16. EMPIRE MAGAZINE GREATEST: The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King

October 23, 2018

Director: Peter Jackson
Screenplay: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson
Starring: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett, John Rhys-Davies, Bernard Hill, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Hugo Weaving, Miranda Otto, David Wenham, Karl Urban, John Noble, Andy Serkis, Ian Holm
Runtime: 201 Minutes


Original UK Release: 2003




The Return of the King, the biggest and longest film of the three films has the highest dramatic highs of the entire series. This finale is the is the payoff to several hours of intensely emotional character work, following through on believable and investing arcs that reach a crescendo throughout the film's runtime.


The action sequences are larger, more visually sparse and intricately produced than ever before. The predominant battle for Minas Tirith is some of the most jaw-dropping spectacle in the history of cinema. 


The blends of digital and practical visual effects are more outwardly impressive than ever, and it’s the most grandiose the genre has ever appeared onscreen. But the real reason why this is so memorable is because of the figures at the centre, and every single performer is at the top of their game here – even carrying the luggage of new dramatic and narrative conflict to the finish.


There are legitimately frightening and intense sequences and moments of horror harking back to Jackson's indie roots, showing that he’s not lost his sense of authorial identity amongst the ever-expanding digital landscape of the completed film.


Everything about the film's structure works at cutting through the dramatic meat, thanks in no short part to its incredibly effective editing. Even after the logical endpoint of the film passes, the film keeps going and tracks the Hobbit’s back home, the pursue lives that they can no longer truly return to in quite the same way.  It’s a melancholy end that carries its poignant theme of moving on in and ultimately satisfying way.


The Lord of the Rings series is a passionate labour of fans and professionals, and like The Fellowship of the Ring, the significance of its standing is in debt to a burden carried by everyone involved in the life-altering journey they have taken.

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