The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Reviewed by: Jeremy Landes
Teen and Adult
Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Drama
3 hr. 20 min.
Starring: Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, John Rhys-Davies | Directed by: Peter Jackson | Produced by: Fran Walsh, Barrie M. Osborne, Peter Jackson, Tim Sanders | Screenwriters: Philippa Boyens, Barrie M. Osborne, Fran Walsh, Peter Jackson, Phillippa Boyens, Stephen Sinclair—Source Writer: J.R.R. Tolkien | Distributor: New Line Cinema
Our reviewer has interviewed three key actors in this. See our article: Three Stars of “The Return of the King” and Their Different Responses to Tolkien’s Books. You might be tempted to believe that some of Tolkien’s strong moral and Christian values would rub off strongly on the actors after 7 years of production. But you would be wrong in most cases.
See our REVIEWS of the previous two films in this trilogy:
Click here if you are new to “The Lord of the Rings” or forgot what the first two films were about.
You are coming to the end of a long journey, begun perhaps when you first heard that “Lord of the Rings” was being made into three films. You enjoyed the first two films and are on tiptoes to see the final episode, or maybe you’re frustrated that parts one and two didn’t contain proper endings and just want to have done with the plot.
Your wait is being rewarded in spectacular fashion; “Return of the King” is the best film of Peter Jackson’s epic trilogy. “Return of the King” is also the longest of the three, the most emotionally enriching, and the most violent, as Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, and their small armies of men battle not just 10,000 orcs (as in “Two Towers’” Helm’s Deep), but, rather, 600,000 orcs, evil men, trolls, and flying Nazgul. More impaling, more beheading, more clubbing, stomping, and bleeding than the first two films combined, times three. And then some. You have never seen war portrayed on a more grand scale; director Peter Jackson has made his mark in the ranks of epic cinema, and it is very high. Prepare your heart to laugh, cry, and shout. “Return of the King” brings you to the climax of the characters’ struggles and leaves you dizzy with wonder, grief, and joy.
Suffice it to say that the heroes of “Return of the King” come to the end of their quest and the end of themselves, risking everything, even their own lives and sanity, in order to save one another.
At one point in the film, as in the book, the heroes seek the aid of dead, malevolent spirits, in order to help them fight a war.
Parents who choose to take their teenagers to (or allow their teenagers viewing privileges for) “Return of the King”: be forewarned that the war scenes are horrific, and many people are shown dying violently. Evil characters are destroyed, but this is not a splatterfest. Characters do bleed and suffer, but I did not feel that the filmmakers were rubbing our faces in it. They were trying to depict Tolkien’s worldview as much as possible, and they did that very well. We need to see heroes with the kinds of qualities manifested here, and seeing them destroy evil creatures in their pursuit of righteousness did not seem very offensive to me.
Perhaps the most disturbing scene shows a deranged father willing to sacrifice his own son’s life for selfish reasons, and then seeking to kill his son and himself. There is also a sequence with a large, horrific monster that may send many adults and their kids out the exit for a breath of fresh air. In a word, “Return of the King” is intense. [To learn more about the effects of seeing violence, click here.]
However, you should also know that the film promotes character traits like self-sacrifice, unwavering friendship, and mercy. In fact, these noble qualities, as well as providence, prevail throughout all three “Lord the the Rings” films. If you are at all unsure whether your kids will be able to handle “Return of the King”, see the film yourself first, then decide. You will enjoy seeing it a second time anyway. Enjoy “Return of the King”—the best film of the “Lord the the Rings” trilogy, this year, and, perhaps, this decade. [If you would like to learn more about the king who promised to return quickly and will also bring justice and peace to the world, click here.]If you are new to “Lord of the Rings” or forgot what the first two films were about, read this version of our review:
Year of Release—2003
NOTE: The DVD Extended Version (released December 2004) contains an additional 50 minutes. We have not reviewed those 50 minutes. The above review is about the theatrical release version.
Otherwise, this movie is extremely clean. No cursing (very rare these days… about the worst that’s said is calling someone a “maggot”) and no sex/nudity (unless you consider a computer-generated male creature in a loin cloth to be nudity). Some characters smoke “pipe weed” (I’ve read the books, seen the movies, and never found anything indicating that it’s related to marijuana) and drink ale, but no excessiveness is apparent. I would certainly recommend against taking small children. If you have a preteen who can handle the violence/tenseness, and you don’t mind them being exposed to creatures of legal age (if they have such a thing in Middle Earth) partaking of alcohol and tobacco, you should certainly consider letting them go. Do keep in mind that this movie is quite long but, in my opinion, well worth the time.