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YMMV / The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

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  • Anti-Climax Boss:
    • Saruman, who despite getting a more formidable showing with his magical powers than his book counterpart, is still undone by an act of villainy whose consequences he didn't consider, and he's killed in an even more abrupt manner than he was in the novel. In the theatrical release, he didn't even get that much: his death scene was cut entirely and he was not confronted at all; Gandalf was content to let him rot powerlessly in his tower, despite knowing he was almost as dangerous as Sauron.
    • An oddly well-done example with Gothmog in the Extended Edition (his final scene in the theatrical film was backing away from the Rohirrim in terror). He gets a short but good fight with Eowyn that ends with her injuring him, but returns after she's crippled killing the Witch King and sends her crawling for a sword in terror, failing to get to it in time...and then Aragorn and Gimli show up and turn him into mincemeat.
  • Better on DVD: The Extended Edition gives a satisfying conclusion to Saruman's time as The Heavy by showing him getting killed off rather than implying that he's under house arrest. It also shows Grima's death and properly explains how Pippin found the seeing stone.
  • Catharsis Factor: It can be pretty satisfying to watch Gollum getting a stone thrown at his head and slashed with a sword courtesy of Sam, due to all the evil shit he did up to that point.
  • Complete Monster: Gothmog is the hulking, deformed Dragon to the Witch-king of Angmar, and one of the cruelest members of his entire Always Chaotic Evil species. Gothmog captures Osgiliath, kills everyone who can fight back, then decides to execute the prisoners he's taken from Faramir's brigade and rain their severed heads down onto Minas Tirith as a form of horrific psychological torture. In the battle of Pelennor Fields, Gothmog attempts to slay every living soul within Minas Tirith, and throws away the lives of hundreds of his own Orcs by refusing to let them break formation during the retaliatory attacks.
  • Consolation Award: While the film finally won the Best Picture Oscar, many believe it won as proxy to the whole trilogy and not as its own film. It thus caused an Award Snub in turn to Mystic River, Lost in Translation, Seabiscuit or Master and Commander.
  • Ending Fatigue: Common complaint of the end of the movie. It doesn't help that the screen fades out in about five places and really looks as though the film is ending there, only for it to reappear again. Slightly different cinematography and editing may have made this a much less common complaint.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: Figwit, an unnamed elf played by Bret McKenzie returned in specially reshot scenes precisely because of the fandom around him, and he gets a few lines.
  • Even Better Sequel: Ending Fatigue aside, it is widely considered the best of the trilogy for delivering an epic Grand Finale.
  • Genius Bonus: A little bit of extra awesome for those versed in The Silmarillion. In the scene in the extended edition where Sam tells Frodo, "There's light and beauty up there that no shadow can touch," the star he sees is no ordinary star. That's the Star of Eärendil, the Evenstar - yeah, the one Arwen was named after. We would call it Venus. In Middle-Earth, though, it's a Half-Elf (Arwen's grandfather, no less,) on a flying ship with one of the three Silmarils, which contain the light of the Two Trees; holy light that predates the sun and moon. The Star of Eärendil was the source of the light contained in Galadriel's Phial.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: The subplot of Arwen's health deteriorating can become especially troubling to watch knowing that Liv Tyler contracted coronavirus and was seriously ill for 10 days.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • "I am no man."
    • The myriads of edits and variations of Aragorn's Rousing Speech
    "... but it is not this day!"
    • The Return of the King
  • Misblamed: No, Frodo didn't send Sam away because he thought he was the one that ate all the Lembas. He turned him away because Sam offered to "share the load" and carry the Ring for a while after Gollum convinced Frodo that Sam might try taking the Ring. The fact that Frodo was also under the Ring's influence didn't help, either.
  • One-Scene Wonder:
    • The apparent leader of the Haradrim is the first Mumakil driver to be killed and has no dialogue, but his immensely entertaining and hammy reactions to everything from crushing Rohirrim to Eomer facing him alone make him extremely memorable.
    • The Mouth of Sauron in the Extended Edition makes a heck of an impression with his The Faceless design, Shakespearean dialogue, and distinct nature among Sauron's minions.
  • The Scrappy: Denethor, who is viewed in this movie as a complete crazy jerk instead of a complex, sympathetic, Shakespearean Anti-Villain, gets a lot of hate due to his Jerkass behaviour.
  • Special Effect Failure: These start to pop up to the trained eye after repeated viewings:
    • In the aerial shot where the ring is destroyed and the ground under the orcs surrounding the good guys is collapsing, the dust is obviously swirling on a plate behind the little CGI orcs, as it doesn't pass in front of them.
    • The montage of the Minas Tirth warning beacons being lit. Yes, it's a climactic moment in the film and the music and sweeping landscapes were breathtaking, but the fire effects were on the whole poorly done, with the Minas Tirith and Amon Din beacons being engulfed within five seconds with an obvious flame superimposed over the wood stacks, which just as obviously aren't burning at all. Plus, most of the montage has beacons alighting atop the very narrow peaks of towering, snow-covered and wind-blasted mountains (a task that would redefine being Reassigned to Antarctica), with nobody shown to be lighting them even in shots where the beacon is close enough to the screen where such details should be seen.
    • Boromir is pretty obviously green-screened into the shot where Denethor hallucinates him standing behind Faramir.
    • As Frodo is hanging over the edge in Mount Doom, Frodo's "missing finger" is just done by him bending his index finger to hide the rest of it from the camera. Occasionally it doesn't quite line up and the rest of his supposedly bit-off finger is clearly noticeable, most notably when he grabs Sam's hand.
    • The fact that Minas Tirith and Edoras are scale models built in the middle of nowhere becomes really apparent when you notice, for example, the lack of a roadway leading to the city and the complete absence of farms. This is especially egregious in the case of Minas Tirith, a fantastical stand-in for Constantinople built on a barren steppe, somehow able to feed its hundreds of thousands. This is something of a recurring problem with where Gondor is basically a land of empty steppes and its metropolis is decontextualized from the setting as a mere set piece. In the books, this is averted. The Pelennor Fields are composed of farmland and villages enclosed by the Rammas Echor.
  • Squick:
    • Gollum tearing into the flesh of a living fish. His physical deterioration only adds to the ickiness.
    • The sound Saruman's body makes when it slams onto a spiked wheel.
    • Denethor's messy way of eating, complete with close-ups of his mouth, spattering juices, and evocative sound effects.
    • The Mouth of Sauron in the Extended Edition. The only flesh that can be seen is his mouth, surrounded by slitted scars that expand when he moves his mouth and full of uneven filthy teeth, all due to his constant use of Black Speech corrupting his mouth.
  • They Changed It, Now It Sucks!:
    • Gandalf getting decisively beaten and his staff broken by the Witch-King in the Extended Edition, compared to the defiant You Shall Not Pass! at the gates he pulls in the book. The change just undermines Gandalf's power level for the worse.
    • Similarly, Aragorn's confrontation with Sauron in the palantír. In the book, Aragorn describes an arduous battle of wills, but he nevertheless wrested control of the stone so that Sauron could no longer manipulate the context of the images therin. In the film, Aragorn is apparently defeated completely when shown an image of Arwen looking frail and mortal, and he subsequently drops the stone and the Evenstar gem, which shatters.
    • The quarrel between Frodo and Sam on the Winding Stairs feels like a pointless addition for some, since separating Frodo and Sam could have easily been accomplished in Shelob's lair and it just make Frodo look like an idiot.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character:
    • Some fans of the book were disappointed that Sauron's Clipped-Wing Angel form didn't get to appear in the end, which could have added a layer of Lovecraftian terror. Instead his eye just fizzles out before exploding.
    • The Nazgul's downfall gets a single shot of one getting caught in Mount Doom's volcanic blast, almost as if they were forgotten about until the last minute. Given they're a major threat across all three films, it would have been more spectacular to give them a greater send-off.
  • Values Dissonance: It's still present in Gandalf's speech to Pippin (given lines that were spoken by Denethor in throes of madness in the book), how the rule of Gondor being given to "lesser men" caused its fall into ruin.

     2003 Video Game 

  • Difficulty Spike: The Palantir of Saruman is a huge jump in difficult from the main game. It throws huge groups of enemies at the player, which often includes large numbers of archers that can deal a lot of damage while the player is trying to deal with melee enemies, and later multiple champion enemies are sent after the player at once. The Palantir of Sauron manages to even be one compared to Palantir of Saruman. The groups of are even larger, meaning a player who makes mistakes can die in seconds.
  • Even Better Sequel: It used the best of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and made it better.
  • Game-Breaker: Using a strong attack to topple the spiders, then executing them with a finishing move makes the level they appear in much easier.
  • One-Scene Wonder: The Mouth of Sauron made an early appearance here before appearing in the Extended Cut of the film. He also serves as a proper boss fight, instead of being easily dispatched by Aragorn in a fit of rage.