The Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers (2002) and Return of The King (2003)

The men of Gondor led by Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) ride forwards to confront Sauron in Mordor.

Making film versions of each of the books was always going to be a difficult task. Overall Peter Jackson hasn’t done badly but there are some shortcomings. His films manage to capture most of the dark of the original stories – but little of the light and the good times (there is no Tom Bombadil for example). However having seen the rather  too long opening tea-party scene in The Hobbit maybe that’s not a bad thing.

It had been a long time now since I watched The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) so I thought it overdue that I watch the two sequels.

The Two Towers (2002) starts inauspiciously with Aragorn, Gimli (the dwarf) and Legolas (the elf) on a race against time to save Merry and Pippin from the Orcs, who have captured them. There’s a lot of pursuing in this section but not much dialogue or action.

The story only really gets underway properly in the build up to the show-piece battle – The Battle of Helmsdeep. At the same time, the other main story-thread, that of Frodo and Sam continues as they push onward towards Mordor. The ring must be destroyed but every day it’s influence over Frodo is growing stronger and he is getting weaker. Then there’s Gollum of course who offers to show the hobbits the way but who secretly plots to get his ‘precious’ back for himself.

Overall its a good film, although a little over-earnest at times and the acting can be hammy too. Elijah Wood who plays Frodo is a notable culprit and there’s a section (after he has been captured by Faramir) where you see his face continually react to the situation and lets just say it reminded me of school drama class. “Do your shocked face, now do your surprised face, now do your downcast look”. It was exactly like that. I was not over impressed with Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) either. I remember reading an interview saying he read the books in a week before they started shooting and maybe it shows a little in him not always taking or understanding things as seriously as he might. He’s not bad at all but the expressions on his face and eyes were not always convincing for me. Ian Mackellen as Gandalf is a standout in both films, getting seriousness, weight and humour into his role. (Interesting fact – actually 5 people play Gandalf, although he does all the speaking) and perhaps surprisingly Orlando Bloom is very good as Legolas. In almost every other film I have seen him in since – I haven’t been impressed but here the slight woodeness in his acting (Sorry Orlando) works to his advantage. Being an elf he is meant to seem different and to have an otherworldly quality to him, and that he does. He also looks the part, ‘pretty’ with fine features and long blonde hair.

The Return of the King (2003) is overall a better film than The Two Towers.  It has more spectacle, an even bigger battle – this time in Gondor against Sauron’s huge invading army and since it ends the trilogy, it’s also more satisfying. As in the other films, and I know it is quite close to the books in this respect, but Sam and Frodo’s relationship is a little over-the-top times to the point where you almost expect one of Sam’s children at the end of the film to be Frodo’s. Also worth pointing out is that this is one of the few films where once evil has been defeated, it actually carries on for quite a while afterwards to tell the rest of the tale. I quite liked this and although it’s true to the books you can see why most films don’t do this. As Frodo says “How do you pick up the threads of your old life after such an adventure?”. Everything is now a bit of an anti-climax, and the bland smiles as Gandalf and the elfs say goodbye to the hobbits say it all. In times with no evil, there are no interesting stories worth telling.

As a trilogy there is a lot to cram in, and some events are missed out or only given lip-service to but this is to be expected. As I mentioned before it could do with a little more lightness as well as all the darkness. Lord of The Rings has always been as much about shades of grey as well as much as contrasting good and evil. The quality of the acting is up and down but overall Peter Jackson has done a good job. There are impressive special effects too especially in the final film. Scores? The Two Towers 6/10 and The Return of the King 7/10.

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