Justice League Throne of Atlantis

This Review includes SPOILERS.

  • Title:  Justice League:  Throne of Atlantis
  • Director:  Ethan Spaulding
  • Voice Director:  Andrea Romano
  • Date:  2015
  • Studio:  Warner Brothers Animation
  • Genre:  Animation, Action, Fantasy
  • Cast:  Matt Lanter, Sean Astin, Rosario Dawson, Nathan Fillion, Christopher Gorham, Shemar Moore, Jerry O’Connell, Jason O’Mara, Sumalee Montano, Sam Witwer, Sirena Irwin, Juliet Landau, George Newborn, Khary Payton
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  Blu-Ray

“Not all heroes wear capes.” – Sub Captain

“Death by collateral damage in a surface war does not comfort me. They kill our race, they poison our oceans, they will destroy this planet and take Atlantis with it. We must protect our people and attack!” – Prince Orm (aka Ocean Master)

“You speak to me of betrayal – you who spilled Atlantean blood and blamed it on the surface world! I have eyes everywhere Orm and you will pay for your treachery!” – Queen Atlanna

“This coup is over!  I am Queen and war is not in my plans!” – Queen Atlanna

I really enjoyed this DC Animated Feature — and it’s the first time in several DC Animated films I’ve been able to whole-heartedly say that. Although technically a Justice League movie, Throne of Atlantis really concentrates on the character of Arthur Curry and his journey to becoming Aquaman, and part of the New 52 Justice League.

The teaser for the film has a sub near the Marianas Trench responding to an SOS call. The sub is attacked and all aboard are lost. Cyborg is called in to investigate, and he calls in the rest of the Justice League.

Meanwhile, a middle-aged man is in a seaside bar in Maine, getting drunk and sharing his troubles with a live lobster in a tank. The bartender cuts him off the booze. When the same bartender takes the lobster out of the tank to make it into someone’s dinner – the man, Arthur Curry, gets in a fist-fight. He’s very strong and a good fighter, despite being drunk. He rescues the lobster, keeps in in his vest, then escapes outside. Defeating several guys from the bar who attack him again, as well as one man armed with a knife, Arthur releases the rescued lobster, sans rubber bands on its claws, back into the ocean.

Cyborg holds a meeting of the entire Justice League, with Flash convincing everyone to show up, though it’s Green Lantern who brings in Batman. Once everyone arrives he shows him the information about the attack on the sub. Wonder Woman recognizes the writing on the weapons as Atlantean. Shazam (Captain Marvel, Billy Batson) suggests contacting an expert in Atlantis and it’s lore. Superman and Batman go to investigate.

Meanwhile, Arthur Curry is living in his father’s lighthouse.

Prince Orm, in league with Black Manta, confronts Queen Atlanna, his mother, whom he blames for his father’s death. His father, the king was warlike and was considering a war plan to “cleanse” the surface dwellers. Atlanna, by contrasts, wishes to abandon their isolationist practices and contact the surface to broker a peaceful co-existence. Atlanna sends Meara to find Arthur, her older son.

Black Manta talks to Dr. Shin, the expert on Atlantis, on the phone, then sends his troops after the scientist. Dr. Shin arrives at Arthur’s door to give him some information about his father. Arthur is very hung-over and takes awhile to get to the door, he agrees to let Dr. Shin in, but when he closes the door to take the chain bolt off, Dr. Shin is attacked and killed by Manta’s troops. At the same time, Black Manta’s troops, under orders from Prince Orm, attack and kill Atlantean farmers.

Meara rescues Arthur from Manta’s troops. She takes him to Atlantis and sees the dead villagers who have been attacked.

Superman and Batman investigate Dr. Shin’s lab – but everything’s been destroyed. They find enough to lead them to Arthur Curry.

Prince Orm uses the attack on the Atlantean villagers to stir up hatred and war. Queen Atlanna tries to arrange a meeting between herself and the Justice League. Meara explains to Aquaman that he is the son of Queen Atlanna and a human, his father, Thomas, this sequence uses flashbacks. Meara shows Arthur his armor. He wears the orange and green body suit but not the outer armor.

Meara and Arthur are attacked by Trenchers (sea creatures). The Flash arrives to help Arthur and Meara. A few minutes later, Green Lantern, then the rest of the Justice League arrive to help.

Prince Orm, who shares his dead father’s hatred of the surface world, again confronts his mother, Queen Atlanna. However, she knows he was behind the attack on the farmers, and she insists they will not go to war. He kills her – then blames her death on a surface dweller. Orm and Manta will lead the Atlanteans to war.

Arthur and some Justice League members go to Atlantis. They meet an old woman who says the city is empty because Queen Atlanna is dead, at the hands of a surface dweller, and Atlantis prepares for war.

Arthur, Meara and the League investigate, and run into Orm in his Ocean Master uniform. He brags that he killed his mother, the Queen. He then uses the Trident, the symbol of royal power and a powerful weapon, to attack and imprison the League.

Meanwhile, Batman, the Flash, and Shazam who have stayed behind get an alert that a tidal wave is heading for coastal cities, including Metropolis.

Arthur uses his royal power to break out of the cocoon Orm trapped him in, then uses his telepathic power to call sea creatures to help. He gets the Leaguers free and defeats the sea monster guarding them. Arthur also rescues Meara.

A tidal wave heads for Metropolis, the National Guard arrives, and sirens go off in the city causing panic. An Army General orders the Atlanteans, led by “King” Orm to stand down. Orm orders his troops to attack. The army attacks back. The entire League joins the fray, both those who had gone to Atlantis, and those who had stayed on the surface, including Aquaman and Meara.

The League keep getting defeated in battle. Finally, Batman finds Cyborg and reboots his systems. He finds out from Cyborg that Orm killed Atlanna. Cyborg has computer recordings of this. He plays the recordings a couple of times to the Atlantean troops. When Orm claims it’s a trick, Meara backs up the recording, swearing it’s a true depiction of what happened. The Atlanteans lay down their arms and stop fighting.

Arthur makes a speech that he will guide his people. A little while later, Arthur is “knighted” as king, takes his place as ruler and king of Atlantis. The League meanwhile decide they need to meet on a regular basis, and Arthur is invited to join the League as Aquaman.

I really enjoyed this film. It’s an origin story for Aquaman and explains how he became part of the Justice League. The film also had some great touches – the flashback scene of Arthur and his father when Arthur realises he can swim underwater without difficulty and he also sees his mother, the flashbacks explaining the ill-fated romance between the Atlantean Princess Atlanna and Thomas Curry, and my favorite – the scene at the beginning of the film of Arthur pouring out his heart and troubles to a lobster in a tank, then rescuing the lobster.

The Justice League are not the real stars of this film – it’s Aquaman’s movie. But they are all present, and they do have things to do. I also felt each character was in character and their individual tasks and actions suited their characters.

Overall the film was highly enjoyable and it’s highly recommended.

Recommendation:  See It!
Rating:  4 out of 5 Stars
Next film:  The Third Man

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Justice League War (Origins – New 52)

  • Title:  Justice League War 
  • Director:  Jay Oliva
  • Voice Director:  Andrea Romano
  • Date:  2014
  • Studio:  Warner Brothers Animation
  • Genre(s):  Action, Fantasy, Animation
  • Cast:  Sean Astin, Christopher Gorham, Justin Kirk, Michelle Managhan, Shemar Moore, Jason O’Mara, Alan Tudyk, Ioan Gruffudd
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  Blu-Ray

“They don’t like us much!” – Green Lantern (Hal Jordan)
“The world’s afraid of us.” – Batman
“You say that like its a good thing.” – Green Lantern (Hal Jordan)
“It’s necessary.” – Batman

“Superman’s close, I’ve been tracking his flight path.” -Batman
“Pfft, on what?  Your own satellite?” – Green Lantern (Hal Jordan)
[pause, as Batman checks an electronic gadget]
“I was kidding.  You have a satellite?!” –  Green Lantern (Hal Jordan)

With Justice League War Warner Brothers Animation moves from creating animated DC Comics films based on classic Silver Age (and early modern age) DC Comics, to making films based on the New 52.  Justice League War is a perfect case in point, as it is based on the graphic novel Justice League Volume 1 Origin (which is, in turn, really just a compilation of issues 1-6), written by Geoff Johns, penciled by Jim Lee, and inked by Scott Williams.

The first time I watched War I was impressed, the animation is good, and I felt the story did what it needed to do – introduce a big enough threat to bring together all seven superheroes who, until that time, had only been working in their own respective cities. These heroes, including new hero, Cyborg (Victor Stone) must over-come their distrust and fear of each other and learn to work together to overcome Darkseid, his Parademons, and his lieutenant, Desaad.

However, the second time I watched this, last night, I was considerably less impressed. Yes, the animation is gorgeous. And it’s nice to see older DC elements, like mother box and boom tubes, brought back. And if one needs a really big threat, it doesn’t get much bigger than Darkseid. Yes, this is essentially a re-boot. And, DC Comics, has rebooted it’s universe before.  They’re somewhat famous for it, actually. Personally, I actually started reading DC Comics when they re-booted the universe after Crisis on Infinite Earths. That was a great time to start reading comics – everything was new, you didn’t need to know the long complicated history, even the books started at number 1. I imagine, now, there are people who did the same thing for New 52 – they started there, and don’t know (or care) about the Silver Age and post-Crisis on Infinite Earths books I read and loved in college (just like when I started reading DC I didn’t care if a story was set on Earth 16 or Earth 2 or whatever). And that is perfectly OK. I see no need to rain on their parade.

But, as a fan of the Post-Crisis on Infinite Earths era, I really don’t like New 52. There, I said it, I don’t. Justice League War, especially on repeat viewing, is a perfect example of why I don’t like New 52. War, is, as the title suggests – full of battles and wisecracks. I’ve watched other DC animated films (Justice League:  Doom is a perfect example) where I also felt there was too much of an emphasis on fights and not enough on character – but at least in Doom, there is character. And, it’s the flaws in the characters that are exploited and must be overcome that are central to the plot. That keeps me riveted to the screen. But in Justice League War, not only is the majority of the film fight scene after fight scene, but the characters are pretty much stereotypes – not the DC characters we know and love. Hal Jordan, rather than being a man who knows no fear (and intergalactic police officer for the Green Lantern Corps) is reduced to “the one with the funny quips and lines”. Barry Allen, the Flash, is “the one who’s the nice guy next door”. Wonder Woman is the overly naïve “little girl” type. Superman is “the angry one”; I mean, seriously – Was that even supposed to be Clark Kent? Because he sounds like Young Justice‘s Conner Kent. Billy Batson (Shazam), well, actually, he’s got the same “little kid in a big body” quality he’s always had – but then, that is what he’s supposed to be. Cyborg is”‘the new guy”. And even Batman is “the only one who knows what’s going on / the parent”. These aren’t our much-loved characters – they are stereotypes. Even in the last line of the film, Wonder Woman describes her fellow heroes as iconotypes by comparing them to the Greek gods. (Jung would call these archetypes and it is a fair and valid comparison.) But I found the lack of real character a major disappointment. Creating great characters, not only the major characters, but the minor characters, has always been a strength of DC Comics. I feel New 52 falls short of the mark. Though this is an origin film, and it’s always possible that there will be improvement as the series develops.

Justice League War also cuts frequently from scene to scene as the various heroes fight Parademons in whatever city they happen to be in, before joining together to fight Darkseid, Desaad, and more Parademons. And in fighting together, the seven Justice League (a term never used in the film) founders, do learn to work together. They do learn that cooperation is very important, as is teamwork.  Perhaps the series will improve.

Recommendation:  See it, if you want to stay up to date with New 52
Rating:  3 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  The Prestige

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)

LotR: The Fellowship of the Ring (4-disc Ext. Ed)

  • 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

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.)

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