LOTR: The Return of The King

At long last, the third and final installment in the Lord Of The Rings series! It feels like such a long time ago that I read this book, and going over the salient points makes me want to re-read the entire series. By this point in things, I felt myself becoming so immersed in Tolkien’s mythical universe that I felt both saturated yet wanting. There was so much there to absorb, and yet the greater mysteries of his world still seemed unknown. No wonder I picked up the Silmarillion and devoured it shortly thereafter. Man that book was dense!

But of course, that was after the third and final installment. As I said last time, the second book really impressed the hell out of me. But it was tempered by the fact that the greatest battles and climaxes were yet to come. Frodo and Sam had yet to reach Mordor and Mount Doom, Gollum’s true role in the Quest was yet to be revealed, and the battle for Gondor and Middle Earth was yet to truly begin. I awaited on these with eager anticipation…

And then it came! The Battle for Middle Earth was joined! The War of the Ring came to its grand climax and was resolved for all time. And here’s the pertinent stuff and what I thought about it…

Plot Summary:
The book opens where the last left off, with Gandalf, Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas returning with Theoden to Edoras to rally their forces and plan for the enxt phase of battle. Though Saruman has been thoroughly defeated, there remains the danger from Mordor, where Sauron is still amassing his armies of Orcs, Southrons and Easterlings and preparing for his assault on Gondor.

At the same time, Sam must find Frodo and rescue him from the grasp of the Orcs. In the wake of Gollum’s betrayal, their Quest has hit a sort of intermission. Until he finds Frodo and returns the Ring to him, it cannot resume, for only Frodo is the true Ringbearer.

Book V: The War of the Ring
Gandalf and Pippin arrive at Minis Tirith to speak with Denethor, the Steward of Gondor, and warn him that an attack on the city is imminent. Denethor announces that he knows of Boromir’s death, and Pippin enters Denethor’s service as a repayment for the debt he owes to his son for saving his life. Now in the service of the tower guard, he is given a view of the fields of Pelenner and is able to bear witness to the approaching war.

Meanwhile, Osgiliath falls to the advancing Orcs and Denethor begins to fall into a dark mood. He orders Faramir, the lesser of his two heirs in his mind, the task of retaking it with his forces. Unfortunately, he is mortally wounded and his riders return broken. Denethor falls into a deep, dark state and believes his son is dead. He orders a funeral pyre built for the two of them and asks that they be burnt like the Kings of old as the city becomes encircled by a host of 200,000 Orcs.

To the north, Aragorn and his companions have traveled to the White Mountains to find the Paths of the Dead, a mountain hall where the oathbreakers from the War of the Last Alliance still dwell. Helped by his companions, Legolas and Gimli as well as the “Grey Company” – a group of Rangers from Arnor in the north – he sets out to recruit them.

As Aragorn departs on his seemingly impossible task, King Théoden musters the Rohirrim to come to the aid of Gondor. Merry, eager to go to war with his allies, is refused by Théoden several times. Finally Dernhelm, one of the Rohirrim, takes Merry up on his horse, and secretly rides with the rest of the Rohirrim.

At Minas Tirith, under the leadership of the Witch King of Angmar, the forces of Mordor break through the city’s gates. However, the Rohirrim show up and begin to ride them down. Gandalf arrives in the King’s Hall to confront Denethor and stop him from burning himself and his son.

Denethor cuts the cushion from his thrown and reveals the Palantir inside, and says he has seen visions of the battle which show their ultimate defeat with the arrival of a Corsair fleet from Umbar. Gandalf and Pippin manage to save Faramir from the fires but Denethor is consumed.

The battle appears is poised as the Riders of Rohan are engaged with Orcs and the Southron war Oliphants when the Corsairs arrive. Sauron’s forces initially rejoice at their appearance, but then realize the ships have been commandeered by Aragorn and the host of the Oathbreakers. With these ships and additional troops added to the fight, the host of Sauron is outflanked and near defeat.

However, the Witch King still manages to wound Theoden mortally before Dernhelm intervenes. Dernhelm is also wounded, and then saved when Pippin sticks his sword in the Ring wraith’s leg. Dernhelm removes her helmet and reveals that she is Eowyn, who then strikes the Witch King dead.

The siege is broken, but at a heavy cost. In addition to the death of many warriors, Theoden is dead, Eowyn and Pippin are both seriously wounded, and Faramir himself is still facing death. On top of all that, they know that Sauron is not yet defeated and they will not be able to thwart another attack.

Aragorn is called upon to heal them as well as Faramir. They recover, and Faramir and Eowyn become acquainted as they both convalesce. In time, she forgets her infatuation with Aragorn and learns to embrace Faramir’s gentle and wise nature.

Knowing that it is only a matter of time before Sauron attacks again, and that they do not have the strength to thwart him a second time, Aragorn and Gandalf propose a bold plan. They will attack the Black Gates in order to draw out the host of Mordor, thus clearing the way for Frodo and Sam to reach Mt. Doom unnoticed.

Upon their arrival, they are approached by the Mouth of Sauron, chief amongst his dark emissaries. He dictates punitive terms to the army of Men, and backs it up by claiming that Frodo is dead and shows them his effects as proof. They begin to despair, but Gandalf refuses to believe it, claiming that his is just another of Sauron’s deceptions. Were he in possession of the Ring, says Gandalf, he himself would be coming forward to meet them.

Having been refused, the Mouth of Sauron returns to the Gate and the host of Mordor falls upon them. They appear to be getting overrun, and Pippin is pinned under the body of a Troll after it is killed. All seems lost, just as the Great Eagles begin to come in and fight off the Ring Wraiths…

Book VI: The Return of the King
Sam finds Frodo’s body in the tower of Cirith Ungol. After fighting off his captors, Frodo awakens and takes the Ring from Sam. They descend the stairs into the land of Mordor and steal some Orcish armor and vestments so they can blend in with the host. However, they find the land largely empty as the armies are being called away to deal with a threat at the Black Gate.

Sam and Frodo are absorbed by the host temporarily, but manage to break away and make for the Mount Doom. With the land all but emptied and the eye fixed on the Black Gate, they make their final approach on the mountain itself. They pause temporarily to look back on all they’ve accomplished and the vast distance they’ve crossed, and realize that their Quest is almost over.

Once inside the mountain, and ready to cast the Ring into the Cracks of Doom, Frodo finally succumbs to the power of the Ring and declares he’s keeping it for himself. However, Gollum appears suddenly and tries to take it from him. He bites off Frodo’s finger and claims it, but loses his footing and falls into the Cracks, which consume him and the Ring together. Sauron and the Ring are at last destroyed!

At the Gates, Sauron appears as a dark shadow who tries to reach out and attack the Army of Men. However, his shadow is blown away by the wind, and his forces flee when they realize their master has been destroyed. The Southrons and Easterlings surrender and are given mercy, and the Great Eagles are flown in by Gandalf to pluck Frodo and Sam from the side of the mountain.

Back at Minas Tirith, Aragorn is crowned King and takes Arwen as his Queen. Faramir takes Eowyn as his wife and is given the title of Prince of Ithilien. The White Tree, which has been dying for some time, blossoms and begins to show signs of life. All of Gondor begins to sprout with trees after Aragorn plants and ancient seed, and Gandalf indicates that the Northern Kingdom, where Aragorn’s ancestors used to rule, will be reclaimed and rebuilt.

Frodo, Sam,  Merry and Pippin and are honored as heroes during the coronation ceremony. After a series of goodbyes, they return to the Shire, only to find it in ruins. They learn that Lotho Sackville-Baggins, one of Frodo’s relatives and usually referred to as “The Chief” or “The Boss”, has been oppressing the locals, but himself is being controlled by someone named Sharky. This man has imposed a program of deforestation and industrialization which has left the Shire scarred and near ruin.

After rallying the locals, they confront Lotho and Sharky’s men at the Battle of Bywater. Victorious, they march on Sharky’s hideout and confront Sharky himself, who turns out to be Saruman, accompanied by Grima. Apparently, the name Sharky is an Orcish word which means “old man”, which his Uruk-hai used to refer to him. Obstinate in defeat, Saruman abuses Grima and turns to leave. However, Grima stabs Saruman in the back and is himself felled by many arrows.

Time passes and everyone appears to have settled down happily. However, Frodo is unable to overcome the injuries he sustained at the hands of the Witch King. Eventually, he departs for the Havens where he meets with Gandalf, Bilbo Baggins, and many Elves, ending the Third Age. They sail into the West, to the lands of Aman, the “Undying Lands”, while Sam returns to the Shire where he is greeted by his wife and daughter, Rosie Cotton and Elanor, and delivers his final spoken words of the book: “Well, I’m back”.

Summary:
Though not as exciting to me as the second book, I nevertheless loved the third and final installment. Naturally, many critics and readers over the years have cited some weaknesses in the book, such as the extended ending where Frodo and his friends return to the Shire to save it from Saruman. This felt like an added climactic moment which occurred after the big one, which can seem a little out of place for a story, even one as epic as this one.

However, it was intrinsic in demonstrating Tolkien’s views on industrialization and labor relations. In short, he was a man who delighted in the natural world, and saw the intrusion of industry and an industrialized workforce as oppressive. And hell, you couldn’t beat the references: “The Boss”, the corrupt workmen, the smokestacks and the ruined countryside. It was like a worker’s pamphlet and a description of 19th century Manchester all rolled into one.

There were several more asides in this book, something Tolkien was famous for. And although they seemed like third act additions, they all seemed to be of particular importance to the author himself. For example, the scene where Theoden and the Aragorn are having an audience with the leader of the Pukel Men in order to find the path through the mountains, this was important in that it showed Tolkien’s views on native peoples, how they have been historically used and abused and were deserving of more respect.

The fact they are asking the help of people that Rohan usually hunts and goes to war with was also an interesting allegory. Much like how the British, French and American colonists called upon their Native neighbours for help in the French and Indian War, the War of Independence, and the War of 1812, Rohan is calling on people it typically considers to be enemies for help against a greater foe. As such, I found the scene quite interesting; and rather than detract from the overall narrative, I felt it added to the richness of Tolkien’s world. An editor would have surely told him to nix it, but that was something else about Tolkien. He refused to let editors tell him what to do, beyond mere spell checks and grammatical corrections.

In terms of the film adaptation, I once again had some issues with how it was done. But to be fair, I was a full-blown Rings geek at this point and saw the book as something akin to canon, so any changes were likely to be seen as just plain sacrilege. Still, it was awesome to witness the battle of Pelennor Fields on the big screen, not to mention seeing Minas Tirith rendered in visual form. These were the big climactic scenes to the story and I approved quite highly with how Jackson rendered it all.

When it came to the battle itself, there was the same conveyance of hopelessness and the feeling that everything was lost, right up until the reinforcements arrive and the day is saved! And personally, I can’t get enough of the scene where the Riders of Rohan start riding down the Orcs! Seeing those ugly bastards get their ranks clobbered was so pleasing after all the people they killed and evil shit they pulled! But of course, the battle got a little hokey after this, as Legolas begins doing his acrobatics and the ghost men show up to the fight.

This latter part wasn’t in the book; the Oathbreakers having done their part to secure the fleet in the first place. Having them also destroy all the Orcs inside the gates of Minis Tirith also made it look like the forces of Gondor did very poorly in the fight, which was really not the case in the book. Granted, they were losing, but their contribution on the fields helped turn the tide of battle and ensured that they still had plenty of foces to send to the Black Gate at the end.

Oh, and that farewell scene between Theoden and Eowyn. All I can say is “Ick!” “I’ve got to save you,” says she, to which he replies “You already have…” Not only was this ripped straight from Return of the Jedi, but it made no sense. How did she save him? Sure, she killed the Witch King, but he’s dying. She didn;’t redeem him the way Luke did his father. So where did the saving come in? What, did she save him from his sexist views? Great, but… you’re still dead, Theoden! Luckily, the fight with the Witch King overshadowed all of that for me. Sure, he too was a bit of a ripoff of Darth Vader, but who cares? He was badass!

Of course, Sam and Frodo’s part in this book was rather truncated. It is for this very reason that Peter Jackson chose to take material from Book IV and place it here, where it could be used to pad their story. However, this worked quite well in the book in that we were brought to a veritable climax when the Book V ended at the Black Gates. With so much hanging in the balance, Book VI manages to carry things on and not keep the reader waiting too long before showing the resolution and tying things up.

That was one thing I didn’t really approve of in the movie, which was the amount of padding they placed in Sam and Frodo’s part. Those who have read the books will know what I mean. The fact that they kept the scenes from Shelob’s Lair for this movie made perfect sense, but the additional parts which didn’t happen in the book – Gollum turning Frodo against Sam, Gollum attacking them twice after betraying them, Frodo falling and getting a vision of Galadriel to help him up – all seemed like needless filler. Oh, and don’t forget the extra added scenes of Arwen looking on and crying, again!

But other than that, zero complaints! Kudos to Peter Jackson for taking on the task of turning one of the best stories of high fantasy and mythos into a full-length movie series, complete with battle scenes that were awesome in their size and scale! And an even bigger kudos to Tolkien, for giving countless generations something which they have been able to enjoy, draw inspiration from, and feel all the richer for having read. Few people have had the same impact as this venerated author, and very few works have ever come to rival its scope and influence.

If you haven’t read it, do it now! Even if you don’t generally approve of fantasy, you’ll find something to love here. I guarantee it!

LOTR: The Two Towers

Welcome back! Last time, I took a much overdue trip down memory lane with the Fellowship of the Ring. Hope you liked the trip too! And now, we come to the second volume in the tale of Lord of the Rings, which just happens to be my favorite installment in the series.

In addition to being my first exposure to Tolkien’s work, it was also action-packed and brought the plot to a fuller fruition, leaving the reader at a crucial point where things are both poised on a razor’s edge, yet with the knowledge that the greatest actions are still yet to come.

Oh, and I trust people noticed the artwork last time, which is the famed work of renowned Rings artist Alan Lee. In the full-length compendium of LOTR, where all six books appeared in a single volume, Lee was the man who provided the illustrations that brought Tolkien’s literary vision to life. I hope you all liked it last time, because there’s plenty more in this installment! I guess Lee felt particularly inspired by this volume…

Plot Summary:
Aptly named The Two Towers, the title of this volume refers to the that events contained within revolved around the towers of Isengard and Barad-dûr. This included the deployment of Saruman’s Orc armies against neighboring Rohan, and Sauron’s first movements towards Minas Tirith and the Kingdom of Gondor.

Book III: The Treason of Isengard
This book story picks up with the aftermath of the Fellowship’s dissolution. Upon returning to their camp, Aragorn learns that Frodo and Sam have set out alone, that Boromir has been killed in battle, and that Merry and Pippin have both been taken prisoner. He is joined by Gimli and Legolas, who both lament the breakup of their union, but are given heart when Aragorn declares that they yet have a purpose: to save Merry and Pippin from capture.

After committing Boromir’s body to a boat and setting it down the river Anduin, they set out in pursuit of the Uruk-hai. Meanwhile, Merry and Pippin begin to contemplate their escape. They notice that two camps exist amongst the Orc – the Uruk-hai of Isengard and the Uruks of Mordor. They take their time and exploit the differences between them, but are ultimately set free when the Riders of Rohan attack and eliminate the Orcs. They flee into Fangorn forest shortly before Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas meet Eomer and the Riders and learn of how they killed the company of Uruk-hai .

Meanwhile, Merry and Pippin are taken in by an Ent named Treebeard. After learning about the Ents, an ancient race of tree-creatures, they tell Treebeard of what’s happening outside his door and ask for his help. He agrees to hold a council with the most ancient of the Ents and discuss what their involvement, if any, will be. After lengthy discussions, Treebeard manages to convince the others that they must go to war since Saruman is cutting down their forest to fuel his engines of war.

Aragorn, Gimil and Legolas track Merry and Pippins into the forest, where they spot a white wizard whom they assume is Saruman. When they reach him, however, they realize it is Gandalf, that he returned to Middle Earth after his ordeal with the Balrog and is now far more powerful. They then ride together to Edoras and the Golden Hall to meet with Theoden, King of Rohan, to ask for his help.

Once there, he finds that Theoden is a shell of his former self, and that his adviser, Grima Wormtongue, appears to be in control of the Kingdom. Gandalf reveals him of being Saruman’s spy, and unable to deny it, he spits on the floor and runs away. Theoden now realizes that the spell Saruman has been holding over him has now passed and he is once again strong and in control of his faculties. He agrees to help them and orders the Rohirrim (Riders of the Mark) to mobilize.

After rallying all available forces from Edoras, Theoden orders his army to march to the fortress of Hornburg in Helm’s Deep. Gandalf meanwhile rides out to find Erkenbrand and the rest of his riders, whom Saruman’s forces had previously routed. They ride to Helm’s Deep where they find the local garrison undermanned, but ready and willing to fight. After preparing the defenses, the entire host of Saruman’s Uruk-hai take the field and begin laying siege.

Initially, things go well for the defenders who are able to thwart attacks along the wall and against the Keep itself. However, things soon turn when Saruman’s forces deploy “devilry” to explode a hole in the wall. With the wall breached, the Uruk-hai surround and lay siege to the Keep, and all seems to have been lost. However, Aragorn addresses the Uruk-hai and warns them to withdraw before the sun rises; an offer they reject.

When the sun does rise in the east, Aragorn and the defenders of the Hornburg mount one last assault. The horn of Helm Hammerhand is blown, defeaning the Orcs, and the riders charge out to meet them. Just then, they see Gandalf emerge on the hills overlooking Helm’s Deep with Erkenbrand and the rest of the Rohirrim. They charge upon the Orcs faltering lines and break them, routing those that survive into the forest of Huorns, where they are slaughtered by vengeful Ents.

Together, Theoden, Gandalf, Aragorn and the rest ride to Isengard to confront Saruman. When they arrive, they find that an army of Ents have overrun Saruman’s defenses and have him cornerned in the tower of Orthanc. They are reunited with Merry and Pippin and all seems well. However, he warns them that Saruman still has much power and will try to use his “voice” to command them.

Despite Saruman’s arrogance and power, he is unable to sway Theoden into a peace settlement. Instead, Theoden demands Saruman’s surrender, and Gandalf urges him to renounce the power of the Ring and return to the light. When Saruman tries to walk away, Gandalf becomes angry and orders him back. In a display of his newfound power, he cast Saruman out of the Order of Wizards and the White Council and breaks his staff, thus destroying his power.

Grima, who is trapped inside with Saruman, throws something at Gandalf but misses. Pippin picks it up and is told to hand it over to Gandalf, as he knows that this object is one of the palantíri (seeing-stones). Pippin, unable to resist, looks into it the stone that night and encounters the Eye of Sauron. Luckily, he emerges unharmed and Gandalf realizes this might work to their advantage. Gandalf leaves with Pippin for Minas Tirith to oversee their preparations for the coming war while Théoden, Merry and Aragorn remain behind to muster Rohan’s forces to ride to Gondor’s aid.

Book IV: The Ring Goes East
After making their way across the Anduin River, Frodo and Sam begin walking through Emyn Muil, the impassable rocky mountains that seem to go on forever. They realize that Gollum is still following them, and lay in wait for him. Frodo manages to subdue Gollum with Sting, and they tie him up with elvish rope and take him prisoner. However, Frodo is pursuaded to let him go when Gollum agrees to help them find a way into Mordor.

Though Sam distrusts Gollum with a passion, Frodo feels sympathetic to him because his experience with the Ring mirrors Frodo’s. In time, Gollum also begins to trust in Frodo and remembers his old self and even his old name, Smèagol. Ultimately, Frodo hopes he can save him from the Ring’s influence.

After leading them out of Emyn Muil, he shows them the path through the Dead Marshes to avoid orc patrols. They learn that these Marshes are so named because they were the field of battle during the War of The Last Alliance. It was here that they defeated the forces of Sauron before moving on to lay seige to Barad-dur.

As such, the Marshes are littered with the bodies of dead men, elves and orcs, and haunted by their spirits. Gollum warns them not to state into the green lights, which are apparently the emanations of the dead themselves. Unfortunately, Frodo does just that and becomes drawn in, and is nearly lost in the process. Luckily, Gollum manages to save him, surprising both Sam and himself.

When they reach the Black Gate, they witness forces loyal to Sauron entering from the South. These men are called Southrons and are arriving by the thousands. Gollum warns them not to enter there and tells them of a secret entrance that lies the south through the province of Ithilien, which is still in the hands of Gondor.

When they arrive, the see another company of Southron men accompanied by the massive war Oliphants. The company is attacked by a group of unseen Rangers and Gollum flees just before Frodo and Sam are captured. The Rangers are led by a Faramir, Boromir’s brother, who informs them of Boromir’s death.

Faramir and the Rangers lead Sam and Frodo into a secret hideout and begins questioning them. In the course of things, Sam accidentally reveals to Faramir that Frodo carries the One Ring. Much to their surprise though, Faramir doesn’t want to take it from them. Unlike Boromir, he understands the dangers of the Ring and approves of their plan to take it to Mount Doom where it will be destroyed.

Later that night, Gollum is found diving for fish into the sacred pool, the penalty for which is death. Faramir’s archers are about to kill him, but Frodo admits that he is there companion and he need him to to get into Mordor. Though Frodo has saved his life, Gollum appears to feel distraught and betrayed by the incident. The following morning Faramir gives them some provisions and sends them on their way, but warns them that Gollum may know more about the secret entrance (Cirith Ungol) than he has been telling them.

Gollum leads them past the city of Minas Morgul and up a long, steep staircase of the Tower of Cirith Ungol. At the base of it lies a long tunnel which he claims leads into Mordor, one which the orcs don’t know about. His betrayal is soon revealed when an enormous spider named Shelob sneaks up on them. Gollum attacks Sam and prevents him from warning him before he’s stung. Sam manages to fend off Gollum and back into the spider’s cave where he manages to scare off Shelob with the light of Erendil.

After seeing Frodo lifeless and pale, Sam assumes that Frodo is dead and becomes despondent. He debates abandoning the Quest in favor of chasing after Gollum and killing him. However, he resolves to finish the Quest himself and takes the Ring from Frodo’s body. Unfortunately, a group of Orcs show up and take Frodo’s body away, and reveal in the process that Frodo is not in fact dead, but only unconscious. This is Shelob’s way, he learns, which is to paralyze her victims with poison before draining their blood. The story ends with Sam resolving to travel to Minas Morgul and save Frodo!

Summary:
As I might have said already, this book was my favorite of the three. The action starts immediately with the introduction of the Rohirrim and the march to war. And of course, things didn’t let up with the seige at Helm’s Deep, the decision of the Ents to get involved, and the reigning in of Saruman. But at all times, the action is made all the more poignant by the fact that everything is steeped in ancient lore and genuine cultural influences. I for one couldn’t get enough of Rohan’s culture and its Anglo-Saxon nature, nor the constant intrigue Tolkien sowed into the plot with all the spying, lying, influence and plotting.

And then things calm down just a bit for Frodo and Sam’s journey, which is characterized by fear, suspicion, and an in-depth analysis of Gollum’s split personality. Here is perhaps one of the best elements of the series, where we find a creature so perverted by evil and twisted by centuries of isolation that he seems barely human. But at the same time, there is still a spark of humanity that burns within him, one which Frodo feels he must harness and breathe new life into.

And of course, there’s Frodo’s own transformation as he becomes more and more consumed by the Ring’s power. Though they are already bound by mutual necessity, it is clear that Frodo and Gollum are bound by shared experience a swell. This gives another one of the story’s arguably best elements, which is the way the reader is left hoping that Frodo can endure, and torn between hoping for Gollum and suspecting him of treachery. This is a perfect device, in that it mirrors the dichotomy between Sam and Frodo perfectly.

On top of all that, there was more development in terms of the stories deep background and geography of Middle Earth. Seeing the Southrons for the first time was very intriguing, and reminded me just how inspired Tolkien’s literary creations are. Whereas the people of Rohan were clearly inspired by the Anglo-Saxon example, the Southrons clearly represented the armies born of West Asia that threatened the real-life “Men of the West – the Persians, the Carthaginians, and the Saracen Turks.

Film Adaptation:
It is perhaps for this reason, or the fact that I read the book first this time, that I found the movie quite inferior. All throughout, they made extensive changes which I felt were obvious, transparent, and just plain unnecessar. For example, several scenes were added that never took place in the book for the simple reason that Peter Jackson and the script writer’s felt it needed more drama. Aragorn never fell on the way to Helm’s Deep, there was no pitch battle between Saruman’s riders and the Rohirrim, and the battle at Hornburg was hardly as hopeless as they made it out to be.

And let’s not forget the cheese element that was pervasive in the film. In this installment, Arwen and Elrond had no page time, and yet they forced them both in with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. Really, what was the point of those long, drawn out scenes where she and her father are discussing the consequences of her life choices, aside from ensuring they still had screen time? Perhaps it’s just the fact that I know they weren’t in the book, but it just seemed annoying and forced. The first film seemed to excel for me by leaving stuff out, not adding stuff in.

And that scene at Helm’s Deep where Legolas rides a shield like it’s a skate board down the steps? I know they felt the need to throw the kids the bone, but that was just plain cheese! Much of the action was pervaded by that in fact, like when Gimli told Aragorn to “toss him”, an obvious reference to the terrible sport. Whereas in the first movie Gimli was a brusque and tough soul, by this movie his antics have degenerated into cheap comic relief, and Legolas’ stunts begin to border on the completely unrealistic.

But I aint done yet! There were also the million and one changes that they made to the script which I couldn’t help but notice, being a newly graduated Rings geek. For one, the confrontation at the Golden Hall was all wrong! Saruman was not exercising direct control over Theoden, Grima was the one whispering poison in his ear to keep him weak and complaint. That was far more realistic than the scene were Gandalf “shoves” Saruman out of him. And what’s more, the scene totally did away with the way Gandalf gets mad in the book, summons lightening, and scares the shit out of Grima. That was literary gold!

In fact, the best parts in the series are where Gandalf get’s mad and the whole world begins to shake. And they left that part out too, where Gandalf grows tired of Saruman’s bullshit and breaks his staff. Not only did they not even show it in this movie, they made the scene where it happens totally calm and boring. But that’s something for next review…

The next big change I saw was in how Theoden marched to war. In the book, he agrees and mobilizes his forces to go to Helm’s Deep because its a natural fortification that stands in the way of Saruman’s advance. But in the movie, he is hesitant and rides to Helm’s Deep because Edoras is “vulernable”. That made no sense because anyone who has access to a map of Middle Earth will see that Edoras is much farther away from Isengard than Helm’s Deep, and its a freaking walled city. How is it vulnerable? If anything, marching his people through the wilderness to an old fort that’s located practically on Isengard’s doorstep was stupid strategy. But that’s such a Rings geek point to make!

Oh, and the way the Elves marched to their rescue? Heartfelt, but never happened. Theoden had a garrison at Helm’s Deep, and though it was understaffed and made up of too many old men and youths – recall the line “too many winters or too few” – they stood against the Uruk-hai on their own. They were rescued in the end, but by Erkenbrand and the Rohirrim, who had not riden away out of anger at Theoden, but because they had been routed by the Uruks while fighting in the Westfold.

Still not done! There was also the extended part where Faramir decides to take the Ring and makes Frodo and Sam ride with them to Osgiliath. This never happened, and it totally pitched Faramir as some unappreciated child who was eager to earn his father’s respect. True, his father didn’t appreciate him, but his whole character was built on the fact that he was the wiser of the two brothers and knew how to resist the Rings allure. And that scene where he and his Lieutenant roll out the map to discuss strategy? So obvious! It was nothing more than an excuse to give the audience a gander at what Middle Earth looks like and illustrate their strategy. Obvious, but I guess it was necessary seeing as how many viewers hadn’t read the book.

And unlike the first movie, in this case, they cut out the ending instead of dipping into the next book to strengthen it up. This includes the portion where Gandalf, Aragorn and Theoden ride to Isengard and where Frodo is attacked by Shelob. Some would say they needed to make cuts for the sake of time, but that doesn’t hold seeing as how they added in scenes which never took place in the book. Cutting real material that was well worth watching just to make room for obligatory scenes of Arwen crying and the forced drama of Aragorn nearly dying just seems silly.

Okay, all done! Next up is the final installment, where things come together with climactic war scenes and the last, desperate attempt to destroy the Ring. Stay tuned for The Return of the King!