The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003 Film)

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The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is an epic fantasy film directed by Peter Jackson. It is primarily based on the third volume of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings (but also includes material from the second volume), and it is the concluding film in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. It follows The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers and was filmed simultaneously with them.

As Sauron launches the final stages of his conquest of Middle-earth, Gandalf the Wizard and Théoden King of Rohan step up their forces to help defend Gondor's capital Minas Tirith from this threat. Aragorn must finally take up the throne of Gondor and summons an army of ghosts to help him defeat Sauron. Ultimately, even with full strength of arms, they find they cannot win; it comes down to the Hobbits Frodo and Sam, who themselves face the burden of the Ring and the treachery of Gollum, to destroy the One Ring in Mordor.

Released on December 17, 2003, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King became one of the most critically acclaimed films and greatest box-office successes of all time. It swept all eleven Academy Awards it was nominated for, which ties it with only Titanic and Ben-Hur for most Academy Awards ever won. It also won the Academy Award for Best Picture, the only time in history a fantasy film has done so. It also became the second highest grossing movie worldwide of all time behind Titanic, unadjusted for inflation.The Special Extended Edition, containing 50 more minutes of footage, was released on DVD on December 14, 2004.

Comparison with the source material

The film contains major scenes that occurred in the middle portion of the novel The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers but were not included in the film The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, such as Shelob and the palantír subplot, due to Jackson realigning the timeline as described in the book's Appendices, but not in the main prose. Saruman's murder by Gríma (seen only in the Extended Edition) is moved into the Isengard visit due to the cutting of the Scouring of the Shire. In the movie, Saruman drops the palantír, whereas in the book Gríma throws it at the Fellowship, unaware of its value. The entire Shelob sequence also takes place at the end of The Two Towers book, rather than within The Return of the King book.

Denethor, the Steward of Gondor was a more tragic character in the book. The film only focuses on his overwhelming grief over the death of Boromir as to ignore Sauron's threat (in the book he already lights the beacons), and is driven over the edge by Faramir's injury. The film only hints at his use of the palantír which drives him mad, information revealed in the Pyre scene, which is more violent than the book. Jackson also has Denethor jump off the Citadel instead of burning himself on the Pyre, one of the earliest changes.

The Battle of the Pelennor Fields is altered: Faramir never goes on a suicide mission, and is a simplification of the siege of Osgiliath. Generals such as Forlong and Imrahil are also absent, only leaving Gandalf in command. The Orcs also never get into the city in the book. The Witch-king enters and stands off against Gandalf before the Rohirrim arrive, but in the film Orcs invade the city after Grond breaks the Gate. The confrontation takes place whilst Gandalf journeys to save Faramir in the Extended Edition, during which Gandalf has his staff broken. A subplot in which the Rohirrim are aided by the primitive Drúedain into entering the besieged Gondor is also excised. Éowyn's presence to the reader on the battlefield is unknown until she takes off her helmet, but in the film the audience is aware, due to the difference of film and book as a medium.[9] When hope is almost lost, Gandalf also comforts Pippin with a description of the Undying Lands, which is a descriptive passage in the book's final chapter.

Sam and Frodo's major rift in their friendship, due to Gollum's machinations, never takes place in the book, but the writers added it because it added drama and more complexity to Frodo. Frodo enters Shelob's lair alone in the movie, whereas in the book he and Sam entered together. This was done to make the scene more horrific with Frodo being alone, and Sam's rescue at the last minute more dramatic. Also, in the movie we don't know that Sam has the ring until he gives it back to Frodo, whereas in the book the reader knows that Sam has the ring. Gollum's fall into the lava of Mount Doom was also rewritten for the film, as the writers felt Tolkien's original idea (Gollum simply slips and falls off) was anti-climactic. Originally, an even greater deviation was planned: Frodo would heroically push Gollum over the ledge to destroy him and the Ring, but the production team eventually realized that it looked more like Frodo murdering Gollum. As a result, they had Frodo and Gollum struggle for possession of the Ring.
Animatics of Sauron in his angelic (Maia) form.
Animatics of Sauron in his angelic (Maia) form.

There are two changes in the Battle of the Black Gate: Merry is not present there in the book, and Pippin does not kill a troll as he does in the novel. There was an even larger change planned: Sauron himself would come out in physical form to battle Aragorn, who would only be saved by the destruction of the Ring. Jackson eventually realized it ignored the point of Aragorn's true bravery in distracting Sauron's army against overwhelming odds, and a computer generated Troll was placed over footage of Sauron in the finished film.[7] The ending is streamlined so as not to include the Scouring of the Shire, which was always seen by the writers as anti-climactic. It is referenced, though, in Frodo's vision of the future in Galadriel's mirror in The Fellowship of the Ring.
Critics

The film has a 94% rating of positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. Richard Corliss of Time named it as the best film of the year. The main criticism of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, was its running time, particularly the epilogue. Even rave reviews for the film commented on its length. Joel Siegel of Good Morning America said in his review for the movie (which he gave an 'A'): "If it didn't take forty-five minutes to end, it'd be my best picture of the year. As it is, it's just one of the great achievements in film history." There was also criticism regarding the Army of the Dead's appearance, rapidly ending the Battle of the Pelennor Fields.

In February 2004, a few months after release, the film was voted as #8 on Empire's 100 Greatest Movies of All Time, compiled from readers' top 10 lists. This forced the magazine to abandon its policy of films being older than 12 months to be eligible. In 2007, Total Film named The Return of the King the third best film of the past decade (Total Film's publication time), behind The Matrix and Fight Club.

Awards

On January 27, 2004, the film was nominated for eleven Academy Awards, including the Academy Award for Best Picture, Directing, Adapted Screenplay, Original Score, Song, Visual Effects, Art Direction, Costuming, Make-up, Sound Mixing and Film Editing. On February 29, the film won all the categories for which it was nominated. It tied with Ben-Hur and Titanic for the most Oscars ever won by a single film, and broke the previous record for a sweep set by Gigi and The Last Emperor (See Movies with six or more Oscars).

However, none of the ensemble cast received any acting nominations, the first Best Picture since 1995's Braveheart to have not received any. The film was the first in the fantasy film genre to win the Best Picture award. It was also only the second time a sequel had won the Best Picture category; the first being The Godfather, Part II. Furthermore, after winning all 11 of its nominations, the film broke a record previously set by the film Gigi which had previously set the record for winning all 9 of its nominations. It was also the first time that the third movie in a trilogy has won for Best Picture.

The film won also four Golden Globes, five BAFTAs, two MTV Movie Awards, two Grammy Awards, nine Saturn Awards and the Hugo Award. It is among the most-honored fantasy films in history. [source]


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