Diary of a Lord of the Rings Marathon

We have finally done it.   All three films, all extended editions, all in HD.   All in one day.   Here is a bit of a blow-by-blow, with passing thoughts, events of importance, and other elements of the most enjoyable endurance test I have attempted.

8.00:   Woke up with my alarm.   Bride of Film Nerd was still dead to the world, so fed the cat and got some breaky.   Surfed online for a bit.

9.00:   Bride of Film Nerd now alert, so we worked on morning chores.

9.51:   Snack pile put in place at the ready.

9.57:   Hit “Play” on Disc 1, Fellowship of the Ring.

9.58:   Bride of Film Nerd already distracted… suggesting decoration ideas for a party we are throwing next week.

10.06:   Bride of Film Nerd declares “I don’t remember this…”   We were watching the first extended edition only scene.

10.10:   Bride already up for drinks.

10.11:   Film Nerd is inspired by this act… starts attacking the banana bread.

10.14:   Film Nerd now regrets not visiting Hobbiton when in New Zealand.

10.29:   Bride jumps at first appearance of the Eye of Sauron… Film Nerd is amused.

10.37:   Bride realises that for all intents and purposes that the Ring is a Horcrux… the first of many Potter parallels.

10.39:   Bride now appreciates the context for favourite Film Nerd saying, “Don’t tempt me Frodo!”

10.43:   Music reminds Bride of chip sessions on the highway in New Zealand… when the only music Film Nerd would play was LOTR soundtracks.

10.50:   Wizard fight prompts the pun “My staff is bigger than yours!”

10.51:   Memories trying to get photos of the location for “A Shortcut to Mushrooms”.   None turned out as the bus was going too fast.

10.56:   Frodo declares he must get to Bree.   Film Nerd starts thinking about cheese (but does not succumb).

10.59:   “It comes in pints?”   Film Nerd decides it is still to early for a pint himself.

11.14:   The clarity of Blu-Ray… Bree looks amazing in the background as the Hobbits leave with Aragorn.

11.28:   Film Nerd regrets not stopping at Arrowtown (Rivendell) on the way to Queenstown.

11.30:   First appearance of John-Rhys Davies!!!   Did I mention I have met him????

11.44:   Disc 1 over.

11.54:   Starting disc 2, Fellowship of the Ring

12.06:   Film Nerd remembers to buy squid later this week to try the deep fryer (Watcher in the Water at the doors of Moria time).   Also he starts to wonder if he is half-hobbit given a number of his musings during the film so far have been about food.

12.16:   Bride is frustrated with Pippin… to a similar degree that Gandalf is, really.

12.23:   Death of a cave troll.   Potter parallel #2.

12.30:   YOU SHALL NOT PASS!

13.03:   First look at Amon Hen… we drove past there too!!

13.06:   NOOOO!   Phone interruption 1… Sydney Uni looking for Alumni donations.   Now is so not the time!

13.19:   “Be at peace, Son of Gondor”   (wiping away tear)

13.25:   End credits of Fellowship start.

13.35:   Fan club special thanks credits start

13.53:   Fan club credits finish.   Fish and chips for lunch… appropriately we are eating New Zealand Hoki.

14.10:   Press “Play” on disc 1 of The Two Towers.   Open the Allens Retro mix.

14.25:   “He can’t take his grog!”   Hmmm, not too early to drink now, but not yet in the mood.

14.35:   First time in Edoras… we were there!

14.55:   Dead Marshes, or a cave full of Inferi??   Potter parallel #3.

15.22:   Finally, Edoras from the exact perspective we got photos from!

15.31:   “I know your face”

15.49:   Always loved the classic Gollum vs Smeagol scene.

15.55:   Disc 1 over, bathroom break time.

16.05:   On to disc 2…

16.15:   Eowyn clearly got her stew recipe from Gourmet Traveller magazine.   The recipe was supposed to be a Shepherd’s Pie…..

16.58:   Long distance view of location of Helm’s Deep.   I have that photo from standing on top of Edoras.

17.15:   Film Nerd catches his Bride napping just as te battle for Helm’s Deep is about to begin.   He opens the Burger Rings and grabs a beer.

17.21:   BOOM!   There is now a breach in the defences….

17.45:   The Ents break the Dam, we saw where that was with Dart River Safaris!

18.03:   End credits for The Two Towers.   Did not stick around for the fan club credits this time.

18.20:   Pressed “Play” on disc 1, The Return of the King.

18.25:   Pizza from Eagle Boys arrives.

18.35:   Phone interruption #2… Film Nerd’s mother.

19.03:   FIGWIT!   For the uninitiated Figwit stands for “Frodo is great, who is that?”… Played by Flight of the Conchords Bret McKenzie.

19.07:   Minas Tirith long view that we say for real.    Okay, same spot as the Helm’s Deep long view, but still counts!!

19.45:   An approximate time… I was too caught up in the crescendo of lighting of the beacons to note the exact time it occurred.

20.00:   Another approximate time, as I was caught up with Elrond revealing “Anduril, Flame of the West, forged from the shards of Narsil!”

20.26:   Bits of Gondor itself catapulted at the orc army.   So cool!!   Film Nerd opens another beer.

20.32:   End of disc 1 of Return of the King.

20.40:   We start on the final disc of our journey.

20.45:   Shelob, or is that Aragog?   Potter parallel #4.

21.15:   We hit the Ben and Jerry’s  Triple caramel chunk.

21.46:   Film Nerd experiencing onset of food coma… hits the Mylanta.

21.55:   BUT IT IS NOT THIS DAY!

21.58:   Bride beats Film Nerd to saying “I love this scene” as Samwise Gamgee intones “…But I can carry you!”

22.10:   Frodo claims he is “here at the end of all things”.   Apparently, all things does not include the film itself.   Multiple ending time.

22.35:   The words “The End” on-screen.   Film Nerd begins typing this diary.

22.56:   Credits finish rolling on the screen in the next room.

23.22:   Film Nerd completes the rough draft of diary.

23.26:   Film Nerd clicks “Publish” button on this post.

30 Day Film Challenge Day 1 – Favourite Film

Film Nerd’s Choice: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

Rationale:

It may seem a bit of a cheat choosing an entire trilogy on the very first day of this challenge, yet I feel extremely justified in my choice.   Divisions in the LOTR saga can be considered purely arbitrary, and this assertion is documented as being shared by Tolkien himself.   It was his publishers that determined his six book saga would be released in three volumes.   For Peter Jackson also, the trilogy was filmed in the one extended shoot, giving the trilogy a cohesiveness that may not have otherwise been afforded to it.   As for me, the end credits of each chapter is little more for me than a convenient bathroom break.

Choosing a favourite film for me is a difficult task.   Being a self-taught student of cinema, I love movies in every shape, genre, and theme.   To choose a film for me would be like having to choose a favourite child.    I pondered how to respond to Day One’s question with great difficulty, even trying to define exactly what the word favourite means in this context.   The definition I came up with was which film has had the greatest and most lasting impression of me out of all I have seen.   This immediately cut me down to the franchises that have for a long time at least partially defined my personality; Star Trek, James Bond and LOTR.    The former two both had high points that were contenders (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Casino Royale).   However no world has as fully absorbed my attention as Middle Earth has.   In December 1999, a valued high school teacher and friend raved to me that reading LOTR for the first time was like seeing Star Wars for the first time.   In December 2000, I got around to reading the novels.   I was so enthralled that as soon as I finished The Two Towers I continued on to and finished The Return of the King in one sitting.   Then December 2001, 2002, and 2003, Jackson had the vision and imagination to translate the images from my mind onto the screen perfectly.

Since then, I have become a student of not just cinema, but Tolkien also.   I have read The Silmarillion and The Children of Hurin.   I have read The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkein and Tolkein biographies.   I have read Christopher Tolkien’s 12 part History of Middle Earth, where he has published all of his father’s early drafts of anything even remotely related to this world of Elves, Hobbits and Dwarfs (that is not a mistaken spelling on the plural, it was Tolkien’s preferred way to write the plural!!).    Followers of this blog will also be aware I convinced my Bride that New Zealand, Middle Earth on Earth, was the perfect honeymoon destination!!

North Island Adventures

South Island Adventures

So clearly, Jackson’s 11 hour epic had to be my top choice.   As I write this, I have also finally found an Australian release date for the Extended LOTR trilogy on Blu-Ray; 29th of June, 2011!!    I will be there, cash in hand, and setting aside 11 hours straight to marathon what is for me the finest offering cinema has ever provided.

For my reviews of the individual films, see below;

The Fellowship of the Ring

The Two Towers

The Return of the King

Film Nerd and Bride in Middle Earth – South Island

*Christchurch was our last stop on this trip.   For photos and reflection on this beautiful city as it was, please proceed to the end of this post.   I once again wish to convey my sympathies to everyone affected by the recent tragedy*

Day 8: Greymouth – Franz Josef

It was only a short drive this morning, but as it was through the Southern Alps, it was breathtakingly beautiful.   The road presented a few twists and turns, but that did not distract from all we saw around us.    This remained true for our entire time driving in the Southern Alps, from Franz Josef, to Queenstown, and through to Milford Sound.

The township of Franz Josef was small, but fantastic.  It was great just walking around, enjoying not only the shops, but the mountainous backdrop.   We were staying at the Punga Grove Motor Inn, our best accommodation yet.   There was a full kitchenette, and plenty of room, as well as full complimentary milk as opposed to a few small packets of UHT.   The staff was very friendly too.   They recommended the Speight’s Landing Bar and Restaurant to us for lunch, and we enjoyed our first meal there so much, we returned for dinner.

View walking in Franz Josef township

Our pre-booked activity while in Franz Josef was a Glacier Country Lake Tour of Lake Mapourika.   It is not exactly what we expected, given the name.   This is because there was actually no view whatsoever of the actual Franz Josef Glacier.    The Lake and the scenery were lovely,and we did see some wildlife, but the tour itself did feel somewhat extended and unnecessary, especially given the scale of some of the lakes we saw later on our holiday.   It also did not help that another passenger on our tour would not stop talking, so the serenity of the trip was broken.

Where the glacier SHOULD be

The most exciting thing on the cruise... a Tui!

What we did to compensate for not seeing the glacier was to then visit the glacier ourselves.   There are a number of walks one can take to view the glacier, of which we tried a few.   Our favourite was perhaps the longest, but the extra effort paid off.   We walked to the base of the glacier itself.   It was cold and windy, but the view was spectacular.   An added delight was having a Kia visit us while we were there, hopping around our very feet.   We then ended the evening visiting some hots springs that were not far from our hotel.   They were not the same as the Rotorua Mud baths, but they were still very relaxing.

All in all we were quite sad to leave Franz Josef the next day.   We could easily of spent another 48 hours there, then spend more time at Fox glacier, which we unfortunately did not have time to visit.

Day 9: Franz Josef – Queenstown

It was another long drive to start the day… a little bit scary driving in the Southern Alps with heavy rain, but when the rain cleared the benefit was seeing all these amazing waterfalls by the side of the road, one even spilling out onto the road.   It was amazing to watch.   There were a number of points of interest to stop at along the way too…   The gates of Haast, Fantale Falls, Blue Pools.   Not all were that spectacular, for instance, the rain had made the blue pools a murky grey instead, but everything considered this was the best drive we had had yet.   This was especially true passing Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea.   They were both right next to the State Highway, and were lakes of brilliant size, as well as of the most brilliant blue colour.

Waterfalls right by the road

Fantale Falls

Lake Hawea

We had another fantastic hotel in Queenstown with the Sherwood Manor Hotel.   It was about 3km from the city centre, but that gave it some amazing views, and the rooms themselves were closer to small apartments.   It also had a really nice restaurant that we went to each night while there, with a head waiter who we got to know pretty well in our time there, who was perhaps the single best example of brilliant staff on this island.   Overall, South Island blew North island away, in terms of value for money and the friendliness of the people.   The pace of life there was certainly less commercial and more relaxed.

Day 10:   Queenstown

The events of this day were something I had been looking forward to the entire trip… our Dart River Safaris Funyak Experience.   This started with a bus trip to our starting point at Glenorchy, during which the Pembroke Mountain range, backdrop for Mordor, and also had the mountain range pointed to me that served as the Misty Mountains, as pictured below.   Then, after wetsuiting up, we were taken on a jet boat ride on Dart River, which was an amazing experience, despite the fact my new NZ souvenir cap did not survive on my head…   It was on the jet boat that I got photos of the sites for Fangorn Forest and Isengard.   Then we jumped into our Funyaks, which was fun in itself, despite the wet weather on the day.   The combination of LOTR fanaticism, and actual activities, made this a winner of an experience I would recommend to anyone!!

 

The Misty Mountains

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Recognise the dam the Ents broke?

The site of Isengard

Wet and Funyaking

 

Day 11: Queenstown – Milford Sound – Queenstown

I had heard before this drive that it was one to be wary of.    It was 4 hours each way, so yes it did require concentration, but it was only windy for perhaps the last half hour, otherwise it was another beautiful drive.   The only part that freaked me a little was the drive through Homer Tunnel, which has been made right through a mountain.   The lights were not on when we went, so we were relying on the car in front’s tail lights.   We survived though, and made it to our Real Journeys Milford Sound Cruise.   It was quite an experience, seeing seals along the way, and nosing our way through waterfalls.   It was also very peaceful and very relaxing.   Our love affair with the South Island continued….

 

Driving through Homer Tunnel

Our cruise vessel

 

Day 12:   Queenstown – Dunedin

Dunedin is another place we spent far too little time in.   In fact, we were not even there for 24 hours.   Our Hotel continued our great run of fantastic places, the Hotel Cargills.   Dunedin was a beautiful if small city, lovely to just walk around.   The highlights had to be our pre-booked activities though…. a trip to Cadbury World (the photo below is all we were permitted), which included observing a giant chocolate waterfall and all the chocolate you can eat, and a visit to Speight’s brewery.   In my experience on this holiday, Speights is the best beer I have tasted.   Better yet, this time we were allowed to take photos!!   If you get the chance, my favourite Speights beers are the Gold Medal and the Old Dark.

Day 13: Dunedin – Christchurch

It is harder to write this post given recent events.   I think my Bride would agree with me that this city was the perfect way with which to end our trip.   We had a fantastic hotel, the Latimer Hotel, with the friendliest staff yet and, though not as large as some other rooms we had been in, everything in our room was of the highest quality.   To hear Latimer Square, where it is situated, is now a triage area is heartbreaking.   We explored the city that day, saw the trams running, visited the Cathedral.    There were still signs of clean up from September in progress, scaffolding everywhere, yet this could not hide the brilliance of the city.   To think many of these buildings are now flattened is hard to grasp.

The Christ Church Cathedral steeple as it was

Choir practice in Christ Church Cathedral

 

Day 14: “Edoras” tour from Christchurch

This was a day largely not spent in Christchurch city itself.   It was a highlight of the holiday itself though, prior to the recent tragedy.   We went on a Hassle Free Tours trip to the site where the LOTR Edoras scenes were filmed.   Being an LOTR nut I was in my element, particularly getting to play with replica props at the site.   Our guide sold us our licensed LOTR souvenirs, I got the One Ring on a chain, got 1/7 of the price at WETA cave, and my Bride I bought an Evenstar pendant.   Our guide was amazing, and very knowledgeable, and my Bride and I both hope he has not been severely affected by the earthquake, either from harm to himself or his loved ones.   I now regret I never kept a record of his name.   When recovery efforts are over and the city of Christchurch can move forward again, if the tour resumes business I would highly recommend it.

 

Our guide, in front of Edoras, showing us as it was in the film

"Anduril, Flame of the West, Forged from the shards of Narsil"

Our first fight.....

The site for the external shots of Helm's Deep

 

 

Day 15:   Christchurch – Sydney

For the last day of our trip we had a final explore of then and hopefully soon to be again amazing Christchurch.   We enjoyed a tram ride around the city, visited the Art Gallery, and said goodbye to New Zealand in general.   If I could send any message to those affected by yesterday’s disaster, it would be that you have our full sympathies, our love, and our hopes that the future for Christchurch and New Zealand as a whole is bright.   We left two weeks ago with fond memories and light hearts, and experience that should not and cannot be denied to future holiday makers, not to the Kiwis themselves.

Film Nerd and Bride in Middle Earth – North Island

*This post was in draft when the news of the Christchurch earthquake came through.   I will be posting our adventures in the South Island tomorrow, with a focus particularly on Christchurch as it was just two weeks ago.   Our thoughts and prayers are with the wonderful people of that city, and anyone else who may be affected, in this difficult time.*

For our Honeymoon, Bride of Film Nerd and I spent two weeks travelling around New Zealand.   What follows are a few highlights and pictures of our time there, including some Lord of the Rings specific moments.   I have linked websites to our hotels and activities at each location if you wish to find out more.

Day 1:   Sydney – Auckland

Our flight landed in Auckland, and we picked up our rental car for the North Island from the airport.   Though a Toyota Camry was listed on our rental agreement, we were fortunate enough to end up with the Hyundai i45, which was a very nice upgrade indeed.

Our hotel in Auckland was the Best Western Presidential.   It was comfortable enough, however the parking was limited for that first night and we missed out.   Even when I did get parking the next day, the car park was almost dangerously cramped.   We had some time to explore the city that evening, but what we saw of the city centre was almost just like Sydney.   We went to dinner at a nice Old English styled restaurant, The Lord Nelson, where I also enjoyed my first Kiwi beer.

Day 2:   Bay of Islands

We caught a tour bus from our hotel to the Bay of Islands.    Our first visit on this trip was the house of James Busby and the Waitangi treaty grounds, so we got our first real taste of NZ history and Maori culture.   We were also walked through the Te Whare Runanga Maree, a Maori meeting-house, and were shown a genuine Maori war canoe.

Waitangi Treaty Site

 

Te Whare Runanga Maree

Maori War Canoe

 

 

We were then taken on a cruise of the Bay of Islands, where we saw a pod of dolphins and the Hole in the Rock.   Unfortunately, my dolphin photography was not that good, so the photo below was taken by a professional photographer on board.

Day 3:   Auckland – Tauranga

We spent the morning in Auckland, observing the views from the Sky Deck of the Sky Tower.   The views were impressive, and it was nice to be able to leave Auckland on a positive note.   We then drove for 3 hours or so to Tauranga.   We had a lovely little hotel there, the Armitage, in which we got very comfortable.   We then went on an Evening Kayak and Glow Worm tour via the Waimarino adventure park.   Unfortunately, being a water sport type excursion, I left my camera behind, but it was an amazing night.   We were lucky enough to be the only two on this tour, which started with being fed fresh fruit, cheese, and wine, then we were taken on the kayak itself.   It was so peaceful, and when we were in the glow-worm canyon it was like another night sky , but so close you could touch it.

Day 4: Tauranga – Rotorua

A short but beautiful drive today brought us to Rotorua, our favourite destination up until this point.   Sure, the smell of sulphur initially hits you in the face like a cricket bat, but it does not take long to get used to it.   We visited the Te Puia Rotorua facility, in which we were treated to a traditional Maori performance (I have video but the file size is too huge to upload, there are a few pics below instead), we were demonstrated traditional Maori wood carving and weaving techniques, we got to see a real life Kiwi (no photos allowed), and we toured the thermal valley, including natural geysers.   It was a fun packed experience, and our guide Mel had an awesome sense of humour, adding to the experience.

That evening we went for a Hells Gate Mud bath and Wai Ora spa experience.   The mud bath was certainly different, but very relaxing, a relaxation that was disturbed by the fact afterwards we were required to take a freezing cold shower.   We could then recover in the sulphur spa.   After that level of relaxation, all we wanted was a good meal, which we got from our hotel restaurant (at the Sudima Hotel), then get a good sleep.

Day 5: Rotorua – Wellington

Very little to say about today, as we spent the vast majority of it driving.   Driving in NZ is fantastic though, with State Highways that go right through National Parks and Reserves.   An example on this drive was when we were going through Tongariro National Park.   I was especially excited to be going through here as many of the LOTR Mordor scenes were filmed here.   It was clear on this journey however, that the power of the Ring is destroyed, as Mordor now appears touched by the Valar….

Wellington is a beautiful city, despite some insane traffic.   There are a lot of lovely places to eat, a lot of shops to visit and enjoy.   We spent an evening strolling around before returning to our hotel, The Bay Plaza.   This hotel had a lovely bar, and was very comfortable.   My only complaint would once again be the cramped parking spaces.   We explored the city a bit that night, with me visiting the theatre at which all three LOTR films had their world premieres.

Day 6:   Wellington

This morning we were taken on a tour of Wellington by Hammonds Scenic Tours.   We had a great time, seeing the Wellington Parliament buildings, the largest wooden structure in the Southern Hemisphere, Old Saint Paul’s Cathedral, which was amazingly beautiful, and the Wellington Botanic Gardens.   We were then taken to the peak of Mount Victoria, which gave us panoramic views od the entire city.   As the photos show, it was windy but well worth it.

 

"The Beehive"

Inside Old Saint Paul's

 

Windy Mt Victoria

 

 

We drove past some LOTR filming sites, The Shortcut to Mushrooms, and where the hobbits hid during their first encounter with a Black Rider, but we were going too fast for photos.   The last part of the tour is what I most looked forward to, but was most disappointed by… the WETA Cave.    I fully understand that access to the WETA studios themselves is prohibited… there is all that pesky copyright stuff, and trying to keep the magic until the films and television they are making is actually released, but the cave was more of a merchandising initiative than an exploration of what the studios do.   In addition, it was little more than a small room.   There was a mini-theatre with a behind the scenes DVD, but a lot of that information was already available in the special features of the LOTR extended editions.   In addition, the items on sale were extraordinarily expensive, beyond the scope of your average mortgage holder.

So after that small disappointment, my Bride and I spent the afternoon in the Te Papa Museum.   This had a wonderful collection of exhibits on various themes, and included a number of interactive displays.   We wore ourselves out wondering many of its different levels, and still only saw perhaps half of it.   For me the highlight was the colossal squid.

Day 7:   Wellington – Picton – Greymouth

We left Wellington early in the morning, saying goodbye to the i45, and jumping on the InterIslander ferry.   It was a three-hour ferry trip in which I enjoyed the view (when the fog finally lifted that is) and my bride, who thought she was doing the right thing taking motion sickness tablets, slept.

The ferry dropped us off at Picton, where we picked up our South Island vehicle, this time getting the predicted Toyota Camry.  It was then on the road for our stop-over hotel in Greymouth, the Ashley Hotel.   It was a nice enough hotel as far as appearance was concerned, but it was let down by the staff being somewhat snooty, and the prices for the uses of the actual facilities being way too much.   Thankfully, this stay was our only negative blip in our entire time spent in the South Island, which I shall detail in the next post.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Extended Edition) – A Review by Film Nerd

Director: Peter Jackson

Cast: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Sean Astin, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Bean, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, Dominic Monaghan, Billy Boyd, John Rhys-Davies, Cate Blanchett, Andy Serkis, Hugo Weaving, Liv Tyler, Bernard Hill, David Wenham, John Noble, Miranda Otto, Karl Urban, Brad Dourif, Ian Holm, Bruce Spence

Synopsis: The final instalment, and our heroes each have great challenges to face.   Pippin, after being unable to resist the temptation of gazing into a Palantir, and hence being identified by Sauron as the ring-bearer, departs with Gandalf for Gondor, where he meets the somewhat unbalanced Steward of Gondor, Denethor.   Merry remains with the Rohirrim, and volunteers to become a knight of Rohan.   Legolas and Gimli stand by Aragorn as he accepts the burden of his heritage, and Gollum seeds doubt in the friendship between Frodo and Sam.

A review by Film Nerd.

Of the entire trilogy, this is my favourite film, and has been since the first viewing.   The Extended Edition added footage stretches the running time out to a full 4 hours, and for me these additions are overall improvements to the story, even if they were deemed extraneous for the theatrical presentation.   All the elements that worked so well for the first two films are present and correct, with the added characters, as well as the city of Gondor itself, all adding fresh scope and depth to the established world.

All performers are brilliant yet again.   Wood has come full circle with Frodo, becoming almost unrecognisable as the innocent young hobbit who left the shire in Fellowship.   He successfully captures the damage the ring has done to him psychologically.   Wenham’s Faramir, who had limited time to shine in Towers, is here given a full history, motivation, and Wenham somehow succeeds in making him simultaneously vulnerable, yet noble.   John Noble, as his father Denethor, has a brilliant arc that begins as clearly becoming deranged under a noble exterior, before finally snapping.   What makes this performance all the more powerful is the juxtaposition of this character with Theoden, whom is apparently of less noble birth, yet clearly of more noble character, despite being unable to see it himself.    This is further highlighted from the start of the extended edition, as evidenced by the insults that Saruman hurls at Theoden.   As I said, a scene not necessary for the theatrical release, yet it adds depth to the overall proceedings when viewed this way.   All the other leads of course perform their roles well, but for this film these are the performances of note as being a step away from what has been seen previously.

In my reviews for the previous films, I have selected some element of what makes these films great, and reflected upon it, despite these elements being true for all the films regardless.     I do not break from the formula here, selecting to examine how the use of scenery and music has aided the story telling.   I select this film to reflect on these elements as one scene aptly depicts for me both of these elements wonderfully.   It is perhaps my favourite scene in the trilogy, despite the fact it represents a comparatively minor plot point.   The scene I refer to is the Lighting of the Beacons.    All that happens in the scene is we observe Gondor’s call to Rohan for aid, a message sent by lighting a number of pyres along a range of mountains to indicate aid is required.   The natural beauty of New Zealand’s Southern Alps is captured wonderfully here, and when combined with Howard Shore’s score, I often find my fist pumping in the air and my heart soaring.   Jackson was able to capture the essence of Middle Earth with the locations he selected in his home country.   It is a true land of beauty, with many different landscapes to choose from.   Having been there myself now, these films only capture a fraction of that beauty.

In his score also, Howard Shore created themes for each race, and for each realm examined.   The hobbits have a wonderfully whimsical theme, the elves are much more regal and austere, in Rohan we here violins and tones that just scream cavalry, Mordor’s sounds are all grating and harsh, and Gondor is rich and bombastic.   And all these elements still add to a cohesive whole.   My copies of the soundtracks are now well-worn (I played them all in the car in NZ, Bride of Film Nerd will Kill me when she next hear’s Annie Lennox’s end titles tune from Return), and I still cannot get enough.   The soundtrack for Return is my clear favourite, with the Lighting of the Beacons, the theme for Aragorn’s sword Anduril, and the aforementioned end credits song.

Some say the films impact was diminished by the multiple endings.   My only complaint personally was in the first viewing, I thought the film was over, my bladder got that signal, so for the next 20 minutes I was in some deal of pain.   Prepared for it now though, I cannot see how the film could have been completed without the multiple endings.   There are many threads to this story, and they all deserved a conclusion.   Okay sure, the story line from the end of the novels, The Scouring of the Shire, was absent, but given what these films achieved, it is an element of creative license I am willing to forgive.

As I hope you all forgive me for the following rating….

10 stars (out of 5)

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Extended Edition) on IMDB

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Extended Edition) on Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I7YllAOqpF4]


The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (Extended Edition) – A Review by Film Nerd

Director: Peter Jackson

Cast: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Sean Astin, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Bean, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, Dominic Monaghan, Billy Boyd, John Rhys-Davies, Cate Blanchett, Andy Serkis, Hugo Weaving, Liv Tyler, Bernard Hill, David Wenham, John Noble, Miranda Otto, Karl Urban, Brad Dourif

Synopsis: The Fellowship has broken, and we follow the remaining members now in three separate groups.   Frodo and Sam continue the trek to Mordor, a journey which has them finally meet Gollum, former bearer of the ring.   Merry and Pippin manage to escape the Uruk Hai, and meet Treebeard and his fellow Ents.   Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli are on their trial until they meet an unexpected friend.

A review by Film Nerd.

With our hiatus over, I now have a bit more time to complete my trilogy review, and I feel it is appropriate to get this done as a refresher for our readers before we put up the relevant New Zealand and Lord of the Rings Tour reviews.   The Two Towers is an especially important review, as many of the sites my Bride and I visited were in this film.

This is perhaps the hardest of the three films to review as a fan of both the films and the original novels, as this is the film that takes the greatest liberties with the source text.   As mentioned in my Fellowship review, once again Jackson has been successful at making changes that at least keep the feel of this world alive, and are true to the spirit of Tolkien’s work, but when I was first watching it in the cinema, I did find myself at times disappointed.   Where is Shelob??   I have to wait until the next film???   And Faramir, that upstanding character of honour, so tempted by the ring, to the point of stealing it from Frodo?

Yet, the changes mentioned above, and others, do make more sense than what was originally there, at least in a cinematic sense.   Changing Shelob’s appearance to the next film was at the very least chronologically accurate, if a timeline of events was to be drawn, and for Faramir being so ready to reject the ring on-screen does diminish the efforts made earlier to emphasise its power (all explained by Jackson himself in the extended edition commentary).   So with the passing of time, The Two Towers is now for me a superior film to Fellowship.   The action not only starts to take off, but character arcs are allowed room to truly develop.

This is especially true of the new characters added in this instalment.   Rohan had not yer been officially introduced, and as a realm, it adds more colour and depth to Middle Earth.   Bernard Hill’s portrayal of King Theoden absolutely blows me away with each viewing.   He is a great man who nis convinced of his own inadequacy in the overwhelming events that are occurring around him, and despite this he proves himself a man of true character and humanity.   His performance after the death of Theoden’s son is perhaps the one moment in the trilogy where I could not hold back the tears, and his recitation of the “Where is the Horse and the Rider” poem as he prepares for battle absolutely resonates.

In addition,other prominent members of his court also bring a welcome change to the mix.   Otto’s Eowyn is much less annoying than I found her in the book, and is an amazing combination of power and independence with frailty and vulnerability.   Her brother Eomer brought Karl Urban to my attention for the first time, so when he was cast as the new Doctor McCoy in Star Trek, I was absolutely delighted.   Then Brad Dourif, a character actor I have loved for some time, was perfectly slimy, but with some hidden depth, playing Grima Wormtongue.

In my fellowship review, I was discussing the success of the adaptation, and all the elements that gave Middle Earth authenticity.   This remains true for Two Towers, but another element that remains true throughout these films that I would like to reflect on here are how character is developed throughout.   I have already spent some time discussing Theoden, but this is of course also the film that introduced us to Gollum, and it also examines the effect Gollum has on the Frodo/Sam relationship.   Sam in particular really excels as a character, ever the optimist, and even Frodo reflecting by the end of the film that he would have gotten nowhere without that support.   This also of course follows Sam’s brilliant monologue, which aptly summarised the events and the point of this middle feature.   If Jackson had not had such a strong focus on character development, then the reality established by the amazing settings would have crumbled, and these would have been little more than visually brilliant cookie-cutter films.   Showing that these characters are fighting against the odds, and showing strength in great adversity, is perhaps a universal story, but it is one that keeps interest of the audience.   It leaves the viewing public actually caring about the fate of these heroes.

My final rating for this film should of course be no surprise!

5 stars (out of 5)

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (Extended Edition) on IMDB

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (Extended Edition) on Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wek5UClasY8]

We are now Mr. and Mrs. Film Nerd!

Hello readers, we are back!!

Okay, we were back over a week ago, but I have only just managed to get the internet fully functional at our current abode.   We will be providing new movie reviews and reflections on our time spent in Middle Earth, but as it is late right now, I will whet your appetites with a single photo… perhaps the greatest moment in my life if I had not been at my own wedding 2 weeks earlier!!

 

At Edoras, with a replica of Anduril!!