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The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (film)

Peter Jackson’s LOTR trilogy continues with The Two Towers. All the key cast members of the original come back with a few new additions. The trilogy was shot back to back to back, so there is a definite sense of continuity.

The movie starts with a reprisal of Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) fighting the Balrog and follows his descent into the earth before transitioning into our main story. Frodo and Samwise Gamgee (Elijah Wood and Sean Astin) are continuing their trek into Mount Doom, while Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli (Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom, and John Rhys-Davies) are searching for the kidnapped Merry and Pippen (Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd).

Frodo and Sam are trekking along but they soon encounter Gollum (Andy Serkis), a creature who will do anything to be with the Ring. Frodo makes him swear an oath to take him in to Mordor to the Ring. Merry and Pippen have been kidnapped by a gang of Uruk-hai who were slaughtered by the Riders of Rohan. Merry and Pippen manage to escape into the Fangorn forest and they meet an Ent named Treebeard.

Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli are hot on the trail of the Uruk-hai who captured the hobbits. They run into Gandalf, who has been reborn into Gandalf the White following his epic battle with the Balrog. Now that Gandalf is back, he is able to free King Theodan of Rohan from a curse case by Saruman (Christopher Lee). Theodan is revived just in time to fight in an enormously one-sided battle that he is totally unprepared for.

Frodo and Sam are making decent progress with their trusty tour guide Gollum. But then Faramir (David Wenham), the younger brother of deceased Fellowship member Boromir, captures Frodo and Sam and decides to take the Ring back to Gondor.

Aragorn and Elven and Dwarven companions join King Theodan and the rest of the remaining Rohan warriors even though they face impossible odds. A few Elves show up to help the men against the orcs, but they don’t do much to prevent the inevitable onslaught of goblins. Just when all seems lost, Gandalf shows up with reinforcements.

Merry and Pippen have been chilling with the slow acting Ents and don’t make much headway. When all seems lost, they trick the elves into walking by Saruman’s pad and they see the destruction that he’s caused on the forest. They join the war and tear shit up and defeat Saruman.

Faramir has taken Frodo and Sam way out of the way and realizes that it’s not conducive to the plot and releases them. They continue their weary trek to destroy the one ring.

There is a lot going on and a lot of it strays from the novel. This is when Peter Jackson starts to take events from the second and third installments and use them interchangeably. Helm’s Deep is a major event in the movie and it’s just a plot point in the book. Frodo and Sam getting kidnapped by Faramir is tacked on for drama and to move key plot elements into the third movie.

The best part about the second movie is the addition of Andy Serkis as Smeagol/Gollum. He might have been CG, but he is a crucial supporting cast member. He could have been Jar Jar Binks, but he became a cinematic icon. Little kids are still spitting out their Smeagol screeches and Gollum growls.

This is a satisfying sequel. It sets things up perfectly for the final chapter. Because all the movies were filmed back to back, this has a definite transitional feel to it. This is a great movie and it made it cool to geek out.

Critically Rated at 15/17

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The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

The Lord of the Rings is the gold standard for epic fantasies. The Fellowship of the Ring is the first installment of the trilogy and introduces us to Frodo Baggins and the other occupants of Middle-earth. Peter Jackson cares a lot about the source material, and even though a lot of stuff is left out, the film captures the tone and feel of the book.

The movie begins with a little crash course in Middle-earth history. Back in the day, the Dark Lord Sauron made himself a ring that would give him the power to take over the world. There’s an epic battle with men and Elves and Prince Isilidur manages to defeat Sauron, and Isilidur decides to keep the Ring for himself. The Ring betrays him and he dies. The ring gets lost and forgotten for a few thousand years before the creature Gollum finds it and eventually a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm) gets his hands on it.

He has it for sixty years before he leaves it to his nephew Frodo (Elijah Wood). Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) finds out that the Ring is the Ring of Power, and that Sauron’s forces are trying to get it back. Frodo must take the Ring and leave the Shire. He sets off on this journey with his loyal gardener Samwise Gamgee (Sean Astin). Gandalf goes to consult with his wizard pal Saruman(Christopher Lee) where he learns that Sauron has dispatched the Nazgûl to find Frodo. He also finds out that Saruman is also working for Sauron and Gandalf gets taken prisoner.

Frodo and Sam are trying to make their way to Bree to meet up with Gandalf. They are joined by Merry and Pippen (Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd). The four hobbits are being perused by the Nazgûl, but manage to make it to Bree safely. Gandalf isn’t there to meet them, since he’s all captured and stuff, but they meet a ranger named Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen). Aragorn is an ally of Gandalf and he leads the hobbits to the Elven city Rivendell. Along the way the Nazgûl attack Frodo and stab him with a morgul blade. That’s bad. And if Frodo doesn’t get to Rivendell as soon as possible he will turn into a wraith. That’s bad. Luckily Aragorn’s Elf girlfriend Arwen (Liv Tyler) shows up to save Frodo’s life.

Frodo and his companions finally make it Rivendell. Gandalf is there and he explains how he escaped Saruman’s clutches. Uncle Bilbo is there too, and they get to have a little hobbit bonding time. Elrond the Elf (Hugo Weaving) puts together a council to determine what to do with the Ring. They decide their only course of action is to destroy the Ring by throwing it into the fires of Mount Doom, right in the heart of Sauron territory. Frodo puts it on himself to take the Ring, He is joined by Gandalf, Sam, Merry, Pippen and Aragorn. And Legolas the Elf, Gimli the Dwarf, and Boromir the guy from Gondor decide that they want to join the Fellowship of the Ring too. Orlando Bloom plays Legolas, John Rhys-Davies plays Gimli, and Sean Bean plays Boromir.

The Fellowship embarks on their journey, but Sauron and Saruman aren’t making it easy for them. They have to worry about spies and orcs and trolls.  Gandalf tries to fight a Balrog and ends up dying a little bit. The Fellowship keeps moving on, but the Ring corrupts Boromir and he goes a little crazy. He attacks Frodo and tries to steal the ring but Frodo escapes. And then the Fellowship gets attacked by the Urik-Hai. Boromir dies, Merry and Pippen get snatched, and the Fellowship is in shambles. Frodo decides that he must take the Ring to Mount Doom by himself. He sneaks away from the group, but Sam tracks him down and Frodo lets him tag along. It’s always better to bring a friend when you have to do something alone.

The movie does the book justice, but the book is better. The film leaves out a lot of characters (no Tom Bombadil?!?) and events. Everything gets condensed and simplified. There are a lot of differences between the book and movie, but this is more faithful to the source material than the second and third installments.

This is a great start to a great trilogy. A lot of stuff might be missing, but Peter Jackson takes you to Middle-earth. What he does show you is amazing. Tolkien’s world comes to life and it feels real. There is a sense of history, it makes the unbelievable believable.

Critically Rated at 15/17

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