Media

Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - May, 2010

ARTICLE INDEX

"The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

movie-may-2010-lord-rings-trilogy

Synopsis

The final chapter in the epic Lord of the Rings trilogy finds the race of men preparing for war with the vast armies of Sauron.  Orcs and Uruk Hai have overrun the cities.  The armies of Gondor have fallen back to the city of Minas Tirith to make their final stand.  Gandalf journeys to the city to find its ruler, Lord Denethor, grieving over the loss of his son Boromir.  He is too consumed by madness to do anything against the coming onslaught.

Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas realize that more allies must be found so they ride into the Cursed Mountain to summon help from an army of undead soldiers.  Meanwhile, Frodo and Sam continue toward Mordor, still trying to reach Mount Doom to destroy the Ring.  They have kept Gollum as their guide but he is leading them to their death in his effort to reclaim the Ring, his “precious.”  Gollum nearly accomplishes this but Sam saves them from a giant spider and rescues Frodo just in the nick of time

The battle begins at Minas Tirith between a vast army of Orcs, Uruk Hai and even Men.  Just as the city is on the brink of defeat, the army of Rohan rides into their flank, along with the undead soldiers led by Aragorn.  The city is saved but Gandalf realizes Frodo still needs one more diversion to reach Mount Doom.

The remaining armies attack the Black Gate of Mordor in an effort to draw Sauron’s eye away from Frodo and Sam who are nearly at their goal.  Just as Frodo is about to throw the ring into the fire, he is attacked by Gollum.  Luckily, Gollum and the Ring go over the edge but Frodo hangs on and is saved by Sam once again.  The Orcs are destroyed and the war is finally won as Sauron and his powers crumble to dust.

In the end, all are reunited at Rivendell as the Elves herald the Fourth Age of Middle Earth; the Age of Men.  Frodo finishes the book started by Bilbo and he sails off into the sunset in a fitting and poetic ending.

 

Specifications

  • New Line Cinema
  • 2003, Color, Rated PG-13, 3 Hr 21 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler and Viggo Mortensen
  • Directed by Peter Jackson
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

This was my favorite of the three movies in the Trilogy.  The emotional impact was intense in nearly every scene.  Despite the long battle sequences, the action never dragged or became repetitive.  You feel every moment of angst as Frodo and Sam journey to Mount Doom.  You will even feel for Gollum as he struggles with his 500-year old inner demons in trying to regain the Ring.  The scope of this film is simply enormous.  More than just a classic battle between good and evil, these people are fighting for their very world.  The Return of the King won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2004 along with ten other Academy Awards and it’s easy to see why.  I can’t imagine Peter Jackson topping this.

Technical

Image quality is at reference level.  I wish the same care had been given to the first two films as was given to this one.  Color is perfect with natural hue and saturation throughout.  Some nighttime or early morning scenes are filtered but the picture is never flattened as a result.  In fact, everything just popped from the screen.  Contrast was simply amazing with deep, rich blacks and excellent shadow detail.  Some white highlights had a glowing aura about them that I found very pleasing and effective.  Facial detail was superb with every pore and bit of razor stubble evident.  Scenes that mixed CGI and normal footage were perfect and devoid of any digital scrubbing.  Film grain was always evident but very subtle.  The realism of the CGI content was quite amazing.  Even though the three movies were produced consecutively (and released annually), the quality of the special effects is noticeably better in the final chapter.

Audio was easily at the same level at the other two films; once again, a reference-quality mix.  The battle scenes were especially impactful given the gigantic creatures and thundering armies participating.  Your sub and surrounds will get a workout as they are used quite liberally.  The bass is always tight and accurate, never bloated or undefined.  Dialog is crystal-clear and balanced perfectly to the background effects.  It’s no wonder that Return of the King won the Oscar for Best Sound Mixing.  The Oscar-winning musical score by Howard Shore also deserves mention.  The music is always performed by a full orchestra and has a scale as grand as the film.  Mr. Shore has an impressive list of credits; not the least of which is the upcoming release of Twilight: Eclipse.

Extras

Bonus features are a little better than the previous two discs.  There are three documentaries that cover the entire trilogy and the history and lore behind Tolkien’s writing.  Everything is still presented in SD on a separate DVD.  Perhaps when the Extended Editions are released later this year, we can expect some high-def extras.  Also included is a digital copy for your PC or mobile device.