The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (movie)

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is a film directed by Peter Jackson. The premiere screening was held in Wellington, New Zealand on December 1, 2003, attended by the director and many of the stars. Further premieres took place in major cities around the world in the days leading up to the film's worldwide theatrical release on Wednesday, December 17, 2003.

It is the third part of a trilogy, following the events portrayed in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, also directed by Jackson.

The film's story is based on later events in The Two Towers and the whole of The Return of the King, the second and third parts of J. R. R. Tolkien's epic fantasy The Lord of the Rings.

(The Return of the King also served as the basis of an animated film of the same name that debuted on U.S. TV in 1980, featuring the voices of Orson Bean as Frodo Baggins and John Huston as Gandalf.)

Table of contents
1 The cast
2 Synopsis
3 Cuts and alterations
4 Box Office Records
5 External links

The cast

Synopsis

As confirmed in the feature on Gollum in the Extended DVD Edition of The Two Towers, Andy Serkis appears in person in a flashback scene playing Sméagol before his degradation into Gollum. This scene was actually held over from the previous film because it was felt that it would have a greater emotional impact if audiences had already seen what the Ring's influence had done to Sméagol. In his degraded state Gollum is "played" in the movies by a CGI character whose movements are sometimes derived from a motion-capture suit worn by Serkis, and sometimes from footage of Serkis interacting with the other actors and then digitally replaced by Gollum.

The city of Minas Tirith, seen briefly in The Fellowship of the Ring, is seen in all its glory. The filmmakers have taken great care to base the city closely upon Tolkien's description in The Return of the King, Book V, Chapter 1. Close-ups of the city are represented by sets and long shots by a large and highly-detailed model, often populated by CGI characters.

This film contains key scenes that occurred in the middle portion of the novel The Lord of the Rings but were not included in the film The Two Towers. These include the scene in which the monstrous Shelob attacks Frodo and is wounded by Sam.

Other key events include the Siege of Gondor; the re-forging of the shards of Narsil into Aragorn's new sword Andúril; Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas's journey through the Paths of the Dead; the epic Battle of the Pelennor Fields, Oliphaunts and all (everything carefully choreographed in advance, a process Jackson describes as like planning a real battle); Merry and Éowyn's role in the defeat of the Lord of the Nazgûl; the destruction of the One Ring and the final fall of Sauron; Aragorn's assumption of the throne; and the departure of several of the heroes to the Undying Lands.

Cuts and alterations

According to British newspaper reports appearing on November 13, 2003, Christopher Lee was unhappy to learn that a 7-minute scene featuring a confrontation at Isengard in which Gandalf casts Saruman out of the order of wizards, would not be appearing in the finished film, and decided to boycott the premiere as a result. Peter Jackson has confirmed that this scene, although not in the theatrical release, will be included in the extended VHS and DVD editions planned for release in 2004 - possibly as early as May according to rumours appearing in some British DVD-collecting magazines.

A sequence that did not make it from the book into the film at all despite the hopes of many fans, was the "Scouring of the Shire", in which the Hobbits return home at the end of their quest to find they have some cleaning up to do. In The Return of the King, the fall of Saruman takes place at the end of this scene, but in the film it takes place 'offstage'.

Other scenes from the book not appearing in the movie, which may or may not make it into the extended version:

  • Théoden meets Merry and Pippin and calls them holbytlan, suggesting that the word hobbit is derived from Rohirric; Pippin comments that the King of Rohan is "A fine old fellow. Very polite."

  • The Rohirrim bypass the main road to Gondor by negotiating with the wild men of Drúadan Forest for passage through their woods

  • The Witch King enters Minas Tirith and is challenged by Gandalf; then the cock crows and the horns of the Rohirrim announce their arrival and the Witch King is forced to ride out to meet them

  • The Mouth of Sauron taunts Gandalf at the Black Gate and presents evidence that suggests Frodo has been captured

  • The spirit of Sauron rises like a black cloud from the ruin of Barad-Dûr before being blown away by the west wind

Other alterations to the story include:

  • The shards of Narsil are re-forged by Elrond at Arwen's urging, and Elrond travels to Rohan where he presents the reforged sword to Aragorn and orders him to take the Paths of the Dead

  • The Rangers from the North do not appear at all, and Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli take the Paths of the Dead alone.

  • In the book the beacons of Gondor are lit before Gandalf and Pippin arrive. In the film Denethor refuses to light the beacon of Minas Tirith, so Gandalf persuades Pippin to sneak past the guards and light it, causing the rest of the beacons to be lit in response.

  • Riders from Gondor do not present the Red Arrow to Theoden.

  • Gollum tricks Frodo into sending Sam away, so that Frodo enters Shelob's Lair alone

  • The burning Denethor runs along the "prow" of Minas Tirith and falls like a meteor while the battle continues to rage around the city

  • Merry and Éowyn are not taken to the Houses of Healing to recuperate from their encounter with the Witch King (with the aid of Aragorn's knowledge of the healing herb Athelas), but instead ride out to the Last Battle alongside Aragorn and Gandalf

  • Frodo and Gollum both fall from the causeway in the Sammath Naur, so that Frodo's fate is momentarily unclear to the audience

  • It is not revealed that Frodo is to sail to the west with Bilbo, Gandalf and the rest until after most of them have boarded the ship

The end of the book is highly anticlimactic in many respects; following the destruction of the One Ring, most of the second half of The Return of the King consists of scenes that tie up loose ends – only briefly summarized in the film. We get a hint of Frodo's periodic bouts of illness following his return to the Shire, we see Sam getting married to Rosie, and we follow Gandalf's and the Ringbearers' departure from the Grey Havens. The film's closing scene shows Sam returning from saying farewell at the Grey Havens, coming back to the Shire and his home and family.

The film remains faithful to the book in one important respect, by retaining the last lines spoken by Gandalf ("I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.") (although Gandalf has some minor dialogue following this in the movie), and Sam ("Well, I'm back.")

Box Office Records

After two years of attention and acclaim since the release of The Fellowship of the Ring, audience anticipation for the final installment of the trilogy had reached a fever pitch when the movie was finally released to theaters on December 17, 2003. New Line Cinema reported that the film's first day of release (a Wednesday) saw a box office total of $34.5 million -- an all-time single-day record for a motion picture released on a Wednesday. This was nearly twice the first-day total of The Fellowship of the Ring (which earned $18.2 million on its first day of release in 2001), and a significant increase over The Two Towers as well (which earned $26.1 million on its first day in December of 2002).

The substantial increase in initial box office totals caused optimistic studio executives to forecast that The Return of the King would surpass The Two Towers in total earnings. If this proved to be true, then this would be the first blockbuster movie trilogy for each successive film to earn more at the box office than its predecessor, when all three films were blockbuster successes. (The general opinion in movie circles in 2003 was that a movie had to earn more than $250 million to be considered a "blockbuster").

The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy is highly unusual in that it is to date the only movie series whose separate instalments were written simultaneously and shot back to back, so that it could be considered three parts of a single very long film. This ensured that all three movies were consistent in terms of story, acting and direction. Therefore audiences who enjoyed the first movie were fairly certain of enjoying the second and third, which would not have been the case had the films been written and shot separately as in, say, the case of the first Star Wars trilogy.

External links


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