Genre:  Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi

Rating:  PG-13 (for intense epic battle sequences and frightening images)

Release Date:  December 17, 2003

Actors:  Elijah Wood, Sir Ian McKellen, Sean Astin, Billy Boyd, Orlando Bloom, Kevin Conway, Hugo Weaving, Bernard Hill, Sir Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Dominic Monaghan, Viggo Mortensen, John Rhys-Davies, John Noble, Liv Tyler, Cate Blanchett, Miranda Otto

Director:  Peter Jackson

Special Notes:  It took Peter Jackson seven years to produce the three movies in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy and a little over two years to film them. Every prop was created from scratch, including the 1,600 pair of Hobbit feet that took hours to apply. Aside from incredible special effects, a thrilling story and amazing battle scenes, there are products galore for you to remember this movie by: puzzles, books, CDs, a video game and even a Monopoly game with collectors' pieces. J.R.R. Tolkien's tale is a worldwide phenomenon; over 100 million people have read his books!

Plot:  “The Return of the King” brings a return of the cast with Aragorn (Mortensen) rising to his heritage and becoming who he was born to be. As Sauron's forces surround the capital of Gondor and the legions of darkness gather to defeat the race of men, Gandalf (McKellen) rallies Gondor's broken army and does his best to help them defend their city. Meanwhile, Rohan's King Theoden (Hill) unites his loyal warriors outside the city and leads them to battle alongside Aragorn (Mortensen), Gimli (Rhys-Davies) and Legolas (Bloom), who are vastly outnumbered by creatures of every shape and size. From the smallest Ork to the giant elephants carrying a small army on their backs, the battle is a spectacle unlike any war you’ve ever seen. While the battle keeps Sauron distracted, Frodo (Wood) and his faithful friend Samwise Gamgee (Astin) travel across enemy territory to cast the golden one Ring into the fires of Mount Doom. The closer Frodo gets, the heavier his burden becomes and the more Gollum tries to take it over. Across the plains at Endoras, Arwen (Tyler) has exchanged her mortality to be with Aragorn but she is slowly dying because her health is tied to the ring. It is only a matter of time before she succumbs to the dark power unless the man she loves, Aragorn, can save her.

Good:  Peter Jackson, the “King of Trilogies,” delivers a royal reward that is triumphant in every way! With an amazing cast, incredible creatures, impressive sets, jaw-dropping battles and realistic special effects, Jackson has raised the bar for audience expectations and has forever changed the way we view sequels. (Tolkien himself would likely think it was magical!) McKellen, Mortensen, Bloom, Rhys-Davies, Wood, Astin, Boyd, Hill, Monaghan and Otto all deliver strong performances that create an emotional chord keeping this drama interesting. In fact, it’s the human emotions -- fear, despair, madness, sorrow, rage, greed, love and forgiveness -- that allow audiences to identify with the characters. Themes of courage, commitment, determination, loyalty, friendship, bravery and passion for a cause show how even the least of us can change the world. And I’m not just talking about the Hobbits. When you see the small army of heroes going up against the vast legions of utter darkness, it is truly an incredible and overwhelming sight. The battle scenes are astounding, technically amazing and as realistic as a fantasy can get. Jackson’s brilliant team of technical experts has opened the door for more films like this to be made. In fact, he went back to New Zealand last summer to re-shoot several scenes because he was able to improve on them. I think it’s safe to say that Jackson has earned a unique place in cinematic history with a crowning achievement that will never be surpassed. The amazing battles will satisfy lovers of war stories, the passionate kiss between Aragorn and Arwen will satisfy the romantics and the loyalty to friends will inspire all. This third installment in the trilogy concludes the epic story of all the characters, their relationships and their rivalries with a perfect and satisfying ending -- especially for true fans of Tolkien.

Bad:  If you’re making a movie about the war against good and evil, you have to have creatures that embody that dark side, Jackson has created that level of darkness in his movies. The ugly, grotesque creatures are frightening in looks alone, but even more so when they are in battle climbing over the walls, riding giant elephant-like beasts or swooping down on dragon-like beasts the size of a 747 and grabbing soldiers off horses and city walls. Since war is going on throughout this movie, great numbers of men and creatures are stabbed and killed with swords. One man is burned alive on an altar of fire. A giant, grotesque spider spins her victims in a web, so we see bodies hanging from her den. This is definitely a complicated story with numerous characters and several subplots to follow. That, and the combination of numerous battle scenes with hideous creatures, make this movie best for mature teens and adults to enjoy. If I was a child and saw this movie, I would have nightmares for weeks. So parents should keep impressionable, young children at home.

Bottom Line:  Tolkien’s tale is a parable perfect for all generations and times. His rich symbolisms and metaphors are perhaps even more important and relevant today than when they were written. This final epic and body of work is Oscar worthy in every way, and I only hope the Academy recognizes its value. There’s a reason why the first two are listed in the top 10 box office films of all time -- Oscar or no Oscar.