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The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (film)

Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Ring trilogy is concluded in the final film translation of Tolkien’s masterpiece. The surviving members of the Fellowship are scattered all across Middle-earth and Sauron is preparing an all-out assault on mankind. This was the first movie since Titanic to make over a billion dollars and it won eleven Oscars. Not too shabby.

Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) and the faithful Samwise Gamgee (Sean Astin) are slowly but surely making their way to Mount Doom to destroy the Ring. Their treacherous guide Gollum (Andy Serkis) is leading them into a trap.

Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli (Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom, and John Rhys-Davies) find Merry and Pippin (Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd) chilling in the flooded ruins of Isengard. After a brief and happy reunion, Pippin picks up Sauruman’s palantír and Sauron invades his mind. Gandalf is able to deduce that Sauron will attack Minas Tirith and that Sauron thinks Pippin has the Ring.

Gandalf and Pippin head out to Gondor and try to warn Denethor, the Steward of Gondor and Boromir and Faramir’s dad. Gandalf recommends that he asks Rohan for help, but he refuses because he is stupid and stubborn. Pippin lights a beacon and Aragorn, Theodan and his Rohirrim answer the call.

Elrond (Hugo Weaving) briefly visits Aragorn and presents him with his sword, Andúril, and Aragorn accepts his destiny as Isildur’s heir. He also realizes that they don’t have enough warriors to fight Sauron’s forces. His only chance to find the King of the Dead and get all his ghost fighters to join his side.

There’s a huge battle at Minas Tirith. There’s tons of orcs and men and massive oliphants and CG fighting. It’s not looking good for Gondor, but then the Rohirrim show up and the battle continues. And then when it’s not looking good for Gondor and the Rohirrim, Aragorn shows up with the Army of the Dead and they win the battle.

Gollum is leading Sam and Frodo closer and closer to Shelob the giant hobbit-eating spider. Gollum manipulates Frodo into thinking that Sam wants the Ring for himself and that he can’t be trusted. Frodo tells Sam to fuck off and go home. Frodo keeps following Gollum and enters Shelob’s lair. The spider gets him and it looks like he’s pretty boned, but Sam shows up and fights Shelob off, but it looks like Frodo is dead. Some orcs come along, find Frodo, and it turns out that he’s just paralyzed and they take him to Sauron’s fortress. Sam manages to free Frodo, and the two of them continue their trek to Mount Doom.

Aragorn and a ragtag army make their way to the Black Gate of Mordor with the intention of distracting Sauron while Frodo destroys the Ring. Just as Frodo is about to throw the Ring into the fire, he gets attacked by Gollum. They struggle and fight and Gollum and the Ring are briefly reunited as they fall into the lava pit. The Ring is destroyed but the movie is not over.

This movie has like 5 endings. You think it’s over when Sam and Frodo get rescued by Eagles. But it’s not. You think it’s over when Aragorn gets crowned King. But it’s not. You think it’s over when everyone bows down to the four hobbits. But it’s not. You think it’s over when the hobbits finally get back home to the Shire. But it’s not. You think it’s over when Frodo finally leaves Middle-earth with the elves. But you aren’t sure. And you are relieved when the credits finally roll.

This movie has a lot of differences from the book. All that business with Shelob takes place in the second book. Aragorn gets his sword in the first book. There’s a bunch of stuff missing. But it’s a movie and not a book and the movies left shit out but they did the books justice by capturing the feel of them. It’s a satisfying conclusion to a great trilogy. It didn’t deserve all those Oscars though.

Critically Rated at 13/17

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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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