CCWR: The Lord of the Rings - The Return of the King

Hello Crispyverse! Over the last couple of weeks, Iwe've been covering Peter Jackson's film adaptation of the beloved fantasy epic by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings. With a vast landscape, diverse characters, made-up languages, and several volumes worth of lore, it's no wonder that the franchise has been a nerd staple for decades. Without further ado, here is my review of the epic conclusion to the "one franchise to rule them all". Spoiler Alert: Yes, there will be spoilers. You've been dutifully warned. Another Alert: In case you need a recap of the previous two installments, you can find our reviews for The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers here. The film begins with two hobbits, Deagol and Smeagol, on an idyllic fishing trip, during which Deagol reels in The One Ring. Smeagol is immediately seduced by The One Ring's dark magic and kills Deagol in order to take it for himself. Over the course of a few hundred years, Smeagol goes insane. He begins to refer to himself in the third person and to The Ring as "my precious". He grows to both love and hate The Ring, which has given him unnaturally long life. Eventually, he even forgets his own name, now known only by the moniker "Gollum". Check out the clip below. It's truly one of the best performances in the entire series.

Fast forward a few hundred years to the ruins of Saruman's fortress in Isengard, Merry and Pippin are reunited with Gandalf, Legolas, Gimli, Aragorn and King Theoden. Amongst the wreckage, they find an ancient "Seeing Stone", an object used to spy across great distances. Pippin, out of curiosity, uncovers it to take a closer look, only to accidentally give away their location to Sauron. Gandalf surmises that Sauron plans to attack the kingdom of Gondor and rides with Pippin to warn of impending war. Gollum leads Frodo and Samwise through a secret back way into Mordor known as Minas Morghul, the realm of the Ringwraiths (the black hooded riders from the first film), where they see an army of orcs march out of the gate, headed toward Gondor. Frodo and Samwise continue to follow him, unaware that Gollum is plotting to kill them both and take The Ring back for himself.

As part of his scheme, Gollum disposes their food rations and blames it on Samwise, who has distrusted Gollum since the journey began. Frodo believes that Samwise desires The Ring (despite no evidence) and tells him to go home. Now alone with Gollum, Frodo is led through a dark tunnel guarded by a giant spider named Shelob. Frodo is caught in Shelob's web and nearly dies before Samwise returns , rescuing Frodo so that they can continue on. While King Theoden regroups with his forces, Aragorn is visited by Elrond, who's come all the way from Rivendell to inform him that Arwen is dying, having refused to leave Middle Earth with the other elves in favor of a mortal existence. Elrond gifts Aragorn with a sword, urging him to reclaim his rightful place on the throne of Gondor. Elrond tells Aragorn of an ancient agreement with Gondor that hasn't been fulfilled, and Aragorn travels to the land of the undead to gather reinforcements. Aragorn promises the legions of the dead that if they aid him in defeating the armies of Mordor , he will consider their bargain fulfilled, setting their souls free.

Frodo casts The One Ring into the fires of Mount Doom.

The armies of Gondor, Rohan, and the undead fight off the army of orcs in order to create a diversion so that Frodo and Samwise can destroy The Ring undetected. Frodo and Samwise finally make it to the heart of Mount Doom, a volcanic fortress where The Ring was originally forged. Just as Frodo is about to drop The Ring into the fire, Gollum ambushes Frodo and Samwise, who struggle to get The Ring from Gollum's grasp. In the ensuing fight, Gollum leaps to his death in the flames, clutching The Ring. Frodo and Samwise escape Mount Doom as The Ring melts, destroying Sauron. Reunited with the remaining members of The Fellowship, Aragorn is named King of Gondor and reunited with Arwen. The hobbits return to their lives in The Shire, where Frodo writes his memoirs of his journey before giving his journal to Samwise. Frodo boards a ship with Gandalf and Galadriel and leaves Middle Earth.

The wedding of Aragorn and Arwen.

While this summary is by no means comprehensive, there are a few key points I'd like to address. I first would like to discuss Aragorn taking the enormous responsibility of reclaiming Gondor. Although it's his birthright, he initially expresses no desire to rule. Believing his family line to be corrupt, Arwen reminds him in The Fellowship of the Ring that he isn't his ancestors. He selflessly leads his army just to give Frodo and Samwise a fighting chance at completing the quest they'd all initially set out to do. Aragorn could very well have just lived a life of obscurity, but he eventually accepts, and even embraces, the cause of freedom for Middle Earth. During his coronation, Aragorn makes it very clear that, while he holds the title of "king", he is very much one of the people. Honestly, a lot more of our politicians could use this attitude.

Aragorn leads his army at the Black Gate of Mordor. Another thing I'd like to address is Gollum/Smeagol. I think he's a great allegory for addiction. When Smeagol initially snatches The Ring from Deagol, he is immediately hooked by its power. This first initial "high" eventually drives him from his community into further and further isolation. He grows dependent on The Ring to survive, but his dependency leaves him all alone. With only himself for company, he eventually develops a dissociative fugue. What I found particularly interesting about the opening is that, while Deagol was just like "oh, look at this cool thing I found," Smeagol was immediately obsessed with The Ring. It makes me wonder if certain personalities are more prone to addiction. I What's the most tragic part of all is that, if he'd never found The Ring, Smeagol's life would have been very different.

Smeagol holds The One Ring for the first time.

I personally think Samwise is the hero of this film. He is under no obligation to follow Frodo to Mordor, but stands by his friend regardless of the dangers they face and ventures into the unknown. As Frodo is tricked into a trap by Gollum, I think Samwise would have been well within his right to just go home after receiving such treatment. But he came back for his friend and saw the quest through to the end. Honestly, everyone could use a Samwise in their life. Check out the clip below. Samwise is really #bestfriendgoals.

Overall, I give this movie 5/5 Crispy Chicken Wings. The Return of the King delivers on the epic conclusion that its predecessors promised. Even with a very long run time (almost 4 hours!), I never once found myself unengaged. I highly recommend this tale of fellowship, destiny, and finding common ground. I particularly recommend watching the extended editions, and of course, reading the books. J.R.R. Tolkien created an entire universe that definitely deserves exploring, which Peter Jackson wonderfully brought to life on screen.

Stay Crispy. - Reba

*Make sure to tune into The Crispy Soul Podcast, where we go more into depth on this topic, available on all major streaming apps.