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April 18, 2010
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Blu-Ray Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
26/12/200315/4/2010Village RoadshowPeter Jackson
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
VC-1DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1MElijah Wood

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Frodo Baggins continues his journeys.

Finally we come to the last chapter in Peter Jackson's epic trilogy of The Lord of the Rings and was there ever any chance it would be a letdown? Well I guess so, but that wasn't the case as Return of the King was the superb conclusion that we could ever hope for. In case you are unaware, or can't remember, here's the storyline...

(Spoilers Start)The Fellowship's journey is coming to an end. Sauron's forces have attacked Gondor's capital of Minas Tirith in his final siege against mankind. Watched over by a fading steward, the once great kingdom has never been in more desperate need of its king. But will Aragorn find the strength to become what he was born to be and rise to meet his destiny?

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One of the massive enemies the Fellowship faces.
As Gandalf desperately tries to move the broken forces of Gondor to act, Théoden unites the warriors of Rohan to join in the fight. Even in their courage and passionate loyalty, the forces of men – with Éowyn and Merry hidden among them – are no match against the swarming legions of enemies raining down on the kingdom. With each victory comes great sacrifice. Despite their great losses, The Fellowship charges forward in the greatest battle of their lifetime, united in their singular goal to give Frodo a chance to complete his quest. Traveling across treacherous enemy lands, Frodo must rely increasingly on Sam and Gollum as The Ring continues to test his allegiance and, ultimately, his soul. (Spoilers End)

Wow! What a wonderful conclusion to a fantastic trilogy of movies. Typically movies decline in quality as they go along, but with this trilogy being filmed back to back the quality has not only been maintained, but actually increased in many regards as each subsequent movie was released. This is no more apparent then the visual effects which in this third movie are spectacular, not least of which with the ghosts, and the massive battle with the Oliphaunts. Everything is amped up so much in this movie - again all the actors put in brilliant, believable, performances and there are moments that will have your bursting out in tears, or in laughter, and just sitting there with absolute amazement at what you're witnessing - from the massive battles on a scale we have never seen in film, or the dangers faced by Frodo as he continues his journeys to Mordor.

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It's the ring, with writing!
While I could continue to profess my love for this movie it's probably easiest simply to sum it up with the eleven Academy Award wins. Yes, it won every single category it was entered into including: Best Picture, Best Directing, Best Visual Effects, Best Editing, Best Music Original Score, Best Music Original Song, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Sound Editing, Best Costume Design, Best Editor, and Best Writing Adapted Screenplay. While it won a swag of awards for this movie it's fair to say that some of this love may also have been due to two previous pictures only winning 4 Academy Awards (from 13 nominations) and 2 Academy Awards (from six nominations) respectively. With 17 Academy Awards could this trilogy have been any better received?

As with the other Blu-Ray releases of this trilogy this is the Theatrical version of the film which runs for 201 minutes. The Extended Edition released on DVD some time ago runs for 251 minutes (NTSC version) with the additional 50 minutes including scenes including a battle between Gandalf, Saruman and Grima, extra scenes on the Paths of the Dead and with the King of the Dead, scenes with the "Mouth of Sauron" as well as a tonne of smaller edits and inclusions of additional violence.

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Viggo Mortensen continues his quest as Aragorn.
I'm absolutely in love with The Return of the King and in the past I would have scored it a perfect 10/10. But why have I only given this a 9.5 instead? Well you can blame Peter Jackson for that. While the Theatrical version is a superb film, the Extended Edition released on DVD is superior as it ties up a lot of the storylines and events seen in the earlier movies making it a more complete experience. Still, this is masterful filmmaking, and a stunning end to what is one of, if not the, best movie trilogies of all time.

Perhaps fittingly the best movie in the trilogy also has the best video transfer as well. We're not sure if it was due to the strongest post production and/or the improved CG techniques used in this third movie, or perhaps it was given a little more special attention in the transfer but The Return of the King offers the best looking video of the three movies on Blu-Ray. Framed at the films original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and using the VC-1 codec this film has a natural, film-like look.

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Gollum truly is a stunning CG character.
What about issues? Well as with The Two Towers this movie looks much better then the mildly disappointing Fellowship of the Ring with the level of DNR seemingly dialed back a few notches - although it is still present on occasion. There was also some extremely light compression issues, but they aren't severe enough to stop you buying these discs for the visual upgrades over DVD.

As with the first two movies the audio track on this Lord of the Rings disc is absolutely sublime. Encoded with a DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1 track this is a fantastic, nigh on perfect sounding Blu-Ray release - and that is indeed how we scored this movies audio; perfect. The balance between dialogue, music and effects are spot on and remain crystal clear at all times with superb use of surround sound and LFE channels which really places you in the middle of the epic battles on screen.

Of course, and as with Fellowship and Two Towers it's the wonderful score from James Horner that sets the tone through so much of this movie and it is one of the most memorable scores from cinema in recent, and perhaps not so recent, times.

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Ian McKellen is brilliant as Gandalf.
This Blu-Ray includes a single subtitle track - English Captions (Descriptive Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired) which, from some brief samples throughout the film, seemed to have good pacing and were accurate to the on-screen dialogue.

Sadly these Blu-Ray releases are being released in Australia in bare-bones versions - there's no Digital Copy or second disc of (recycled from the 2-disc DVD set) extras as per the American release, but in doing so Village Roadshow have kept this disc solely about the movie, and the price below $AU30 which is a positive in our books. Still there's some tidbits here, which in all honesty are more about marketing other LOTR products.

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Will Aragorn take his rightful place as king?
Trailers (3:49/HD): Two Trailers are presented here "Trailer One" (2:53) and "Trailer Two" (0:56) which are focused on this movie alone.

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy Supertrailer (6:39/HD): This is indeed a Supertrailer. Running for almost seven minutes this covers the entire trilogy of movies but we certainly don't recommend you watch this before watching the feature movies as it gives a lot of the storyline away. This is presented with HD video as well as Dolby Digital 5.1 audio encoded at 448kbps.

The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn's Quest Videogame Trailer (1:24/HD): A trailer for the upcoming videogame from Warner Brothers Interactive. As a side note this game will be one of the first to make use of the new Playstation Move controller when it releases later this year - no doubt to swing around like a sword.

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Character design in LOTR is superb.
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is a superb finale to a stunning film trilogy. I can re-watch this film over and over and still remain enthralled. This third movie certainly has the best video transfer and the audio is stellar while there are limited extras available which disappoints. Still those with a HDTV or projector should check out this trilogy on Blu-Ray. Impressive.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyright© Village Roadshow. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.