top of page

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Movie Review - Extended Edition

The epic fantasy trilogy comes to an end, in this visually stunning & contextually rich conclusion. Containing everything, from an emotional story to jaw-dropping battles.

Genre: Action / Adventure / Drama / Fantasy

Director: Peter Jackson

Cast: Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom, John Rhys-Davies, Sean Astin, Dominic Monaghan,

Billy Boyd, Ian McKellen, Andy Serkis, Bernard Hill, Miranda Otto, David Wenham, Brad Dourif, John Noble, Liv Tyler, Karl Urban & Hugo Weaving.

Theatrical Run Time: 201 min.

Extended Edition Run Time: 263 min.

US Release: 17 December 2003

UK Release: 17 December 2003

German Release: 17 December 2003

Welcome back to this year’s final review of Peter Jackon’s cinematic entries, to J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy world. This was my most anticipated film in 2003, having bought tickets for me and my friends back in the day, to see it on the day of release, straight after school. I remember the cheering in my screening room, as Legolas slid down the dying Oliphaunts trunk, or how one/two tears rolled down my cheek, as the credits started rolling. For me, this was the end of a three-year era, of cinematic spectacle. So let’s get on with my review of The Return of the King.


After a near-deadly confrontation with the demonic spider Shelob, Frodo together with his friend Sam finally reached Mordor in their quest to destroy the One Ring. While mean, Gandalf is defending the Kingdom of Gondor, from an impending attack by Sauron. Aragorn joins the battle with an army of the undead. In the end, Middle Earth is saved from evil and the last of the immortal leave for the undying lands.

The complete trilogy was shot back to back, to make a yearly release possible. As with the previous releases, Jackson needed to move events, alter occurrences, or compress storylines from the book, to allow the movie to have an even pacing. The Return of the King, together with the other premises in the trilogy, is recognised as some of the most influential films ever made!

A lot of the changes made, concern larger plot points in “The Two Towers” books, which were included in the first half of this picture. These are, the fight against Shelob, which the second act opens with, or in the Extended Edition, the besieged Isengard that includes the death of Saruman, as Jackson left out the “Scouring of the Shire” from the flicks. Arwen’s subplot is derived from the “Appendices” and expanded upon. It is jarring how much was left out of the theatrical cut, given that every single scene feels important.

One of the reasons I find this last addition to be the best of the trilogy is the fact that the narrative runs much smoother than in the previous two instalments. One does not feel the four-and-a-half hours run time. Yes, the ending drags with all its fadings into black or white, though, I do enjoy them as afterthoughts. The best, however, is how it opens! Taking us back roughly six hundred years, when Sméagol kills his cousin Déagol for the possession of the ring. It plays like a horror picture, as audiences get to see the transformation into Gollum.

Just as in the previous two parts, the dialogues are kept pretty much authentic to Tolkien’s novels, including different British accents, as well as Elvish and the Black Speach.

As with the preceding flicks, The Return of the King includes a magnificent ensemble cast. The growing comradery plus friendship between the elf Legolas, played by a great Orlando Bloom, and the dwarf Gimli, portrayed by the magnificent John Rhys-Davies, is still an integral part of Aragorn’s side arc. The two lighten the mood, with immaculate comedic timing, as they tease each other. One of the best performances was given by John Noble, as Denethor the crazed Steward of Gondor, father to Boromir as well as Faramir.

Elijah Wood really acted his but off! Every instalment saw him getting weaker, falling more into the darkness, though in this one his despair is visible. Sean Astin, as Samwise Gamgee, keeps being the one ray of hope, never losing faith. Their friendship is front and centre of the story! Finally, Andy Serkis as the secondary antagonist Gollum was simply brilliant. Not only did he move unnaturally for his motion capture, but he sold the insanity of the character.

Miranda Otto obtained a much larger part as Éowyn, the Witch King’s killer. Otto was very charming as the character, yet she also proved to be able to kick butt. This is a well-written female part, and the one-liner she threw into the Witch King's face before stabbing him, is PERFECT!

Viggo Mortensen is Aragorn! I can not envision anybody else as Gondor's one true king. Aragorn is another character that did a complete evolution in these three flicks. Starting as a nomad, roaming from land to land, to accepting his fate as the rightful heir to the thrown. He also proved to be much more resilient to Sauron than his ancestors.

If there is something that has been consistent throughout all three parts, it is the magnificent cinematography by Andrew Lesnie! The camera work consisted of using forced perspective, especially for a lot of the shooting of Minas Tirith. The ride of the Rohirrim, charging into the Orc army, was filmed with approximately 150 extras on horseback. The colour palette is kept once again desaturated for the larger part, although the colour does become stronger during moments of hope. Equally, the play between light plus shadow is well executed.

The effects, just as with every Lord of the Rings movie, look brilliant to date! This is because a lot of work has gone into creating miniature models, as well as proper sets, that were then overlapped with CGI, to bring it all to life. Andy Serkis’ motion capture still looks amazing; Gollum does look like an actual real creature! The prosthetics used to create the “Mouth of Sauron” looked creepy, yet astonishing!

The sound effects team also brought their A-game. Using a mix of human screams and donkey screeches, they generated Sauron’s fall. The shriek of Shelob was created by using the sound of Tasmanian devils. Finally, Howard Shore’s epic score brought it all together, infusing a palette of emotion into his soundtracks.

Verdict: Peter Jackson thrilled audiences throughout three years, with his spectacular trilogy, based on a series of novels which filmmakers deemed impossible to adapt for the silver screen. This final chapter was not only a worthy conclusion, it was also very emotional! Jackson made the correct decision, by stripping down Tolkien’s gigantic story and focusing on the central plot line. The Extended Edition is definitely the way to experience this closing blockbuster, as it includes important details that were cut out, for the theatrical version. The cast was brilliant as always, especially Elijah Wood, Sir Ian McKellan, Sean Astin, Miranda Otto and Viggo Mortensen, however, who impressed me was John Noble! Cinematography plus effects are out of this world, holding up to date, while the music by Howard Shore is pure goosebumps. The Return of the King, is not only an epic conclusion, it also is my favourite out of all three, deserving a 10 out of 10!

What is your take on this masterpiece? Do you agree with me? Which movie was your favourite? Leave a comment below to let me know! Thank you very much for reading!


bottom of page