The Lord of the Rings - The Return of the King (Special Extended... Cover Art

The Lord of the Rings - The Return of the King (Special Extended Edition) [VHS]

Elijah Wood (actor), Viggo Mortensen (actor) and Peter Jackson (director)


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Review

The greatest trilogy in film history comes to a grand conclusion with the extended edition of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Not only is the third and final installment of Peter Jackson's adaptation of the works of J.R.R. Tolkien the longest of the three, but a full 50 minutes of new material pushes the running time to a whopping 4 hours and 10 minutes.

One of the scenes cut from the theatrical release but included here, the resolution of the Saruman storyline, generated a lot of publicity when the movie opened, as actor Christopher Lee complained in the press about losing his only appearance. It's an excellent scene, one Jackson calls "pure Tolkien," and provides better context for Pippin to find the wizard's palantir in the water, but it's not critical to the film. In fact, "valuable but not critical" might sum up the ROTK extended edition. It's evident that Jackson made the right cuts for the theatrical run, but the extra material provides depth and ties up a number of loose ends, and for those sorry to see the trilogy end (and who isn't?) it's a welcome chance to spend another hour in Middle-earth. Some choice moments are Gandalf's (Ian McKellen) confrontation with the Witch King (we find out what happened to the wizard's staff), the chilling Mouth of Sauron at the gates of Mordor, and Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) being mistaken for Orc soldiers. We get to see more of Éowyn (Miranda Otto), both with Aragorn and on the battlefield, even fighting the hideously deformed Orc lieutenant, Gothmog. We also see her in one of the most anticipated new scenes, the Houses of Healing after the battle of the Pelennor Fields. It doesn't present Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) as a savior as the book did, but it shows the initial meeting between Éowyn and Faramir (David Wenham), a relationship that received only a meaningful glance in the theatrical cut.

And for those who complained, no, there are no new endings, not even the scouring of the Shire, which many fans were hoping to see. Nor is there a scene of Denethor (John Noble) with the palantir, which would have better explained both his foresight and his madness. As Jackson notes, when cuts are made, the secondary characters are the first to go, so there is a new scene of Aragorn finding the palantir in Denethor's robes. Another big difference is Aragorn's confrontation with the King of the Dead. In the theatrical version, we didn't know whether the King had accepted Aragorn's offer when the pirate ships pulled into the harbor; here Jackson assumes that viewers have already experienced that tension, and instead has the army of the dead join the battle in an earlier scene (an extended cameo for Jackson). One can debate which is more effective, but that's why the film is available in both versions. If you feel like watching the relatively shorter version you saw in the theaters, you can. If you want to completely immerse yourself in Peter Jackson's marvelous and massive achievement, only the extended edition will do. --David Horiuchi

Release Note

A new version of the final installment in the epic trilogy! The WINNER of 11 Academy Awards including BEST PICTURE is now 50 minutes longer! This extended version of the epic conclusion of "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy includes new score by Howard Shore and over 350 new digital effects shots. The once-great kingdom, watched over by a fading steward, has never been in more desperate need of its king. But can Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) answer the call of his heritage and become what he was born to be? In no small measure, the fate of Middle-earth rests on his broad shoulders.


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