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 Fellowship of the Ring (2 Disc)

  • Title:  Lord of the Rings:  The Fellowship of the Ring (2 Disc)
  • 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, 2-Disc Theater Version

“Nine rings were given to the race of men, who, above all else, desire power.”  — Galadriel, spoken intro.

“History became Legend, Legend became Myth…” — Galadriel, spoken intro.

“Why do you fear the past?  You are Isildur’s heir, not Isildur himself.”  Arwen to Aragorn

“It was pity that stayed Bilbo’s hand.  Many that live deserve death.  Some that die deserve life.  Can you give it to them, Frodo?  Do not be too eager to deal out death and judgement, even the very wise can not see all ends.”  Gandalf to Frodo

Peter Jackson magnificently visualized J. R.R. Tolkien’s classic three book work, The Lord of the Rings.  I have both the theatrical 2-disc version and the 4-disc extended version of all three films, so I will be watching them all (first the 2 discs then the 4 discs).  I also watched “Fellowship” on Thursday, but then Friday and this morning were super-busy so this is the first time I’ve had to sit down and write.  I’m a fan of the original books, having found The Lord of the Rings in my junior high school library and reading it for the first time.  I then tended to re-read it about every three years or so.  The books and the films are excellent.  Peter Jackson did not have an enviable job — having to satisfy two distinct groups with his films — fans of the books, some of whom knew every single detail of the books intimately (Not to mention the Tolkien scholars in various disciplines) but also movie-goers who may have never read the books.  This is a hard path to tread.  Yet Jackson succeeded in making incredibly movies.  And I, like others who know the books can nitpick the films.  But I will try to leave my nitpicking for later.

The Fellowship of  the Ring is a beautifully shot film.  New Zealand perfectly plays the part of Middle Earth and the scenery is gorgeous!  The filming really feels like a love letter to New Zealand, and in a story where sense of place is important, it’s great to have such a special place to film.  The film is also perfectly cast, with some unusual choices.  In fact, many of the actors in the film, though experienced, were virtual unknowns — or hadn’t done much for years.  I remember when I heard about the film and the cast — I think the only ones I’d heard of were:  John Rhys-Davies, Cate Blanchett, and Sean Astin (whom I knew as Patty Duke’s son and a child actor).  But having a, for the most part unknown cast, and a cast of character actors, makes it easier for the viewer to imagine and picture the actual characters.  The music by Howard Shore is also gorgeous!  I have all three soundtracks on CD, and on my iPod and I still listen to them.

The opening, with narration by Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) is particularly well-done and serves as a crash course introduction to the history and mythos of Lord of the Rings, drawing in material from The Simarillian, The Hobbit, and even the appendices of LotR.  It’s an excellent piece of film-making because it draws you in, at once, while at the same time providing needed background information without which, especially someone new to the story would be completely lost.  After the introduction, the film slows a bit, showing us the Hobbits, who are preparing for a major party.  This is one departure in the film from the books.  In the book, not only is it Bilbo’s birthday (he’s 111), but it is also Frodo’s birthday (he’s 33, the Hobbit age of maturity, when they can inherit).  Bilbo literally disappears, returns to his home at Bag End, and decides to go off on a holiday, to see the Elves again and finish his book.  Gandalf, who had attended the party, meets Bilbo and insures that he leave behind the Ring he had obtained from Gollum.  Gandalf asks Frodo to keep the Ring safe, but never use it, and says he must do research.

Now in the books, another twenty years or so pass, in the film the time jump is, understandably, not that long.  Gandalf returns and sends Frodo and Sam to Bree, promising to meet them there.  Gandalf  has warned Frodo to stay off the road, and that Ringwraiths are on his trail.  Gandalf goes to see Saruman, only to discover the Wizard has turned evil and to get himself  imprisoned. Meanwhile, Frodo and Sam meet up with Merry and Pippin, two more Hobbit friends of theirs (who had also attended Bilbo’s party). They are confronted with Ringwraiths, but manage to escape.  At Bree, they discover Gandalf has not arrived, and they meet Strider (aka Aragorn), a Ranger.  Aragorn takes them out in to the wild, heading for Rivendell.  At Weathertop, Ringwraiths attack again, and Frodo is wounded.  The group continues on, meeting Arwen, and there’s a mad rush to get to Rivendell, with Ringwraiths following.

At the Ford, Arwen carries Frodo across, the Ringwraiths follow, and when they enter the water, Arwen says a spell which causes the water to rise, forming white horses to counter the black horses of the Riders.  The Ringwraiths are stopped but not destroyed.  Frodo then wakes in Rivendell, an Elvish city, with his friends around him, including Bilbo.  Legolas, an Elf, and Gimli, a Dwarf, as well as Boromir from Minas Tirith in Gondor (the “White City”, so called because it’s made of white stone and marble), are also in Rivendell for a council to decide what to do about the Ring.

The sequence of the council is beautifully done, as each person begins to make a case for what to do with the ring (Boromir, for example, wants to take it to his city to use as a weapon against the enemy), before the council erupts in pointless bickering.  Frodo sees an image in the ring of the reflection of everyone arguing, being swallowed by flame.  Seeing this he announces that “I will take it,”.  This stops everyone flat, and Aragorn, Boromir, Legolas, and Gimli, all offer to help Frodo on his quest.  Sam leaps up from where he had been hiding and also insists on joining Frodo.  Merry and Pippin rush in also to join Frodo.  Gandalf joins the group as well.  Thus it is set, a fellowship of nine, to counter the nine Ringwraiths, and representing all the primary races of Middle-Earth (Elves, Dwarves, Men, Hobbits, Wizards).  They are The Fellowship of the Ring.

The journey begins with knowing they must somehow cross the great mountain range of the Grey Mountains.  First, they try going through a mountain pass, but are caught in a snow storm, partially caused by Saruman.  Given a choice between trying for the Gap of Rohan (which Gandalf says is guarded), and making for the Mines of Moria – Frodo chooses Moria.  This is not the best choice.  Outside the mines they are attacked by a fierce water creature (a cross between a Hydra and a giant spider), barely escaping and getting into the Mines, they discover a fierce battle has occurred.  But they must go through.  The group is attacked by Orcs and a cave troll and must run for the bridge of Khazud-dum. Though the bridge is cracked, and missing parts, and a Balrog (a fiery demon) lies in the deep below it, the group manages to barely make their escape.  However, Gandalf is pulled into the deep by the Balrog. After the horrors of  Moria, the Fellowship make their way to Lorien.  They rest and recover there, and are given gifts (the gift-giving is more elaborate in the books).  Frodo is tested by a vision in Galadriel’s mirror; and she is tested by the ring and passes the test.  They take Elvish boats down the Great River finally making a landing just above a waterfall.  Boromir tries to take the ring from Frodo, Saruman’s Uruk-hai attack, and the Fellowship is split apart.  Boromir, confesses to Aragorn what he’s done, Boromir seeks and gets absolution, but he’s also killed in the ensuing battle.  Frodo and Sam head off on their own to Mordor.  Merry and Pippin are captured by the Uruk-hai, and Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli will follow to rescue them.

Recommendation:  See it!
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  The Lord of  the Rings:  The Two Towers (2 Disc Theater Version)

Goldeneye

  • Title:  Goldeneye
  • Director:  Martin Campbell
  • Date:  1995
  • Studio:  United Artists (MGM)
  • Genre:  Action
  • Cast:  Pierce Brosnan, Sean Bean, Robbie Coltrane, Desmond Llewelyn, Samantha Bond, Judi Dench
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“If you think for one moment I don’t have the balls to send a man out to die, your instincts are dead wrong.  I have no compution about sending you to your death.  But I won’t do it on a whim.”  — M

“Need I remind you 007, that you have a license to kill — not to break the traffic laws.” — Q

Goldeneye is Pierce Brosnan’s first Bond film and he does a marvelous job — Brosnan plays to his strengths, giving Bond a core of steel and toughness, that isn’t all that nice.  With Brosnan’s portrayal –the charm, clothes, and air of sophistication are a thin veneer that, at best, covers an icy man.  The villainess in this film is Onatopp, a Russian pilot and assassin, who can kill men by squeezing them until they stop breathing.  Yet, she isn’t all that different than Bond — both are functioning psychopaths — Bond more functioning than Onatopp — who clearly gets off on violence and killing.

The Bond franchise re-invented itself  with Brosnan, bringing in Judi Dench as the new female “M” — and she has more balls than any previous M.  Dench is wonderful as the hard-hitting head of MI 6.  Samantha Bond is excellent as Moneypenny — able to give as good as she gets to Bond, and turning down his habitual offers. Desmond Llewelyn is back as Q, but fun and light-hearted.

The plot of the film involves a stolen Russian satellite weapon, an EMP-generator code-named, Goldeneye.  But unlike the cold-war plots of Bond vs. Russia or China — the first half of Goldeneye involves Bond trying to figure out who has the weapon.  Suspects include a Russian arms dealer named Janus, a runaway general, or the two programmers who escaped the disaster when the weapon was stolen and its base destroyed.  Bond eventually discovers Janus is none other than Alec — an old friend and MI6 agent who’s not dead as Bond thought but has gone rogue.  Alec’s working with one of the programmers from the Siberan installation.  Bond ends up working with the other one, a female computer programmer named Natalia.  She’s tough, smart, and although she sort of falls for Bond’s charms, she seems to know his involvement with her won’t be permanent.  They eventually end up in Cuba where Bond and Natalia destroy the satellite antenna and also cause the actual Goldeneye satellite to burn up in the atmosphere.

But it’s a typical Bond film in that there is plenty of action, vehicle chases, flying bullets, and gorgeous women.  The nice thing about this film is the women are all strong:  M, Moneypenny, Onatopp, Natalia  — none are just mindless pretty faces.  But at the same time, this isn’t some “feminst counter-strike” at Bond — the film hits all the line items one has come to expect from a Bond film.  It’s highly enjoyable, if a bit long.  And Pierce Brosnan is gorgeous.  Drop dead gorgeous.  Plus he’s talented and lights-up the screen, with presence and magnetism.

Recommendation:  See it!
Rating:  4 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Green Lantern:  Emerald Knights