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The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King


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The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Movies)
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Movies)
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Movies)
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Movies)
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Movies)
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Movies)
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Movies)
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Movies)
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Movies)
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Movies)
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Movies)
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Movies)
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Movies)
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Movies)
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Movies)
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Movies)
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Movies)
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Movies)
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Movies)
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Movies)
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Movies)
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Movies)
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Movies)
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Information about The Lord of the Rings The Return of the King

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is a 2003 (18 years ago) fantasy adventure movie directed by Peter Jackson that is based on the second and third volumes of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and the concluding movie in The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy following The Fellowship of the Ring (2001, 20 years ago) and The Two Towers (2002, 19 years ago).

As Sauron launches the final stages of his conquest of Middle-earth, Gandalf the Wizard, and Théoden King of Rohan rally their forces to help defend Gondor's capital Minas Tirith from the looming threat. Aragorn finally claims the throne of Gondor and summons an army of ghosts to help him defeat Sauron. Ultimately, even with full strength of arms, they realize they cannot win; so it comes down to the Hobbits, Frodo and Sam, who face the burden of the Ring and the treachery of Gollum, and finally arrive at Mordor, seeking to destroy the One Ring in Mount Doom.

Released on 17 dec. 2003 (18 years ago), The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King became one of the greatest box-office successes of all time. It won all eleven Academy Awards for which it was nominated, which ties it with only Titanic and Ben-Hur for most Academy Awards ever won. It also won the Academy Award for Best Picture, the only time in history a fantasy movie has done so. It is the second highest-grossing movie of all time worldwide, behind Titanic and it is the twenty-first most successful in North America once adjusted for inflation. The Special Extended Edition, containing an additional 52 minutes of footage, was released on DVD (Digital Versatile Disc) on 14 dec. 2004 (17 years ago).


In the opening scene, Sméagol and his friend Déagol are fishing near the Gladden Fields in the North of Middle Earth. Déagol is dragged into the river by a powerful catch and discovers the One Ring glinting in the river bed. He collects it and climbs out of the river. Sméagol sees him fondling it and as they both succumb to the Ring's power they begin to quarrel. Sméagol demands it saying that it's his birthday and it should be his present. The squabble turns into a fight and Sméagol strangles his friend with his bare hands to finally prise the Ring from his clenched fist. We are then shown how Sméagol was ostracised from his community and driven away. Suffering terribly from his loneliness and shame, Sméagol takes solice in his love for the Ring as it slowly tortures his mind. His hardships in the Mountains twist his shape into that of Gollum.

As the flashback ends, we are taken back to the present where, on the outskirts of Mordor, Frodo and Sam are resting in an alcove. Sam awakes and sees that his master has not slept, the days are also growing darker the closer they get to Minas Morgul and Mordor. Gollum arrives and urges them to move on. Away in the west, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Gandalf, Théoden and Éomer are riding through Fangorn to Isengard, where they meet Merry and Pippin feasting among the wreckage of Isengard. They then go and see Treebeard at the Orthanc where Saruman has been trapped. Gandalf opposes Gimli's call to kill Saruman, saying that the wizard has no power any more and will pose no further threat. As they are talking, Pippin sees the palantír amongst the flotsam and is enamoured by it, but Gandalf quickly asks it from him and hides in under his cloak.

The group then rides to Edoras, where King Théoden has prepared a feast to 'hail the victorious dead' of the Battle of the Hornburg. There Éowyn shows affection for Aragorn which Théoden notices, he tells her that he his happy for her, Aragorn being an honourable man and the architect of the victory at Helm's Deep. Gandalf also expresses to Aragorn his concerns over the quest, Aragorn tells him to trust in what his heart tells him, that Frodo is still alive.

Gollum awakes in the night as Frodo and Sam are sleeping and goes off to one side to murmur to himself. His evil half senses some doubt in Sméagol and insists that if he can murder once (referring to Déagol) he can do it again. Gollum then begins leading Sméagol through their plan, to deliver the hobbits into the clutches of Shelob in Cirith Ungol, after which the Ring can be reclaimed. Sam hears this and proceeds to beat Gollum for his treachery, Frodo intervenes, saying that as their guide Gollum is necessary for their quest. Sam obliges as Gollum flashes him an evil smile while Frodo's back is turned.

That same night back in Edoras, Pippin's curiosity gets the better of him; relieving Gandalf of the palantir, he looks into it. Pippin sees a vision of a white tree in a stone courtyard set ablaze, but in doing so he is caught by Sauron and submitted to mental torture and questioning. Aragorn tries to rescue him and thus briefly exposes himself to Sauron. Pippin recovers from his ordeal and it is discovered that he did not tell Sauron anything of the Ring's whereabouts. From Pippin's vision of the White Tree, Gandalf deduces that Sauron is now moving to attack Minas Tirith and he rides off to send warning, taking Pippin with him, lest his urge to look upon the palantir (left now in Aragorn's keeping) return again.

Leaving Rivendell on her way to the Undying Lands, Arwen has a vision of her son by Aragorn, she realises that her father lied to her about there being no chance of a future with him whom she loves. She returns to Rivendell and convinces Elrond that she, having foresaken the life of the Eldar, cannot leave Aragorn now. She tells her father that as was declared in lore, the time to reforge Narsil has come, Narsil being the sword of Elendil that cut the Ring from Sauron's finger long ago at the end of the Second Age.

Gandalf and Pippin arrive at Minas Tirith, City of Kings, that was built out of the rock of Mindolluin. There Pippin recognises the White Tree as they go to find the Steward Denethor. They approach him mourning over Boromir, his son. Pippin swears loyalty to him in recompense for Boromir's sacrifice. Denethor seems to be caught up in his grief and has not taken measures to fortify the city against the threat of Sauron. Meanwhile, Frodo, Sam and Gollum arrive at Minas Morgul. Wary of the enemy, they locate the Winding Stair (leading to the pass of Cirith Ungol) that lies hidden in the cliffs surrounding the accursed city. Just at that moment, the doors of the city open and the Witch-king of Angmar, leader of the Nazgûl, dispatches his immense Orc army from his lair, heralding the start of the war. This is witnessed by Gandalf and Pippin as a flash of lightning shoots up at the opening of the doors. At the urging of Gandalf, Pippin lights the first of the beacon signals to Edoras, alerting Théoden, Aragorn and the rest of the Rohirrim to ride to the weapon-take at Dunharrow and thence to Minas Tirith. As they leave Edoras, Aragorn notices that Éowyn saddles up with them and that she is girt with a sword, but she insists that she rides only to see them off and that the men have found their captain in Aragorn.

The Morgul army crosses Anduin at Osgiliath in makeshift boats and engages the Gondorian contingent (led by Faramir) in battle. The orcs prove too strong and drive the Gondorians out of Osgiliath, Faramir and his few surviving men retreat to Minas Tirith, pursued by the Nazgûl. Gandalf, riding out to meet the retreating men, wards them off, saving Faramir. Upon his arrival, Faramir tells Gandalf of the dangerous route Gollum is taking Frodo and Sam on, convincing Gandalf of Gollum's treachery. The hobbits, lead by Gollum, are struggling to climb the extremely steep stairs, Gollum reaches out and empathises with Frodo, saying that he understands his pain, and also poisoning him against Sam, saying that he will try and take the Ring from Frodo.

In the captured Osgiliath, the Witch-king orders his captain to "send forth all legions" and annihilate the population of Minas Tirith, saying that he himself will "break" the wizard Gandalf. Denethor, ill-pleased by Faramir's defence of Osgiliath, manipulates him into taking a doomed ride to reclaim the city. Gollum continues to play the hobbits against each other, this time by blaming Sam for eating their food provisions. Frodo, in his deluded state, is suspicious of Sam and orders him back home when Sam, trying to be helpful, offers to carry the Ring, thereby fulfilling Gollum's cunning prediction. Faramir rides head-long into the arrows of the encamped orcs as Pippin sings for Denethor who unconcernedly eats his noon-meal. The attack is destroyed and Faramir is dragged back by his horse in a death-like coma. At the weapon-take of Dunharrow, a hooded figure slowly rides on a white horse along the winding road to the encampment in the hills. The figure reveals himself to Aragorn as Elrond. He presents Aragorn with his birthright - the newly forged Anduril, Flame of the West. He urges Aragorn to use this sword, forged from the shards of Narsil, to recall the Dead Men of Dunharrow and use their allegiance to the heir of Isildur (i.e. Aragorn) to stop the attack of the Corsairs ships from the south. Aragorn accepts this counsel and rides off that very night into the Dimholt, along with Legolas and Gimli. As he is preparing too go, a tearful Éowyn comes to Aragorn and begs him not to go, declaring her love for him, but Aragorn, knowing now that Arwen has refused promise of Valinor, likewise refuses Éowyn's love. The next morning, Théoden rides off to war with six thousand riders, unaware that Éowyn and Merry, who were both told to remain behind by the King, are also part of his army.

The Morgul forces, composed mostly of Orcs, begin the siege of Minas Tirith using the heads of caputured prisoners as catapult projectiles. Denethor sees his son and believes him to be dead, he also beholds the might of the forces marshalled against him and at this he loses control and hope, ordering the Gondorians to abandon their positions. Gandalf however, steps in and incapacitates Denethor, and then proceeds to assume control of the defence. A skirmish between Gondorian trebuchets and Mordor catapults ensues until the Witch-king and the other Ringwraiths on their Fell Beasts attack, destroying the catapults and sowing terror among the defenders. Away in Cirith Ungol, Gollum betrays Frodo to the spider-creature Shelob, but Sam returns to fight her off. Sam believes Frodo is dead, but when Orcs from the Tower of Cirith Ungol come and investigate, Sam overhears that Frodo has only been paralysed by Shelob's stinger. In Minas Tirith, Denethor, stricken mad over his grief at having spent both his sons, prepares a funeral pyre for himself and the unconscious Faramir, unaware that the pyre will burn him alive. Gandalf and Pippin arrive in the Hallows and manage to save Faramir, but Denethor is thrown onto the pyre and as he burns to his death, he turns and sees his son stirring awake from his injuries and exhaustion. Down in the city, the battle goes ill with the Gondorians, as Grond shatters through the gates of the city and trolls pour in. The defenders retreat to the upper levels of the city, the orcs crawl all over the streets, looting, burning and massacering the men of Gondor. But suddenly in the midst of the chaos a lone horn penetrates the air and all turn to the west and see the army of Rohan arrive at last, to the rising of the sun. The Rohirrim charge into the Orcs with great effect. However their joy is cut short by the arrival of the forces of Harad and the immense Mûmakil. The Witch-king descends on Théoden, killing Snowmane his horse and fatally wounding the King. Seemingly in the nick of time, the Corsairs ships arrive to help the stranded Orcs, but it is Aragorn who jumps off the ship followed by the Undead Army and they completely destroy the Orcs and Mûmakil, while Éowyn and Merry kill the Witch-king. Théoden dies of his wounds and Aragorn holds the Dead Army's oath fulfilled, releasing them from their curse so that they may rest in peace.

Sam rescues Frodo from Cirith Ungol, which is mostly empty following a fight between the two factions of the Tower's Orc garrison over Frodo's mithril shirt, and they begin the long trek across Mordor to Mount Doom. Gandalf realizes that ten thousand Orcs stand between Cirith Ungol and Mount Doom, which will prevent Frodo from reaching his destination. Aragorn proposes they lead the remaining soldiers to the Black Gate to draw the Orcs away from Frodo's path, as well as distract the Eye of Sauron. Sam carries Frodo up to Mount Doom, but Gollum arrives and attacks them, just as the Battle of the Morannon begins. At the Crack of Doom, Frodo, instead of dropping the ring into the Fire, succumbs to its power and puts it on, disappearing from sight (the act alerts Sauron, and sends the Ringwraiths racing towards Mount Doom). Gollum renders Sam unconscious then attacks Frodo, seizing his ring finger and biting it off. As Gollum rejoices at finally havng reclaimed his Precious, Frodo, still under the sway of the Ring's attraction, charges at Gollum. After a brief struggle, they both fall over the edge of the precipice. Gollum falls into the lava with the Ring, while Frodo barely hangs on with his strength failing. Sam rescues Frodo as the Ring finally sinks into the lava and is destroyed. The Tower of Barad-dûr collapses, Sauron's essence fades and then explodes, forever banishing his power. The Orcs, Ringwraiths and the remaining forces of Sauron are consumed in the ensuing shockwave as the earth collapses under their feet. Frodo and Sam are stranded as Mount Doom erupts. They voice their regrets at not being able to see the Shire again amidst the torrents of lava and the destruction of Barad-dur. With the destruction of the Nazgul, Gandalf is able to call upon the Eagles to carry the hobbits to safety, they awake in Minas Tirith, reuniting with the other members of the fellowship, all of them having survived the War of the Ring.

Aragorn is crowned King of the West, heralding the new age of peace, and is reunited with Arwen. The hobbits return to the Shire, where Sam marries Rosie Cotton. Frodo, having finished writing his entry in the Red Book of Westmarch, is still suffering from the effects of the ring, having possessed it for so long. He realises that he will never have peace in Middle-earth. So he decides to go with Gandalf, Bilbo, Elrond and Galadriel to the Grey Havens. There he passes the Red Book onto Sam to record the years of his life to come, and thence the last ship to leave Middle-earth sets off, pulling slowly away from the shore and passing along the Straight Road into the Uttermost West. Pippin and Merry take their leave and Sam is left staring into the golden sunset. In the last scene, Sam is shown walking back up the lane to Bag End, where he is greeted by Rosie his wife and his children, surrounded by his family and with the rest of his life ahead of him, Sam sighs and says "Well, I'm back", then he goes inside and shuts the door as the screen fades to black.


  • Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins: The Hobbit who continues his quest to destroy the Ring, which continues to torture him.
  • Sean Astin as Samwise Gamgee: Better known as Sam, he is Frodo's loyal Hobbit companion.
  • Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn: He must finally face his destiny as King of Gondor.
  • Ian McKellen as Gandalf the White: The Wizard who travels to aid the Men of Gondor.
  • Dominic Monaghan as Meriadoc Brandybuck: Better known as Merry, the Hobbit who becomes an esquire of Rohan.
  • Billy Boyd as Peregrin Took: Better known as Pippin, a Hobbit who looks into the palantír and becomes an esquire of Gondor.
  • Orlando Bloom (7 walls) as Legolas: An Elven prince and skilled archer; one of Aragorn's best friends.
  • John Rhys-Davies as Gimli: The warrior Dwarf who continues his friendly rivalry over Orc kills with Legolas. Rhys-Davies also voices Treebeard the Ent leader.
  • Andy Serkis voices and provides motion capture for Sméagol/Gollum: The treacherous Hobbit who guides Frodo and Sam into Mordor. His life as Sméagol is glimpsed in the beginning of the film, and how he murdered his cousin Déagol for the Ring before an eternity of loneliness. Serkis also plays Sméagol, and voices the Witch-king of Angmar.
  • Thomas Robins as Déagol, Sméagol's cousin.
  • Bernard Hill as Théoden: King of Rohan. He is preparing his troops for the Battle of the Pelennor Fields.
  • Miranda Otto as Éowyn: Théoden's niece, who wishes to prove herself in battle. She also starts to fall in love with Aragorn who does not return her love. In the extended version, she then falls for Faramir.
  • Karl Urban as Éomer: Éowyn's brother, and Chief Marshal of the Riders of Rohan.
  • Hugo Weaving as Elrond: The Elven lord of Rivendell who must convince Aragorn to take up the throne.
  • Liv Tyler (64 walls) as Arwen, daughter of Elrond, Aragorn's lover. She becomes sick with grief.
  • David Wenham as Faramir: The head of the Gondorian Rangers defending Osgiliath.
  • John Noble as Denethor: Steward of Gondor and Faramir's father. He has fallen into madness as he lost hope.
  • Bruce Hopkins as Gamling: Right hand man of Théoden and a skilled member of the Royal Guard of Rohan.
  • Paul Norell as The King of the Dead: The cursed leader of the Dead Men at Dunharrow, from whom Aragorn must seek help.
  • Lawrence Makoare plays the Witch-king of Angmar, the Lord of the Nazgûl, he leads Mordor's assault on Minas Tirith. He also plays Gothmog, an Orc commander who is voiced by Craig Parker.
  • Ian Holm as Bilbo Baggins: Frodo's elderly uncle.
  • Marton Csokas as Lord Celeborn: Elven lord of Lórien.
  • Cate Blanchett as Galadriel: Elven lady of Lórien. She is aware the time of the Elves is at an end.
  • Sarah McLeod as Rosie Cotton: The girl of Sam's dreams.
  • Sean Bean as Boromir: Faramir's brother, in a flashback to his death at the end of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (15 walls), and in the extended cut when Denethor has a hallucination.
  • Christopher Lee as Saruman: The former head wizard now trapped by Treebeard.
  • Brad Dourif as Gríma Wormtongue: Saruman's sycophantic, treacherous servant.
  • Bruce Spence as The Mouth of Sauron: Sauron's emissary at the Black Gate.


The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy is unusual in that it is, to date, the only one whose separate installments were written and then shot simultaneously (excluding pick up shoots). Jackson found The Return of the King the easiest of the movies to make, because it contained the climax of the story, unlike the other two films. The Return of the King was originally the second of two planned movies under Miramax from Jan. 1997 (24 years ago) to Aug. 1998 (23 years ago), and more or less in its finished structure as the first movie was to end with The Two Towers' Battle of Helm's Deep. Filming took place under multiple units across New Zealand, between 11 Oct. 1999 (22 years ago) and 22 dec. 2000 (21 years ago), with pick up shoots for six weeks in 2003 (18 years ago) before the film's release.

Main article: Production design of The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy
Middle-earth as envisioned by Jackson was primarily designed by Alan Lee and John Howe, former Tolkien illustrators, and created by Weta Workshop, who handled all the trilogy's weapons, armour, miniatures, prosthetics and creatures, as well as the Art Department which built the sets. Richard Taylor headed Weta, whilst Grant Major and Dan Hennah organized the planning and building respectively.

The city of Minas Tirith, glimpsed briefly in both the previous two movies is seen fully in this film, and with it the Gondorian civilization. The enormous soundstage was built at Dry Creek Quarry, outside Wellington, from the Helm's Deep set. That set's gate became Minas Tirith's second, whilst the Hornburg exterior became that of the Extended Edition's scene where Gandalf confronts the Witch-king. New structures included was the 8m tall Gate, with broken and unbroken versions, with a working opening and closing mechanism, with its engravings inspired by the Baptistry of San Giovanni. There were also four levels of streets with heraldic motifs for every house, as inspired by Siena.

A portion of Minas Tirith under construction.There was also the Citadel, the exterior of which was in the Stone Street Studios backlot, using forced perspective. It contains the withered White Tree, built from polystyrene by Brian Massey and the Greens Department with real branches, influenced by ancient and gnarled Lebanese olive trees. The interior was within a 3 story former factory in Wellington, and colour wise is influenced by Charlemagne's Chapel, with a throne for Denethor carved from stone and polystyrene statues of past Kings. The Gondorian armour is designed to represent an evolution from the Númenóreans of the first film's prologue, with a simplified sea bird motif. 16th century Italian and German armour served as inspiration, whilst civilians wear silver and blacks as designed by Ngila Dickson, continuing an ancient/medieval Mediterranean Basin look.

Minas Morgul, the Staircase and Tower of Cirith Ungol as well as Shelob's Lair were designed by Howe, with the Morgul road using forced perspective into a bluescreened miniature. Howe's design of Minas Morgul was inspired from the experience of having wisdom teeth pulled out: in the same way, the Orcs have put their twisted designs on to a former Gondorian city. Cirith Ungol was based on Tolkien's design, but when Richard Taylor felt it as "boring", it was redesigned with more tipping angles. The interior set, like Minas Tirith, was built as a few multiple levels that numerous camera takes would suggest a larger structure.

The third movie introduces the enormous spider Shelob. Shelob was designed in 1999 (22 years ago), with the body based on a tunnelweb spider and the head with numerous growths selected by Peter Jackson's children from one of many sculpts. Jackson himself took great joy in planning the sequence, being an arachnophobe himself. Shelob's Lair was inspired by sandstone and sculpted from the existing Caverns of Isengard set.

The Return of the King also brings into focus the Dead Men of Dunharrow and the evil Haradrim from the south of Middle-earth, men who ride the mûmakil. The Dead Men have a Celtic influence, as well as lines and symmetry to reflect their morbid state, whilst their underground city is influenced by Petra. The Haradrim were highly influenced by African culture, until Philippa Boyens expressed concern over the possibility of offensiveness, so the finished characters instead bear influence from Kiribati, in terms of weaving armour from bamboo, and the Aztecs, in use of jewellery. Also built was a single dead mûmak. Other minor cultures include the Corsairs, with an exotic, swarthy look, and the Grey Havens, Elven structures adapted to stone, with influence from J. M. W. Turner paintings.

Principal photography
The Return of the King was shot during 2000 (21 years ago), though Sean Astin's coverage from Gollum's attempt to separate Frodo and Sam was filmed on 24 Nov. 1999 (22 years ago), when floods in Queenstown interrupted the focus on The Fellowship of the Ring. Some of the earliest scenes shot for the movie were in fact the last. Hobbiton, home of the Hobbits, was shot in Jan. 2000 (21 years ago) with early scenes from The Fellowship of the Ring, with the exterior shot at a Matamata farm, whilst interior scenes shot at Stone Street Studios in Wellington, shared with the Grey Havens sequence. Due to the high emotions of filming the scene, the cast were in despair when they were required to shoot it three times, due to a costume continuity flaw in Sean Astin's costume, and then negatives producing out-of-focus reels. Also shared with the previous movies was the Rivendell interior in May.

The Battle of the Black Gate was filmed in Apr. at the Rangipo Desert, a former minefield. New Zealand soldiers were hired as extras whilst guides were on the look out for unexploded mines. Also a cause for concern were Monaghan and Boyd's scale doubles during a charge sequence. In the meantime, Wood, Astin and Serkis filmed at Mount Ruapehu for the Mount Doom exteriors. In particular, they spent two hours shooting Sam lifting Frodo on to his back with cross-camera coverage.

Scenes shot in Jun. were the Paths of the Dead across various locations, including Pinnacles. In Jul. the crew shot some Shelob scenes, and in Aug. and sep. time was spent on the scenes in Isengard. Monaghan and Boyd tried numerous takes of their entrance, stressing the word "weed" as they smoked pipe-weed. Christopher Lee spent his part of his scene mostly alone, though McKellen and Hill arrived on the first day for a few lines to help.

Edoras exteriors were shot in October. The Ride of the Rohirrim, where Théoden leads the charge into the Orc army, was filmed in Twizel with 150 extras on horseback. The Battle of the Pelennor Fields has more extensive use of computer-generated imagery, in contrast to the more extensive use of live action in the Battle of Helm's Deep in the second film. Also filmed were the attempts by Faramir to recapture Osgiliath, as were scenes in the city itself. At this point production was very hectic, with Jackson moving around ten units per day, and production finally wrapped on the Minas Tirith sets, as well as second units shooting parts of the siege. Just as the Hobbit actors' first scene was hiding under a Ringwraith, their last scene was the bluescreened reaction shot of the inhabitants of Minas Tirith bowing to them.

The 2003 (18 years ago) pick ups were filmed in the Wellington studio car park, with many parts of sets and bluescreens used to finish off scenes, which the design team had to work 24/7 to get the right sets ready for a particular day. The shoot continued for two months, and became an emotional time of farewells for the cast and crew. The movie has the most extensive list of reshoots given for the trilogy. Jackson took his time to reshoot Aragorn's coronation, rushed into a single day under second unit director Geoff Murphy on 21 dec. 2000 (21 years ago). Jackson also reshot scenes in and around Mount Doom, and Théoden's death, right after Bernard Hill was meant to wrap.

There was also the new character of Gothmog. This was a major new design addition for the film, as Jackson felt the Mordor Orcs were pathetic compared to the Uruk-hai of the second movie after watching assembly cuts, and thus Weta created grotesque new über Orcs, as antagonists for the audience to focus on. Christian Rivers also redesigned the Witch-king and all of his scenes were reshot, due to confusion from non-readers over whether or not Sauron was on the battlefield.

With the positive response to Orlando Bloom (7 walls), Legolas was given a fight with a mûmak, and Howard Shore also got a cameo during Legolas and Gimli's drinking game at Edoras. The final scenes shot were Aragorn escaping the Skull avalanche, and Frodo finishing off his book. The cast also received various props associated with their characters, although in the case of John Rhys-Davies, he burnt his final Gimli prosthetic. Viggo Mortensen headbutted the stunt team goodbye. Pick-ups ended on 27 Jun. 2003 (18 years ago).

Scenes shot afterwards included various live-action shots of Riders for the Battle of the Pelennor Fields and a reaction shot of Andy Serkis as Gollum finally realizing Frodo intends to destroy the Ring, shot in Jackson's house. For the Extended DVD, Jackson shot in Mar. 2004 (17 years ago) a few shots of skulls rolling over for the avalanche scene; this was the final piece of footage ever shot for the trilogy, and Jackson noted that it must be the first time a director had shot scenes for a movie after it had already won the Oscar.

Post-production on The Return of the King began in Nov. 2002 (19 years ago), with the completion of the 4 1/2 hour assembly cut of the movie that Annie Collins had been completing over 2001 (20 years ago) and 2002 (19 years ago), from 4 hour dailies. For example, Théoden leading the charge went from 150 minutes of takes to a finished 90 seconds. Jackson reunited with longtime collaborator Jamie Selkirk to edit the final film. Like The Two Towers, they would have to deal with multiple storylines, and Jackson paid attention to each storyline at a time before deciding where to intercut. Most importantly they spent three weeks working on the last 45 minutes of the film, for appropriate intercutting and leaving out scenes such as the Mouth of Sauron, and the fates of characters like Legolas, Gimli, Éowyn and Faramir. The movie inherited scenes originally planned to go into the second film, including the reforging of Narsil, Gollum's backstory, and Saruman's exit. But the Saruman scene posed a structural problem: killing off the second film's villain when the plot has Sauron as the main villain. Despite pick-ups and dubs, the scene was cut, causing controversy with fans and Saruman actor Christopher Lee, as well as a petition to restore the scene. Lee nonetheless contributed to the DVDs and was at the Copenhagen premiere, although on the other hand he says he will never understand the reason for the cut and his relationship with Jackson is chilly. Jackson only had a lock on 5 out of 10 reels, and had to churn out 3 reels in 3 weeks to help finish the film. It was finally done on 12 November. Jackson never had a chance to view the movie in full due to the hectic schedule, and only saw the movie from beginning to end at the 1 dec. Wellington premiere; according to Elijah Wood, his response was "yup, it's good, pretty good".

Visual effects
The Return of the King contains 1,488 visual effect shots, nearly 3 times the number of the first film, and almost 2 times the number of the second film. Visual effects work began with Alan Lee and Mark Lewis compositing various photographs of New Zealand landscape to create the digital arena of the Pelennor Fields in Nov. 2002 (19 years ago). Gary Horsfield also created a digital version of the Barad-dûr during his Christmas break at home by himself, for the film's climax. In the meantime, Jackson and Christian Rivers used computers to plan the enormous battle up until Feb. 2003 (18 years ago), when the shots were shown to Weta Digital. To their astonishment, 60 planned shots had gone up to 250, and 50,000 characters were now 200,000. Nevertheless they pressed on, soon delivering 100 shots a week, 20 a day, as the deadline neared within the last two months, often working until 2 a.m.

For the battle, they recorded 450 motions for the MASSIVE digital horses (though deaths were animated), and also had to deal with late additions in the film, such as Trolls bursting through Minas Tirith's gates as well as the creatures that pull Grond to the gate, and redoing a shot of two mûmakil Éomer takes down that had originally taken six months in two days. On a similar note of digital creatures, Shelob's head sculpture was scanned by a Canadian company for 10 times more detail than Weta had previously been able to capture.

Like the previous films, there are also extensive morphs between digital doubles for the actors. This time, there was Sam falling off Shelob, where the morph takes place as Astin hits the ground. Legolas attacking a mûmak required numerous transitions to and fro, and Gollum's shots of him having recovered the One Ring and falling into the Crack of Doom were fully animated. The King of the Dead is played by an actor in prosthetics, and his head occasionally morphs to a more skull-like digital version, depending on the character's mood. The Mouth of Sauron also had his mouth enlarged 200% for unsettling effect.

The Return of the King also has practical effects. In the Pyre of Denethor sequence, as the Steward of Gondor throws Pippin out of the Tomb, John Noble threw a dwarf named Fon onto a lying Billy Boyd, who immediately pushed his head into camera to complete the illusion. A few burning torches were also reflected off a plate of glass and into the camera for when Gandalf's horse Shadowfax kicks Denethor onto the pyre. Because of Jackson's requirement for complete representation of his fantasy world, numerous miniatures were built, such as 1:72 scale miniature of Minas Tirith, which rises 7m high and is 6.5m in diameter. 1:14 scale sections of the city were also required, and the Extended Edition scene of the collapsing City of the Dead has 80,000 small skulls, amounting in total to a single cubic meter. The miniatures team concluded in Nov. with the Black Gate, after 1000 days of shooting, and the final digital effects shot done was the Ring's unmaking, on Nov. 25.


After two years of attention and acclaim since the release of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (15 walls), audience anticipation for the final instalment of the trilogy had reached fever pitch when the movie was complete. The world premiere was held in Wellington's Embassy Theatre, on 1 dec. 2003 (18 years ago), and was attended by the director and many of the stars. It was estimated that over 100,000 people lined the streets, more than a quarter of the city's population.

The movie received nearly universal acclaim from most critics. The movie has a 94% rating of positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. Richard Corliss of Time named it as the best movie of the year. The main criticism of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, was its running time, particularly the epilogue. Even rave reviews for the movie commented on its length. Joel Siegel of Good Morning America said in his review for the movie (which he gave an 'A'): "If it didn't take forty-five minutes to end, it'd be my best picture (wallpaper) of the year. As it is, it's just one of the great achievements in movie history." There was also criticism regarding the Army of the Dead's appearance, rapidly ending the Battle of the Pelennor Fields.

In Feb. 2004 (17 years ago), a few months after release, the movie was voted as #8 on Empire's 100 Greatest Movies of All Time, compiled from readers' top 10 lists. This forced the magazine to abandon its policy of movies being older than 12 months to be eligible. In 2007 (14 years ago), Total movie named The Return of the King the third best movie of the past decade (Total Film's publication time), behind The Matrix and Fight Club.


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