Lord of the Rings: Pierre Vinet
Rachel Orvino
December 14, 2004 AT 05:00 AM EST

We gave it an A

Three movies, five years of shooting and postproduction, and 681 minutes of director’s cuts later, you’d think Peter Jackson would have purged himself of The Lord of the Rings. You’d be wrong, thankfully.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Special Extended Edition adds 50 minutes of footage to the three-hour-and-20-minute original, including the long-awaited showdown with Saruman (a surprisingly shocking scene), the Witch King’s attack on Gandalf (intense, with the destruction of the wizard’s staff, but too short), and Aragorn’s confrontation of Sauron in the palantír (creepy, especially with the flashes of a dying Arwen). The delicate moments of drama in the new footage — which focuses on Lord Denethor and his son Faramir, and Faramir’s growing interest in Éowyn — are offset by bits of levity, like a Legolas-Gimli drinking game, a comic-grisly trip through the Paths of the Dead, and orc battle maneuvers at Minas Tirith. Among the outstanding extras are a charming feature on the stunt horses (the infighting! The diva behavior!) and an emotional look at ROTK‘s last days of shooting. Truly…precious.

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