Summaries

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

Film and Plot Synopsis

In the concluding chapter of The Lord of the Rings saga, the fractured Fellowship continues its quest to defeat the evil dark lord Sauron. Aragorn and his party lead an army to take on Sauron’s forces in Mordor, the kingdom that Aragorn has forsaken. Meanwhile, Frodo and Sam continue their secret quest to destroy the Ring of Power in the lava of Mount Doom. Guided and hindered by the Ring-obsessed Gollum, the two hobbits have no idea that they will be forever changed by their experience if they have the good fortune to survive.

‘The Return of the King’ Movie Summary

The summary below contains spoilers.
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)The film begins with a flashback to Sméagol (Andy Serkis) and his cousin Déagol (Thomas Robins) fishing together on Sméagol’s birthday. Déagol is pulled underwater by a large fish and discovers the One Ring in the riverbed. Sméagol becomes obsessed with the Ring and kill his fellow hobbit for it. Overcome with guilt and not wanting to be held accountable for his crime, Sméagol retreats to the Misty Mountains to hide. Over the centuries, the Ring twists Sméagol’s mind and body until his psyche splits into a second personality, Gollum.

Centuries later, Gandalf the White (Ian McKellen) leads Aragorn Elessar (Viggo Mortensen), Legolas Greenleaf (Orlando Bloom), Gimli the dwarf (John Rhys-Davies), and King Théoden (Bernard Hill) to Isengard where the Ents, led by Treebeard (John Rhys-Davies), have defeated the evil wizard Saruman (Christopher Lee). Gandalf’s group reunites with their hobbit friends Meriadoc “Merry” Brandybuck (Dominic Monaghan) and Peregin “Pippin” Took (Billy Boyd), who assisted Treebeard in his battle. Gandalf retrieves Saruman’s palantir, a glass orb that the evil wizard used to communicate with Sauron. They take the palantir back to Edoras where Pippin looks into it. The little hobbit is seen by Sauron and is subjected to visions from Sauron’s mind. Gandalf ascertains that Sauron plans to attack Gondor’s capital Minas Tirith. Gandalf rides to Gondor with Pippin to warn the Steward of Gondor, Denethor (John Noble), of the coming danger.

Meanwhile, Gollum (Andy Serkis) leads Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) and Samwise Gamgee (Sean Astin) to Minas Morgul in their quest to destroy the One Ring. Once at Minas Morgul, they watch the Witch-King of Angmar (Lawrence Makoare), leader of the nine Nazgûl, lead an army of Orcs towards Gondor. The hobbits begin a dangerous climb up a rock stairway carved in the cliff towards a secret tunnel into the heart of Mordor. Frodo and Sam are unaware that Gollum is leading them into a trap so that he can acquire the Ring. While the hobbits sleep, Gollum steals their food and sets it up to blame Sam. Frodo falls for Gollum’s deception and sends Sam away, believing that he secretly desires the One Ring. Frodo and Gollum continue to the tunnel where the elder hobbit tricks Frodo into entering the lair of the giant spider Shelob. Frodo escapes the lair and battles Gollum for the Ring. Frodo throws Gollum down a chasm and then attempts to continue with his quest alone. Unfortunately, Shelob sneaks up behind Frodo and stings him. The sting paralyzes Frodo and the giant spider quickly wraps him in webbing in order to eat him later. Sam arrives and fights off Shelob. Sam mistakenly believes that Frodo is dead and takes the Ring from him as Orcs arrive. The Orcs realize that Frodo is merely paralyzed and take his limp body back to their war tower so that they can eat him. Sam secretly follows behind. Once at the tower, they strip Frodo down to prepare him for cooking. The Orcs begin to fight over the mithril armor that Frodo wears. This allows Sam to rescue Frodo, and they escape the tower disguised as Orcs.

Meanwhile, the Witch-King leads his forces to Osgiliath where they overwhelm Faramir (David Wenham) and his garrison. Faramir retreats to Minas Tirith. Denethor communicates his displeasure to his son for surrendering Osgiliath. Gandalf and Pippin arrive and discover that Denethor is unstable over the grief of his dead son Boromir (Sean Bean). Pippin pledges his loyalty to Denethor who disregards Gandalf’s warning and refuses to light the fire towers summoning aid from King Théoden. Gandalf has Pippin sneak into the tower and light the first of the relay fires, signaling Rohan for assistance. To please his father, Faramir leads his forces into a hopeless charge against Sauron’s forces. Only Faramir returns, near dead. Denethor falls further into madness, now believing his other son is dead. Gandalf is left to lead the forces of Gondor against the approaching evil army led by the Orc commander Gothmog (Craig Parker).

Meanwhile, King Théoden gathers his army and is joined by Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas. Aragorn is visited by Elrond the Eleven King of Rivendell (Hugo Weaving) who informs Aragorn that his daughter Arwen (Liv Tyler) and the love of Aragorn’s life is dying. Arwen’s fate is tied to the fate of Middle Earth. Elrond provides Aragorn with the King Elendil’s reforged sword, Narsil, the sword of the King of Gondor. Elrond tells Aragorn that he must reclaim his birthright and become the King of Gondor. Elrond directs Aragorn to seek reinforcements from the ghostly Dead Men of Dunharrow, men who betrayed their word to the past King of Gondor, Isildur, and who are now cursed to live the afterlife of the undead. Aragorn travels to the Dead Men’s lair with Legolas and Gimli and pledges to release them from their curse should they come to the aid of Gondor.

Back at Minas Tirith, Denethor prepares to burn himself and Faramir on a funeral pyre even though his son is still alive. Pippin warns Gandalf of the Steward’s plans and the wizard and hobbit arrive in time to save Faramir from being burned to death. Denethor sets himself on fire and then jumps off the high tower. The Gondor forces retreat further into the city after Sauron’s forces begin to overwhelm them. Théoden arrives with his forces, joined by his nephew Éomer (Karl Urban) and his niece Éowyn (Miranda Otto), who has hidden herself in order to fight by her uncle’s side. The Witch-King mortally wounds Théoden, but he is destroyed by Éowyn when she defends her helpless uncle. Théoden dies in his niece’s arms. Aragorn arrives with the Army of the Dead who easily defeat Sauron’s forces and win the battle of Minas Tirith. After the battle, Aragorn holds his word and frees the Dead Men from their curse.

After the battle, Aragorn decides to march upon the Black Gate as a distraction so Frodo and Sam can reach Mount Doom. Aragon and his army draw out Sauron’s forces, emptying Mordor. Frodo and Sam reach the foot of Mount Doom with little interference until Gollum attacks them just outside the entrance to Mount Doom. Sam holds off Gollum while Frodo runs inside to destroy the Ring. The Ring overcomes Frodo who decides not to destroy it and places the Ring on his finger and disappears. Sam tries to find his friend to bring him back to the side of light. Gollum knocks Sam unconscious with a rock to the head and then bites the Ring and Frodo’s finger off. Gollum reclaims the Ring in orgasmic glee. Frodo struggles with Gollum for possession of the Ring, and the elder hobbit and the Ring fall into the lava below. Gollum and the Ring are destroyed, causing the volcano to erupt. Sam pulls Frodo off a ledge and the two find safety on a rocky ledge outside the volcano’s main chamber.

As a result, Sauron and his forces are defeated. Mordor crumbles into ruin as Sauron is defeated forever. Gandalf flies to Mount Doom with the assistance of the eagles. He rescues Sam and Frodo and takes them back to Minas Tirith. Frodo awakens to find the surviving members of the Fellowship surrounding him. Aragorn is crowned King of Gondor and takes Arwen as his queen. The hobbits all return home to the Shire after Aragorn’s coronation. Sam marries Rosie Cotton (Sarah McLeod), the girl of his dreams. A few years after the Battle for Middle-Earth, Frodo departs with Gandalf, Bilbo (Ian Holm), and the Elves to the Undying Lands over the sea. Frodo leaves Sam the Red Book of Westmarch, which details both Frodo and Bilbo’s adventures. Sam returns to the Shire with Merry and Pippin and embraces Rosie and his children.

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New Line Cinema released The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King on December 13, 2003. Peter Jackson directed the film starring Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, and Liv Tyler.

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