The Lord of the Rings: The Return of The King was shown off to the world for the very first time on December 1, 2003. Peter Jackson’s last two films in the trilogy had received critical acclaim for their faithful adaptation of J.R.R Tolkien’s work, and its usage of New Zealand landscapes and practical effects to tell this epic tale.
The Return of The King was inevitable, as fans of the novels would know that the final battle of Middle Earth will be coming to the silver screens, complete with the armies of Man and Elves meeting at the gates of Mordor. Yet, it was still unbelievable to see it come to life, beyond the confines of the original books.
Granted, Peter Jackson and the team streamlined a lot of plot elements from the books, translating the general prose of the original novels into something more action-packed and understandable for the general movie-going audience.
This did come with a number of caveats, like the major omission of Tom Bombadil, a mysterious character who helps out Frodo and the hobbits during the events of The Fellowship of the Ring. The Return of The King also had a number of scenes reshuffled and omitted, including a final battle with Saruman in The Shire.
What the film adaptation of The Return of The King had to do was make sure that Frodo reaches Mordor and destroys the ring, and Aragorn accepts his destiny as king of Gondor to unite the inhabitants of Middle Earth.
Miraculously, the film managed to tell this story all within three hours, with an extra 51 minutes for the Extended Edition. Back in 2003, three hour feature films were usually reserved for Bollywood films, so a three-hour epic was seen as a turn-off for casual viewers and almost not enough for fantasy fans.
Nowadays, geeks all over the world are spoiled for choice when it comes to their favourite film adaptations. Whether it is Game of Thrones getting eight whole seasons, The Avengers: Endgame clocking in at three hours, and the upcoming Snyder Cut of the Justice League being the mother of all extended editions at this point, Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy definitely paved the way for the general acceptance of geek culture as a whole.
The Extended Edition of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, in particular, also set a whole new standard for what we can expect from our favourite pieces of media. It cemented the idea of having a complete and definitive version of media, whether it is in film or video games.
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of The King is also the best finale to a trilogy of all time. It’s not often that the last entry of a trilogy to be the best, with something like Back to the Future having the first entry being the best, or the original Star Wars trilogy’s second entry, The Empire Strikes Back, being unanimously nominated as the best film in the trilogy.
Maybe it’s because of the tying of loose ends that The Return of The King sets out to do from the get-go, providing a more satisfying storyline compared to The Fellowship of the Ring’s plot setups and bittersweet ending, and The Two Towers rollercoaster of emotions and epic battles.
What sets The Return of The King apart from other trilogy finales is with the number of Academy Awards that it was nominated for. Namely Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Original Song, Best Visual Effects, Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Make-up, Best Sound Mixing and Best Film Editing, all of which the film won in the 2004 Academy Awards.
So if you’re looking for a reason to rewatch the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy again, a 17 year anniversary isn’t a bad reason at all. Just remember to watch the extended edition of all three movies.