LOTR: The Two Towers – Extended Edition (2002)

Saruman (Christopher Lee) and Grima (Brad Dourif) atop Isengard looking over the army
Saruman (Christopher Lee) and Grima (Brad Dourif) atop Isengard looking over the army

The two towers refer to Saruman’s (Isengard) and Sauron’s (Barad-Dur) strongholds.  The fellowship has gone its separate ways, so there is much more to see in this film.  Saruman’s army is getting bigger each day.  We see how Uruk-hai are being bred (gross); Treebeard (voiced by John Rhys-Davies, who also plays Gimli) thinks they are orcs crossed w/ men. 

Saruman's eye atop Barad-Dur
Saruman’s eye atop Barad-Dur

Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) travel with Gollum (Andy Serkis), a creature that they can’t fully trust.  Gollum says that he can’t be far from the ring, and calls Frodo “master.”  He had the ring for 500 years, so is in its power (as Galadriel explained in FOTR). 

Sam (Sean Astin), Frodo (Elijah Wood), and Gollum (Andy Serkis)
Sam (Sean Astin), Frodo (Elijah Wood), and Gollum (Andy Serkis)

One of the best things about the EE- Sean Bean!  We get to learn more about Boromir, his younger brother Faramir (David Wenham), and their father Denethor (John Noble).  Faramir offered to go to the council of Elrond at Rivendell, but his father refused him. 

Faramir (David Wenham) and Boromir (Sean Bean) drink a toast
Faramir (David Wenham) and Boromir (Sean Bean) drink a toast

Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas meet Eomer (Karl Urban) and the horsemen loyal to him.  He’s in despair, after losing his cousin (Theodred) in battle and being banished from Edoras by Grima.  Théoden (Bernard Hill) is under Saruman’s spell, so he can’t function as king.  I love the Rohan musical theme! 

Eomer (Karl Urban) has been banished from Rohan
Eomer (Karl Urban) has been banished from Rohan

The White Wizard that everyone seems to fear turns out to be a good guy- Gandalf! 

Gandalf the White (Ian McKellan)
Gandalf the White (Ian McKellan)

Merry and Pip first see him (in Fangorn Forest).  We see the ingenuity of these two hobbits.  After escaping from Saruman’s forces, Pip leaves a trail which Aragorn follows.  Merry realizes that the Ents (tree herders) can help in the battle for Middle Earth. 

Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas riding toward Edoras
Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas riding toward Edoras

The CGI effects on Théoden were very cool!  He comes back to his old self in a few moments.  But his only son is dead, and he laments this in a nice scene with Gandalf.  The young are not supposed to die while “the old linger on.”

Grima and Theoden (Bernard Hill)
Grima and Theoden (Bernard Hill)

My favorite character in this film is Eowyn (Mirando Otto).  She is caring, can handle a sword (will see just how well later), and develops a friendship w/ Aragorn.  Does she love him?  Or does she want to fight beside him as an equal?  Maybe both!  In the EE, we learn that Eowyn can’t cook very well.  Aragorn grows to admire Eowyn. 

Eowyn (Miranda Otto) asks Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) about the jewel (Evenstar)
Eowyn (Miranda Otto) asks Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) about the jewel (Evenstar)

Gimli is quite funny in this film, though he continues to fight very well (as in FOTR).  He and Legolas are more friendly here, but have an ongoing rivalry.  We learn that dwarf women also have beards.  

Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) provides some much-needed humor
Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) provides some much-needed humor

Frodo and Sam learn that Boromir is dead from Faramir, captain of Gondor.  Faramir is another of my faves in the LOTR films- he’s the reluctant warrior who’s a deep thinker.  He sets the hobbits free after realizing the destructive power of the one ring, and the importance of the quest. 

Faramir is almost tempted by the ring
Faramir is almost tempted by the ring

Elrond (Hugo Weaving) convinces Arwen (Liv Tyler) to leave Rivendell and travel to The Undying Lands.  In a somewhat eerie sequence, he speaks of her future life should she marry Aragorn (a mortal man).  I think this is a bit longer in the EE. 

Flash forward scene with Arwen (Liv Tyler)
Flash forward scene with Arwen (Liv Tyler)

The toughest stuff to shoot was the battle at Helm’s Deep, the cast and crew explain on disc 4 of the EE.  The elves, lead by Haldir (Craig Parker), come to fight beside the men/boys of Rohan.  Then a new day comes, and Gandalf, Eomer, and his men ride in to defeat the Uruk-hai army. 

LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring – Extended Edition (2001)

Elrond (Hugo Weaving) on the battlefield
Elrond (Hugo Weaving) on the battlefield

I loved all the prologue stuff in the EE, esp. the battle/conflict involving Elrond and Isildur.  It explained some things to those who didn’t read the LOTR books (like myself).  Rings were given to the elves (including a intricate floral one Galadriel wears), dwarves, and men.  Saruman’s fate is tied to the One Ring (also called Isildur’s Bane), so as long as it’s out there, evil threatens Middle Earth.  Isildur is Aragorn’s ancestor; his sword is called Narsil.  Later on, in Rivendell, we see the shards of Narsil. 

Bilbo (Ian Holm) examines the ring
Bilbo (Ian Holm) examines the ring

There is more Bilbo-reated stuff in the EE, including a scene (in Lothlorien) where we see the destructive power the ring would have on him.  Bilbo gives Frodo a shirt of mithril (given to him by Thorin, we later learn from Gandalf), then freaks out upon seeing the ring on a chain worn around Frodo’s neck.  Frodo quickly covers it with his shirt. 

Gandalf (Ian McKellan) & Frodo (Elijah Wood)
Gandalf (Ian McKellan) & Frodo (Elijah Wood)

After Bilbo’s b-day party (including his disappearing trick), he leaves for Rivendell.  Frodo finds Gandalf sitting before the fire; we know that the wizard feels the power of the ring.  He dare not even come too close to it.  (On the other hand, Saruman joins forces w/ Sauron.) 

Galdriel feels the evil of the ring.
Galdriel feels the evil of the ring.

Later, we see the terrible power it could have upon Galadriel (Cate Blanchett). This was a cool, unexpected bit of acting/CGI!  Blanchett and Weaving were very believable as ancient, powerful, wise elves.  Arwen (Liv Tyler) did well, but I wished she had more to do in this film.  Like Wood, she has that very young/innocent/gentle quality about her.  They both have flawless skin (I saw Wood once on the subway in NYC).  I loved the exciting horse riding/escape scene (done mainly by a stuntwoman).

Getting ready to fight the cave troll inside Balin's Tomb
Getting ready to fight the cave troll inside Balin’s Tomb

The first time I saw the action sequences inside Balin’s Tomb, I was quite impressed.  Everything flowed well from the first instance of the arrow whizzing by Boromir’s (Sean Bean) face.

The balrog inside Moria
The balrog inside Moria

After a few views of the EE, I was also very impressed with the balrog (a very advanced bit of CGI work). 

Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) realizes that Frodo must go alone to Mordor
Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) realizes that Frodo must go alone to Mordor

Boromir is tempted by the ring (like men before); we’ll learn later the pressures he faced.  Perhaps Aragorn won’t be tempted, but Frodo can’t take that chance.  He heads off to Moria with Sam (who won’t be left behind).  My fave part of the EE set are the interviews with the cast (see disc 4: From Vision to Reality)- a must for any fan of LOTR