Star Trek: Into Darkness

  • Title:  Star Trek:  Into Darkness
  • Director:  JJ Abrams
  • Date:  2013
  • Studio:  Paramount
  • Genre:  SF, Action
  • Cast:  John Cho, Benedict Cumberbatch, Alice Eve, Bruce Greenwood, Simon Pegg, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoë Saldana, Karl Urban, Peter Weller, Anton Yelchin
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“…You misunderstand, it is true I choose not to feel anything as my own life was ending.  As Admiral Pike was dying I joined with his consciousness and experienced what he felt at the moment of his passing:  anger, confusion, loneliness, fear – I had experienced those feelings before, multiplied exponentially on the day my planet was destroyed.  Such a feeling is something I choose never to experience again.” — Spock

“Don’t agree with me Spock, it makes me very uncomfortable.”  — McCoy

The opening vignette of Star Trek Into Darkness has Kirk and McCoy disguised on a red Class M planet.  Kirk holds a scroll and is running away.  The Natives follow, throw spears at him and at McCoy, as well. However, Kirk’s actions had been a distraction, so the Enterprise‘s shuttle can drop Spock, in a fire suit  to drop a cold fusion device into the active and ready to erupt volcano to prevent the eruption and save the indigenous life on the planet.  Kirk and McCoy dive into the water to escape the natives, and board the Enterprise.  However, Spock is in trouble and could be killed.  Kirk and the Enterprise save Spock, but incur Star Fleet’s wrath at the flagrant disregard for the Prime Directive.

A mysterious man (Benedict Cumberbatch) offers to cure the ill daughter of a Star Fleet officer.  The officer soon discovers the price as he has to blow-up a Star Fleet Archive building.

Pike finds Kirk in a bar, and brings him back to Starfleet.  He asks Kirk to be his first officer, Kirk accepts, and Pike takes him to a gathering of all Starfleet’s captains and first officers to discuss the destruction of the Archive and Starfleet’s response to the terror attack.  Kirk, wonders, however, why anyone would destroy an archive, especially when the information held there is public record.  Just as Admiral Marcus, Pike, and Kirk are realising that protocol for an attack calls for just this occurrance – all the captains and first officers in one room, the room is attacked by a helicopter-like gunship.  (Because apparently Starfleet never heard the old adage about not putting all your eggs in one basket.)  Pike’s killed.

Admiral Marcus calls Kirk and Spock into his office, he offers Kirk the Enterprise again, and Kirk asks for, and is granted, Spock as his first officer.  But Marcus’s plan is chilling – not only does he want Kirk to track down “John Harrison” the ex-Starfleet officer responsible for the attack – he wants Kirk to kill him. Specifically, even though Harrison is hiding on the Klingon home world and an attack on the home world would lead to all-out war, he wants Kirk to hide in the Neutral Zone and fire a new long-range photon torpedo at the uninhabited province where Harrison is hiding and obliterate him.

Scotty quits when the torpedoes are loaded on the Enterprise, and the security detail with them refuses to tell him what the payload is.  Scotty fears an interaction with the warp core. Kirk accepts Scotty’s resignation.

During the trip to the Neutral Zone, however, Kirk has second thoughts (helped by his conversation with Scotty, and additional conversations with McCoy and Spock) about blindly following the orders of Admiral Marcus to kill Harrison rather than capture him.

Kirk decides rather than killing Harrison outright, Kirk decides to capture Harrison.  He will take a landing party, and using the transport vessel from “the Mudd incident” will land on the Klingon home world, capture Harrison, and return him to Earth.  Kirk, Spock, Uhura and a guard take the shuttle down.  Uhura attempts to reach an agreement with the Klingons who attack their ship and force it down.  She’s doing OK, when they are attacked.  The fire fight is chaotic, but a mysterious man rescues them.

Kirk brings this man, Harrison, to the Enterprise and locks him in the brig.  However, he soon learns from the man, that, as Admiral Marcus had pointed out, the Archive that was destroyed wasn’t an archive or library – it was Section 31 HQ, home to Starfleet’s secret military and spy organization.  Moreover, Harrison wasn’t simply an agent there as Marcus said.  Harrison is Khan, a genetically engineered superhuman, who, with 72 other similar super humans was sent from Earth many years ago.  Marcus found his ship, kept the crew in cryo-suspension, but revived Khan.  Seeing Khan as the brilliant warrior he needed, he gave him a new identity (John Harrison) and set him to work developing weapons for Starfleet.  Khan tells Kirk, he had no choice, Marcus held his crew hostage.  However, he rebelled against being forced to make weapons and to create a “militarized Starfleet” – which was Marcus’s dream.

Kirk isn’t sure how much of this he buys, but he’s keeping an open mind, deciding to bring Harrison/Khan to Earth to tell his tale.

It’s easier said than done, when two problems occur:  first, the Enterprise Engine Core leak, that had stranded the ship short of it’s warp point goal, is getting much worse, threatening the entire ship.  And second, Admiral Marcus has arrived and is he pissed off that Kirk hasn’t killed Harrison/Khan, talked to Khan, and might believe Khan.

From what Marcus says, it’s clear that at least some of what Khan has said is true.

However, Marcus beams his daughter Carol from the Enterprise to his own dreadnought-class ship  then attacks the Enterprise.  Kirk, who’s also heard from Scotty, who checked on some co-ordinates Khan gave him.  Khan convinces Kirk the only way to defeat the dreadnought is from within.  Scotty has hidden aboard the ship.  Kirk and Khan space jump to the other ship, using jets to maneuver.  During the jump, Khan saves Kirk’s life.  Scotty lets them in.

But on the bridge, Khan shows his true colors.  He wants revenge on Marcus.  Kirk tries to arrest Marcus. Khan kills him.  Kirk, Carol, and Scotty are transported to the Enterprise brig.  Spock had transported the torpedoes to the dreadnought.  However, the torpedoes were primed and blow the ship.  Khan escapes. Khan’s crew, the 72 cryo tubes are in sickbay on the Enterprise.

However, the Enterprise is in trouble – the damage to the warp core is so bad the ship is dying and about to crash into Earth.  Kirk and Scotty try to fix the ship, but the engine core is mis-aligned, and can’t be fixed because of the radiation in the compartment.  Kirk goes into the compartment to fix it.  He succeeds and saves the ship but is dying from radiation poisoning.  Spock pulls the ship out of it’s dive.  Scotty calls him and asks him to come down. He goes, and in a reverse of Star Trek II:  The Wrath of Khan, it’s Kirk who dies and Spock who must watch. Their fingers even touch on the glass separating them.  Spock screams, “Khan!”.

Khan, meanwhile tries to crash his ship into Starfleet HQ and misses (He does destroy the Great Fire Memorial in San Francisco though.)  Spock chases down Khan, ready to kill him for killing Kirk.  Uhura stops him – McCoy’s realised that Khan’s blood can save Kirk, because of it’s regenerative abilities.

This works, and Kirk Lives.  One year later, Kirk re-dedicates the new Enterprise, reciting “the Captain’s Oath”, which we know as the opening to classic Star Trek.

JJ Abrams directs Star Trek:  Into Darkness at a breakneck speed.  The film moves, extremely fast – so fast, it’s hard to keep up with it at times.  However, the film also has it’s moments.  Harrison, as played brilliantly by Benedict Cumberbatch, is brilliant, from lone terrorist, to scientist who’s work is poached for weapons, to revenge-seeking madman, each of Khan’s roles is well played.  I avoided all spoilers when this movie came out last year, even the name of Cumberbatch’s character – so I was surprised to find out that “Harrison” was Khan. I enjoyed the film in the theater and enjoyed watching it again yesterday.  The film is fun, and the cast is excellent.  I really do like Pine, Quinto, and Urban.  And Cumberbatch played a multi-faceted villain with relish and even, at times, compassion.  Peter Weller was scary-good as the villainous Admiral Marcus.

Though not too much – because even if Marcus had cold-bloodily killed Khan’s crew, Khan’s attacks would have been over-kill.  The film, like the best Star Trek episodes and films raises questions. Questions about the power of the military, questions about the ability for news events to be shaped, and public opinion to be manipulated.  And it’s Kirk’s noted ability to stand against the rules and go with his gut that save him and his crew.  Kirk is willing to follow rules and regulations as needed, but he won’t stand by and watch a planet die because of them – nor will he kill a criminal who should rather be put on trial.  It’s a enjoyable rollar-coaster of a film, with a bit more to it, and I liked it.

Recommendation:  See It!
Rating:  4 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Star Trek VI – The Undiscovered Country

Star Trek (2009)

  • Title:  Star Trek (2009)
  • Director:  J.J. Abrams
  • Date:  2009
  • Studio:  Paramount Pictures
  • Genre:  SF, Action
  • Cast:  John Cho, Bruce Greenwood, Ben Cross, Simon Pegg, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Winona Ryder, Zoë Saldana, Karl Urban, Anton Yelchin, Eric Bana, Leonard Nimoy, Chris Hemsworth, Jennifer Morrison
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“Emotions run deep within our race – in many ways more deeply than in humans.  Logic offers a serenity humans seldom experience, the control of feelings, so that they do not control you.”  — Sarek

“Your aptitude tests are off the charts so what is it?  You like being the only genius-level repeat offender in the Midwest?  ….  But you feel like you were meant for something better.  Something special.  Enlist in Star Fleet.”  — Christopher Pike

“Damn it, man, I’m a doctor, not a physicist.  Are you actually suggesting they’re from the future?”  — McCoy
“If  you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” — Spock, quoting Sherlock Holmes (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

Abrams’ re-boot of  the Star Trek franchise re-casts everyone with a very, very young command crew. However, this crew, barely graduated from Star Fleet Academy, earns their stripes in the midst of disaster and war, so one can forgive how young and inexperienced they really are.  Moreover, the film emphasizes the immediate connection between Kirk and McCoy and the somewhat more difficult road to friendship between Kirk and Spock.

The film opens with a bang, when George Kirk’s ship is attacked by the Romulan, Nero.  George manages to evacuate the ship and protect the unarmed and unshielded shuttles by fending off Nero’s attack, but he loses his life in the process.  However, his wife survives the attack and James Kirk is born. Yet, we don’t see Kirk’s mother again.  A few years later, young James Kirk is a hellion – borrowing a car before he can really drive, driving fast and hard, and then destroying the car and nearly himself. Meanwhile, Spock undergoes typical Vulcan training – a enriched media multi-tasking experience where students are tested in individual pods.  However, he is also taunted by his school mates.

We next meet Kirk as a young 20-something (probably between the ages of 18 and 24), a townie who goes to a bar near Star Fleet’s recruitment center to pick up women.  This doesn’t go well when a couple of bruisers from security beat him to a pulp.  But he does meet Christopher Pike who gives him a different view of his father’s death.  Kirk decides to join Star Fleet.

Spock also, is at a turning point.  He’s accepted into the Vulcan Science Academy, but when the acceptance committee remarks that it’s “amazing” how well he’s done despite his “handicap” of being half-human, Spock turns down the position and instead joins Star Fleet.

Back at the academy, Kirk is preparing to take the Kobayashi Maru test for the third time.  The “no-win scenario” test is built as a test of character.  Kirk manages to win by changing the parameters of  the test.  He’s brought up on charges of cheating.  But before anyone can do anything, an emergency distress call is received from Vulcan.  All cadets are sent out on ships to assist.  Kirk, McCoy, Uhura, Spock, Chekov, and Sulu all end-up on the newly-built Enterprise, under Capt. Pike.

Arriving near Vulcan, the Enterprise encounters Nero.  As before with the USS Kelvin, Nero attacks, then invites the Captain onto his ship.  Pike, who did his dissertation on the loss of  the Kelvin, knows he’s walking into a trap, but also knows there’s nothing else to do.  But he has Kirk, Sulu, and an Australian space jump to a drilling platform the Romulans have placed on Vulcan that is also blocking transporters and communications.  The Australian dies, but Kirk and Sulu manage to shut off the transporter / communications blocking and stop the drill itself.  They are rescued, but it’s too late for Vulcan – the Romulans have injected Red Matter which will turn the planet into a Black Hole.

When Spock realizes this he beams down to Vulcan to rescue the Elders of his planet, including his parents. He rescues Sarek and a hand full of others, but Amanda is killed.

After this tragedy, Spock is understandably a little off-balance, and he falls back on calm logic — ordering that the Enterprise rendezvous with the rest of the fleet in order to plot their next move.  Kirk argues vehemently that they must do something to stop Nero, that they have no time to return to the fleet per standing orders.  Spock over-rules him, and then kicks him off  the ship via a life-pod.

Kirk lands on a frozen planet and encounters an unconvincing CGI monster (the only sequence in the entire film I didn’t like) then takes shelter in a cave. There he meets Spock Prime and learns the plot. Far in the future, Spock had been tasked with using Red Matter to turn a Supernova into a Black Hole and thus saving the planet Romulus.  But, he was too late and Romulus was destroyed.  Nero saw the destruction, went berserk and decided to make Spock suffer by destroying Vulcan.  He time-traveled back to the past, destroyed the USS Kelvin, and twenty-five years later Spock arrived, having followed him through the Black hole.

But what shocks Spock more than anything else is that Kirk can’t stand Spock’s younger self and that Spock can’t stand Kirk.  Spock gives a hint of  what their friendship means through his mind-meld with Kirk (while also explaining what’s going on).  They leave the cave and hike through the snow to a Star Fleet outpost and encounter Scotty.  Spock gives Montgomery Scott the equation for Transwarp Beaming, which Scott discovered, thus creating a non-invention paradox.  (EG — If  Scott discovered it but hasn’t yet, and Spock gave him the info to discover, which he then discovered – then where did the equation come from?)

Kirk and Scott beam onto the Enterprise, and Kirk provokes Spock into an emotional reaction to take him out of command.  He then orders a direct warp to Earth.  At Earth, Nero is using the drill to attack near San Francisco (home of Star Fleet) and destroy Earth with Red Matter.  Kirk and crew stop him and rescue an injured Pike.

Upon returning to the Academy, Kirk is given command of the Enterprise, and Pike retires.  Kirk’s crew will include Spock as first officer who is convinced to do so by Spock Prime and Scotty.

I loved this film when I first saw it, and I still love it now.  Karl Urban is a wonderful, angsty Bones McCoy, still smarting from his divorce, though they changed the origin of Kirk’s nick-name for him.  Chris Pine mimics Shatner’s body language, but gives us an edgier Kirk, still smarting from the loss of his father. Quinto’s Spock is much more emotional, especially after the loss of his mother, a parent he was quite close to.  It’s interesting that in Abrams’ re-imagining of  Star Trek – both the principles have lost a parent. When I saw this film in 2009 I wanted a sequel, and it looks like one might be coming in 2013, we’ll see.

This film also has some wonderful special effects sequences in space – the space dock, the launch of  the Enterprise and other ships, even the destruction of Vulcan are all realized well.  And I liked all the classic characters:  Sulu and Chekov are both great, the classic trio of McCoy, Kirk, and Spock, though young and new at their jobs, are already showing the hints of great friendship, and Scotty is amusing and promising.  Uhura has been updated to be confident, bright, and an expert in xeno-linguistics.  She’s also having an affair with Spock, but you can’t have everything.

Recommendation:  See it!  Highly Recommended.
Rating:  Five out of  Five Stars
Next Film:  Star Trek II The Wrath of  Khan

LotR The Return of the King (4 Disc Ext. Ed.)

  • Title:  Lord of the Rings The Return of the King (4 Disc Ext. Ed.)
  • Director:  Peter Jackson
  • Studio:  New Line Cinema
  • Genre:  Action, Drama, Fantasy
  • Cast: Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Ian Holm, Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom, John Rhys-Davies, Liv Tyler, Hugo Weaving, Ian McKellen, Andy Serkis, Bernard Hill, Mirando Otto, Karl Urban, David Wenham, John Noble
  • Format:  Widescreen, Color
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC, 4-disc Extended Edition

“He’s always followed me.  Everywhere I went, since before we were ‘tweens.  I would get him in to the worst sort of trouble, but I was always there to get him out.  Now he’s gone.  Just like Frodo, and Sam.”  — Merry

“One thing I’ve learned about Hobbits, they are most hardy folk.”  — Aragorn

“Take heart, Merry, it will soon be over.”  — Eowyn
“My Lady, you are fair, and brave, and have much to live for and many who love you.” –Merry

For complete summary of The Return of the King, see review of the two-disc edition, here I will highlight the differences and added scenes in the extended edition.  Again, the added scenes make the film richer, and more enjoyable, though unlike the other two extended editions, many, though not all, of the “new” scenes are extensions to the battle and fight scenes in the film.  Or new battle scenes altogether.  However, there is more characterization, and Merry and Eowyn get additional scenes and dialogue which is most welcome.

Return of the King is a magnificent film.  It is a truly wonderful film.  The heart of the film is the emotional journeys of the characters, which are now fulfilled in the third and final chapter of The Lord of the Rings.  Tolkien’s book is loved by so many, including myself, because not only are there a lot of characters, but those characters each have an important and interesting journey to take — and they each have a part to play in the story.  In adapting the books to film, I think many directors would have been tempted to only show us Frodo and Sam’s story — and that might have been okay, heck it might have even been fine; but such a film would have lacked the richness of the books.  Peter Jackson choose to adapt all the story lines of the books — and allowed each of the major characters to have their stories and for them to be completed.  That makes these films masterful.

Now on to specifics about the Extended Edition.

The prologue scene of Smeagol murdering Deagol to get the Ring, seems longer.

Gandalf, Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas, with Theoden and Eomer, ride through Fangorn forest, which now lies between Helm’s Deep and Isengard, to Isengard.  Merry and Pippin, at Isengard, talk a bit more about Longbottom Leaf pipeweed and ale.

There’s a confrontation between Gandalf and Saruman.  Saruman has the Palantir.  Gandalf breaks Saruman’s staff, casting him from their Order of Wizards.  Theoden asks Grima to give up his loyalty to Saruman, and return to Rohan as a loyal subject.  Grima stabs Saruman in the back, and he then falls to his death, landing on his back on his own machinery which crushes him.  The Palantir falls from his hand and then Pippin sees it and gives it to Gandalf.

I like this better than in the shorter version of the film, where Gandalf simply leaves Saruman and Grima in his tower (a line added to the film in ADR, when the above scene was taken out).  Saruman’s death at Orthanc is closer to the book, than merely leaving him there.  In the book, he and Grima escape, after Grima throws the Palantir at Gandalf and Company, and Saruman is responsible for the Scouring of the Shire.  However, Saruman does meet his end at Grima’s hands, who stabs him in the back.  If the filmmakers were determined to drop the Scouring of the Shire, for there own reasons, some of which were sound (partially it was a matter of time), then actually showing the death of Saruman is considerably more satisfying than just saying “we’ll leave him in his tower” and that’s that, and the general audience has no idea what happened to him.

In  Rohan, at the celebration feast/wake for the fallen warriors, Gimli and Legolas have a drinking game, and Merry and Pippin sing and dance.  However, during the Hobbits’ song, there’s a pause as Pippin looks at Gandalf.

During the Smeagol/Gollum discussion in Ilthilien, Gollum flashes back to killing Deagol.

Pippin looks into the Palantir, and his separation from Merry is still heart-breaking.  However, not only does Merry climb to the top of one of the watchtowers to watch Gandalf and Pippin leave, he talks to Aragorn of what his cousin means to him, that Pippin always followed him.

The introductory flyby shot of  Minas Tirith is breath-taking, and the city is very beautiful.

Pippin flashes back to Boromir’s death, when Denethor mentions that he knows his son is dead.  Pippin offers his service and explains Boromir was pierced by many arrows defending his kinsman and him.  Denethor claims Lord and Kingship, saying he will not bow to the Ranger from the North (e.g. Aragorn).

Gandalf explains what’s happened in Gondor, where the stewards come from.

Frodo talks to Sam of not coming back.  Sam encourages him that they’ll go there and back again, like Bilbo.  They reach the Crossroads, and see the statute of the king, with it’s Orc pumpkin-head like thing.  The proper head of the statute is on the ground a few feet away, covered with a crown of flowers.  A beam of light hits the flowers, making them shine like a crown of gold, this heartens the Hobbits.

I loved that scene in the book — the description of  the crown and the sun, and the way it gives hope to Sam and Frodo, is very beautiful and meaningful.  I was so disappointed it wasn’t in the shorter version of  the film when I saw it in the theater, so I was very glad to see it here in the extended cut.

Sam threatens Smeagol, basically saying he will kill him if anything happens to Frodo.

Gandalf tells Pippin there’s an opportunity for the Shirefolk to prove their great worth, when sending him to light the beacon.

Faramir is with his guard in Osgiliath, and his aide-de-camp tells him of sending out scouts to the north.  Then we see Orcs on boats.  Faramir takes his men to the river to attack the Orcs. Faramir and his men fight the Orcs with swords.

Then we see Pippin lighting the beacon, and the beacon fires going one by one to Rohan.

Merry offers his service to Theoden King, who accepts it, naming him Esquire of Rohan.

Gimli talks to Legolas, wishing he could bring a legion of Dwarves to the battle.

More of Faramir’s battle in Osgiliath.  He begins to call for retreat to Minas Tirith, and a Nazgul attacks.  They make a run for it.  Faramir’s aide-de-camp (or second in command) is killed.  Gandalf rides out, with Pippin, to challenge the Orcs and Nazgul and help Faramir’s men safely get to Minas Tirith.

Denethor criticizes Faramir about sending the Ring with Frodo to Mordor.  Faramir states he wouldn’t use the Ring. Faramir tells Denethor, Boromir would have used the Ring and been corrupted — they wouldn’t know him.  Denethor has a vision of Boromir standing near Faramir.  Denethor kicks Faramir out of his chamber.

The Witch-King orders the Orc Captain to take the city and kill them all.

The men of  Gondor ask Gandalf  if  Rohan will come.

Pippin wonders what he’s done, offering his service.  He meets Faramir who tells him the armor he’s wearing was once his own.  Faramir talks to Pippin of Boromir, Pippin tells him he has strength of a different sort.  Then we see Pippin formerly swear loyalty to Denethor, and the service of the guard in Gondor.

Cuts to Sam, Frodo, and Gollum sleeping.  Gollum throws away Lembas, the Elven waybread, setting up Sam.  Frodo sending Sam away is heartbreaking.

The men of Gondor leave the city, at Denethor’s order, women throwing flowers — it’s a very mournful scene. Gandalf tries to stop Faramir —  Faramir states this is the City of the Men of Numenor and he will die defending it.

Then Denethor asks Pippin to sing, and Pippin’s song is still intercut with Faramir’s men riding out to a hopeless battle — where they are all going to get killed.

The shorter version tightens up the editing of this sequence, but keeps Pippin’s song and the intercutting between that, Denethor stuffing his face, and Faramir and company riding out to their doom.  The slightly shorter, more tightly edited version is actually better, even though it makes sense that Gandalf would try to stop Faramir.  Gandalf can’t succeed at that, and Faramir must prove his loyalty.

During the muster of Rohan, Eomer talks to Eowyn of war, but you can see in her eyes it hasn’t dissuaded her.

Aragorn has nightmares of Arwen dying.  As he wakes from the nightmare, a messenger asks Aragorn to see Theoden. Elrond comes to Aragorn, talks to him of the Oathbreakers in the mountain, gives him Anduril, the Flame of the West, the re-forged Narsil.  Elrond also encourages Aragorn to become king.

Aragorn tries to dissaude Eowyn from her plans.  Then he, Legolas, and Gimli take the Paths of the Dead.  Legolas talks a bit more in detail of the prophecy that the heir of Elendil, who shall come from the North, will call on those who are Dead to fulfill their Oaths.

There’s a quick shot of the Orcs marching on Minas Tirith.

Legolas sees ghosts of men and horses under the mountain. There are mists of ghosts near Gimli, Legolas, and Aragorn. There are skulls in the cave. They reach the cavern where Aragorn asks for the allegiance of the dead. There are more shots of the dead army. Aragorn raises Anduril, summons the dead, commands them to fight for their honor.

There is an avalanche of skulls.  Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas leave the path and see the Cosair ships. Aragorn seems completely defeated. Then, the dead King arrives, swearing they will fight.

Injured Faramir is returned to Gondor. The heads of the rest of his men are flung into the city by Orc catapults. Pippin realizes Faramir is still alive, no one listens.

Denethor begins to break, blames Theoden for betraying him.

Gandalf leads the battle, the battle begins in earnest. The battle is longer. Pippin makes his way to Gandalf, saves him from an Orc and is ordered back to the citadel by Gandalf.  (This was in the shorter edition).

The Orc Captain orders that Grond, the flaming Wolfshead ram, be used to break the city gate.

End of  Part 1

Part 2

Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli meet the Corsair ships. Aragorn denies them passage. The dead attack the ships.

Smeagol leads Frodo into Shelob’s lair.  Frodo tells Smeagol he must destroy the Ring for both their sakes. Smeagol attacks Frodo and falls down a cliff.  Frodo continues on through the pass of Cirith Ungol.

The men of Rohan gather at the camp.  Eomer reports the scouts say Minas Tirith is surrounded, the lower levels in flames.  Eowyn and Merry talk, he tries to raise her spirits.

Flaming stones or rocks are sent into Minas Tirith.

One flower blooms on the tree in Minas Tirith — despite Denethor saying Gondor is lost.

Denethor argues it is better to die soon rather than late, for ‘die we must’; then he calls for wood and oil to burn himself and his son.

Gandalf  is still commanding Gondor’s soldiers.

But when Gandalf and Pippin return to the citadel to confront Denethor and rescue Faramir they are stopped by a Nazgul, the Witch-king.  Gandalf’s staff is broken.  Pippin starts to charge and then stops  — the Witch-King leaves at the sound of the horn of Rohan.

I’m glad this scene WASN’T in the shorter version of the film, and it makes no sense here.  It also slows down the sense of urgency to rescue Faramir.  I mean, seriously, Denethor is already in the midst of commiting murder and suicide — Pippin and Gandalf need to get there quickly to stop it.  Saving Faramir is one of Pippin’s great heroic scenes, breaking it up isn’t necessary and actually lessens the tension rather than adds to it.  Also, as powerful as the Witch-King is, he shouldn’t be able to break Gandalf’s staff — only another Wizard can do that, and the only other one left is Radagast the Brown who’s never seen in the films, and is barely mentioned in the books. (There are meant to be five Wizards, but the remaining two aren’t even named).

Gandalf and Pippin do, though, get into the tomb. They are unable to rescue Denethor, but Pippin saves Faramir.

Back to the Battle of Pelennor Fields, which the men of Rohan have joined. There are more Oliphaunts and men of Haradrim in the Battle, and it’s more complex and longer.

Merry fights in the Battle, and Eowyn fights the Orc Captain.

Then the Nazgul arrives, attacking Theoden.  Eowyn goes to defend her Uncle and King, and her fight with the Witch-King is longer.  Merry gets the first strike on the Witch-King, then Eowyn stabs him with her sword through the head, destroying him.  Thus the Witch-King, whom “no man can kill” is destroyed by a woman and a Hobbit.

The ships arrive, but it’s Aragorn and his army.  Note that in the films this is just the Army of the Dead, who make short work of any orcs and evil men still alive in the Battle of Pelennor Fields. In the book, the Battle is even bigger, and involved even more variety of forces than just Gondor and Rohan — Aragorn brings with him Dunedain from Dol Amroth in Belfalas.

Aragorn and Legolas defeat the Orc Captain that Eowyn was fighting before she was distracted by a Nazgul.

King Theoden’s dying speech to Eowyn is longer.

After the battle, Pippin first finds Merry’s Elven cloak.

Eomer finds Eowyn and screams.

We see Eowyn in the Houses of Healing and Aragorn acting as a healer. He succeeds in healing her, and she also meets Faramir there and they fall in love.

Pippin searches for  Merry, finally finds him. Pippin swears to take care of his older cousin.

In a departure from the book, rather than also being brought to the Houses of Healing, where Aragorn heals him, Merry rides with Pippin and the rest of the company to the Black Gate to provide a distraction so Frodo and Sam can get to Mt. Doom.

Insert shot of Sam approaching the tower where Frodo is held.  There is also a tiny bit more dialog between Frodo and Sam as they enter Mordor.

Aragorn challenges Sauron in the Palantir in Minas Tirith, shows his sword.

Aragorn sees Arwen, and the Evenstar pendant falls and breaks on the marble floor.

Faramir courts Eowyn.

Frodo and Sam are forced into a line of Orcs that marches for the Black Gate and are whipped.  Frodo has Sam start a fight and they are able to escape.  They start to climb up the slopes of Mt.  Doom. Frodo talks of the weight of the Ring.  They dump the extra armor.

At the Black Gate, the Mouth of Sauron shows Frodo’s mail.  Pippin cries, and Gandalf  is near to crying himself. Aragorn decapitates the Mouth, and says he will not believe it.  Eomer with Merry, Gandalf with Pippin, and Aragorn return to the line as the army of Orcs appears.

Aragorn gives his awesome Men of the West speech.

Gollum attacks Frodo and nearly kills him. Gollum bites Sam. Frodo runs up the side of  Mt Doom alone.

Aragorn goes down at the Battle before the Black Gate.

Screen blacks out as Frodo says, “I’m glad to be with you, Samwise Gamgee, here at the end of all things,” before Gandalf comes to the rescue with the Eagles.

The end is the same as in the shorter version, as is the Fate of the Ring.  But the film is satisfying, though long. The break between part one and two is welcome and helpful. I even found myself watching some of the extra features immediately after seeing the film yesterday because I wanted more — which is the same feeling one gets when reading the books. I really think Peter Jackson did the best he possibly could. The cast is absolutely brilliant. New Zealand is the perfect place to use for filming Middle-Earth. The effects, including new ones developed for the films are top-notch, but seamless — one doesn’t sit in a movie theater or at home watching the films thinking, “oh, what a nice special effect”.  Great care was given in adapting the novels, and though one can quibble about this or that, I think Peter Jackson did the best he could, and created a nearly perfect adaptation and visualization of the books.

Film is a different medium than the written word, and that changes how storytelling is done.  Also, hopefully, many of the films’ legions of fans picked up and read the books, or re-read them if they had read Lord of the Rings before.  Overall, I can’t complain too much because I really, really love the films, and the books as well.

Recommendation:  See it!  If you can add both versions of Return of the King to your DVD Library, but if you must choose only one, choose this one.
Rating:  5 of 5 Stars
Next Film:  The Majestic

LotR: The Two Towers Ext. Ed. (4 Disc)

  • 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

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)

Lord of the Rings The Return of the King (2 Disc)

  • Title:  Lord of the Rings The Return of the King (2 Disc)
  • Director:  Peter Jackson
  • Date:  2003
  • Studio:  New Line Cinema
  • Genre:  Action, Drama, Fantasy
  • Cast: Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Ian Holm, Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom, John Rhys-Davies, Liv Tyler, Hugo Weaving, Ian McKellen, Andy Serkis, Bernard Hill, Mirando Otto, Karl Urban, David Wenham, John Noble
  • Format:  Widescreen, Color
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC, 2-disc Theater Version

“Young Master Gandalf, I’m glad you’ve come.  Wood and water, stock and stone I can master.  But there is a wizard to manage here.”  — Treebeard

“From ashes of fire shall be woken,
A Light from the Shadows shall spring,
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be King.”  — Arwen

“A day may come when the courage of  men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of  fellowship — but it is not this day! An hour of wolves and shattered shields when the age of men comes crashing down — but it is not this day!  This day we fight!  By all that you hold dear on this good Earth, I bid you stand — Men of  the West!”  — Aragorn

I truly loved re-watching this movie.  Yes, Return of the King is long, but it never seems to drag the way The Two Towers does in parts.  All the high points of the novels are there and perfectly visualized.  The film is a masterpiece of storytelling both visually and verbally, with another excellent score by Howard Shore.

The film opens with Smeagol and Deagol fishing, Deagol is pulled into the water and finds the ring. Smeagol is immediately taken with it, and at first asks Deagol to give it to him as a “birthday present”, then kills Deagol and takes it.  Quickly the audience is filled in on Smeagol’s sad story.

Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli arrive, with Gandalf, at Isengard — only to find Saruman’s tower destroyed and Pippin and Merry sitting on a field of victory, enjoying the spoils of  battle. Pippin catches a quick glance of the Palantir, one of the Seeing Stones of Gondor, and then hands it to Gandalf at his request. Later the group returns to Rohan.  That night, unable to sleep, Pippin has to see the Palantir again, he takes it from Gandalf and looks into it — and is attacked by Sauron.  Sauron mind-rapes the Hobbit, but Pippin is able to hide his knowledge about Frodo.  Pippin is shocked senseless by the attack.  Aragorn is able to take the Palantir from Pippin, and Gandalf questions the young Hobbit, and realizes he gave away no information.  Gandalf  takes Pippin to Gondor and Merry remains in Rohan.  Watching Merry and Pippin being split apart is heart-breaking.  This scene of Pippin being attacked via the Palantir is in the novel, The Two Towers, and I must admit I was upset when that scene didn’t appear in that movie. However, it is perfectly visualized here and Jackson doesn’t ease off or wimp out in showing the true horror of what’s happened to Pippin.  I definitely liked the way this important scene was shown.

Minas Tirith in Gondor looks perfect!  And it is truly gorgeous, and very detailed.  The “fly-by” hero shots are particularly breath-taking.  In Gondor, Pippin ends up in service to the Steward, Denethor, and the Guard of the Citadel. Gandalf has Pippin light the signal fires, to ask for aide from Rohan, and the scene is truly awesome!  I especially liked the calling out of the names of the mountain peaks.  King Theoden decides he will respond to aid Gondor — but it will take him a few days to muster his troops.  Meanwhile, Aragorn will take a darker road with Gimli and Legolas, The Paths of the Dead.

Osgiliath falls, and is taken by Orcs, Faramir barely escapes and returns to his father, Denethor. Denethor belittles his son, and tells him he wishes Faramir had died instead of Boromir.  Pippin is shocked at this, then Denethor sends Faramir on a fool’s errand, with a small cadre of troops Gondor cannot afford to lose — to re-take Osgiliath.  Faramir agrees to follow his father’s foolish command.  After Faramir leaves, Denethor orders Pippin to sing while Denethor stuffs his face with food.  Pippin sings a sad song of mist, shadow and night.  This scene is intercut with Faramir’s men leaving Gondor, the women throwing flowers before them, and the slaughter of Faramir’s men.  It is sad and depressing. Pippin breaks into tears as he watches Denethor and realizes what is happening.

The injured Faramir is brought back to Minas Tirith by his horse and let into the city.  The Orcs then fling the severed heads of  the rest of his men into the city using catapults.  When Faramir is brought to Denethor, he puts on quite a show of his “sorrow” at the death of his son.  Pippin realizes Faramir is still alive but no one will listen.  Denethor, now totally insane, decides to burn himself and his son alive. Pippin gets Gandalf to stop this.  While Gandalf tries to talk sense to Denethor, Pippin saves Faramir.  Denethor burns himself alive. (In a slight twist from the book, rather than burning in the tomb, Denethor, alight, runs from the Citadel and leaps from the walkway.  It’s not stated outright, but part of what drove Denethor mad was the use of a Palantir).

Meanwhile, Sam and Frodo, with Gollum as guide, continue their southbound journey.  Gollum leads them to the winding stair, but causes a division between the two.  Frodo sending Sam away, away home, is heart-breaking.  Sam soon realizes Gollum’s played a trick, and follows.  He fights and kills Shelob (the giant spider), but finds Frodo dead.  He sees Sting turn blue, and hears Orcs coming — and hides.  Upon hearing from the Orcs that Frodo isn’t dead, merely poisoned, he follows the Orcs as they take Frodo to Minas Morgul.  When Frodo wakes, the Orcs are fighting over his clothes.  By the time Sam gets there, nearly all the Orcs are dead, he’s able to fight off the last few, and Sam rescues Frodo.  Frodo’s panicked because he thinks the Ring is gone, but Sam returns it to him.  They find Orc armor, and leave, entering Mordor, and walking towards Mt. Doom.

Back in Gondor, at Minas Tirith, the Orcs, Nazgul, and other servants of Sauron are attacking the city. The White City is in lockdown, though Gandalf spurs on the men, organizing the fight.  Pippin gets involved, briefly, in the fighting, before Gandalf sends him back to the Citadel.  Just as it seems all is lost, Rohan arrives, and helps fight the Orcs.  Eowyn, dressed as a man, carries Merry, whom Theoden had also forbidden to fight, on her saddle.  The Nazgul Witch-King attacks Theoden, who is subsequently crushed by his horse, Snowmane.  Eowyn, in anger, chops the head off the Nazgul’s flying beast.  She challenges the Witch King, who boasts that he can be killed by no man.  Eowyn removes her helmet and responds, “I am no man!” before stabbing him.  Merry, seeing Eowyn in danger, also stabs the Witch-King, then screams in agony.  The Witch-King dissolves, but both Eowyn and Merry collapse.   It was a perfect visualization of one of my favorite scenes in the books.

A fleet of ships arrive, and at first it seems all is lost.  But it’s Aragorn, leading the Oathbreakers, ghosts from under the mountain, with Legolas and Gimli.  (In the books, his fleet also included allied men from several nations).  Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas join the fight, and the dead dispose of the rest of the Orcs and Sauron’s minions.  It is a fantastic battle.   In it’s wake, Pippin finds Merry on the battle field, but he is injured and will recover.  After the battle, the remaining members of the Fellowship, along with Eomer of Rohan, discuss what to do, knowing Frodo still has a journey ahead of him.  They decide to create a diversion by riding out to the Black Gate.

There is much intercutting between the battle before the Black Gate, and Sam and Frodo’s final journey up Mount Doom.  I hesitate to mention exactly what happens to the Ring, in case anyone hasn’t seen this absolutely brilliant movie or read the books, but it was handled pefectly.

The Eagles, who had previously rescued Gandalf  from Saruman’s clutches at Isengard, rescue Sam and Frodo and bring them to Minas Tirith.  The four Hobbits, and the remaining members of the Fellowship meet again.  Aragorn is crowned king by Gandalf, and Arwen is made his bride.  And thirteen months after setting out for their adventure, the four Hobbits return to the Shire.  Sam marries Rosie Cotton, and Frodo finishes his part in writing his adventures down, before passing the book to Sam.  The Hobbits accompany Frodo to the Grey Havens where he leaves on the Grey ship with Gandalf, Elrond, and Galadriel, and all the remaining Elves (save Legolas, probably — who’s off on a sight-seeing tour of  Middle-Earth with Gimli).

Again, though long, Return of the King, is an excellent movie.  I absolutely love it.  There is as much pure emotion as action in this film, and in all three films.  And considering the scope of the books, and the films, it’s really amazing what Peter Jackson was able to accomplish.

Recommendation:  See it!
Rating:  5 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  The Fellowship of  the Ring (4 disc extended edition)

Lord of the Rings The Two Towers (2 disc)

  • Title:  Lord of the Rings:  The Two Towers (2 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
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“Maybe he does deserve to die, but now that I see him, I do pity him.”  — Frodo, to Sam, About Gollum

“The women of this country learned long ago that those without swords can still die upon them.  I fear neither death nor pain.”  — Eowyn
“What do you fear, my Lady?”  — Aragorn
“A cage.  To stay behind bars until use and old age accept them.  And all chance of valor has gone beyond recall or desire.” — Eowyn
“You’re a daughter of kings, a shield-maiden of Rohan, I do not think that will be your fate.”  — Aragorn

“The fires of Isengard will spread — and the woods of Tuckborough and Buckland will burn.  And all that was green and good in this world will be gone.  There won’t be a Shire, Pippin.”  — Merry

The Two Towers begins with sound clips from the previous film in the series, The Fellowship of  the Ring, rather than a more traditional voice-over such as was used in the first film.  The sound clips remind the audience of the Fall of Gandalf  and quickly segue to Gandalf’s battle with the Balrog and his reappearance as Gandalf the White (previously he was Gandalf the Grey).  The film moves back and forth between three stories:  Merry and Pippin who have been captured by Saruman’s Uruk-hai;  Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli who follow, trying to rescue the two young Hobbits, but end-up involved in the troubles in Rohan; and Frodo and Sam’s journey to Mordor (they quickly acquire Gollum as a guide).

Merry and Pippin’s story is really well realized, as is the story of Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli.  Even Frodo and Sam’s journey through the Dead marshes and to the Black Gate was well done (but see nitpick below).  The Gollum/Smeagol conversations were perfect!  It was almost like there was two different creatures.  I also loved Treebeard, and seeing some of the other Ents at the Entmoot.

When reviewing these films I said I wouldn’t nitpick, however, The Two Towers is the most nitpickable of the three films.  Many fans of the books scream about the Elves arriving to help defend Helm’s Deep.  I can actually justify the artistic license there — it was that or actually show that the Elves were busy themselves defending Lorien from three attacks by Sauron.  What I found almost unconscionable was why, oh why, especially when the movie is so long anyway, did Peter Jackson use a big chunk of the movie to have Faramir bring Frodo and Sam to Osgiliath, where Frodo is attacked by a Nazgul?  The flying Nazgul are in the books, but Faramir, in contrast to Boromir, defies the short-sighted orders of his father (Denethor, the Steward of Gondor) and provides food and shelter to Frodo and Sam — then lets them go.

However, I loved how Treebeard was brought to the screen, and Merry and Pippin’s part were well done. The destruction of Isengard is one of  the best scenes in the movie.

And the battle at Helm’s Deep does look really cool.  It brings to mind movies such as Henry V, and classic medieval-style strategy games like Warcraft.  We see all sorts of Medieval battle techniques — seige ladders, a barrista, a battering ram.  And it’s both a scary, and an exciting battle.

Frodo and Sam’s journey is also well done — at least we don’t get singing Orcs.  The Gollum/Smeagol dialogs are incredible and almost make you believe you are seeing two different creatures.  I didn’t like the “ring-as-a-drug” thing, because that seemed too simplistic.  And I really didn’t like Frodo being dragged to Osgiliath, for no other reason that to give Sam another opportunity to say a speech.

Still, the film is gorgeous.  The filming is incredible, and the vistas are also beautiful (or dark and treacherous) and breath-taking.  The music is even better than the last film, especially the Rohan theme, which I just loved.  Overall, I really liked the film.

Recommendation:  See it!
Rating 5 or 5 Stars
Next Film:  Lord of  the Rings:  Return of the King