Viewed – 03 July 2011 Blu-ray
This second instalment in J. R. R. Tolkien’s epic trilogy continues the story of Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood), charged with the safe keeping of The One Ring, aided by his companion Samwise Gamgee (Sean Astin) as they travel to Mordor. They are joined on their journey by the creature Gollum, a former keeper of the ring who has been sent mad and physically altered by the ring’s hold over him, and yearns for nothing more than to take back what once was his. At the same time Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas travel to Rohan in search of Merry & Pippin who have been captured by a band of Orcs.
The issues I have always had about this movie is that some of the scenes and the general feel lacks the grandeur and awe-inspiring beauty of Fellowship, falling into that ‘people running around in the wilderness’ trapping of similar fantasy movies … and with the arrival of Gollum, moves a little away from the more human (see: hobbit) interaction I so loved. It also has to be said that Andy Serkis’ performance as Gollum, whilst amazing on a technical level, grates very quickly. As with any middle entry in a trilogy too, it lacks its own personality when compared to the other two, and can even get a little boring (especially in the scenes featuring the tree creatures … yawn). Thankfully then, we do get some grand action set pieces, reaching their pinnacle with the stunning Battle For Helm’s Deep – surely one of the finest and most exhilarating battles ever committed to film.
Peter Jackson’s direction is of course superb, with the New Zealand locations perfectly capturing the majesty of Middle Earth. The set design too is something to behold, and new members to the cast, including Bernard Hill’s King Theoden and Brad Dourif’s Grima Wormtongue add a great deal to proceedings. Yes it all feels a little less magical than Fellowship and perhaps a little clichéd, but taken on its own merits it still has enough action and quality acting to keep this viewer glued.
This extended cut adds nearly an hour’s extra footage. Most valuable here is some flash back to Boromir (Sean Bean) & Faramir’s rivalry and Faramir’s desperation to prove himself to his father, Denethor which adds plenty to what is otherwise an under-explored character in the theatrical cut. Also we get some extra Gollum footage, a slightly different beginning and extra character moments, which all feel welcome. Again the extra’s are plentiful, with a wealth of documentaries (spanning two DVDs) and four commentaries continuing on from Fellowship. Image-wise although reportedly not a completely new remaster, it still looks gorgeous, even if I felt on a whole the picture was a touch softer than the Fellowship – but regardless, still an above average HD treatment. Sound-wise the DTS Master Audio 6.1 soundtrack delivers a thumping sound stage that fills the room, and Howard Shore’s score really comes to life. So overall a first-rate celebration for what is for me, the weakest entry in the trilogy.
Verdict: 4 /5