- Title: Cloud Atlas
- Directors: Tom Wykwer, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
- Date: 2012
- Studio: Warner Brothers
- Genre: SF
- Cast: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw, Keith David, James D’Arcy, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant
- Format: Color, Widescreen
- DVD Format: R1, NTSC
- Title: The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey
- Director: Peter Jackson
- Date: 2012
- Studio: Warner Brothers, New Line, MGM
- Genre: Fantasy, Action, Drama
- Cast: Ian Holm, Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Sylvester McCoy, Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, Christopher Lee, Elijah Wood, Andy Serkis, James Nesbitt, Benedict Cumberbatch
- Format: Color, Widescreen
- DVD Format: R1, NTSC
“For he had seen dragonfire in the sky and a city turned to ash, and he never forgave and he never forgot.” — Old Bilbo describing Thorin Oakenshield
“I’ve never used a sword in my life.” — Bilbo
“And I hope you never have to. But if you do, remember this: True courage is about knowing not when to take a life but when to spare one.” — Gandalf
“Saruman believes that it is only great power that can hold evil in check. But that is not what I have found. I found it is the small things, everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the blackness at bay. Simple acts of kindness and love.” — Gandalf
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opens with old Bilbo (Ian Holm) reminiscing, speaking to Frodo, but only in his head as he goes through some of his old souvenirs of his adventures. Bilbo’s narration includes the famous first line that Tolkien wrote about Hobbits, “In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit…” and background information about the Dwarves of the Lonely Mountain and the kingdom of Erebor. When Frodo does arrive he brings in the mail, most of which are responses to Biblo’s birthday party — and Bilbo gives him the sign to hang on his garden gate, “No admittance except on Party business”. The screen then transitions to the title card for “An Unexpected Journey” and young Bilbo (Martin Freeman). This neatly ties The Hobbit in with the previous Lord of the Rings film trilogy. JRR Tolkien wrote The Hobbit first, then The Lord of the Rings which was so long, his publisher suggested publishing it in three volumes, which became: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King. Now, you can get LotR in either a single volume or in the traditional three-book version, and often it’s packaged in box sets with the prequel, The Hobbit.
In the Shire, Bilbo is standing around outside when Gandalf arrives and tries to talk Bilbo into accompanying him on an adventure. Bilbo dismisses the idea. Later, one by one, then in groups, a total of twelve Dwarves arrive at his Hobbit hole. Finally, Thorin Oakenshield the Dwarven leader arrives, as does Gandalf. The Dwarves are rather chaotic house-guests, but they tell Bilbo of their quest — to return to Erebor and re-claim their kingdom under the mountain from the dragon, Smaug. Bilbo is reluctant.
The Dwarves sing, “The Song of the Misty Mountains”, their anthem, and each of the Dwarves stands to sing. This somewhat convinces Bilbo, but when he gets a look at his “contract” he’s shocked at all the ways he could die, and ultimately he refuses.
The next morning, Bilbo awakens and his home is sparkling. He finds the contract, signs it, and runs out his door to join Gandalf and the Dwarves on an adventure. As they travel, the scenery is beautiful and gorgeous. Stunning, really.
One night, when they’ve stopped to camp, Balin fills Bilbo in on more of Thorin’s background. His Grandfather and Father had attempted to re-take Moria which was filled with Orcs. Not only did they face an horde of orcs, but a pale orc beheads the king, Thorin’s grandfather, and Thorin’s father runs off, driven mad by grief, anger, and fear. The pale orc, Azog, also attacks Thorin, who defends himself with an oaken branch. Thorin rallies the Dwarves, but though they “win” the battle, the cost is much too high, with the piles of Dwarven dead on the battlefield, and the death of the Dwarves’ king.
Gandalf, Bilbo, and the Dwarves continue their journey in the rain. Bilbo asks Gandalf about other wizards. Gandalf mentions Saruman the White, the two blues, and Radagast the Brown. The film transitions to Radagast, who is investigating mysterious occurrences in the Greenwood. Radagast travels by way of a sled pulled by rabbits. The film transitions back to Thorin’s company.
Again, the Dwarves camp for the night. Two ponies go missing. Fili, Kili, and Bilbo investigate and find trolls. While the trolls, are gross, stupid, and acting like the Three Stooges, Bilbo sneaks over to free the now four taken ponies. Bilbo is caught and the trolls threaten to eat him. Kili and the other Dwarves arrive to the rescue. There’s a fight, but in the end, Bilbo is caught and the Dwarves have to put down their arms. The trolls plan on eating the dwarves. Bilbo tries to delay the trolls. At dawn, Gandalf arrives and the sun turns the trolls to stone. Bilbo’s playing for time had saved the Dwarves as much as Gandalf’s arrival, but Gandalf has to point the fact out to Thorin.
The company finds the nearby troll hold of treasure and weapons. They discover three fine Elvish swords, Gandalf takes one, he gives Thorin another, and Bilbo takes a third, a knife that is just the right size for him to use as a sword.
Radagast arrives and tells Gandalf that a darkness has fallen on the Greenwood, and spiders have invaded it. a dark power, the shadow of an ancient horror, the Necromancer is now there. Wargs (giant wolf/dog-type animals) and orcs attack, and the ponies bolt. Radagast draws off the Wargs.
Gandalf leads the Dwarves to a secret passage, Thorin covers the retreat. Suddenly, someone arrives and attacks the orcs, a group of Elves. Gandalf leads the Dwarves through the path and they arrive in Rivendell.
Elrond arrives, he is back from hunting Orcs. Elrond and his Elves exhibit impressive horsemanship, and Elrond’s red-tinged armor is gorgeous! Elrond greets Thorin by name, and by the names of his father and mentions knowing his grandfather. The Elves offer the Dwarves food and shelter. Thorin reluctantly accepts, still holding a grudge against Elves because they did not aid the Dwarves when Smaug attacked Erebor.
Elrond recognizes the Elvish swords that the Dwarves found, telling Thorin his is, Orcrist – the Goblin Cleaver, and he tells Gandalf, his is, Glamdring, the Foe Hammer. Elrond tells them a little of the swords’ history. Bilbo looks up with expectation, but he’s told his “sword” is too small to have done great deals, that it is probably a “dinner knife” or child’s toy. The Dwarves are treated to a meal and music, but are uncomfortable.
Elrond explains the moon runes on Thorin’s map to Gandalf and Thorin. Elrond discovers the company’s quest and refers to Gandalf as a “Guardian of Middle-Earth”. Gandalf shows the Morgul blade to a council of himself, Elrond, Galadriel, and Saruman, as proof of Radagast’s news that something is going on in the Greenwood. Saruman dismisses this news, and Radagast himself, but Galadriel takes Gandalf more seriously and offers her help if he should ever need it.
The Dwarves leave Rivendell, and continue their journey. On a black mountain cliff, in the rain, they wander into a battle between storm giants. Bilbo nearly falls from the cliff. In rescuing him, Thorin is nearly lost. In a fit of anger, he tells Bilbo, “He’s been lost, ever since he left home. He should never have come. He has no place amongst us.” The Dwarves move into a cave to rest. Bilbo’s about to leave, to go home, but he talks to Bofur who convinces him to stay, then his sword glows blue – indicating orcs or goblins nearby. The company is attacked by goblins (orcs). The Dwarves are captured, but Bilbo is over-looked and left alone. There, he is attacked by a goblin and fights, then falls down a cavern.
The captured Dwarves are brought to the Goblin king. Thorin comes to defend the Dwarves. The goblin king threatens to send Thorin’s head to the pale orc.
Bilbo wakes in the dark. He sees Gollum. Gollum loses the ring while attacking a goblin, which he drags back to his underground pond to kill and eat.
Bilbo finds the ring, and pockets it.
Once Gollum has killed the goblin, Bilbo’s sword ceased to glow blue. He and Gollum meet. Slowly Bilbo and Gollum get into a game of riddles. Biblo asks Gollum to show him the way out if he wins, and if he loses, Gollum wants to eat him. Gollum alternates between his “Gollum” and “Smeagol” personalities throughout the scenes between he and Bilbo. It’s extremely well done!
Since Bilbo wins the game, Gollum must show him the way out. Gollum also realises with a panic that he’s lost his precious, and also realises that Bilbo has it in his “pocketses”.
Gandalf arrives to rescue Thorin and his Dwarves.
Bilbo escapes a wrathful Gollum by squeezing through a tight passage in the rock – so tight the brass button pop off his waistcoat (or vest). The ring falls on his finger and he’s dropped into “wraithworld” without warning or understanding.
Fighting the goblins, the Dwarves and Gandalf move to escape but they are confronted by the goblin king. Gandalf defeats him. The Dwarves and Gandalf, however, fall off a wooden bridge, into a cavern and land in a heap. They run for the exit.
Bilbo, in the wraithworld, sees the Dwarves running by, who, naturally don’t notice him. Bilbo is unable to kill the helpless and pathetic Gollum. This will be very important later, in The Lord of the Rings, where Bilbo’s mercy has great consequences. Bilbo runs for the exit, and Gollum doesn’t really know what’s happened.
In the woods, Gandalf counts the Dwarves, sees they are all there, then asks after Bilbo. Bilbo takes the ring off and appears. Wargs and orcs attack, Bilbo kills a warg. The company escapes into the trees. Gandalf speaks to a Monarch butterfly to call for help. Azog arrives. Gandalf attacks the wargs with fire, setting pine-cones alight and throwing them. Bilbo and the Dwarves also throw flaming pine cones at the wargs. But the forest of trees bursts into flame and the Dwarves nearly fall off the cliff. Walking through the pale trees, Thorin attacks Azog, the pale orc. Azog strikes back and knocks Thorin out.
Bilbo attacks the orc sent to take Thorin’s head and kills the orc. The Eagles arrive to rescue the Dwarves. The Eagles attack the wargs and orcs. One eagle picks up the still unconscious Thorin in his talons. All, including Bilbo, are rescued. The eagles carry everyone to a rocky cliff face at the top of a mountain. Gandalf goes to check on Thorin and heals him. Thorin is grateful to Bilbo for saving him, and admits to being wrong about him. From the cliff, they can see Erebor, the Lonely Mountain. Under the mountain, is Smaug.
I enjoyed The Hobbit. Yes, it is a long film, and there are several complex action sequences, as one would expect from Peter Jackson. But the emphasis and heart of the film is the characters, especially, Bilbo, Gandalf, and Thorin. Tolkien’s original novel is only about 300 pages, and it’s a straight-forward, there-and-back again tale of adventure. So, I wondered how Jackson was going to take that and make first, two films, and later, it was announced, a new trilogy of films. However, one of the things he does in An Unexpected Journey is he changes the emphasis of the Dwarves’ quest from one for gold — the gold horded by the dragon, to a quest to re-take their home. Making the quest about home means it’s easier to identify with the entire story, and it gives Bilbo a reason to accompany the Dwarves on their quest. He tells Thorin that he has a home but he will help Thorin take his home back, if he can. Bilbo can understand and emphasize with Thorin’s quest to take back his home. I’m hoping 2013’s The Desolation of Smaug will also be as good, though I have no doubts that it will be. Anyway, this film is excellent, highly enjoyable, and highly recommended.
New Zealand again plays Middle-Earth, and the scenery is stunning, absolutely stunning. Howard Shore’s score, which I was anticipating last year almost as much as the film itself, is perfect. It’s new, but has a quality that lets you know this is the same Middle-Earth as in Lord of the Rings, though a younger, more innocent time, with only a hint of the darkness to come. And the Dwarves’ choral piece, “Song of the Misty Mountains” is beautiful, I really loved it.
Recommendation: See it!
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Next Film: Cloud Atlas
I saw The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey last night. I bought my ticket about 1:00pm, then did other stuff, including dinner with Mom & Dad at a new restaurant near the movie theater, Kitchen 67 by Brann’s, in short, dinner was OK. The showing was at 8:30pm last night in the largest individual theater in my local multiplex – and it was a sold out show.
In short, the film is awesome – Peter Jackson really does have another hit on his hands, and I’m already eagerly awaiting the next two films, since Jackson has somehow turned “The Hobbit” into a trilogy.
The three most developed characters were: Bilbo (Martin Freeman), Thorin Oakenshield son of Thrain (Richard Armitage) and Gandalf (Ian McKellan). All the actors are excellent in their parts. Martin Freeman, whom I know from Sherlock (where he played Dr. John Watson), spends much of his time looking confused and bemused — something Martin Freeman is particularly good at. However, though the Dwarves underestimate him, Bilbo has strange courage when pushed and he’s loyal despite being ignored, treated as baggage, and even scolded.
Thorin is played by Richard Armitage (whom I know from the BBC’s recent Robin Hood TV series – the one with Jonas Armstrong as Robin) and he’s fantastic! For one thing, even under all the hair, make-up, and costuming — Armitage is gorgeous, and as he’s very much the hero in the film, he gets several “heroic poses” shots, which I must admit got my attention in the theater last night. But Armitage brings a real strength and gravitas to the part. He doesn’t “ham it up” — and with him in the role Thorin becomes more likable. No longer is this simply a group of Dwarves out for gold — it’s a group of thirteen wanderers in search of a home. The parellel with the Lost Tribes of Israel popped into my head in the theater and just wouldn’t go away.
Ian McKellan’s Gandalf returns, whom most viewers of the film will remember from the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Also returning for a scene in Rivendell are: Cate Blanchet as Galadriel, Hugo Weaving as Elrond, and Christopher Lee as Saruman. Somehow they managed to make Hugo Weaving look a little younger — and I love his “hunting uniform” as we first encounter him when he and a group of Elves hunt and kill Orcs and wargs, thus saving Thorin, Bilbo, and their troop. Though at the time neither really realises what’s happened, and who’s saved who. Christopher Lee seems threatening and dark here (as Saruman), though at this point in the overall story everyone trusts him, including Gandalf. I actually liked Cate Blanchet better this time around, and her psychic conversations with Gandalf were actually effective storytelling. And they were cool!
New to the story (besides Thorin and his Dwarves) is the wonderful Sylvester McCoy as Radagast the Brown, one of the five Wizards entrusted with the care of Middle-Earth. I loved it that when Bilbo asked about other Wizards, Gandalf said: ”The head of our order is Saruman the White, then there’s two Blue Wizards but I can’t remember their names, and there’s Radagast the Brown, he’s ‘odd’ – prefers the company of animals over people.” (I’m probably paraphrasing a bit) But I love that Gandalf says there’s these other two Wizards but he doesn’t know their names. Tolkien actually never named the other two Wizards, though the fact that their were five of them originally is mentioned more than once in the canon of the books (both The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings). Sylvester is barely recognizable under his costume, and I now understand his comments at Chicago TARDIS about it — it is off-putting and even a bit gross (with the bird poo in his hair and the bird nest that he’s wearing almost as a hat). But that aside, he still has that sense of strangeness and alien-ness that worked so well in Doctor Who. The scene where he’s using magic to save a hedge-hog is wonderful. In the books, Radagast is barely mentioned, here he doesn’t have a large part, but he’s important… breaking messages to Gandalf.
The novel, The Hobbit: There and Back Again, was a pre-quel to Lord of the Rings, and it came out first. The two stories are connected by the Ring, Bilbo, and some other re-occurring characters, as well as being in the same universe of Middle-Earth. I’ve read Lord of the Rings countless times. I first read in in seventh grade, when I found the books in my junior high school library, and I read it about every three years since. When Jackson’s LotR Trilogy came out that switched to every year, as I wanted to see where the films diverged from the books. The Hobbit I’ve only read two or three times, as I’ve always preferred LotR. The Hobbit has always seemed to be more of a children’s book, as well as a straight-forward adventure tale (literally “There and Back Again” — Bilbo gets involved in a quest for treasure, he has a series of adventures, he comes home safe). There are some memoriable scenes in the book, but really… LotR, which came out later, is much better, deeper, more complex, and transcends it’s “fantasy” label and genre.
I knew Ian Holm was going to be in the Hobbit film, but that Martin Freeman would play “young Bilbo”, so I was expecting some sort of “flashback” opening. The film starts with Bilbo narrating a rather long narration of the history of Thrain (Thorin’s father), Thorin and the Dwarves. I rather liked it because it gives the audience more background on Thorin and makes him more sympathetic and more of a hero. Eventually, we see Bilbo addressing Frodo (Elijah Wood) as he starts writing in his journal. Frodo arrives with the mail (post) and mentions they are replies to the party invitations. Bilbo hands Frodo a sign to hang on his door, and as Frodo nails it up, we see it says “No Admittance Except on Party Business”, this neatly places this scene just before the opening in the Shire in Fellowship of the Ring (after that film’s prologue), the film then transitions 60 Years Ago to Bilbo’s adventure (and the sub-title comes up). I loved the way the transition was done, technically, visually, and as an opening of the plot, so I won’t spoil it.
There is a lot of humor in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, a bit more than I was expecting. The acting was really, really good, too. Visually, the film is stunning (Honestly, New Zealand is just stunning!). I also liked the switch in emphasis from the Dwarves looking for gold to the Dwarves wanting to return to their lost homeland. ”The Song of the Lonely Mountain”, which was used in the previews, under-scores the film and it’s gorgeous! The scene in Bag End, where the Dwarves sing their song, each standing one at a time and joining in, was almost like watching people singing their own National Anthem (and brings to mind a similar scene in Casablanca where everyone sings La Marseilles). It also reminded me of something I had actually seen happen in a pub in Ireland, where someone started singing the Irish National Anthem (tho’ I didn’t know that’s what it was at the time) — the pub got deadly quiet, everyone stood, and everyone joined in. Anyway, it’s a wonderful scene in the film, and I think it’s part of what convinces Bilbo to join in on the adventure, though he initially says “no”.
The Hobbit the novel is the prequel book to The Lord of the Rings, and it was written and published first. However, Peter Jackson’s film was filmed and produced AFTER the very popular Oscar-winning (among other awards) Lord of the Rings Trilogy of films. Movie-making logic suggests that sequels need to be bigger, more exciting, and more awesome than the original. Yet, Tolkien’s book, having come first is smaller in scope. I’ve already mentioned how it seems more like a children’s book and it has a straight-forward, there-and-back plot. Initially, when news broke of a Peter Jackson film of the Hobbit, and the news broke as “two films” my first thought was “How?” And, as we now know, Jackson is planning a trilogy. Again, How? The original story is much shorter, and doesn’t seem to have enough material for two films, let alone three. My cynical thought was “Jackson overshot the movie”. However, this is Peter Jackson, who, though he loves his action sequences (and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has plenty), also has a way of writing his characters, expanding their parts, and making the outline of the story better. I do think it’s odd, The Hobbit, could have been one film, but Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King, could have each been two films, if The Hobbit had been filmed first, as one would have expected. That the stories are switched is going to have a interesting effect on the complete storyline. I almost wonder if Jackson’s long-range plan is to re-do LotR as six films after The Hobbit Trilogy is complete in theaters. (If you haven’t read LotR it is six books, split into three parts — each a separate book, plus an appendix).
Anyway, the film was awesome, I highly encourage everyone to see it!
Cloud Atlas is a most unusual and mindblowingly awesome film. The first hour or so (I’d estimate) will have you thinking, “What the … is going on?” over and over, but if you stick with it, all will become clear. And the film just keeps getting more and more complex, and more and more awesome as it goes on.
The film is a serious treatment of the idea of Reincarnation, however, to describe it as “just that” does not do this simply brilliant film justice. The storyline follows a pair of lovers over and over through different time-lines and parts of the world – yet it doesn’t do so in a straight-forward, “yawn”, sort of way. The film is brilliantly shot, but, again, not simply in the “oh that is gorgeous” sort of way or even in the “WOW – what an effects shot” sort of way either. It’s just simply mind-blowing, especially as you start to figure out what is going on.
Each of the principle actors of the film plays multiple parts, so yes, part of the fun of the movie is spotting Jim Broadbent, Tom Hanks, and Halle Barry over and over again in different times and as different people (as well as most of the rest of the cast including: Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bea, Ben Whishaw, Keith David, and James D’Arcy among others). But this film isn’t simply brilliant because all the principles play multiple roles in different times and places. The world building – which is multi-dimensional – is just as complex and convoluted as the interconnected plot. That the plot finishes and makes sense and works is part of what makes this such an “omg” film. I saw it in a small theater and the audience sat in stunned silence for a few minutes before anyone even got up, moved, or left.
The actors are brilliant in this. Even Hanks, whom I don’t personally like and I find very over-rated does a good job playing multiple characters without always being “Tom Hanks”. Halle Berry, normally type-cast as a “sex kitten” is phenomenal. Ben Whishaw and James D’Arcy are simply incredible — and it took me until after I gotten home to finally realise where I’d seen Whishaw before (In the BBC drama – “The Hour” and as Q in “Skyfall”). Broadbent, of course, is a British character actor who can do anything. And at the heart, the film revolves around Doona Bea and her characters — all I can say is, “what an actress!”
Quite simply a must see film. It’s almost impossible to describe why this film is so incredible, but it simply is. I think I now know what people in the 1960s first thought when they saw the famous film 2001 – because this is just as mind-blowing if not more so, and it’s not centered on European/American culture. Brilliantly, brilliantly done.
- Title: Happy Feet
- Director: George Miller
- Date: 2006
- Studio: Warner Brothers Animation
- Genre: Musical, Animation, Children’s
- Cast: Elijah Wood, Robin Williams, Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Hugo Weaving, Anthony LaPaglia, Steve Irwin
- Format: Color, Widescreen
- DVD Format: R1, NTSC
“What fabulous worlds lay out there far beyond the ice? Was there anyplace one small penguin without a Heartsong could ever truly belong?” — Lovelace / Narrator
I truly enjoyed this movie when I first saw it in 2006, but only recently found it on DVD on sale, albeit the 1-disc edition. The movie is still excellent and the animation is astounding! In Happy Feet penguins court their one true love by singing their unique Heart Song. However, baby Mumble can’t sing. He can dance, though. Mumble (Elijah Wood) is a fantastic tap dancer (especially for a penguin). However, the other penguins think this is weird, and ultimately the Elder Penguin (Hugo Weaving) kicks poor Mumble out, blaming him for the famine that’s troubling Emperor (penguin) Land. Mumble having heard about strange aliens tries to find out why they are taking the fish and has a series of adventures, meeting a group of Latino penguins, led by Ramon (Robin Williams), the guru Rockhopper penguin, Lovelace (also Robin Williams), and ultimately ending up in a zoo. His dancing attracts attention, and Mumble returns to Emperor Land.
There he again courts his childhood sweetheart, Gloria, and wins her, with his dancing. I loved the sequences between Gloria and Mumble, I really did. The Elder Penguin again gets upset, but the aliens (man) shows up and issues edicts to ban fishing in Antarctic waters. The penguins are saved.
The music in this film is Motown — and extremely well integrated into the plot, as is Mumble’s dancing. Mumble needs to be true to himself, and ultimately he is. The animation is incredible — the ice looks like ice, the water looks like water, and even the snow isn’t as fake looking as filmed snow normally is. At one point wind blows and we see Mumble fur move. And of course, the dancing penguins, all in time, works perfectly. Mumble is adorable, and his story works well and is very enjoyable. Again I really enjoyed this film.
The special features on the single disc version are a little disappointing — music videos, an old Merrie Melodies cartoon, one trailer, and probably the most useful special feature – a lesson in tap dancing by the film’s choreographer — though that is geared for children. Still the film is worth having.
Recommendation: See it!
Next Film: Either Mary Poppins or Gone with the Wind (another film I just recently picked up on sale)
- Title: Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Ext. Ed. (4 Disc)
- Director: Peter Jackson
- Date: 2002
- Studio: New Line Cinema
- Genre: Action, Fantasy, Drama
- Cast: Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Dominic Monaghan, Billy Boyd, Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom, John Rhys-Davies, Ian McKellen, Christopher Lee, Liv Tyler, Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, Brad Dourif, Bernard Hill, Miranda Otto, Karl Urban, David Wenham, Andy Serkis, Sean Bean, John Noble
- Format: Color, Widescreen
- DVD Format: R1, NTSC
“It’s very special, that, it’s the best salt in all the Shire.” — Sam
“It is special. It’s a little bit of home.” — Frodo
“The Old World will burn in the fires of Industry, the Forests will fall, a New Order will rise, we will drive the machine of war with the sword, and the spear, and the iron fist of the Orc.” — Saruman
“It was more than mere chance that brought Merry and Pippin to Fangorn, a great power has been sleeping here for many long years. The coming of Merry and Pippin will be like the falling of small stones that starts an avalanche in the mountains.” — Gandalf
“If we go South, we can slip pass Saruman, unnoticed. The closer we are to danger, the further we are from harm. It’s the last thing he’ll expect.” — Pippin
“Hum, that doesn’t make sense to me, but then you are very small.” — Treebeard
The Two Towers Extended Edition DVD set is beautifully boxed, in a red slip-case that looks like a leather-bound, gold embossed book. The DVD holder slips out and unfolds with a DVD on each of four leaves. The movie is split across the first two DVDs and the special features are on the second two DVDs.
Like the Fellowship of the Ring Extended Edition DVD, The Two Towers builds more into the story of the film by adding little moments, lines, and scenes. But whereas Fellowship Extended could almost have been released in theaters (the extended edition of Fellowship is about as long as the Theater version of Return of the King after all), The Two Towers is better suited for a DVD release. However, it is a shame that the longer version of the film wasn’t released to theaters (except the special Celebration showings). I think the extended editions could have been released in theaters as long as there was an intermission. The extended edition really builds up the storyline of what happened to Merry and Pippin — which is my favorite part in that book. The incident with the Palantir however is still moved to Return of the King.
I watched this over two nights, and even after a full day at work, in a very real sense, even though the film is much longer, it feels shorter. The film is more engrossing because the characters, and the sense of place is built up better, and the film spends more time with one set of characters at a time, which seems to work better than quickly cutting between the three main storylines. This also gives a better sense of place, as The Two Towers opens up Tolkien’s world by including the realms of Rohan and Fangorn, and showing Ithilien between Gondor and Mordor. As before, for a detailed summary of the film, see review of the two disc edition; here I will highlight the differences and added scenes.
The opening of the extended edition is the same — Gandalf’s fight with the Balrog, but then the film moves to show Sam and Frodo climbing down a cliff in Ithilien using Sam’s Elven rope. This is the same rope that later Sam ties around Gollum’s neck like a leash. The film includes Sam wishing he didn’t have to leave the rope, and it untying itself and falling free. Sam also mentions that Galadriel gave him the rope. There’s also more Smeagol/Gollum discussion, describing Gollum’s fear of seeing Sauron.
There’s an added scene with Merry and Pippin and the Orcs. Merry is plainly injured and Pippin pleas for water for Merry. The Orcs force “medicine” down Merry’s throat, nearly drowning the Hobbit. Pippin pleas for them to leave Merry alone. When the Orcs “smell man-flesh”, Pippin whispers, “Aragorn”, and drops his Lothlorien leaf clasp.
Aragorn gets a few extra lines, introducing who the King of Rohan is to Legolas, Gimli and the audience, and notes “something is quickening the pace of the Orcs”.
Saruman makes his speech about the industry of war, and orders that Fangorn Forest be burned. The Wild Men also swear allegiance to Saruman. He also predicts that Rohan is ready to fall.
Eomer and his company of men find a company of Rohan’s men slaughtered. They find the King’s injured son, Theodred, amongst them.
Grima shows the order, signed by Theoden King, to Eomer when he is banished.
When the Orc stop for the night, Pippin and Merry are talking and Merry talks about the Old Forest near Buckland. Orcs cut Fangorn Forest for firewood. The Orcs discuss the “Elvish weapon” to be brought to Saruman that the two Hobbits have. Both Merry and Pippin realize this means the Ring. Merry realizes they must pretend they have it, both to protect Frodo, and to protect themselves because they will get killed and eaten (literally) without a bargaining chip, so to speak. When the Orcs fight each other, the Hobbits try to get away, then Rohan attacks. Merry and Pippin make their escape. This scene is longer, and more coherently organized than in the shorter version.
The Rohirrim meet Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli — and yes it’s in both versions, but the extended edition has more discussion of what’s going on in Rohan. I also love the formation riding of the riders of Rohan, especially surrounding Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli with spears.
Meanwhile, Frodo, Sam and Gollum are in the Dead Marshes — there’s actually two scenes, first Gollum leading them through the marsh, and complaining of hunger. Frodo gives him Elvish bread but he can’t eat it, it makes him sick. Later on, is the scene where Frodo sees the corpse in the water and falls in.
In Fangorn, there is more dialog between Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas as they walk into Fangorn, before they meet Gandalf. Legolas explains it was the Elves who began waking up the trees. Gandalf arrives, and Aragorn tells him of the trouble in Rohan. Gimli upsets the trees and has to apologize in his own Dwarven way. Gandalf explains Merry and Pippin will be safe with Treebeard. This is much better than in the shorter version of the film, because the audience isn’t left wondering why Aragorn and company don’t actually rescue Merry and Pippin, after chasing them across half of Middle-Earth. The exposition about what, exactly, is happening in Rohan is also quite helpful.
Treebeard is shown walking across Fangorn Forest, reciting poetry. He brings the Hobbits to his home, and his poetry puts them to sleep.
Gandalf talks to Aragorn of Sauron’s plans, and the weakness of Rohan. He speaks of Frodo and summarizes the Quest.
Sam and Frodo reach the Black Gate and discover they can’t get into Mordor that way (same as shorter version).
Merry and Pippin awake in Fangorn. Pippin is drinking the Ent Draughts. Merry remarks that Pippin has said something, “treeish”, and Pippin seems to be a few inches taller. They are also nearly eaten by a tree and are surrounded, before being rescued by Treebeard.
Theoden’s people, and Aragorn, kneel to Theoden king. The film shows the funeral procession for Theodred, and his burial at the tomb. Eowyn sings a lament for her cousin.
Aragorn calms a wild horse in the stables, a horse that belonged to Theodred. Aragorn and Eowyn speak. When she compliments his Elvish and skill with horses, he tells her he was raised in Rivendell for a time.
Grima and Saruman talk of the Dwarf, Elf, and Man with Gandalf in Edoras. Grima talks of Aragorn’s ring. Saruman realizes that this means Gandalf’s thinks he’s found Isildur’s heir — but, he says the line “was broken” long ago
In Ithilien Sam and Frodo watch evil men marching towards Sauron’s gathering place of his forces, and they see the Oliphaunt. Faramir and his Rangers attack, and win out the day, but Faramir laments killing someone he didn’t even know.
End of Part One
Part Two picks up with Gimli talking to Eowyn about dwarf women. Theoden tells Aragorn about Eowyn’s history. Eowyn feeds Aragorn some pretty awful stew. Aragorn and Eowyn discuss Aragorn’s age, he’s eighty-seven and a member of the Dunedain.
Especially in The Two Towers a big deal is made of the pendant that Arwen gave Aragorn, which they call the “Evenstar” in the film. The problem with that is “Evenstar” or Undomiel (in Sindarian Elvish) was Arwen’s title, not a jewel she bore. Aragorn was also (among many names) called Elessar, or Elfstone, but because of a large emerald brooch he wore when he arrived in Gondor. If in the films, Arwen had given Aragorn the Elfstone brooch I would have been OK with it, but taking her title as a physical thing is one of my nitpicks with the films.
There’s a slightly longer scene between Aragorn and Arwen in Rivendell as he tries to convince her to go with her people to the West.
I think the warg battle on the plains of Rohan (as the people head to Helm’s Deep) is longer and more complexly shot. Aragorn falls off the cliff, and later lies in a creek (he imagines Arwen) and he’s found by his horse and heads for Helm’s Deep, seeing Saruman’s many thousands of troops on his way.
There’s another scene with Merry, Pippin and Treebeard.
Isengard’s troops marching towards Helm’s Deep are shown a couple of times as different people see them.
In Ithilien, the waterfall that hides their cave, the Window on the West, is visible behind some of Faramir’s men. Faramir talks to the Hobbits of finding Boromir’s horn cloven in two, then remembers a dream of seeing Boromir’s body in a boat.
This leads to Faramir remembering he and Boromir re-taking Osgiliath, and celebrating, and Denethor showing up and praising Boromir while putting down Faramir. It’s clear Faramir and Boromir are close and care deeply for each other, while Denethor favors his older son, and despises his younger one. Denethor also sends Boromir to Elrond’s council in Rivendell, and tells him he must bring the One Ring to Gondor. Boromir initially doesn’t want to go; Faramir offers to go in his stead, but Denethor insists Boromir go anyway. And thus we are left to wonder, what would have happened if Faramir had been part of the Company instead?
Frodo talks to Sam of the Ring taking him.
Eowyn begs Aragorn to let her fight with him instead of going to the shelter caves. Again, it’s hinted that she has feelings for him.
Merry and Pippin are talking in Fangorn, when the Entmoot pauses. Treebeard tells them the Ents have only finished saying “good morning” — it’s now evening. Merry gets upset, knowing they are running out of time. Treebeard urges, as he does many times, “Don’t be hasty”.
Aragorn addresses the Elves at Helm’s Deep in Elvish. He also frequently speaks to Arwen and Legolas in Elvish. He is actually behaving the way someone who is truly bilingual would, using Elvish with Elves he knows will understand it, and the Common Tongue (represented as English) with those who speak it, or at all other times as a Lingua Franca (language in common). In Lothlorien, when Gimli makes a remark in Dwarvish, Aragorn seems to understand it as well.
Frodo does ask Faramir to please let him go.
There’s a bit more with Treebeard, then he sees the destruction of the forest. Also, Treebeard sends the Ents after the Orcs at Helm’s Deep, and he will deal with Saruman and Isengard.
The Ents destroying Isengard is extremely well-done and I really liked it. We also see the Ents and trees destroying the Orcs as they flee Helm’s Deep.
Legolas and Gimli finish off their battle count competition in a tie.
At Isengard, Merry and Pippin gather apples, then find a storeroom full of food and goods from the Shire, including Longbottom Leaf pipe tobacco.
Faramir not only lets the Hobbits go, after seeing Frodo nearly giving the Ring to the Nazgul, but he shows Frodo, Sam and Gollum out of the city, through a tunnel. When Gollum tells them he will take Frodo up the winding stair to Cirith Ungol, Faramir warns of a “nameless terror”.
Recommendation: See it! And again, if you can only buy one version of the Lord of the Rings films, buy this one — the extended editions.
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Next Film: LotR: The Return of the King (4 disc extended edition)
- Title: LotR: The Fellowship of the Ring (4-disc Ext. Ed)
- Director: Peter Jackson
- Date: 2001
- Studio: New Line Cinema
- Genre: Action, Fantasy, Adventure, Drama
- Cast: Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Dominic Monaghan, Billy Boyd, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Bean, Orlando Bloom, John Rhys-Davies, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Cate Blanchett, Liv Tyler, Hugo Weaving
- Format: Color, Widescreen
- DVD Format: R1, NTSC, 4-Disc Extended Edition
“The world is changed. I feel it in the water, I feel it in the Earth, I smell it in the air… much that once was, is lost. For none now live who remember it.” — Galadriel, spoken intro.
“For the time will soon come, when Hobbits will shape the fortunes of all.” — Galadriel, spoken intro.
“I think a servant of the enemy would look fairer and feel fouler.” — Frodo
“A Balrog, a demon of the ancient world. This foe is beyond any of you. Run!” — Gandalf
For a detailed summary of the film, see two-disc edition blog entry; here I will highlight the new scenes, differences, and appearance of the four-disc edition.
The extended edition of Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is a very special DVD set. First, it looks gorgeous — like a leather-bound book, embossed with “gold” leaf. The DVDs are in a slide-out case within the outer slip case, and that case folds flat to reveal the four discs. The discs, luckily do not overlap, there is one per leaf. It looks very, very nice. The first two discs are the movie and the second two discs are the extra features. Between the three extended editions, this really is “film school in a box” as the special features look at each and every department that worked on these films, including some that are rarely featured in “making of” materials (such as foley — the art of adding back in regular sounds such as footsteps or hoofbeats to the soundtrack of the film). The film itself is also re-edited and re-scored, and with the additional time allowed on a DVD release, it’s a fuller and richer film, not constrained by theater running time schedules.
Disc One of the extra set is the movie up to the Council of Elrond, specifically Frodo’s decision to take the ring to Mordor. Disc two picks up with the Fellowship leaving Rivendell and goes to the end of the film. Because the movie is split across two discs, it is easy to take a break, or even watch it over two nights (as I will be doing with the other two extended editions). I watched Part I of Fellowship today after lunch, took a break to go grocery shopping, make dinner, and then eat dinner, then watched Part II after dinner — and it worked very well that way.
The extended edition, builds up the plot and brings more of the richness of JRR Tolkien’s world to the screen by adding brief moments, that had to be edited out of the theater edition mostly for time.
The opening of the film is the same, still with Galadriel’s introduction, but this flows into an introduction by Bilbo Baggins, who is working on his book, There and Back Again, A Hobbit’s Tale. There is more exposition of who the Hobbits are, who Bilbo is, even who Frodo is. We even see Sam gardening. This gives the viewer a more thorough understanding of who the Hobbits are and where they come from. Bilbo’s party is re-edited and is longer. We see the Sackville-Baggins, his dis-liked relations. There’s a wonderful conversation between Frodo and Bilbo, that shows both the affection between the two, and Bilbo’s hint of a darker nature, right before Merry and Pippin set off one of Gandalf’s fireworks.
After the party, and Bilbo leaves, and Gandalf gives the ring to Frodo for safekeeping, there’s a new scene at the Green Dragon, the pub in Hobbiton. Merry and Pippin laugh and sing and dance; some of the Hobbits discuss whispers of troubles in other lands, but most agree it’s none of their business, and if they stay isolated, trouble will pass them by. But overall, it’s a light and fun scene that just shows Hobbits being Hobbits, and Merry and Pippin in particular having a good time singing, laughing, and drinking.
Again, the slower start in the Shire, adds to the richness of the film, showing us what these Hobbits will be fighting for, and their friendship and kinship. It should be noted that: Merry and Pippin are first cousins; Merry is also cousin to Frodo, Pippin is also related to Frodo, though more distantly than Merry; Pippin is extremely young and won’t reach the Hobbit age of majority until four years after the War of the Ring, he’s really the equivalent of a 16-year-old, Pippin will one day be The Took, the leader of Tuckborough, Merry, in turn, will one day be the leader of the Brandybuck clan. Indeed, most of the members of the Fellowship are, in some way, future leaders of some sort or another. A lot of this wasn’t really explained in the films, but it’s quite clearly stated in the books.
Sam and Frodo, prior to meeting up with Pippin and Merry, see the wood Elves leaving Middle-Earth. Frodo mentions they are going to the Grey Havens. This scene, besides being pretty and bittersweet, also foreshadows events in The Two Towers, and especially in The Return of the King, where the Elves will leave Middle-Earth.
Gandalf and Saruman’s discussion is longer and there is more exposition. Saruman actually tries to convince Gandalf to join him; Gandalf points out that Saruman is mad, and then Saruman attacks and imprisons Gandalf. We also see Saruman with the Palantir (we did see the Palantir in the shorter cut of the film as well, though more briefly). The Palantir, and Sauron’s selective showing of events is probably part of what’s driven Saruman mad — as well as his own lust for power.
There is more to the scenes of the Hobbits running from the Black Rider before they make it to the ferry. The Hobbits continue to Bree, find Gandalf not there, and meet Strider (Aragorn). Upon leaving Bree there’s an added scene of Aragorn leading the Hobbits through a swamp. Again, this scene is a bit of foreshadowing — this time of the Dead Marshes, near Mordor.
There is slightly more to the conversation between Boromir and Aragorn in Rivendell. Actually, Boromir gets several more lines in this version of the film. At various points he’s trying to convince others to agree with him and to bring the Ring to Gondor, to Minas Tirith (referred to as “my city” by Boromir and “the white city” by Aragorn).
There is more to the council scene in Rivendell. Gandalf, in an attempt to stop some of the bickering actually speaks Mordor speech at the council — this seems to physically hurt the Elves present, and Elrond criticizes Gandalf for it. But Gandalf is trying to make a point, especially to Boromir, that the Ring cannot be used. Still, Boromir makes a speech after that asking to bring the Ring to his city, and use it as a weapon. The council really begins to break down after that. Frodo hears the Mordor speech in his head, sees the reflection of the arguing men, dwarves, and Elves in the Ring, then sees it consumed by fire. That is still a totally awesome shot! Frodo volunteers to take the ring. The Fellowship is formed.
End of Part One.
Part Two of the Extended Edition of The Fellowship of the Ring, picks up in Rivendell. Elrond talks to Aragorn of Narsil, the Sword that was broken, and Aragorn insists he does not want to wield its power. As before, we see Bilbo giving Sting, his Elven sword, and his Mithril mail shirt to Frodo. When Bilbo sees the ring on it’s chain, he attacks and looks very Gollum-like. Then Elrond well-wishes the Fellowship. Frodo is asked to lead the way. They walk out of Rivendell, in a very pretty and scenic shot of the Elven city. There are also several beauty shots of Middle-Earth / New Zealand, some of which are in the shorter version of the film, others are, I think added beauty shots with more music, that add to the scope and majesty of the film.
When the Fellowship tries to cross the Misty Mountains by using the High Pass, Boromir gets an extra line, “This will be the death of the Hobbits!” and there’s an insert shot of a very cold looking Merry and Pippin.
The Fellowship heads to Moria instead, and there’s a conversation between Gandalf and Frodo. There’s also more conversation between Legolas, Gimli and Gandalf as they try to figure out how to open the door to Moria. A tentacle from the creature in the water grabs Frodo, Sam slices off the tentacle with his sword and calls for Strider. Then Frodo is grabbed again before being rescued. The Fellowship heads into the mine. In the mine, Gandalf talks about the wealth of Moria being in Mithril, and the true value of Bilbo’s Mithril mail shirt which Bilbo has now given to Frodo (though Gandalf doesn’t know yet that Frodo is wearing the shirt). When looking into the depths of the Mithril mine, Pippin stops Merry from getting too close. Gandalf also tells Frodo Gollum’s name was Smeagol and his life was a sad story.
The Fellowship’s fight against the Orcs and the Cave troll is longer, and better edited. Merry, Pippin, and Sam all fight the Orcs as best they can. And Merry and Pippin, even kill one Orc together with a sword. Aragorn saves Boromir during the fight as well. Parts of the fight are the same, Frodo getting stabbed and collapsing, only to be ok, his life saved by the Mithril shirt.
But, eventually they are surrounded, then the Orcs run off when the Balrog appears. Gandalf explains exactly what a Balrog is. They run to the Bridge, and Gandalf’s fall is the same.
When the Fellowship reaches Lorien, they are first met by Haldir, who doesn’t want to let them pass. Aragorn convinces him to take them to Galadriel and Celeborn. The Fellowship reaches the Elvish city, which is beautiful, full of flickering lights, and multi-level platforms in the trees.
The conversation between the Fellowship and Galadriel is more specific and longer. Legolas tells her Gandalf was taken by shadow and flame, a Balrog. Galadriel addresses Gimli, specifically.
After the conversation between the Fellowship and Galadriel and Celeborn, the Fellowship is resting on a platform in the trees. Legolas, remarks on the lament to Gandalf, and Sam tries to add a verse of poetry about Gandalf’s fireworks.
Immediately after the scene with Galadriel’s mirror, she shows Frodo her Elvish ring, one of the Three.
When they leave Lorien, by boat, the gift-giving scene is longer, and most of the members of the Fellowship receive a very useful gift. Sam is given Elven rope (in the book he also received a box of soil and a Mallorn tree seed — which comes of use later when the Hobbits return to the Shire). Merry and Pippin receive Elven daggers. Legolas gets a new bow. Gimli mentions later to Legolas that he asked for a hair from Galadriel’s head, and she gave him three. Frodo gets the light of Elemmire, “to use in dark places”. Galadriel tells Aragorn she can’t give him any greater gift than that which Arwen already has, though she names him “Elessar”, or “Elfstone”. All are given boats, Lembas bread, and new grey Elven cloaks with finely wrought clasps of green leaves with silver veining.
At the landing, at the end of the long river journey, Boromir and Aragorn have another conversation, and Aragorn swears he will not lead the Ring within a hundred leagues of Boromir’s city. Also, at the landing there’s more of a discussion of options, and Aragorn growing in his leadership. Frodo uses the Ring to escape Boromir and sees the Eye, then he removes the ring. Frodo’s used it three times in Fellowship — accidentally at Bree, at Weathertop when the Dark Riders / Nazgul attack, and here at the Landing place.
There some added bits to the fight sequence with Saruman’s Uruk-hai at the end, and we do see Merry and Pippin kill an Orc before being captured. Aragorn also kills the head Uruk-hai. Finally, in terms of added scenes, we see Boromir being “buried at sea” so to speak, his body placed in a boat and sent towards the Falls.
The extended edition adds moments — a line here, a scene there, that overall just add to the film by building character, and bring more richness, majesty, and intensity to the film. Also, more from the book is included, some of which, such as Galadriel’s gift-giving is very important, since they items are used later on in the story.
Recommendation: See it! And if you can only buy one version of LotR, make it this extended edition.
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Next Film: LotR: The Two Towers (4-Disc Extended Ed.)