Photosets – The Shire, LotR

I think in his heart, Frodo’s still in love with the Shire. The woods, the fields, little rivers.

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

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

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)