How I'm going to be able to pull this review off in my standard, 10-paragraph format is beyond me, but I'll try my best. I mean, basic plot for this chapter is "everybody fights", as this chapter is essentially the climactic sequence of the original story... and Smaug was still more memorable. I still remember at the time, wondering how they could possibly pull off a full movie based on the Battle of the Five Armies (the actual battle). They did pull it off, but was it worth it?
In the last chapter, Smaug was brought down by Bard, and the dwarves, Balin (Ken Stott), Dwalin (Graham McTavish), Bifur (William Kircher), Bofur (James Nesbitt), Bombur (Stephen Hunter), Fili (Dean O'Gorman), Kili (Aidan Turner), Oin (John Callen), Gloin (Peter Hambleton), Nori (Jed Brophy), Dori (Mark Hadlow), Ori (Adam Brown) gained a new King Under the Mountain; Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) of Erebor. However his greed, and lust of the Arkenstone end up driving him a bit mad with something referred to as Dragon Sickness.
In the meantime, all hell has broken loose outside the mountain's walls, as a battle between dwarves, elves, and men against orcs, goblins and feral creatures rages on. In the midst of battle, basically everyone is involved. While Gandalf (Ian McKellen) battles alongside Bilbo (Martin Freeman), Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) certainly hold their own, showing us some pretty sweet moves. This once again solidifies how creative a fighter Legolas is. In other areas of battle, we also have Bard (Luke Evans) and the oh so cowardly Alfrid (Ryan Gage), Thorin's awesome cousin, Dain (Billy Connolly) and elf King, Thranduil (Lee Pace).
The "dark side", so to speak, is lead by Azog (Manu Bennett) and his brutish son, Bolg (John Tui). While all of this is going on, Thorin is being somewhat of a coward, himself, sooner suggesting the dwarves fortify themselves deeper within their tunnels. Dwalin has a word with him, however, that seems to snap him back into focus, and this chapter opens with he dwarves joining the battle, and the other dwarves rallying behind him. As for the rest of it, well, as I mentioned before, "everyone fights". I make it sound more boring than the whole thing is though. Truth be told, the Battle of the Five Armies is one of my favourites, if for nothing else, its sheer creativity.
A few things stand out in this battle for me, and hopefully fans reading this will know what I'm talking about for some of it. One thing I really had fun with was Balin piloting a sled with a few others on it, guided by a bunch of goats (or at least, goat-like creatures). This also has (although it was in the last chapter) one of the best panoramic war shots I've ever seen. It's a great visualization to illustrate that all hope without the dwarves was becoming lost. You just hear destruction, see fire, and feel the weight of it all. It's very effective. But for as much as I love this fight, there is one scene that does genuinely bother me.
At one point (not to spoil too much), we see Thorin reunite with his cousin, Dain, in the midst of battle. The pair have time to hug, have a pause, and even have a conversation while war is all around them. Being that these two characters in particular seem to have marks on their heads (especially Thorin) it makes NO sense that no one is trying to kill them while they are distracted. These are orcs for crying out loud, and to kill Thorin would be like cutting the head off a snake. Instead, we get Thorin heading out to take care of Azog, which Gandalf also refers to as cutting the head off a snake.
On top of that, one thing I feel I should point out is, for as cool as their fight scenes are, Legolas and Tauriel (especially Legolas) take a sort of front seat here. Thorin and the dwarves are driving the car, but Legolas definitely called "shotgun". Bear in mind, he's not at all a part of the book. For that matter, neither is Tauriel, and I start to see at this point, everyone's problem with her. She really IS kind of there to serve as an unnecessary love interest, despite the fact that she can certainly hold her own in battle. I have mentioned before that I like seeing more of this world, but at this point, the movie has kind of made the story its own thing. Granted, without doing that, the film would be pretty boring. But I do get why fans of the book take issue.
All in all, 'The Battle of the Five Armies' is a weird one for me to review. To make things perfectly clear, I still really like it, but it's no 'Desolation of Smaug', or even 'Unexpected Journey'. For as much as they added to those, the main story was pretty much the same, save for a few small liberties (namely the Kili-Tauriel thing). This one actually (as far as I recall) takes liberties with things that go as far as character deaths. While this is probably for dramatic purposes, once again, I can see where people would take issue with it.
In truth, I probably should have re-read the book before getting into all of this, because it has been a number of years. There's plenty I do remember, but I also confess that SOME mentions of how the film differs from the book may not be 100% accurate. If so, do feel free to correct me on any of it. Having said that, I think it's interesting that I have a sort of "comfort zone" thing that goes with the book that I didn't get from these movies. However, 'Lord of the Rings' is the opposite - the book is long, tedious and boring, but the movie is exciting... That's just personal opinion though. I can't deny that the book remains a classic work of literature to this day. But 'Rings', I feel like I can watch as an annual tradition. I don't really get the same feeling with the 'Hobbit' films. In fact, this is my first watch-through of any of them since they were in theaters.
So there it is! My final review of the past couple of months of Tolkienism is finally complete, despite the fact that it was difficult to reach these 10 paragraphs, and admitting to using a lot of character names for filler. However, I think it's fairly appropriate to name everyone in the final review if I can. These were a great bunch of movies to revisit, but it is definitely a marathon of viewing. I did 'Rings' first, but I might just as soon suggest doing 'The Hobbit' first, as it quite literally ends at the beginning of 'Rings'. These films won't be for everyone, but I would implore one to release their inner geek, and give them a try. It's all a fun, fantasy adventure that will remind you to get your daily steps in with all the walking.
And now for a recap that's hopefully not as long as my recap on the 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy, taking up almost the entire review. The wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) recruited a Hobbit named Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) to be the burglar of a mission involving a band of dwarves, seeking to reclaim their homeland; Erebor.
Erebor, being rich in gold and jewels, was taken by a vicious dragon named Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch), and if the dwarves can best him, they can reclaim their kingdom. Above all else, the dwarves' leader, Thorin (Richard Armitage), wishes to find the Arkenstone, which will give him the power to take back his throne, and rule as king under the mountain. Along their journey, the party encounters several perils, and we get to see Bilbo's relationship with the One Ring begin, complete with a solid Gollum (Andy Serkis) cameo.
Eventually, the party is separated, as Gandalf tends to what seems to be an uprising of evil. Fans of 'Lord of the Rings' pretty much get that once Bilbo has the ring, all of the pretext to 'Lord of the Rings' is set into motion, and the extra content makes for a worthy on-screen connection to Peter Jackson's masterpiece. However, bear in mind that in the original book, almost none of this stuff is referred to, save for Bilbo actually finding the ring. Anyway, eventually the dwarves and Bilbo get to Erebor, and face-off against Smaug, ultimately angering and unleashing him onto the nearby lake town of Esgaroth, giving us the end of the last film.
Well-worth mentioning for the films is the introduction of an elvish character named Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), and the comeback of Legolas (Orlando Bloom) who also have nothing to do with the book, and seem to be a purists worst nightmare when it comes to these movies. Tauriel can be seen as a bit too much, and Legolas is straight up fan service. Tauriel also has a completely unnecessary love-interest thing going on with Kili (Aidan Turner), which isn't overboard, but does feel crowbarred into the film, and meant to point out that the film understands what interracial couples are. I personally don't mind her, but I do understand where the overall criticism lies with her character.
Back to plot, as the film opens, we see the destruction of Esgaroth (also referred to as "Lake Town") as Smaug attacks. An imprisoned Bard (Luke Evans) breaks free, and uses a black arrow to kill Smaug almost before the movie even gets going. And there we have my first real complaint. For as exciting as the scene is, I was surprised it wasn't a little more drawn out, since the ending of the previous film seemed to spell certain doom. So trust me when I say the movie to see for Smaug is 'Desolation'. Smaug's body crushes the master of Lake Town (Stephen Fry), and Bard becomes the new leader, using his position to move his people into the nearby ruins of Dale (which was destroyed by Smaug a long time ago).
Meanwhile, Gandalf has been captured by dark forces, and held captive in Dol Guldur, where he was searching for answers about the upcoming darkness. The Nazgûl (the eventual Ring Wraiths) and a faceless Sauron, being his captors, soon face off against the most powerful characters in Middle Earth, Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), Elrond (Hugo Weaving) and Saruman (Christopher Lee). Although they are successful in their fight, and Gandalf is freed, a struggle is had, nevertheless, foreshadowing once again the upcoming events of 'Lord of the Rings'. But focusing on this, let's go back to Erebor. Thorin has become incredibly possessive of the mountain's treasure, and still searches for the Arkenstone, which Bilbo actually has found and has in his possession.
A greedy sickness comes over Thorin, very reminiscent of Gollum's behaviour in 'Lord of the Rings'. In hearing that Lake Town residents are moving into Dale, he even order the entrance to the mountain sealed off. Now, just to be clear, this basically gives us our first two armies, consisting of men and dwarves - the dwarves soon joined by Thorin's cousin, Dáin (Billy Connolly), and the men soon joined by a whole elf army (and the third army), lead by Thranduil (Lee Pace). Thranduil is there to reclaim treasure "owed" to him by former Dwarf King, Thrór, and Bard wants Thorin to share his treasure with the now homeless people of Lake Town, with Thorin refusing to cooperate.
Eventually we get our fourth and fifth armies in the forms of the Orcs and Goblins, lead by Azog (Manu Bennett) and his son, Bolg (John Tui) as well as their dark creatures (including giant bats and wolves), and a huge chunk of the movie involves marching and fighting. As for the characters of Tauriel and Legolas, they are still here, but don't do much else than watch things from a distance, seemingly making their roles even more unnecessary than before. There's another not to Kili's desire for Tauriel, but that's about it. The biggest focus here is the fight. And, knowing how the book ends, one kind of wonders why this needed a full movie.
I still say this could have been done in a solid two films, but I've also said that I like the "extra", as opposed to some 'Hobbit' purists. I've said it before and I'll say it again; I get to see my favourite book with extra scenes, featuring this magical world. But even with that said, it does feel weird to have a full movie dedicated to this. Although this does, fairly, represent a good third of the book, I don't feel that enough really happens to grant a full film. Heck, one whole chapter is his journey home, which is basically a long walk and reminisce.
While 'Desolation' had its fair share of "extra", I have to say that I found it's "extra" more appealing overall than what's added to this. The idea that they made a whole movie (and even an extended cut of it) out of Smaug's attack, the Battle of the Five Armies, and a return trip (which we'll see in the next chapter) makes this feel altogether unnecessary, but does give me the impression that Jackson wanted to leave this all with a real "bang". However, there's only so much he can do here, and the film is largely eye candy, lacking a bit of the overall heart and quality that previous films have given. This chapter's fun and all, but as this ends and you know what's left of the book, the time makes you ponder what they will do to fill in those gaps.
'Desolation' is already my favourite of the 'Hobbit' trilogy, but I have to say that I have a very special place in my heart for Part 2, specifically. And I might add that I think this is an area where adding really makes it better. This part focuses mainly on Smaug; the dragon everyone, including myself, came to see. I still remember being excited at the voice-casting for him. Not so much because it was Benedict Cumberbatch (which was a great choice), but just the fact that they were going to let him talk.
If there's one thing I truly appreciate about the 'Hobbit' films, it's that they manage to give it that fairy-tale whimsy while maintaining the darkness the 'Lord of the Rings' films carried with them. It still manages to feel like it's the same world, but when you read 'The Hobbit' and follow it up with 'Lord of the Rings', it takes a gigantic leap between "children's epic tale of adventure" to "look how much detail I can put into a thousand some-odd paged book". And truly, I believe that's what Jackson was trying to do - bring the worlds together so it all makes sense, hence the addition of varying material.
When we last left our troop, the dwarves, along with Bilbo (Martin Freeman), had just arrived in Lake Town, smuggled in by a man named Bard (Luke Evans). Heading the party, Thorin (Richard Armitage) promises the people of Lake Town that they can yet see better days, if they help them on their journey to reclaim Erebor. They are helped, but once again, I'm gonna be getting into some specific groups, as Kili (Aidan Turner), at the very least, must stay behind, as he's been injured and poisoned by a Morgul shaft. His brother, Fili (Dean O'Gorman) stays behind with him, and they are also joined by Bofur (James Nesbitt) who got too drunk and missed the boat, and Oin (John Callen) because I guess he gives a damn. We'll call these guys the "Lake-Town Group".
Meanwhile, Thorin, Bilbo, and the other dwarves head to the Lonely Mountain to fulfill their mission. They send Bilbo in to find the Arkenstone; which will be able to give Thorin power under the mountain, reclaiming his throne. But here is where he meets the great dragon, Smaug; the biggest threat that stands in the way of their victory. Meanwhile again, Gandalf (Ian McKellen) meets Radagast (Sylvester McCoy) to investigate the tombs of the Nazgul, which are empty (these will eventually become the Ring Wraiths). As Radagast heads off to warn Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) of the upcoming danger, Gandalf investigates further, and this is basically where we find out (spoiler alert) that the Necromancer they've been checking out has been Sauron this whole time.
Now, what about Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) and Legolas (Orlando Bloom)? Well, during the whole barrel scene I mentioned in my last review, an orc is captured and reveals information about a dark army, soon rising up, lead by a dark power. All things considered, Tauriel head off to find and help the dwarves, and Legolas chases after her. Meanwhile, Elf King, Thranduil (Lee Pace) seals off his kingdom, due to the darkness brewing outside of it, thus locking out Legolas and Tauriel. And even though neither character really needs to be here, I must say, Legolas does his fan-service fighting altogether very well, and Tauriel shows us some elfish healing, which I guess is... pretty cool.
There's more going on here, but I feel like I can cover it in my next review. This chapter, at least for myself, is a good example of when bringing "extra" to the screen really adds to what the book described. Another good example from this whole saga is the Battle of Helm's Deep in 'Two Towers'. In reading that same chapter, I must say, the book doesn't make it seem like the epic battle that it was on screen - and that looked amazing. Here, a big part of that is the encounter with Smaug. The book tells of the whole thing pretty basically, but the movie portrays a badass showdown between Smaug, Bilbo and the dwarves. It's full of creativity and awesome camera angles that really make for an exciting time.
One thing I mentioned previously that I also appreciated about these movies was the idea that they tend to divide these dwarves up a bit more for recognition. Now, without having to Google-search pictures for them, I can tell you who Thorin (most obviously), Kili, Fili, Bofur, Oin, Bombur and Balin, and that's largely between splitting up the group here, and giving Balin a fair amount of dialogue. He comes off as the experienced one; the "Yoda" to a group of Jedi, if you will. The others, I still have a bit of a time with, but I'm certain at this point that all of their names have probably been mentioned. So as long as you're paying close enough attention, you can probably distinguish between them. 13 dwarves IS a lot though.
Another thing I appreciated about this a great deal was where it cuts off in the story. To put it bluntly, the film pulls an 'Empire Strikes Back', where the chips are down at the end, leaving things with a great cliff-hanger. There's nothing quite like a movie that leaves you with the notion that all hope is lost. That sounds morbid, but think about what that does for the viewer's mind. From my perspective, especially when you know there's another chapter on its way, it lends itself to the idea of hope and routing for your heroes to eventually prosper. 'Infinity War' does a great job of it as well, to add another example to the list.
A couple of characters I've failed to bring up are the Master of Laketown (Stephen Fry) and his servant, Alfrid Lickspittle (Ryan Gage). One might remember "The Master" from the book, but Alfrid is another new character, essentially based on the mention of a counselor in the book. He's one of those characters you sort of love to hate, and just wanna give a good smack to. There are worse, but the man's look doesn't help, either. Just think, they created a servant named "Alfrid" (an easy go-to with Batman existing, and the changing of one letter) "Lickspittle"... I mean, "Lick... Spittle". Might as well call the guy "Jeeves Drool" or "Mr. Butler Barfer". With that said, his character does play well off of both the more suave and charming Bard as well as The Master. They make for half decent comedy relief here.
Despite an unlikable addition to this story, this sixth of the 'Hobbit' film series is, hands down, my favourite of the bunch. And though some are sure to disagree with me on this (purists and the like), once again, I'm just gonna mention that I feel it gave me the book AND more. It's like going the other way on something like 'Harry Potter' when almost every complaint was about leaving something out. Once again, I have to hand it to Jackson's creativity. I never felt like he soiled Tolkien's work, and always felt that he managed to pull of what others deemed impossible with 'Lord of the Rings'. As far as I'm concerned, he helped make Smaug and the spiders much more exciting than they were in the book, and those were my two favourite pats of the book. So, no real complaints from this guy about this chapter!
One sure thing about these 'Hobbit' movies that stands out to any audience member; fan or not, is the addition of various things. It bears mentioning again that I am a fan of these movies, and the 'Middle Earth' series as a whole. When it came to extra material in the 'Hobbit' series, I was far more forgiving than others, appreciating being able to see more of that world. It's like I said; this is the book, plus more, so I was pretty happy about it.
Having said that, 'Desolation' offers up perhaps the most controversial addition of a character, Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly). The fact of the matter is, this is one character who was never invented by Tolkien, and instead, made for the movie. To purists, this was quite dissatisfactory. And while I think she's actually a pretty cool character, I have to admit that I get two things about her presence that bothers people. For one, the obvious is that she's new, and I can see that being a bit insulting to Tolkien's work. Second, and to add to that, she can feel a bit forced as the strong, female character sometimes.
Add it all together, and in some ways, you just get the movie using her to appeal to a bigger audience and get butts in seats. 'The Hobbit', as a book, IS almost completely devoid of female characters after all. Personally speaking, though, I think she brings a lot to the table that wasn't present in the book - and it doesn't matter that she's a woman. In the book, we get that the dwarves get captured by wood elves (spoiler alert), but there's not many specifics on who they all were. So, all my brain says to her presence is simply "why not, though?" BUT, to be perfectly fair, even for me, she doesn't come without her problems either (*cough* unnecessary love triangle story *cough*).
Anyway, in comparison to the book, this chapter doesn't cover a whole hell of a lot, but does manage to stretch it out into something that's a lot of fun. As things kick off, one addition I particularly enjoyed here, was Gandalf's (Ian McKellen) meeting with Thorin (Richard Armitage) in which the Grey Wizard convinces the rightful King of Erebor to go reclaim his homeland from Smaug, as he will help him on his journey, but they will need a burglar, which, of course, is where Bilbo (Martin Freeman) comes in. Then we move along to present day, picking up where we left off, 12 months after said meeting.
The company of dwarves, along with Bilbo, are still trying to avoid a long-lasting orcish hunt, lead by Azog (Manu Bennett). Luckily, however, Gandalf finds them shelter at the home of a skin-changer named Beorn (Mikael Persbrandt); a gigantic man who can transform into a vicious bear. With his protection, Beorn ushers the group to the outskirts of Mirkwood, but Gandalf soon has to leave on more important matters. Of course, this all ties in with the ring and everything to come in 'Lord of the Rings', as I've mentioned before. The central focus of this chapter, however, is the dwarves going through the crazy, dark, Mirkwood in order to get to their Lonely Mountain.
In the book, the chapter involving Mirkwood was always my personal favourite, and I looked forward to seeing the fight with the spiders that does, indeed, take place. As hoped for, it was a great scene that was even a little bit scary; especially when you hear the spiders start talking about "feasting" and such. But nothing here is more fun than the barrel scene, which is a bit of a spoiler if i get into detail, but you'll certainly know the scene to see it. In between all that is where we meet Tauriel, and the audience starts to really get divided. I should probably mention they also throw in Legolas (Orlando Bloom) for a dash of fan-service.
I won't go into too much more detail here, but eventually, we do get to meet two more new characters as well. First, going back to the dark armies rising, Azog brings in his son, Bolg (Lawrence Makoare) to assist in hunting these dwarves. So he'll be your orc leader this evening. But more importantly, we get to meet a man named Bard (Luke Evans), whose overall role will become a little more unveiled later - but for now, he's a sort of middle-ground character. Certainly likable in various ways, but his character hasn't been developed into anything special yet. The difference between them and Tauriel being that they are active characters in the book.
Now, if you're excited to see Smaug in this chapter, I should probably mention that we're not quite there yet. However we do learn of the concept of a black arrow - the only thing that can pierce a dragon's scales. While I appreciated how the weapon was described in the film, it's a far different item in the book. Book-wise, it's really just an arrow, but in the movie, it's a large metal quarrel, designed to be fired by a "Wind Lance" ballista, specifically. I guess it makes sense for the movie to make it something bigger, but I feel like I'd have liked the "final arrow" shot better (even if it is a bit clichéd, that's just how it was in the book).
One thing I can say for the films over the book, at least to some degree, is that we get to know these dwarves a little better as far as who is who. After all, even having Thorin being the most recognizable, there's still twelve more dwarves to keep track of here. And while the majority of them do sort of remain "extra", one can now narrow down Bombur (Stephen Hunter) as the "big one", Balin (Ken Stott) as the sort of more elderly, wise character, and probably the kindest of the bunch, and Kili (Aidan Turner), who gets some genuine development here, especially having eyes for Tauriel.
I think it's safe to say that I'm far more forgiving with the addition of things than many. Remembering that 'The Hobbit' is still my all-time favourite book, I don't consider myself a purist of any sort, and see a movie version and a book version, as opposed to a movie version vs. a book version. A lot of what's brought to the screen here makes for a more well-rounded adventure, and it's probably just me, but I think Tauriel is just fine. clichés aside, there's nothing about her that truly bothers me, and all of the good parts of this completely overshadow any issues I may have with her. That said, I can easily say that despite everything here, it's the second half of this that gets really fun!
Moving onto Part 2 of Bilbo's "Unexpected Journey", please bear in mind that potential (and probable) spoilers lie ahead, as each "Part" picks up where the last one left off, and it's really just one, long story. Having said that, let's get right into it. As you may remember, the core story of Part 1 introduced us to a Hobbit named Bilbo (Martin Freeman), who the Grey Wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and a company of thirteen dwarves need to an adventure.
These dwarves were driven out of their mountain home of Erebor by a dragon named Smaug, who then claimed the kingdom's piles of gold and treasure for his own. What I failed to mention earlier, however, is that part of this treasure includes a precious gem called the "Arkenstone"; the Heart of the Mountain that the dwarf King Thror (Jeffrey Thomas) used to display his power. Heading the party of thirteen dwarves is Thorin (Richard Armitage); Thror's grandson, and rightful heir to the throne. If he can reclaim the Arkenstone, he can reclaim Erebor.
The party seeks out Bilbo, as they need a burglar for their mission, and Hobbits are quiet, quick, and light on their feet. They soon head off to the Lonely Mountain (formerly Erebor) to reclaim it with the help of Bilbo and Gandalf. Along the way, they have several dangerous encounters, but manage to pick up a few odds and ends - namely, three elven blades; Orcrist (Goblin Cleaver) going to Thorin, Glamdring (Foe-Hammer) going to Gandalf, and my personal favourite, Sting going to Bilbo. I've always liked the design of it, and the idea that it glows blue when goblins are around.
In the meantime, the Brown wizard, Radagast (Sylvester McCoy) has a rough time at his forest home, and soon recounts an encounter with a dark entity known as the Necromancer to Gandalf upon running into the party in the forest. With other things seeming strange, such as trolls being strangely far from their regular homes, Gandalf brings the Dwarves to the beautiful elvish realm of Rivendell (one of my top fictional vacation destinations!). This is much to Thorin's dismay, as he has his reasons to be bitter towards the elves. There, the dwarves rest, and Gandalf seeks answers, and it all points to the eventual return of Sauron.
The meeting is pretty cool, fan service-wise, as it involves returning characters Elrond (Hugo Weaving), Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) and Saruman the White (Christopher Lee). During the meeting, however, the dwarves (along with Bilbo) leave Rivendell to continue their quest, knowing they'll meet up with Gandalf later. It's my personal opinion that this is where the movie really gets fun! On the dwarves' journey, they find themselves in the midst of cool things like a rock giant fight, and a whole underground kingdom of goblins. And while the singing of the Great Goblin (Barry Humphries) is a bit cheesy, it's still a part of the film I appreciate, much like the dwarf singing in part 1 - it was in the book, and it helps set the right mood.
However, the goblins are nothing here compared to the big comeback of Gollum (Andy Serkis). Upon entering the goblin kingdom, Bilbo gets in a bit of a scuffle with one, and falls into the deepest, darkest depths of the cave. There, he meets Gollum, and the famous "Riddles in the Dark" scene plays out almost perfectly from the book. They knew this was a good fan service moment, and part of the book as opposed to some other characters we remember here. And of course, once again, Serkis plays things perfectly - he is the golden standard for the Gollum character as much as Hugh Jackman is the golden standard for the Wolverine character.
Now, in the background of everything, there's a bunch of darkness brewing with a orc party, lead by another non-book character named Azog (Manu Bennett), who once killed Thorin's father, Thrain. Basically developed to be a proper villain for the film, his lore is all turned around here as opposed to the book. It's not something that bugs me, as I actually kind of dig the character - but it might be one of the many things about this film that purists would protest about. In fact, there's a lot here that purists would probably protest. But in my mind, there's a cinematic world and a written world. The movie adaptation tells the story more or less properly, but does take liberties in order to make things work for the screen.
One thing I might point out is the "big reveal" at the end of this film. As mentioned previously, of course, here we wander into (sort of) spoiler territory, but if you know anything about 'The Hobbit', you know the character exists - Smaug (the only real spoiler is that he's nearly revealed... we get an eye. For yours truly, being so very into dragons (enough that I have a somewhat clichéd tattoo of one), Smaug was the big deal of this series, and it seemed obvious that Part 2 would end up being my favourite of the three. Dividing points between films weren't obvious to me at the time, but upon re-reading it after this first film, I could see where things could be split, but wondered what they'd go to for the much-needed filler.
I love 'The Hobbit' book, but I don't entirely fancy myself a "purist" when it comes down to my criticisms of these films. As I mentioned earlier, sometimes things kinda sorta need to be done and/or tweaked to make things work for the big screen - especially when you're dividing a book like 'The Hobbit', which is an average of about 300 pages long, depending on which version you're reading, into three. 'Lord of the Rings' was made to be split into three movies, not just with the already-set titles, but in being well over 1000 pages long. Taking that into account, Jackson ended up adding a whole bunch of interesting, albeit probably altogether unnecessary stuff in order to stretch out a new trilogy, as opposed to the originally planned two-parter. Even a two-parter seemed like a stretch for some.
Anyway, I think at this point, I'm beating a dead horse and need to get back to the film, and my overall opinion on it as a whole. With 'Unexpected Journey', the adventure is just getting started, and there's still a pretty long way to go. Once again, I have to give a huge kudos to Serkis for his performance here, and huge kudos to Jackson for his direction of the "Riddles in the Dark" scene. I could almost read along with it. Between that, and a nice tease for Smaug coming up in the next film, it's relatively clear that I prefer Part 2 over Part 1. However, the movie as a whole is very solid, in my opinion. Here, I don't even mind all of the extras, as it all seems to somewhat fit... but the question is, would this likability on a personal level continue?
For several years after 'Return of the King', a lot of us wondered if Peter Jackson would ever do a 'Hobbit' prequel. Personally, the very idea excited me, as 'The Hobbit' is probably my favourite book of all time. While 'Lord of the Rings' was an incredible undertaking (even as an audiobook), 'The Hobbit' was a bit simpler, and did eventually teach me that often an abridged version of something can be better than unabridged. But with that said, the question is, did I like these movies? Or am I too much of a purist?
This one starts out largely as 'Fellowship' does; on Bilbo's 111th birthday. It turns out that what Bilbo (Ian Holm) is in the process of writing a book on his adventures; basically the 'Hobbit' book as we know it. While Frodo (Elijah Wood) makes an appearance here as well, it's essentially just a bit of fan service, offering back a lot of the humble Shire "magic" we remembered from the beginning of 'Fellowship'. The rest of these films unfold as Bilbo's story that he plans to give to Frodo one day. Personally, I thought the idea of Bilbo's story being these movies was a great idea.
Anyway, we then get into Part 1 of 'An Unexpected Journey', where a young Bilbo (Martin Freeman) is greeted by Gandalf the Grey Wizard (Ian McKellen) and asked if he'd care to share in an adventure. Bilbo turns him down, but Gandalf isn't easily swayed, and marks Bilbo's door with a rune, meant to direct a party of dwarves. Soon, Bilbo is greeted by a grand total of thirteen dwarves; Balin (Ken Stott), Dwalin (Graham McTavish), Bifur (William Kircher), Bofur (James Nesbitt), Bombur (Stephen Hunter), Fili (Dean O'Gorman), Kili (Aidan Turner), Oin (John Callen), Gloin (Peter Hambleton), Nori (Jed Brophy), Dori (Mark Hadlow), Ori (Adam Brown), and finally Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage).
The party... parties in Bilbo's house, eating, making pigs of themselves, singing, dancing, throwing things around, before they get to the whole point of the meeting. Bilbo is needed to be a burglar for the dwarf party in order to sneak into the Lonely Mountain, and reclaim a hoard of treasure being held by a vicious dragon named Smaug. Once, The Loneley Mountain was known as the prosperous dwarf Kingdom of Erebor, lead by King Thrór (Jeffrey Thomas), who once sat on said hoard of gold. But to make a long story short, it was taken by Smaug, because hell, in this, dragons covet gold above anything else.
Once again, as one could imagine, a large part of Part 1 is set-up for things to come. Some of this, of course, comes in the form of, shall we say, "additives". Really and truly, 'The Hobbit' could have been done magnificently, as the story is, in one very long, or two fairly long movies. However, Jackson felt it necessary to throw in a few things that are merely mentioned that may deserve a bit more attention on screen. For some, these took things away. For others, it added things to the cinematic world of Middle Earth. For me, I claim these extras to be altogether unnecessary, but they don't honestly really bother me.
The three main additions to Part 1 are the inclusions of Radagast the Brown Wizard (Sylvester McCoy), who warns Gandalf of a lurking darkness, involving The Necromancer (addition #2). In the books, Radagast is merely mentioned as Gandalf's cousin, and the Necromancer is just a sort of shadow of a thing that I don't really remember at all. Addition #3 is an orc named Azog the Defiler, who plays a central villain role here, but in the book was killed years before by a dwarf named Dain. None of these inclusions ever really got under my skin though. I enjoy the character of Radagast quite a bit, and Azog feels somewhat necessary, just to provide the film with some sort of major threat. As for the Necromancer, I could take or leave the whole thing, as it just feels like more of the same.
So going back to what I said about possibly being a purist, let's face it, I'm not. I have the book, and still hold that story close to my heart. But I will say that I very much enjoy the movies all the same. Even with the extra stuff, it's providing me with more of that world I fell in love with about 10 years or so earlier. The idea of a trilogy also brought me back to feeling like I had something new to look forward to every Christmas season. I probably wasn't quite as into it as I was during the 'Lord of the Rings' run, but I still had lots of fun with it altogether.
A lot of the different things they left in really struck a chord with me as well. For example, I was almost shocked when they decided to leave in the dwarf singing at Bilbo's house, considering they cut Tom Bombadil out of 'Fellowship' (all that dude seemed to do was sing). I was also impressed at some of the quirky dialogue they left in in, like the way Gandalf introduces himself "I am Gandalf, and Gandalf means me" - great line. There's something a little more innocent about 'The Hobbit' as far as books go, so even though the films try to be a bit more adult, I had to appreciate that they left a lot of the fun stuff in.
Actually, that's probably what I dig most about this trilogy. It gives me what I want to see from the books, but it also just provides more. I never really felt like anything was missing or cut out of this - just added to. It makes me chuckle, thinking about an audience who can't be pleased either way. "Don't add more, don't take out, just be the book". And while I can sympathize with this to some degree, I just feel like adding stuff here doesn't take away from anything I'm experiencing. For me, a lot of it makes it more interesting. But I digress.
We'll get to more of the first 'Hobbit' movie with the next review, of course, but it should be known that the entirety of the first movie is fairly minimal as far as the match-up to the book goes. All of my favourite bits (save for maybe the troll scene in this chapter) come in later movies. But that's not at all to say this is no good. I really appreciated the way they went about doing this, and further appreciate Jackson taking the helm again, even though he initially didn't want to. It was almost directed by Guillermo del Toro, and though that probably would have been okay, it wouldn't have had that Jackson touch to it. I'm happy with the end result... at least so far!
My last review, I have to admit, wasn't too much of a full review as opposed to a full recap of everything leading up to that point. It's difficult, because in some ways, a recap is necessary for the final film of a trilogy that tells one full story... one that's the technical latter half of what would become a sextet, years later, with 'The Hobbit' movies - but more on that soon enough. Anyway, this review will go the other way around with a quick recap of where we left off, and more thoughts on the trilogy as a whole.
So, the events of the first part of the film bring our beloved characters to the epic climactic battle between good and evil in the second. Frodo (Elijah Wood), Sam (Sean Astin) and Gollum (Andy Serkis) continue on their path to Mount Doom; things getting more and more difficult, especially when Gollum lures them into a giant spider tunnel. Meanwhile, Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) head off to attempt to recruit and Army of the Dead that could be a great asset in battle for them, knowing they'll soon be overwhelmed by orc armies.
Meanwhile again, King Théoden (Bernard Hill) gathers his armies at Minas Tirith in the realm of Gondor for one last stand against an overwhelming orc army, lead by an orc named Gothmog (Craig Parker). In this same group are Gandalf (Ian McKellen), Pippin (Billy Boyd), and Steward of Rohan, Denathor (John Noble), who comes to find his son, Faramir (David Wenham) soon killed in battle. He goes mad, and throws himself off a cliff while on fire, leaving Gandalf to lead the defence against the city. I mean, sorry, but spoiler; the ass clown you might fully expect to die here, dies. As for Merry (Dominic Monaghan), Éomer (Karl Urban) and his sister, Éowyn (Miranda Otto), they are on the ground, ready for battle.
There's plenty more to it, including the romance between Aragorn and Arwen (Liv Tyler), but I feel at this point, it's sort of "back seat" stuff. The two things most people are paying attention to here, I think are the upcoming battle, and Frodo's struggle with the ring and all that entails. For as awesome as the final part of 'Two Towers' is, along with the first part of this, the second part really brings it home with a little bit of everything. It didn't seem to matter who you were, watching this, you had a character or two you were routing for. On top of that, though, it seems to strike every chord as things unfold; once again, the music, set pieces and effects adding to it all - revolutionary stuff for its time.
The film's only slight problem (not especially for myself, but for a whole hell of a lot of people) was the ending. In many people's opinions, the extraordinarily long conclusion to this is one of the trilogy's biggest downfalls. In timing it, it takes a full 10 minutes to end, which doesn't sound like much, but it's surprising how much it adds up in viewing time. Personally, I always thought for a trilogy of this magnitude, those endings were entirely necessary. It wrapped up loose ends, but it also ends on a very happy note after such a big, dark struggle against evil, where many were lost. To me, things kind of have to hit that note here where we get to see the dark clouds fade away, and the flowers start to bloom.
To see this end was also the end of a whole era. For three years, my friends and I were going to check these movies out, theatrically, standing in line for insane amounts of time, just to get a half decent seat. I saw all of these more than once, and I'm fairly certain each one involved seeing it with once with family and once with friends (sometimes twice with friends, as I actually saw 'Towers' and 'King' three times apiece). There was something about this ending that was bittersweet, because it had become a sort of a tradition, and it was all over now. Of course, thankfully, in time, the 'Hobbit' movies would bring back that world.
However, looking back on the original 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy, I think it's safe to say that these were some of the most fun moments I had in theaters. A lot of people I went with didn't like this, but to me, there's something about having an audience cheer for something they see on screen as opposed to on stage. It doesn't matter that the cast members can't hear the cheering. The fact of the matter is that the movie magic the film is trying to provide is actually working. Truth be told, I love a good audience cheer. You can still hear it today if you see any stand-out MCU movies.
Although these statistics don't mean a whole hell of a lot to me anymore, this chapter of the trilogy would go on to be nominated for eleven Oscars, winning them all with a clean sweep. It still actually holds the record for "biggest sweep", and at the time, it was sort of unprecedented. Here we had a fantasy film that some people once said should have never been attempted as a movie, and by 2003, it was kind of setting a new bar. At this point, the 'Star Wars' prequels were still going, and we were still checking them out - but we got downright psyched for each chapter of this as it came out. Think of it as the 'Game of Thrones' of the time - just with way less violence, sex and sheer shock value.
As a whole, I'd say this trilogy still totally holds up. The only thing about it now is that it has officially entered that nostalgic realm for yours truly. It's hard to believe these all started when I was 19, and ended when I was 21. It really added to the fun of what those years offered as well, being straight out of high school and just old enough to, shall we say, live a little more freely. It was almost as if these movies were some kind of weird three-year reward for enduring high school and all that came with it.
Everything about these movies as a whole has a certain charm to it, and it's an interesting addition to a holiday movie list. It has nothing to do with Christmas, but each movie was released for the Christmas seasons of three years in a row. This is sort of why I decided to look into doing this particular special for this time of year. Anyway, these films have become a pretty important part of my cinematic experiences as something I hold close to the heart. Not necessarily just for the love of the films themselves, but because they are able to take me back to a time that I really treasured in my life that I won't soon forget. Definitely some of the most fun I'd ever had in the theater.
Well, it has been a long, somewhat complex journey from review to review thus far, so let's just dive in with recap. In the first film, a Fellowship is formed in order to destroy a powerful ring once belonging to a dark being named Sauron. The ring was once found by a Hobbit named Bilbo (Ian Holm) in a cave, and brought to his home in the Shire, where he has kept it for a number of years. But on his 111th birthday, things in the ring start stirring, and it's concluded that the Ring must be destroyed, lest its dark master rise again.
The Fellowship of the Ring consisted of four Hobbits; Frodo (Elijah Wood), Sam (Sean Astin), Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd) - One Grey Wizard; Gandalf (Ian McKellen) - Humans, Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) and Boromir (Sean Bean) - an Elf named Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and a Dwarf named Gimli (John Rhys-Davies). It's not long before the group is divided into what I have personally dubbed the "Ring Group", the "Cool Group" and "Boring Group", once they are attacked by an orc army known as the Uruk-hai. These orcs were created by White Wizard, Saruman (Christopher Lee), who vey much desires to serve Sauron and help him find that ring and rise to power.
By the opening of the second film, Boromir had been killed by orcs, and Gandalf was believed to have been killed by a badass Balrog. The "Ring Group", consisting of Frodo (the ringbearer) and Sam heads to the realm of Mordor in order to destroy the ring in Mount Doom - a big-ass volcano. This is where the creature Gollum (Andy Serkis) tries to ambush the Hobbits and take the ring for himself, which we learn in the first film, he once possessed for centuries. However, Frodo manages to tame him by referring to him as "Sméagol". This creates a split personality in which Gollum has an inner battle with Sméagol, torn between loyalty to Frodo and his desire to possess the ring above destroying it.
Meanwhile, the "Cool Group", consisting of Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli, chase down the orcs that took the "Boring Group", consisting of Merry and Pippin away in the midst of battle. These are same orcs that killed Boromir; the Uruk-hai from the end of the first film. The "Cool Group" fails to locate them, but do stumble on a resurrected Gandalf, now White (as opposed to Grey) who has returned to help Middle Earth from falling into darkness. He begins by breaking a curse Saruman and his lacky, Wormtongue (Brad Dourif) have over the King of Rohan, Théoden (Bernard Hill). Then, as armies of orcs start to rise, the "Cool Group" (now with Gandalf) ultimately assist the townsfolk of Edoras in Rohan to Helm's Deep for their protection.
Meanwhile again, the "Boring Group" manages to flee their captors, and head into the dark Fangorn Forest, where Merry and Pippin meet who makes the "Boring Group" boring, Treebeard (John Rhys-Davies); an Ent, which is essentially a walking, talking tree. The Hobbits have pleasant conversation with him, and eventually try to convince him to fight in the upcoming War of the Ring. Most of the rest of it is the Ents having a meeting, but they do eventually decide to wage war on Saruman upon seeing the destruction he has caused to the trees surrounding Isengard - where Saruman sits upon his white tower.
To end it all in one final paragraph, Saruman's orc army is seemingly too overwhelming, but there is an epic final stand at Helm's Deep between alliances, involving the "Cool Group". The "Ring Group" eventually find themselves captured on their journey by Boromir's brother, Faramir (David Wenham), which creates a minor obstacle for them, as he wishes to please his asshat of a father by bringing the ring to his home kingdom of Gondor. The "Ring Group" is, however, eventually released - but Gollum still has some cruel intentions to get his hands on that ring. As for the "Boring Group", they attack Isengard with an army of Ents, and trap Saruman in his tower.
To try to keep it short, the "Cool Group" regroups with the "Boring Group" on their field of victory, and take Saruman's palantír (basically a crystal ball), which Pippin makes the mistake of looking into. There, he sees the eye of Sauron along with an ashen tree which, when described to Gandalf, leads them to Minas Tirith, the capital of Gondor (where Aragorn is meant to reclaim his throne). That group is split again, as Gandalf takes Pippin with him on his ride to Minas Tirith. We'll refer to them as the "Odd Group" (as Gandalf and Pippin are almost polar opposites in personality), and the "Cool Group" has just exchanged Gandalf for Merry.
At Minas Tirith, they meet the current king; Boromir and Faramir's father, Denethor (John Noble), who we find out is a real piece of work. Pippin swears his services to him, while Gandalf stands by for the upcoming battle. The "Ring" group's biggest thing here is unknowingly heading to deal with Shelob in Part 2; a giant spider who Gollum tries to use against the Hobbits in order to get the ring. And oh my God, this is paragraph number 8, and I promised myself I'd do each of these in 10. It's a lot to recap and catch up with though, to be perfectly fair to myself.
In the background of all of this (at least as far as my point of view goes) is a tragic love story involving Aragorn and an Elf named Arwen (Liv Tyler), daughter to Lord Elrond of Rivendell (Hugo Weaving). She has chosen a mortal life in order to be with Aragorn, based on a vision of their future son. However, that will lead to her eventual dying. To try to help ensure Aragorn's safe return to his daughter, Elrond gives Aragorn Andúril; a sword re-forged from the remains of King Elendil's sword, Narsil. With this, Aragorn can reclaim his birthright, hence "The Return of the King". It also just might help him gain an army of the dead, which is awesome.
So, in conclusion, this has been really more of a recap than a review. But to be blunt and to the point about it, I really like this one just about as much as I enjoyed the second part of 'Fellowship'. The first part of 'Return' doesn't blow me away, but it doesn't drag like 'Two Towers' Part 1 did either. It almost feels like it's getting things back on track, and Part 1 ends at a nice, climactic moment. Once again, music, set pieces, CG effects, overall acting, it's all pretty amazing stuff. It's no surprise why 'Return' is held in such high regard.
Our long hiking adventure continues in the second part of 'Two Towers' - an incredible leap up from the first part as far as holding my interest goes. The first part of this is fine for what it is, but as I've mentioned before, it's about moving pieces into position before the epic "strike" that is Part 2. This strike is the epic "Battle of Helm's Deep", clocking in at about 40 minutes long (give or take, depending on when you claim it all starts). But we'll get to that soon.
When we last left our Fellowship (minus Boromir), they were still divided into three separate groups. First, "The Ring Group", consisting of Frodo (Elijah Wood), Samwise (Sean Astin) and Gollum (Andy Serkis) is trying to work their way through a secret passage to Mordor in order to destroy the ring. All the while, the Eye of Sauron, atop tower #1 in Mordor searches for the ring and the one who possesses it. Gollum, however, still desires the ring he once possessed for himself, so becomes a bit of an obstacle on their journey, despite needing him. They soon stumble upon an ambush, and are eventually taken by a group of rangers, lead by Faramir (David Wenham), who ends up being Boromir's brother. He soon learns of the ring Frodo has, and decides he wants it for Gondor in an attempt to please his father (who we'll meet in 'Return of the King')
Meanwhile, "The Boring Group", consisting of Merry (Dominic Monaghan), Pippin (Billy Boyd) and Treebeard (John Rhys-Davies) is just kinda waiting for Treebeard and his fellow Ents to make a decision on whether or not they should fight in the upcoming battle against Saruman (Christopher Lee). This eventually leads to a "nah", but a determined Merry diverts Treebeard's attention to Isengard, home of Tower #1 - Saruman's (Christopher Lee) home base. From there, Saruman, along with his lacky, Wormtongue (Brad Dourif) controls a rising army of orcs that are about to be dispatched to Helm's Deep.
Meanwhile again, "The Cool Group", consisting of Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Legolas the Elf (Orlando Bloom), Gimli the Dwarf (John Rhys-Davies) and Gandalf the White Wizard (Ian McKellen) have broken King Théoden (Bernard Hill) of a curse held over him, mainly by Wormtongue, who was secretly working for Saruman. With danger lurking on the horizon, Théoden begins to move his people to Helm's Deep - the only place close enough that they might stand a remote chance of standing up against the brewing orc army. Although, Gandalf sees things not working out incredibly well.
So, if you haven't figure it out by now, the best part of this movie is, at least objectively, the Battle of Helm's Deep. I remember watching this in theaters and just being blown away by how incredible the scope of it was. It all starts by setting this intense mood with lightning crashes, heavy rain, and a lack of music during the deep breath before the plunge. It keeps you on edge, makes you laugh, then hold on to the edge of your seat. The laughter comes from a misfire that actually starts the whole battle, which is otherwise intense.
Watching the whole thing unfold now, I'd say it really still holds up, but at the time it was pretty mind-blowing stuff. The use of CG and set pieces with a whole whack of extras that got to dress up as orcs in awesome enough, but the detail is so great that it gets down to things like costumes, makeup, and even the fashion of weaponry. If you check out the extras on the 'Two Towers' extended cut, it shows you how they did it all, and it's really quite fascinating. I actually kind of fell in love with Elvish weaponry's design, and ended up getting replicas of Legolas' daggers (which I sadly had to sell at a time when my cashflow sucked).
But besides the Cool Group doing their thing, there's plenty more to be had from everyone else than I'm letting on. In our Ring Group, for example, Sam gives one of my favourite cinematic speeches nearing the end about why it's worth fighting for the good of the world. It's also interesting to see the influence the ring is having over Frodo, and seeing him struggle with what's right and what's easy. As far as our Boring Group goes, Merry and Pippin spend most of the movie trying to get Treebeard to agree to fight, then take him to show him all of his dead tree friends to try to convince him. It makes for a little bit of accidental comedy too - at one point we do get to see an Ent on fire, run towards water to put himself out.
I think I mentioned this in my last review, but I truly feel that when people talk about the boredom they endure while watching these movies, the "Boring Group" is one of the prime examples of what they mean. But I have to say that when these movies find their action, that action is wonderfully portrayed with little to no shaky cam, great choreography, and a solid use of CG in order to fill in the blanks. Let's not leave out the music, either, which is some of the best cinematic material I can think of. Composer Howard Shore is pretty much a genius with his sense for setting the right mood in these movies, and the Battle for Helm's Deep here is a great example of music use.
Another thing I haven't really brought forward yet is the relationship between Legolas and Gimli. Its relatively known in this universe that elves and dwarves don't really want anything to do with each other. That's fairly true here, but as members of the Fellowship, Legolas and Gimli start to make friendly competition out of things as opposed to all out rivalry. They begin their body count contest here, and there's something so morbidly fun about it. The pair make for a good contrast with Legolas being an elegant warrior with mad skills and Gimli being a gruff brute, despite his size. Just seeing them make a game of it makes me think of us in present day, and the similar fun we have playing video games.
All in all, 'Two Towers' in its entirety is something of a middle-ground movie for me. For its time, back in 2002, it was incredible. You had the epic scale, the incredible CG effects, music, set pieces, acting (especially from Serkis who, once again, puts himself through the ringer to be this character) and more. It still totally holds up, but the fact of the matter is, we've seen similar since, especially with things like the MCU. It's a bit of a chore to get through that first big chunk sometimes, but Helm's Deep is well worth the wait, as it still looks incredible, even by today's high standards. But for as good as these first two films are, they'd have nothing on 'Return of the King'.
To many like myself, the 'Lord of the Rings' films are incredible works of cinematic art that broke new ground, and proved to an audience of skeptics to "never say never". However, it doesn't go unnoticed that these are a bit of an acquired taste for some. To put it another way, how many people do you know who complain about how insanely boring these movies are?
I have to admit, that for as much as I love these movies, they do hit these long drags. It's my personal opinion that 'Two Towers' part 1 is probably the most significant one. To me, the general point of 'Two Towers' Part 1 is about opposing sides getting their Chess pieces into the right position. Part 2 involves the epic final battle, but we'll get to that in the next review. I have to admit that with this one, I can see where the "bored" people are coming from. It is a lot of walking, talking, and largely represents a sort of "calm before the storm".
When we last left our Fellowship of Nine, they had ultimately been separated into three groups. Now, full spoilers for 'Fellowship' lie ahead, so fair warning. Frodo (Elijah Wood), in possession of the ring, decides to take the journey into his own hands, and head off on his own to destroy the ring. This isn't before Samwise (Sean Astin) chases after him, however, and joins him our of sheer loyalty for his best friend. Here, they run into the creature Gollum (Andy Serkis), who was once known as Sméagol, and was once corrupted by the very ring Frodo has with him. More on this when I get to 'Return of the King' Part 1.
Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippen (Billy Boyd) were taken by a group of orcs known as the Uruk-hai, on the order given by White Wizard, Saruman (Christopher Lee) to find and capture the halfling (or Hobbit) who bears the ring (so, mistaken identity). This prompts Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) to chase after them, so as not to leave their fates in the hands of a bunch of filthy orcs. They know in their hearts Frodo still has the ring, and he's well on his way to Mordor to destroy it.
The sad news is, the Fellowship, once consisting of 9 strong is now down to a scattered 7, with Gandalf (Ian McKellen) believed to have been killed by a Balrog in the Mines of Moria, and Boromir (Sean Bean) getting used as a pin cushion by Uruk-hai leader, Lurtz (Lawrence Makoare). But while Frodo, Sam and Gollum are all just headed to a volcano with a piece of jewellery, there's much more on the horizon for the other two parties of the film. Some of that involves the reveal that Galdalf is alive, but white now (that's as opposed to his former grey, not his skin tone). I'm not 100%, but I THINK that means he's pretty much as powerful as Saruman now, when before, he was a few steps below? Correct me if I'm wrong.
Aragorn's group soon enter the realm of Rohan, where they meet Éomer (Karl Urban), who leads a group of Rohirrim who have been exiled by Rohan's King, Théoden (Bernard Hill). The King is under the influence of Saruman and his servant, Gríma Wormtongue (Brad Dourif). To make matters worse, Saruman is planning to use his Uruk-hai army to destroy Rohan. More will be covered in Part 2 about that. It's also in Rohan that Aragorn meets the lovely Eowyn (Miranda Otto); the King's daughter who becomes infatuated with him, not knowing he's pledged loyalty to his favourite Elf, Arwen (Liv Tyler). But again, more on all that later.
As for Merry and Pippin; they do manage an escape into the horrifying Fangorn Forest, where they meet an Ent named Treebeard (John Rhys-Davies) and... well, as far as boredom goes, these are those scenes. You ever see an Ent council meeting? It's something to behold. All that really needs to happen here is that Merry and Pippin have to try to convince Treebeard and the Ents to be allies in the upcoming war. This whole matter is spread over both discs and the other parts of the film are far more intriguing. Anyway, I'm going on and on here, and need to get to an actual review. More exposition later.
So, as you can see just by reading everything I've laid out, there's not actually a whole hell of a lot that happens in this part. Again, it's all about getting things into position and the calm before the storm. At the time of its release, however, there's was so much more of a big deal being made about how good everything looked. Peter Jackson had already proven to us that he can assemble a killer team of CG experts, but it wasn't until Gollum was revealed that these movies and their computer animated components would become legendary. Just as the picture up top suggests - he really is the star of this show.
And sure, Gollum looks amazing, but Andy Serkis goes through the ringer in both this and 'Return of the King' to being this character to life. I can still remember reading a newspaper article put out a few days before the film's release that mentioned him being the greatest technical character to exist since Yoda was introduced in 'Empire'. I thought that might be a stretch, but then I saw him in action. Treebeard also looked pretty amazing, but it wasn't enough to save such a dull character. And that's no one's fault, he's sort of essential to the story and written that way originally. This isn't like cutting out Tom Bombadil in 'Fellowship'.
Other that the creation of Gollum and a few odds and ends here and there, however, I would probably go so far as to say that this chapter is probably my least favourite of the total six. It feels a bit more like something you have to get through in order to really enjoy what lies ahead - it's the movie equivalent of eating your vegetables before dessert. It's not exactly bad, but you really just wanna get to the action. And trust me when I say that the Battle of Helms Deep in Part 2 is all the action you could have asked for at the time. It totally makes up for this rather dull start.