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.