Unlike the last film that began right where the first film left off, this one begins with a flashback before the events of the trilogy, Smeagol (Andy Serkis) fishing with his friend Deagol (Thomas Robins) until Deagol is pulled into the river and ends up finding the one ring. Smeagol is instantly corrupted and kills Deagol for it. This begins Smeagol's slow descent into madness and becoming the creature known as Gollum. Cut back to the end of The Two Towers and Frodo (Elijah Wood), Sam (Sean Astin) and Gollum continue their journey where they finally reach Mordor but they must know find a way in. Sam is less then happy that Frodo is so easily trusting of Gollum, believing that Gollum is planning on killing them for the ring. Meanwhile, Aragorn (VIgo Mortensen), Legolas (Orlando Bloom), Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) and Gandalf (Ian McKellen) are rejoined by Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd) after the take over of Isengard by the tree folk. Now they must engage in the final battle with Sauron's impending forces.
Did this film manage to top the last one? To put it bluntly...yes. The battle of Helm's Deep was amazing in The Two Towers but the battle of Mordor was even better partially due to the scenes inside Mt. Doom with Frodo and Sam. This film had more memorable moments such as the aforementioned Mt. Doom. One scene that sticks in my mind was the scene with Shelob, the giant spider. It was reported that Peter Jackson was an arachnophobe and, being one myself, I can safely say he managed to make it creepy. Gollum was one of the best things in the trilogy and seeing him be given an origin really paid off as you feel even more sympathy for the character.
This is one long film but it actually feels necessary because of how much they had to fit in. While it seemed like very character had a story but it's now basically two stories: Frodo and Sam destroying the ring and the other members of the Fellowship having to stop Sauron's forces. It's gripping and a great narrative. You done good, Jackson, you done good...although there are a bit too many things left untold but those are fixed in the extended edition such as what happened to Saruman (Christopher Lee) after Treebeard (John Rhys-Davies) took over Isengard.
The Return of the King is a great way to finish off the tremendous Lord of the Rings trilogy. Everything was cleared up (especially in the extended version) and it leaves one hell of an impression on you. Remember when I was going on about how immersive the first two films were. It still is, don't worry. It has one of the most satisfying climaxes I've ever but the real question is: Is this the best trilogy of all time? Well, either this or The Dark Knight trilogy but this is more consistent. I guess it's just a matter of preference.
A tremendous conclusion that leaves a great impression of you. The best trilogy I've seen in a long time.