The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Genre: Fantasy
Series: Lord Of The Rings

First Impressions

First impressions by Kathryn A, 30th December 2003

  • an adaption of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • directed by Peter Jackson
  • Webpage at

The word I kept on using was "magnificent". Those Rohirrim horses, the winged helmets of Gondor, the imposing structure of Minas Tirith, the death-or-glory charges -- yeah! Yes, there was a lot of fighting, but more important, there was a lot of heroism.

Yes, of course there were lots of things left out, since there was only a finite amount of time, and even more needed to be crammed in, since the decision to pull all the Shelob stuff out of the Two Towers movie and put it here. It made sense to do that because it was better to end the second movie with hope rather than despair.

Strangely enough, there were less gratuitous changes in this one, and most of the existing changes made sense, either for emphasis of themes, or compression of time.

I didn't like Denethor so much. I think they put too much emphasis on the "mad" and not enough on the "noble".

(LOTS of spoilers follow)


Notable scenes

The opening scene with Smeagol and Deagol, that first glance of Smeagol reminded me of Wormtongue. Maybe it was his fascination with the worm, or his pasty face, or lank hair.

The Pippin's peek at the Palantir was perhaps overly dramatic (too many flashing lights) but it was right in the essentials. Interesting how we have a dramatic parting between Merry and Pippin which emphasizes how much they were used to doing everything together. And a nice mirror image where Pippin finds Merry on the battlefield later.

Shelob was spot on. Big, fast, nasty and creepy.

Interesting that they didn't bother trying to pretend that Eowyn was Dernhelm, but had Merry knowing it all along. Fair enough -- it would be harder to disguise her identity in a visual medium, and people might have thought Merry was stupid. As it was, we got just a little twitch where she was hiding her face from Theoden, so he wouldn't notice her.

And the death of the Witch-King was right (apart from a few minor details) -- "No living man" indeed! Yay! And they got the "Nazgul burn" right too.

The death scene of Denethor, I would have preferred it if they'd stuck to the book. The image of Denethor standing in flames holding the Palantir of Minas Tirith is much more dramatic to my mind, than a ball of flame falling off the cliff.

The scene in Mount Doom, though they changed very slightly how Gollum got his tumble, it was cool for symbolic effect, because the bit where Sam grabs Frodo's hand to stop him falling into the lava, mirrors the bit in Fellowship where Frodo grabs Sam's hand to stop him drowning in the river. And I loved the "I'm glad you're here with me Sam, here at the end of all things" bit. That was just right.

The little sigh that Aragorn gives just after he's crowned -- again bringing the theme of the reluctant King. Here he is, he's just been crowned, and now he has to steel himself to face the People. Ah, but he looks so noble... and then loses all decorum when Arwen reveals herself (grin).

The whole thing back in the Shire (yes, they left the Scouring out, see below) was just cool. How they didn't fit any more, and they kept in the Grey Havens scene too. Cool. sniff sniff Frodo is so angsty! And those blue eyes too. (grin) And Sam, so sad.

Strangely enough, in the taxi on the way home, the following song was playing on the radio, and I felt it was sort of fitting to the farewell.

Tell me what is my life\ Without your love\ Tell me who am I\ without you by my side.

sniff\ And then life goes on, with Rosy and the children...

Notable changes

They actually brought the reforging of Narsil into Anduril into this movie and had Elrond use that handy elf-teleportation (well, either that or foresight) to bring it to Aragorn. This again was part of the theme of the reluctant King.

They had Elrond urge Aragorn to take the Paths of the Dead (with emphasis that the King could do it where no other could). Though nobody actually called it "The Paths of the Dead" interestingly enough, and the only people who went with Aragorn on it were Legolas and Gimli. Well, I guess they didn't actually need anyone else once they had the Dead. A good thing with this scene though is that it became more clear how risky the Paths of the Dead were -- because if the Dead didn't recognise Aragorn's claim, then they were all toast.

They also compressed the use of the Dead -- instead of just having them take the ships, so that Aragorn could bring the allies from the south, they simply had them travel on the ships as well, and have them (all green (what is it with horror and green?)) turn the tide of the battle.

The thing with the beacons. Oh, I loved seeing the lighting of the beacons, but the fact that they sneaked (treasonously) to light the first one was part of the overemphasis on the madness of Denethor, I think.

Of course the Arwen stuff was all extra.

They didn't find a seedling of the White Tree -- the original simply started blooming. Again, a time compression thing.

Things that I don't expect to be in the extended version

The scouring of the Shire. I've been told they didn't film that at all.

The meeting with Saruman in Isengard. Since they aren't having the Scouring, then there's no need to explain Sharkey. If there's no need to explain Sharkey, we can, for all intents and purposes, leave Saruman locked up in Isengard. They already sidestepped the problem of the Palantir getting into Pippin's hands by having it simply rolling in the water, so they don't need Wormtongue to have thrown it at them.

The whole shortcut with the Rohirrim thing. They aren't particularly worried about how long it takes anyone to get anywhere in these movies.

An explanation of how Frodo and Sam got their normal clothes back in the middle of Mordor. I expect this is simply a continuity error.

Things that I hope will be in the extended version

The romance of Eowyn and Faramir in the Houses of Healing. However I fear they may have considered that extraneous.

A bit explaining the significance of the fact that Aragorn touched the Palantir of Isengard after Pippin but before Gandalf covered it with a cloth.

"The Corsairs of Umbar! The Corsairs of Umbar!" and the unfurling of Aragorn's banner.

Merry entering Theoden's service. Or did I blink and miss it?