tirith at the end, just before the coronation of
the King. It looks completely CG. Still, it is undoubtedly the best and
most beautiful of the three movies.
August 20th to 21st,
2010 on DVD for the 8th time
The Return of the King is the one movie of this
trilogy that seems to suffer most from the theatrical edition. Although
the movie is still beautiful and majestic and wonderfully characterized,
there is just so much missing. Several of the scenes appear to be
different, too, though perhaps it's just the way they were cut, compared
to the extended edition. One scene in particular is very much missing:
the closure to the main face of the enemy, the orc with the knobby hand.
We know that he must die, but in this version, we don't know that it is
Aragorn who does it, just before he is about to kill Eowyn. Still, even
if it feels rushed (at such a long running time, how can it feel
rushed?), there is so much to like about this movie. I'll probably watch
this edition again, because it is still beautiful and shows a sense of
urgency in its hurry. On the other hand, I'll undoubtedly return to the
extended edition more often, because it's just a better movie!
January 11th to 14th,
2009 on DVD for the 7th time
I seem to have stopped analyzing movies the way I
did, but my impressions upon watching this movie for the seventh time
was that it was extraordinarily beautiful. While there were so many
beautiful things in the previous two movies, this one has breathtaking
vistas that were truly delightful to watch. But it is Galadriel who I
really noticed this time. The sparkle in her eyes gives her an impish
quality, implying that she shares some big secrets with Frodo. This is
especially given away at the end, when she boards the ship for the
December 29th to 31st,
2007 on DVD for the 6th time (director's audio commentary)
The director and writers' audio commentary for this
movie was somewhat lackluster. Most of what they said in the commentary
was also mentioned in the special features, so I found myself asking
where I had heard some of this information before.
One of the reasons I have watched with the commentary
on is for explanations regarding what has changed compared with the
book. The two major changes are the use of the wraith warriors and Frodo
turning Sam away on the stairs of Cirith Ungol. In the first case, the
explanation made perfect sense. In the book, the ghost army is used to
defeat the corsairs. The rangers and Elrond's sons presented the force
that defeated Sauron's army. That force would have been too complicated
to use in the movie, with all the new character introductions and so on,
so they didn't use them, which left Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli alone on
the ships. So the ghost army made up for that. Obviously, storywise,
they couldn't bring the army to Mordor, so Aragorn had to fulfill his
promise and set them free. In the second case, I think the writers made
their point that there was a loss of drama when Frodo and Sam enter
Shelob's lair together. I'm not sure I agree, but I can see their point,
and it's not bad dramatically.
I liked the way Peter Jackson acknowledged that
Denethor's death couldn't make sense realistically in the extended cut
of the movie, because he would have had to run all the way around the
upper levels of Minas Tirith from the tombs, whereas not knowing their
location in the theatrical cut, it makes more sense. But he has always
wanted that scene, so ... Another choice was the lighting of the
watchtowers. I agree with Jackson that it just makes for a stunning
sequence when they are lit, and it doesn't damage the story any way that
they were actually lit when Gandalf and Pippin were riding to Minas
In the closing credits, they talk a lot about the
young director who died of cancer while they struggled to write the
closing song, something they did for a very long time in the special
features. I didn't see the necessity of repeating it here. I liked the
discussion, however, of the sketches of characters in the credits.
The director and writers went on a lot of tangents,
and had trouble pulling themselves back at times. That, plus a lot of
repetition, made this less enjoyable than the audio commentaries for the
other two movies. Still, I gained some insights, and the background
movie is still fantastic!
November 4th to 5th,
2006 on DVD for the 5th time
I have been listening to the soundtrack for this
movie a lot lately. It goes well with some fast-paced and somewhat
repetitive computer work that I've had to do. So I was paying a lot of
attention to the visuals that went with the music that I have virtually
memorized. I wish I had a better TV/stereo set-up to better
differentiate the music from the rest of the sound, but I managed to
pick out some of my favorites, even when there was a lot of other sounds
on-screen at the same time.
It has been more
than a year and a half since I last watched that movie, which I find
hard to believe! Of course, I have since read the
book, which is (somehow)
even better. I found myself thinking about what I wrote in my review of
the book concerning the Scouring of the Shire. I felt that it didn't
really belong. However, it is somewhat dissatisfying to see that the
Shire-folk have no idea of what went on in the outside world, too, as
depicted at the end of the movie. The sacrifice of so many is worth it
if these people don't even realize that there is great fear in the
world. But the book makes it satisfying in that the hobbits must also
come of age by re-taking the Shire from Saruman. It is unfortunate that
in the book, everything except the knowledge is negated by the end: all
the damage is restored too quickly. Here, at least, there was no damage
to restore- only that of two hobbit bodies.
February 19th to 20th,
2005 on DVD for the 4th time
Familiarity breeds contentment... This is a terrific
movie, and just about everything comes together wonderfully. Although I
found myself eagerly anticipating only a few scenes (especially the
lighting of the beacons and the ride of the Rohirrim), the rest of the
movie was a steady character drama, while still being full of action,
that I was still swept up in it, all of it.
watched this movie again, because I finally finished watching all of the
special features. It took me
a long time to go through all of the third and
fourth discs of this set, and not because they weren't good. With all the other stuff going on in life
these days, I was only watching half an hour at a time!
Disc three contains by far the best material. The
descriptions of Tolkien and how the writers modified the end of
Towers and all of The Return of the King into this movie were riveting
to watch. I also disagreed with their opinion of the Mouth of Sauron.
They think that because the audience knows that Frodo is alive, the
scene where Aragorn and Gandalf are presented with the mithril armour
has less impact, so they actually lessened its importance. It is the
effect on the characters that we want to see, and thinking that Frodo
was dead would make them fight even harder. I think it is an important
scene, though I don't like the way they made it.
However, even better than that were the behind-the-scenes
material about the designs and bigatures created for the movie. Minas
Tirith was incredible, both in miniature and the live action set. The
amount of work and pride the designers and builders put into those sets,
even though some of them would never be seen, or only for a few brief
seconds, leaves me in awe. I also loved seeing the scouting locations in
New Zealand as Middle-earth, which was even better than similar features
from the previous films.
However, the best feature of them all, from all the
movies, I think, was Home of the Horse Lords. I watched this featurette, totally
blown away, twice within one week. It's no wonder the actors and
trainers fell in love with those magnificent horses. It's amazing what
they were able to train them to do, and I was almost in tears listening
to Viggo Mortensen tell of how he bought his horse, then bought a
stallion for one of the trainers. But watching all those horses charge
onto the field in the Ride of the Rohirrim was a highlight of even that
amazing video, as was the camera-work that went into filming the pyre of
Denethor with the horse. Truly amazing stuff.
As usual, I only flipped through the indices to the
artwork galleries, not really interested in seeing every picture or
sketch. Nothing stood out for me there, either.
Disc four was The Long Goodbye... While enjoyable, the
featurettes meandered. The hour-long Cameras in Middle-earth felt like
it was going to end several times throughout, but instead, it kept
going. As the producers said they kept finding excuses to keep working
on the movie, so too did the documentary-makers drag the feature out.
Still, it was fun to watch them shoot behind-the-scenes material, and
say their many, many goodbyes. The Weta Digital story also felt longer
than it should have, not really adding much to the story of the film,
except to repeat over and over how much work they had to do, and how
they barely got it done by the deadline. These things were repeated in
the Editorial and the music and soundscapes, and especially The End of
All Things. They felt like repeats of material I'd already seen.
However, I did like the reference in the music of the
Lord of the Rings
Symphony, which I saw when it passed through here. The Passing of an Age
was the only feature from this disc where I felt that the whole thing
was worth watching, beginning to end. It was short, however it showed
all the things I was hoping it would show, from the premieres to the
Oscars, and the Academy Award parties. I was so happy that they caught
Peter Jackson on video thanking the fans from theonering.net, especially
where he said that was the only real party he wanted to attend. Back in
the visual effects section, I did enjoy a lot the deconstruction of the
mumakil battle, showing the live action, computer graphics, sounds, and
so on. It was pretty impressive. I also always love sound design,
because it's something we are just beginning to explore. Watching a
one-ton rock fall to the ground repeatedly was amazing.
There are also two Easter Eggs on the movie discs. On
disc one, we see the very funny interview between the actors behind
Merry and Frodo, where Dominic pretends to be a foreign interviewer. This
was mentioned during the bonus material for The Two Towers, and it is
well worth seeing here. The SNL-type of "pitch", on disc two, for a
sequel movie to Peter Jackson was not as funny, but still brought a bit
of a chuckle.
December 14th to 15th,
2004 on DVD for the third time
Unlike the other extended editions of The Lord of the
Rings, the material added to this material didn't significantly increase
the quality of the movie. Mostly, the 50 minutes of added footage
increased various scenes subtly, and even the new scenes usually added
only subtle points here and there. However, most of these were character
moments, which I greatly appreciated.
is more interaction between Aragorn and Eowyn, who is such a beauty that
any added screen time is a bonus, and some emotional punch between Eowyn
and Merry, where he expresses doubts about how useful he will be. I
liked the simple scene of Merry offering his services to Theoden.
Speaking of Eowyn, there is finally the scene where she meets Faramir,
as was implied by the crowning of the King near the end of the
theatrical version. Again, however, it is subtle, and doesn't add much
more than continuity.
They have also introduced a minor subplot with the
white tree of Gondor. After Pippin's vision of it dying from the
Palantir, he gets to see it spout a single flower even in their darkest
hour, and he watches in awe as it starts to snow petals; in the
theatrical version, all we saw was the end result.
I liked the extension of the upper court of Minas
Tirith, so that Pippin has to sneak around the main palace to find the
tombs. But that makes Denethor's running leap seem a little strange, as
he appears to run straight from the palace, not from the outcropping on
the side where Pippin followed Faramir's procession.
There were a few scenes, however, that were new enough
to add some visual impact, even if they still seemed a little
The only scene that truly added depth to the movie was
the death of Saruman, which was sorely lacking in the theatrical
version. By necessity different from the novel, I think it had a similar
spirit to the end of "The Scouring of the Shire", except that I would
have liked to see Grima throw the Palantir down at the group in spite.
The overthrow of the ships of the Corsairs was cool,
but not really necessary, and the exchange between Gandalf and the
Witch-King was visually impressive, but also not required. I have
trouble believing that the Nazgul are more powerful than the Istari, who
are, after all, minor gods. Of course, the Istari couldn't conquer
death, as shown by Saruman, the balrog, and Sauron, so I suppose the
Nazgul, who returned from the dead, would have some tricks unknown to
Most impressive was the extended footage with (again) Eowyn on the Pelennor Fields. I think the whole sequence was re-edited,
as well. I don't recall Eowyn battling the chief of the orcs, and it was
really cool to see Aragorn behead the guy as he was about to attack her
again. I could have sworn, too, that Legolas' killing of the
oliphaunt, and the dead army swarming over another, took place on the
docks of the river, not near the gates of Minas Tirith. If this was
re-edited, with the backgrounds replaced, I think it was a good idea, as
it gives everything a forward momentum and urgency.
Finally, the new scene with the Mouth of Sauron was
really strange. Was that an orc? Very large teeth and no eyes make it a
really weird character. I have been looking forward to this scene,
because of the impact the Mithril coat has on Aragorn and Gandalf, but I
was rather disappointed with it. Add to this the lack of body and horse
as the group rides away from the opening of the gates, and this becomes
a scene that I wish had been omitted.
However, the rest of the movie was spectacular, of
course, and the subtly lengthened or added scenes do increase some of
the resonant tones. Any added material is welcome to me, no matter how
small or how subtle. I still can't get over the Ride of the Rohirrim, or
the lighting of the mountain beacons, my two favorite scenes in the
whole movie. Fortunately, there is a lot of character in this film,
which most of the extended scenes added to.
I never noticed the sketches that underlay the closing
credits before, and wonder if they are new for this edition. I
particularly enjoyed the sketches of the characters accompanying their
names, which were really well-done. Add to that the beautiful song "Into
the West", and it is worth watching all by itself. As usual, I loved
listening to the music from the "fan club credits", though it wasn't as
exciting or beautiful as in the previous movies, and seemed a lot
However little and subtle the extended scenes seem,
they are all worth seeing, and, as usual, the extended edition is
March 11th, 2004 in
the Theatre for the second time
As usual with the best movies of the year, I have to
see them twice to really absorb them. This movie trilogy is the best one
in recent memory, and I think I could sit through it several times in
the theatre. It deserved every Academy Award that it received.
Rereading my review below, I don't know how much more I
can really add. The review captured all of my emotions through the
movie; all I can do is repeat. I did note some of the best parts of the movie were missing from
that review, however...
This was truly a beautiful movie, in every sense. The
beginning showed some really amazing scenery and images. The scenes of
the Rohirrim snaking out of the city, and later charging the orcs was
incredible. Faramir's army also got a different but similar scene,
snaking out of the city of Minas Tirith. It was utterly sad watching
those soldiers leaving the city, knowing that they were going to their
Some of the most beautiful scenes in the entire movie
come without dialog or characters at all, even though they are several
minutes long! First was the approach to Minas Tirith by Gandalf and
Pippin. The first real view of the city was breathtaking, but it was
even more fantastic watch them ride up and up and up towards the upper
levels of the city, through all of the gates! It's amazing that Pippin
was able to get down there to Gandalf later in the movie! The other long
scene is composed of giant signal fires being lit. I absolutely loved
the way the director went from one to the next, all the way from Gondor
to Rohan, without skipping even one! It was truly awesome, and didn't
feel repetitive in any way.
The music helped, as always, especially in those
beautiful shots. As usual, I was amazed by the soundtrack CD, though I
feel that it's the weakest of the three. There are new themes, however,
and the most impressive one is Minas Tirith, which sounds very royal and
energetic. Fortunately, they preserved a lot of the music from the
previous two movies. Unfortunately, as I've mentioned before, the
soundtrack CDs are too short, not giving us more than a small taste of
the grandeur from the movie.
It's interesting, and surprising, to note that none of
the cast actually had a large part in the movie. Everybody gets
something to do, but there are so many characters that they can't
possibly all get enough screentime, yet they were all amazing,
Once again, I was impressed by Gollum, and the way he
was able to switch between personalities. I especially enjoyed his
sarcastic remarks to Sam: "that Hobbit is always so polite!" Ha!
Now, I can't wait until the extended cut of the DVD is
released, and I hope the studios get the mess of The Hobbit copyrights
sorted out so that Peter Jackson can put that one to film. If he could
get Ian McKellen, Ian Holm and Andy Serkis back to play Gandalf, Bilbo
and Gollum, that would be awesome. Of course Gimli's father and Legolas'
father are in The Hobbit, so they could be part of it, too!
December 22nd, 2003 in
Epic is truly the word to use for
these movies, especially the last one. This is truly where the battle
for Middle-Earth is waged. Is this movie, as everybody seems to say,
better than The Fellowship of the Ring? I haven't decided yet.
The driving force behind Fellowship was
character. The Two Towers had too much of the movie devoted to the huge
battle at the end. This movie is a mixture of the two. A lot of it is
pure battle, where most of that battle is rather impersonal. However,
the movie is long enough to provide us with some amazing character work.
The advantage that Fellowship had was
that it was the first. We had never seen anything remotely resembling
this before. So we weren't surprised by how awesome The Two Towers
looked and felt, and this movie is the same. Very little of it is new,
though so much of it is vastly superior technically.
That is the key, I think. This movie is
definitely superior in terms of visuals and effects, believe it or not.
The cinematography is jaw-droppingly beautiful, more so than either of
the previous films. The story, when it is not engaged in big battles, is
very impressive, and perhaps the equal of Fellowship. I am just not
The movie is quite faithful to the book
that it is based upon. I was watching the various scenes, noting chapter
by chapter what happened from the books. There was The Muster of Rohan,
easily distinguishable from The Siege of Gondor, or the Battle of the
Pelennor Fields. On the Frodo side, The Two Towers ends about halfway
through the movie, but that's okay, because after the encounter with
Shelob, all we really get is the two Hobbits marching over endless
The movie opens with a flashback to
Sméagol and Deagol finding the ring 500 years before, and the encounter
that ends up with Sméagol in possession of the Ring. Fast forward to the
present, and Gollum is leading the hobbits up the stairs to the pass of
Cirith Ungol. The endless stairs were the first "wow" moment, especially
when they start climbing them. Even more impressive is to see them
halfway to the top, while far below, Mordor is still sending troops out,
when the first troops left as they began their climb!
Shelob was every bit as exciting as she
should have been. Frodo's flight through her lair was scary, but seeing
her stalk him and finally stick him with her stinger, was amazing. It
even caused several people in the audience to curse out loud!
Sam really dominates the movie in the
journey to Mordor. He is Frodo's rock, and his loyalty and duty to Frodo
makes you cheer and cry, especially after Gollum turns Frodo against him. His
rescue of Frodo from the orcs was fun, as he snarls and scares some orcs
himself. He also allows Frodo to make it across the plains to Mount
Doom. The look on his face when Frodo loses the will to destroy the Ring
is just haunting.
On the other side of the story, Merry
and Pippin rejoin the rest of the Fellowship (Pippin's line "welcome to
Isengard, under new management" is hilarious), and Pippin gets his hands
on the Palantir, which of course gets him in trouble.
Once again we have three storylines in
this movie, with Gandalf and Pippin riding to Minis Tirith, where we
meet once again the very mad Denethor, who is doing nothing to prepare
for the imminent war. I must say that Pippin looks rather dashing in the
armour of the White Tree of Minis Tirith. Minis Tirith is incredibly
beautiful, much more so than anything we've seen in these movies to
date, which is saying a lot. Seeing the rocks pummel the city, breaking
it down, was quite painful.
the other hand, once Minis Tirith started shooting back, I loved the way
their bricks landed with a thud, and were so heavy that they didn't even
bounce! The orcs seemed rather uneasy with that...
The best scene in the entire movie,
however, has to go to the rides of the Rohirrim. When they marched in a
snaking line away from Edoras, it was an awe-inspiring sight. But
watching them stampede towards and through the orcs laying siege to
Minis Tirith was one of the most powerful moments in the entire trilogy.
The Rohirrim didn't even have to use their swords. The horses were
moving so fast that they simply trampled all orcs in their paths. It was
so awesome to behold!
were turned once the Mumakil (Oliphants) arrived, or course. Théoden's
charge didn't make much sense, but I suppose in haste it was the best
they could hope for. Still, the gigantic Mumakil trampled the horses the
same way the horses trampled the orcs only moments before.
I have always loved Eowyn's moment of
triumph against the Lord of the Nazgul, and this scene did not
disappoint. That a slender woman could defeat this ghost might seem
unlikely, but all she had to do was dodge his mace. Fortunately for her,
Merry was able to sneak up behind him. Her line "I am no man" was
delivered with the perfect amount of vehemence. I hope we get to see
more of her healing (and of Merry's arm) in the extended DVD.
During the Siege of Gondor, I was
completely awed by Gandalf's skill with both staff and sword -at the
same time! This is the first time we see Gandalf in combat with others,
and it was completely amazing!
Aragorn's ghost army was also very impressive. I wonder if we will get
to see more of him taking over the Corsairs in the extended cut of the
DVD, but I doubt it. The element of surprise to the audience is seeing
Aragorn step off of the ships, when the orcs were expecting allies. Once
again, Legolas gets to do some fancy work, leaping onto a Mumakil,
dislodging its occupants, and killing it. I loved Gimli's line "that
still only counts as one"! It might seem like a cheat to have the ghost
army sweep onto the fields and into Minis Tirith, destroying everything
in its path, but it was visually very impressive. Without that army, the
good guys would never have stood a chance, whether or not Frodo
destroyed the Ring.
me to Denethor, the only part that I think is a weakness in the movie.
Not having re-read this part of the book, I only have flashes of memory
as to what happened there. Still, the movie didn't show adequately why
Denethor went insane. I expect to see him looking into the Palantir in
the extended DVD, which would explain why he wanted to take Osgiliath
from the orcs, at any cost, and why he felt like there was no hope at
all. Pippin's selfless act to rescue Faramir from the pyre was amazing,
but I was less enthusiastic about Denethor's jump from the pinnacle of
Minis Tirith. I could have sworn that he died in the pyre with the
Palantir on his breast.
thing that I am not fond of in this movie, but I will have to see it
again to be sure, was the image of the Eye of Sauron as a searchlight.
It was quite amusing when we first saw it, but it got better as the
movie went on, especially when it almost spied Frodo, and later when its
attention was diverted to Aragorn at the Black Gate.
The sight of the tiny remnants of
Gondor being encircled by the massive army of orcs showed how desperate
Aragorn was. I don't know how much time he thought he could buy Frodo,
but it turned out that it was enough! As Gollum wrestled with Frodo and
finally fell into the pool of lava (still overjoyed at having won his
precious away, not realizing that he was even dying), Aragorn and his
company charge the orcs, probably doing very little damage.
I really thought Sauron's eye should
have disappeared before the tower fell, because it looked too panicked
and silly at that point, and it survived far too long after the Ring was
destroyed. The ground shattering beneath the orcs but not the company of
the White Tree looked kind of silly, as well.
The ending of the movie is quite long and
rather disjointed, and I wonder if it wouldn't have been better to end
it with the crowning of Aragorn and the appearance of Arwen. The rest
could have been added to the DVD, like in The
Two Towers. I liked the completeness of the ending, but wonder if it
could have been done with more smoothness.
One part that I did like about the
scenes that ended the movie was Sam's courage. Sure, he confronted
dozens and more orcs, but that's nothing compared to asking a woman to
marry you! But he figured that would be the next challenge, and was
rewarded with Rosie taking his hand, and having (at least) two children
There was so much going on in this
movie, and almost every part of it was amazing. As I said with The Two
Towers, I wonder how much better this movie will get with the Extended
Edition on DVD! Still, the effects, the cinematography, and the story
were amazing. This is a terrific movie, one that I will see over again
and again and again! There is just too much to take in during one
viewing, and I don't mind the repeat viewings that it will take to
absorb it all!