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Christian Analysis of American Culture (CAP Ministry)
Entertainment Media Analysis Report
A service to His little ones (which includes at-home teens) through you, their parents and grandparents, in His name by His Word

(2003), PG-13

Analysis Date
CAP Final Score
CAP Influence Density
December 16, 2003
56 out of 100

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ALERT: To fully understand this report you should first visit the topics suggested by the CAP Site Map (Table of Contents). Further, if you do not want the plot, ending, or "secrets" of a movie spoiled for you, skip the Summary/Commentary. In any case, be sure to visit the Findings/Scoring section -- it is completely objective to His Word and is the heart of the CAP Entertainment Media Analysis Model applied to this movie.


If Scriptural references appear, the full text appears at the end of the Summary / Commentary likely using a mix of KJV and NIV.

(2003), PG-13 -- is "hardcore" PG-13.

Cast/Crew Details Courtesy Internet Movie Database
Production (US): New Line Cinema, The Saul Zaentz Company
Distribution (US): New Line Cinema
Director(s): Peter Jackson
Producer(s): Peter Jackson, Michael Lynne, Mark Ordesky, Barrie M. Osborne, Rick Porras, Robert Shaye, Frances Walsh, Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein
Written by: J.R.R. Tolkien
Screenplay: Frances Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson
Cinematography/Camera: Andrew Lesnie
Music: Howard Shore
Film Editing: Annie Collins, Jamie Selkirk
Casting: Victoria Burrows, John Hubbard, Amy MacLean, Liz Mullane, Ann Robinson
Production Design: Grant Major
Art Direction: Joe Bleakley, Simon Bright, Dan Hennah, Philip Ivey, Christian Rivers
Viewed At: Driftwood Theater 6

Let me put this 191-minute movie in the following light. It was certainly a technological masterpiece and is certain to make an indelible mark on many, but bodies were thrown around like sparks from a stirred campfire and severed heads were used as throwing weapons. And the use of evil (sorcery/witchcraft/wizardry) for good continues so this movie continues the trend of the LotR movies to violate the admonishment of Isa. 5:20 which warns "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" With a final score of 56 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is the lowest scoring of the three LotR movies. It is indeed equivalent to the scores earned by PG-13 movies in the comparative baseline database of movies but is just two points out of one hundred above R-13. Though The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is a magnificent work of art it is "hardcore" PG-13, fortunately not because of the hardcore language and sexual immorality typical of PG-13s, but unfortunately because of intense and graphic violence [Prov. 3:31-32] and issues of occult - witchcraft, sorcery, wizardry (Offense to God). [Deut. 18:10 - 12; 2Chr. 33:6; Rev. 22:14-15]

How can I call The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King a work of art? Because of the skill and talents that went into a beautifully choreographed and orchestrated symphony of visual and audio excellence in a story of contrapositioned good and evil. Then how can I find issue with it if it is so magnificent? Because, in nutshell, art does not equal sin and sin does not equal art. Art becomes sin when art uses sin. The inference drawn from the beauty of the manner used to contraposition good and evil may lead some viewers to believe more of evil than evil is due. Whether intentional, such presentation of sensory and spiritual food can be trickery. And that leads me into a mini-sermon about trickery.

Satan is the greatest trickster known to man. Satan has been very successful at tricking us. His first trick was mixing God's Truth with lies in fine-sounding argument and smooth talk -- Eve was the first victim of such deceit. And we have all suffered for it. One of Satan's greatest tricks is to convince many that God does not exist, keenly mixing that trick with the trick of convincing many others to think they don't need God: that we can deal with life, and death, all by ourselves, all on our own. Frosting for that trick is Satan convincing many of us that even he does not exist. Yet another great Satanic trick on mankind is to convince many that there are more than one god ... and goddess. Masterful is Satan in tricking us to believe that sin is not really sinful or that sin is relative: that there are no absolutes. Yet another of Satan's great tricks is convincing many that the Bible is no more than mortal man's attempts to control the populations with fear and calling it interpretation of God's Word thus making His Word seem subject to the personal and social preferences of the times the Bible was written. Satan has even convinced many of they who will not reject Jesus that God can be measured by their own standards. Another very successful trick of Satan's is to convince us at a young age that we do not have to answer to any authority, especially parental, and in doing so making it easy for us when grown to not submit to Jesus -- and be comfortable with it. Arrogantly. Amidst it all, Satan has tricked many of even the best of the believers that they have their heels dug in, steadfast in their faith as they compromise God's Word, situationally redefining it, counterfeiting it and conditionally applying it to fill their own bellies. All in the name of "interpretation." And the greatest of all of Satan's tricks is to convince us we are immune to his tricks, leading us by the nose into sin and away from Jesus while we think we are safe. These are just a few ... [John 10:10]

Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) continue their journey to Mordor and ultimately to Mount Doom to throw Precious into the inferno of Mount Doom from which the ring was made. "Precious" is a name given to the focal ring which conjures in the wearer lust for evil and makes the wearer invisible. Yes, knowledge of the previous two installments of the LotR trilogy is necessary to understand anything about this third and final installment since The Return of the King takes up where The Two Towers left off. The ring has to be destroyed to defeat the combined forces of evil. Aided by the equally evil Gollum (Andy Serkis), who once was the hobbit Smeagol (also Andy Serkis) until changed by the power of the ring into the demon-like Gollum because of Smeagol's lust for it demonstrated by murdering his companion (who found the ring) for the possession of it, Frodo and Sam trek to Mount Doom for the sole purpose of destroying the ring in the only place that can destroy it -- the fires of Mount Doom. Frodo is wrought with fear, paranoia and confusion as Gollum tries his best to get the ring from Frodo. Gollum is foiled and put in his place each time by the loyal and devoted Sam, even though Frodo believes Gollum is sincere or at least tolerates Gollum's antics since only Gollum knows the way to Mordor. Friends could take example from Astin's portrayal of Sam. And so could leaders take example from him, for a leader cannot be a good leader unless s/he knows how and when to be a follower. To be first we must be last. To be the greatest, we must be the least. To be served we must be servant to all. Jesus taught us this. [Matt. 20:25 - 28; Matt. 23:11 - 12]

In the other of two major subplots, Gandalf the wizard second only to Merlin (Ian McKellan), Aragorn the ranger and king-to-be (Viggo Mortensen), Gimli the dwarf (John Rhys-Davies), Legolas the elf (Orlando Bloom) and hobbits Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd) do battle -- major battle -- with the evil forces as they pine for their friends Frodo and Sam. Gandalf and company are most concerned about the city of Minas Tirith of the human kingdom of Gondor and its future under threat of the upcoming battle of all battles. The battle of Isengard is paled in comparison to the coming battle of the Pelennor Fields. As part of their trek to warn the city of Minas Tirith, Aragorn plans to announce himself as rightful heir as Iseldur's returned King, replacing the steward acting as king.

I am not going to elaborate the plot of this installment since it is basically more of the same from the first two, even with most of the same characters. Return of the King is a very well engineered and creative movie. The talents of they who put it together and performed it are clearly standard-setting. But what standard is being set? If one uses the evil of witchcraft, wizardry and sorcery for whatever reason, one serves evil. My biggest issue with the LotR movies is their defiance of Isa. 5:20. And to think it is good to use evil (witchcraft/sorcery/wizardry) even for good purposes is calling evil good: is putting darkness for light; is serving evil.

Early on I promised a comparative study of the LotR trilogy. It follows:

One can easily see in the comparison that each installment of the LotR trilogy is effectively the same from a morality standpoint. Each is intense in Wanton Violence/Crime (violence) and Offense to God (witchcraft, sorcery, wizardry) but, relatively speaking, tame in the other four CAP investigation areas. This, along with the itemized listing in the Findings/Scoring section, is where the CAP Analysis Model is so much more useful to parents and grandparents than the MPAA rating system.

Peter Jackson, the director of the three LotR movies, is quite consistent. Even more consistent than George Lucas though Lucas is the king of PG (see our Star Wars study). There is much more mom/dad can draw from the above comparative study but for the sake of brevity I will not belabor the matter since I suspect our readers are of the level of intellect to be quite capable of gathering all the points of usefulness the CAP analysis service provides without me itemizing them.

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If needed to focus or fortify, applicable text is underlined or bracketed [ ]. If you wish to have full context available, the Blue Letter Bible is a convenient source. If you use the Blue Letter Bible, a new window will open. Close it to return here or use "Window" in your browser's menu bar to alternate between the CAP page and the Blue Letter Bible page.

  • Isa. 5:20 Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.
  • Prov. 3:31-32 Do not envy a violent man or choose any of his ways, for the LORD detests a perverse man but takes the upright into his confidence.
  • Deut. 18:10 -12 Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD, and because of these detestable practices the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you.
  • 2Chr. 33:6 He sacrificed his sons in the fire in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, practiced sorcery, divination and witchcraft, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the LORD, provoking him to anger.
  • Rev. 22:14-15 Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city [Heaven]. For without [outside Heaven] are dogs, and [the unforgiven] sorcerers [those who practice magic arts including witches, warlocks, wizards, etc.], and whoremongers [the sexually immoral], and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.
  • John 10:10 The thief [Satan] cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: ...
  • Matt. 20:25 - 28 Jesus called them together and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave - just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
  • Matt. 23:11 - 12 The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

    ***Selected Scriptures of Armour against the influence of the entertainment industry***
  • Ps. 12:8 The wicked freely strut about [e.g., create progressively vile/offensive entertainment with impunity and no consequences and present it to younger and younger audiences every year] when what is vile is honored among men [when enough people continue to defend it, embrace it, pay for it, enjoy it, want it, submit to it. I call attention to Ps. 12:8 to warn of the creeping desensitizing power of "entertainment."]
  • Col. 2:8 Beware lest any man [by his influence] spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
  • 1 Cor. 15:33 (KJV) Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. (NIV) Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.
  • Rom. 5:19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.
  • Jude 4 For certain men* whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change [warp, distort, falsely represent, situationally redefine, counterfeit, conditionally apply] the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. [*men: anthropos {anth'-ro-pos}, generic, a human being, whether male or female]
  • Matt. 25:40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto [or for] one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto [or for] me.
  • Luke 17:2 It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. [cause by teaching or example]
  • Ps. 119:133 Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me.
  • John 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
  • 1 Thess. 5:22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.


    As always, it is best to refer to the Findings/Scoring section -- the heart of the CAP analysis model -- for the most complete assessment possible of this movie.

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

    Wanton Violence/Crime (W)
  • action violence, repeatedly, some graphic
  • lust for possession, including to kill, repeatedly
  • planning killing
  • arrow killing, graphic
  • long battle violence/gore, quite frequent
  • beatings, with and without tools/weapons
  • graphic arrow impalements
  • use of severed heads as throwing weapons
  • graphic crushing deaths, frequent
  • great falls with impacts seen
  • decayed and encapsulated bodies and body parts
  • graphic attack by larger-than-actor spider, repeatedly
  • attempted murder, repeatedly
  • fighting, repeatedly
  • impalement by huge spider
  • human incineration
  • attempted ritual suicide/murder by fire
  • close-ups of death and dying
  • pointing finger bitten off
  • perils of danger from risk of great fall
  • fall into lava

    Impudence/Hate (I)
  • spreading dissent among friends, allies
  • lying
  • framing of guilt by deceit
  • deceit with intent t kill

    Sexual Immorality (S)
  • sparse dress on male character, repeatedly
  • excessive cleavage
  • open face kiss

    Drugs/Alcohol (D):
  • smoking
  • drinking
  • drunkenness

    Offense to God (O)
  • unholy transformation by evil power
  • talking trees
  • unholy healing
  • evil control
  • unholy possession
  • threat by wizardry/sorcery
  • prophesying
  • tale of sorcery
  • evil beasts/demons, repeatedly
  • enlisting tens of thousands of "walking dead" to do good by assisting the "good guys" in battle
  • frequent and repeated graphic views of many unholy creatures (Orcs) many times in close-up
  • use of evil (sorcery/witchcraft/wizardry) to do good by assisting the "good guys" in battle
  • grant of immortality
  • seeking evil for help in battle
  • control of humans with a curse
  • demon beast attacks, some quite graphic and with many deaths
  • light by sorcery, twice
  • transporting people by unholy magic
  • attempted ritual suicide/murder
  • walking dead walking on water
  • many instances of using evil for good
  • seeing the non-seeable by wizardry
  • images of supreme evil

    Murder/Suicide (M)
  • murder to possess object
  • brutal murder of battle-injured man with impalement shown

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    There are some in the entertainment industry who maintain that 1) violent programming is harmless because no studies exist that prove a connection between violent entertainment and aggressive behavior in children, and 2) young people know that television, movies, and video games are simply fantasy. Unfortunately, they are wrong on both accounts." And "Viewing violence may lead to real life violence." I applaud these associations for fortifying 1 Cor. 15:33. Read the rest of the story. From our more than eight years of study, I contend that other aberrant behaviors, attitudes, and expressions can be inserted in place of "violence" in that statement. Our Director - Child Psychology Support, a licensed psychologist and certified school psychologist concurs. For example, "Viewing arrogance against fair authority may lead to your kids defying you in real life." Or "Viewing sex may lead to sex in real life." Likewise and especially with impudence, hate and foul language. I further contend that any positive behavior can be inserted in place of "violence" with the same chance or likelihood of being a behavior template for the observer; of being incorporated into the behavior mechanics and/or coping skills of the observer. In choosing your entertainment, please consider carefully the "rest of the story" and our findings.

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