(out of 5)
Peter Jackson’s breathtaking adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s popular fantasy novels continues in this second film chapter. Young hobbit Frodo (Elijah Wood) is growing weary in his journey towards Mordor to rid the world of the evil ring of power that threatens to destroy all life on Middle Earth. Picked because of his unshakeable virtue, even he is beginning to succumb to the power that the ring holds over mortal hearts, so it’s lucky for him that his best friend Sam (Sean Astin in a performance that almost steals the whole film) is there to keep him in line. Meanwhile, Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) and Legolas (Orlando Bloom) have gone in search of missing friends and end up walking into the middle of a huge war waged against the evil Saruman (Christopher Lee). Jackson’s excellent direction overcomes the many obstacles he is faced with very gracefully: the story is less about character development and more about endless battle scenes, and it being the middle instalment of the trilogy means there’s no satisfying beginning or ending to it. Of course, none of this stops it from being one of the most exciting and enjoyable films of the year with even more impressive computer graphic and makeup effects than before (if that’s possible). Ian McKellen has more scene-stealing fun playing the magnanimous wizard Gandalf, though his part is smaller here and gives him less of a chance to enjoy himself, as are the appearances by elf women Liv Tyler and Cate Blanchett. Mortensen’s role, however, takes more central stage and he is even more charismatic and skilled a performer than we saw the last time. Newcomers to the adventure include Miranda Otto, the astoundingly talented David Wenham and a brilliantly animated character named Gollum, who manages to come across with real emotional life and a very odd resemblance to Sylvia Sidney.
Directed by Peter Jackson
Cinematography by Andrew Lesnie
Produced by Peter Jackson, Barrie M. Osborne, Fran Walsh
Music by Howard Shore
Production Design by Grant Major
Film Editing by Michael Horton