Well, it has been a long, somewhat complex journey from review to review thus far, so let's just dive in with recap. In the first film, a Fellowship is formed in order to destroy a powerful ring once belonging to a dark being named Sauron. The ring was once found by a Hobbit named Bilbo (Ian Holm) in a cave, and brought to his home in the Shire, where he has kept it for a number of years. But on his 111th birthday, things in the ring start stirring, and it's concluded that the Ring must be destroyed, lest its dark master rise again.
The Fellowship of the Ring consisted of four Hobbits; Frodo (Elijah Wood), Sam (Sean Astin), Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd) - One Grey Wizard; Gandalf (Ian McKellen) - Humans, Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) and Boromir (Sean Bean) - an Elf named Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and a Dwarf named Gimli (John Rhys-Davies). It's not long before the group is divided into what I have personally dubbed the "Ring Group", the "Cool Group" and "Boring Group", once they are attacked by an orc army known as the Uruk-hai. These orcs were created by White Wizard, Saruman (Christopher Lee), who vey much desires to serve Sauron and help him find that ring and rise to power.
By the opening of the second film, Boromir had been killed by orcs, and Gandalf was believed to have been killed by a badass Balrog. The "Ring Group", consisting of Frodo (the ringbearer) and Sam heads to the realm of Mordor in order to destroy the ring in Mount Doom - a big-ass volcano. This is where the creature Gollum (Andy Serkis) tries to ambush the Hobbits and take the ring for himself, which we learn in the first film, he once possessed for centuries. However, Frodo manages to tame him by referring to him as "Sméagol". This creates a split personality in which Gollum has an inner battle with Sméagol, torn between loyalty to Frodo and his desire to possess the ring above destroying it.
Meanwhile, the "Cool Group", consisting of Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli, chase down the orcs that took the "Boring Group", consisting of Merry and Pippin away in the midst of battle. These are same orcs that killed Boromir; the Uruk-hai from the end of the first film. The "Cool Group" fails to locate them, but do stumble on a resurrected Gandalf, now White (as opposed to Grey) who has returned to help Middle Earth from falling into darkness. He begins by breaking a curse Saruman and his lacky, Wormtongue (Brad Dourif) have over the King of Rohan, Théoden (Bernard Hill). Then, as armies of orcs start to rise, the "Cool Group" (now with Gandalf) ultimately assist the townsfolk of Edoras in Rohan to Helm's Deep for their protection.
Meanwhile again, the "Boring Group" manages to flee their captors, and head into the dark Fangorn Forest, where Merry and Pippin meet who makes the "Boring Group" boring, Treebeard (John Rhys-Davies); an Ent, which is essentially a walking, talking tree. The Hobbits have pleasant conversation with him, and eventually try to convince him to fight in the upcoming War of the Ring. Most of the rest of it is the Ents having a meeting, but they do eventually decide to wage war on Saruman upon seeing the destruction he has caused to the trees surrounding Isengard - where Saruman sits upon his white tower.
To end it all in one final paragraph, Saruman's orc army is seemingly too overwhelming, but there is an epic final stand at Helm's Deep between alliances, involving the "Cool Group". The "Ring Group" eventually find themselves captured on their journey by Boromir's brother, Faramir (David Wenham), which creates a minor obstacle for them, as he wishes to please his asshat of a father by bringing the ring to his home kingdom of Gondor. The "Ring Group" is, however, eventually released - but Gollum still has some cruel intentions to get his hands on that ring. As for the "Boring Group", they attack Isengard with an army of Ents, and trap Saruman in his tower.
To try to keep it short, the "Cool Group" regroups with the "Boring Group" on their field of victory, and take Saruman's palantír (basically a crystal ball), which Pippin makes the mistake of looking into. There, he sees the eye of Sauron along with an ashen tree which, when described to Gandalf, leads them to Minas Tirith, the capital of Gondor (where Aragorn is meant to reclaim his throne). That group is split again, as Gandalf takes Pippin with him on his ride to Minas Tirith. We'll refer to them as the "Odd Group" (as Gandalf and Pippin are almost polar opposites in personality), and the "Cool Group" has just exchanged Gandalf for Merry.
At Minas Tirith, they meet the current king; Boromir and Faramir's father, Denethor (John Noble), who we find out is a real piece of work. Pippin swears his services to him, while Gandalf stands by for the upcoming battle. The "Ring" group's biggest thing here is unknowingly heading to deal with Shelob in Part 2; a giant spider who Gollum tries to use against the Hobbits in order to get the ring. And oh my God, this is paragraph number 8, and I promised myself I'd do each of these in 10. It's a lot to recap and catch up with though, to be perfectly fair to myself.
In the background of all of this (at least as far as my point of view goes) is a tragic love story involving Aragorn and an Elf named Arwen (Liv Tyler), daughter to Lord Elrond of Rivendell (Hugo Weaving). She has chosen a mortal life in order to be with Aragorn, based on a vision of their future son. However, that will lead to her eventual dying. To try to help ensure Aragorn's safe return to his daughter, Elrond gives Aragorn Andúril; a sword re-forged from the remains of King Elendil's sword, Narsil. With this, Aragorn can reclaim his birthright, hence "The Return of the King". It also just might help him gain an army of the dead, which is awesome.
So, in conclusion, this has been really more of a recap than a review. But to be blunt and to the point about it, I really like this one just about as much as I enjoyed the second part of 'Fellowship'. The first part of 'Return' doesn't blow me away, but it doesn't drag like 'Two Towers' Part 1 did either. It almost feels like it's getting things back on track, and Part 1 ends at a nice, climactic moment. Once again, music, set pieces, CG effects, overall acting, it's all pretty amazing stuff. It's no surprise why 'Return' is held in such high regard.