Today I’m reviewing the adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Return of the King from book to movie. I saw the movie first, so that influences my perception. This review contains spoilers for the book and movie.
I mentioned this in my review of The Two Towers movie, but I love how the director interweaves the storylines instead of having one after the other. It keeps me so much more engaged in the story, and it helps me keep the timelines straight. That was an excellent choice on Peter Jackson’s part.
Most of the things I love about this movie are additions. Normally, I’m not a fan of additions, but many of them greatly improved the storytelling in my opinion. First of all, there’s added tension between some of the characters. The tension between Sam and Gollum is great for the main plot. Gollum successfully pushes Sam away from Frodo, greatly increasing the tension and stakes. I also like the added conflict between Arwen and Elrond. In previous movies, it seems like Arwen and Aragorn can be pushed around by Elrond; and I’m glad Arwen stands up for herself.
In order for Arwen to stand up for herself and have conflict with Elrond, Arwen has to get more scenes in the movie than she does in the book. I’m still surprised at how little Arwen shows up in the books, and I love that she gets more screen time. The same is true with Eowyn. She gets lots of screen time, and I like how her character is portrayed. It’s important that we have these strong female characters.
I like that the movie fleshes out two parts of the story. One is the reforging of Narsil. This is from the first book, but the book really skims over it. I’m glad the movie gives it more attention. The sword is important to Aragorn’s character arc, and I feel it deserves more attention than it gets in the book. The other part that gets fleshed out is Aragorn’s side quest into the Paths of the Dead. The book really skips over this, and I’m glad the movie gives it a little more attention. I found myself rather confused in the book version—the only reason I know what happens is because of the movie—so I’m glad the movie fixes that problem.
Another thing the book doesn’t really include, even though it’s done so in the past, is Legolas and Gimli’s banter. I’m so happy the movie includes them and their fun battle counts again. I missed having that in the book.
The last thing I like about this movie is that it leaves out the conflict in the Shire. I feel like that conflict draws out an already super long ending. I’m glad the movie shortened the ending by cutting this part out.
While I like many of the additions the movie makes, there are some I don’t like. I don’t like the prologue. I don’t feel like it adds much to the story. Do we really need to know Gollum’s history with the Ring? I don’t think so. The lighting of the beacons is also added in the movie, and I don’t see why it needs to be. Again, it doesn’t seem to add much to the overall storyline. There are a ton of long, drawn-out battle scenes that I’m not a huge fan of. Some battle scenes are fine, but this movie goes overboard with them. I particularly don’t like the addition of the battle scenes involving Faramir and his men. I don’t want to watch those. I want to watch Legolas and Gimli do their death count for a while, then I want to get back to Frodo, Sam, Gollum, Shelob, and Mordor. That’s what I want to watch.
The movie also takes away some great parts of the book. In the movie, they don’t confront Saruman, which is a bummer. That’s one of my favorite parts of The Two Towers. I find it strange that some of the events from The Two Towers book end up in The Return of the King movie and even The Fellowship of the Ring movie. Why couldn’t those events be in The Two Towers movie?
The part I’m most disappointed at the movie for leaving out is Merry and Pippin’s character arcs. That is one of my absolute favorite things about this trilogy, and it’s not included in the movie. Merry and Pippin deserve some attention. It doesn’t all need to go to Aragorn—even though his character arc is amazing—and Frodo and Sam. I also don’t like how the movie changes Pippin’s response to serving the King of Gondor. In the movie, he’s reluctant; but in the book, he’s eager. That really changes his character, and I like him better in the book.
Frodo isn’t very nice in this movie. I’ve said this in my other movie reviews, but I hate movie Frodo. Book Frodo starts out nice but gets worse as the story progresses. Movie Frodo goes from bad to worse. I care about his mission, but I don’t particularly care for him. He needs to treat Sam with more respect. Sam saves him and the mission. Sam’s the real hero.
Lastly, one of my least favorite things about the book is the long ending, and that doesn’t get much better with movie. The ending is so long. I’m sure there was more they could’ve cut to shorten it.
These are my thoughts on The Return of the King movie. While I like many of the improvements it made on the story, it also makes some negative changes.
What do you think of this movie? Which of the three Lord of the Rings movies is your favorite? Let me know in the comments.