[box cover]

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

So they finally finish the journey, destroy the damn ring, and get to go home. And guess what? It's phenomenal. The Return of the King (2003), Peter Jackson's stunning conclusion to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, is an amazing accomplishment of thousands of people getting together to fulfill the nocturnal admissions of freaks and geeks of all ages, and it manages to be emotionally moving as it is exciting. Starting with a flashback to when Smeagol (Andy Serkis) found the Onering that transformed him into Gollum, the film picks up immediately after the end of Two Towers, with hobbits Frodo (Elijah Wood), Samwise (Sean Astin), and Gollum trekking to Mount Doom — the one place the ring that gives the evil Sauron his power can be destroyed — while human Aragon (Viggo Mortensen), wizard Gandalf (Iam McKellen), elf Legolas (Orlando Bloom), and dwarf Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) return to Sauroman's wrecked castle to reclaim hobbits Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippen (Billy Boyd). Though the battle for Helm's Deep is over, that was simply Sauroman's army, while in Mordor (home of Sauron, who's represented by a large fiery eye) Sauron's army is getting ready to lay siege to Gondor, and Sauron's army will make the Helm's Deep fight look like a cakewalk. Gondor was where fallen comrade Boromir (Sean Bean) came from, and Aragon and Gandalf know their Steward Denethor (John Noble) will not be happy to see them. To defend Gondor, Aragon needs a bigger army than he has, and only the King of Gondor can convince the army of the dead to fight for him, a title Aragon is reluctant to claim — but the war for Middle Earth cannot be stopped, and Gondor's kingdom of Minis Tirith is forced into combat. Yet for all the warfare and politicking, Aragon and company are simply trying to distract Sauron from realizing their real mission, which is letting Frodo and Sam slip past to get to Mount Doom to destroy the ring. And another war is being fought between Frodo and his soul as he and his companions struggle to get the ring to the one place it can finally be destroyed while their supplies and optimism dwindle. The Return of the King is the crown jewel of the Lord of the Rings series because it does an amazing job of topping the scope of the previous entries, while managing to wrap things up without cheating. Everyone working on the film brought their best, and it manages to emotionally resonate while still delivering all the thrills and chills on expects of a fantasy effort. The only complaint this critic has is that it's all over. New Line's two-disc set presents the film in anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) with DD 5.1 audio. Extras include the featurettes "The Quest Fulfilled: A Director's Journey," (23 min.) "A Filmmakers Journey: Making The Return of the King" (28 min.), "National Geographic's Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" (46 min.) web featurettes "Aragon's Destiny" (3 min.), "Minas Tirith: Capital of Gondor" (3 min.), "The Battle of Pelanor Fields" (2 min.) "Samwise the Brave" (5 min.), "Eowyn: White Lady of Rohan" (4 min.), and "Digital Horse Doubles"(5 min.), along with two trailers, 13 TV spots, a Lord of the Rings Trilogy Supertrailer, and a video game sneak preview (3 min.). Dual-DVD slimline keep-case.

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