After a refreshing break I intend to continue writing about the film trilogy.
I mentioned a couple of scenes from The Two Towers that did not make much sense when compared with the books. I feel that by including these scenes the screen writers tried to create more tension and suspense. (The question, whether the plot as such really needs these additions remains.) The second book (and thus, also the film) has less material (plot-wise) to work with; the book substitues it with extensive descriptions of the battle at Helm's Deep, the people of Rohan, their habits and offers many plot twists, that only make sense in connection with the final book (the whole fiasco regarding the palantir).
I think the film makers (contrary to the books) tried to make Aragorn a flawed character. That or at least they wanted the viewer to be unsure of his fate, whereas in the books Aragorn's fate is made perfectly clear. I think that as one expects Frodo to deliver the Ring to Mount Doom, so (if not even more assuredly) one expects Aragorn to become King. The films try to make this conclusion less certain, because Aragorn (aside from Frodo) is the only member of the fellowship who gets hurt in battle. It's not just a scar - he almost passes away. His near-death experience provides a good foundation on which they base the "passing away" theme that becomes fully developped at the end of TTT in Sam's speech. (I really like this speech of his.) Also, he passes Theoden the vital information abo0ut the approaching army of orcs.
(There is a crucial, tiny scene where they forshadow the destruction of the wall by showing the wall's weakest point - the river. One just has to love it, because even as you watch the film for the first time, there is an eerie feel to that scene. I remember myself thinking as I was watching it for the first time - "You've got to watch the river; - how come no one's noticed the river; - why don't they do something about it? Aragorn, are you blind?" It's scene very much like the one in Godfather 1 where Al Pacino almost walks out of the restaurant holding a gun and regardless of the times you've seen the film, you always want to scream: "Just drop the gun.. Drop it!")
However, if they ventured as far as to almost kill Aragorn, why didn't Legolas and/or Gimli have an accident or a nearly fatal wound, also? It is very curious, that apart from Aragorn, Eowyn, the hobits and Gandalf, the other characters are almost not developed. One does not know much about Legolas or Gimli. The latter serves as comic relief ("Nobody tosses a dwarf."/"Toss me.") and, obivously, as a very brave fighter, whereas with Legolas, you only see the perfect-aim, light-weight, nature-friendly creature and hardly anything more, almost as though he did not have a chracter. I would have to see the films again to prove this point further, but looking back I cannot remember a memorable line, delivered by him. On screen, Legolas is a very visual (in the way he moves, listens and observes) character, but he hardly ever speaks. And while I do not find Orlando Bloom (lovely name, though) a very talented actor, I cannot really blame him for not having created a stronger character out of Legolas. He really wasn't given much material.
I have no idea, however, why they made such hideous hijenas instead of some vicious, blood-thirsty wolves. Additionally, why did they have the elves come to help? The point of this battle was that the forces of Light (Gandalf in his pure white Armani cloak being quintessential of the alliance against Sauron and Saruman) were too few and their victory was not to be expected. By having several hundred elves coming to help, they make it an easier win and thus far less surprising. (I don't mind that they made Eomer an outcast and that it was his eored which came to help instead of some west fold army. The point is to use familliar characters. We get to know (and like, especially his moustache) Eomer fairly early and it makes sense to develop his role further, primarily by such courageous acts. Would they have had the West fold army at their disposal, the viewer would think he was cheated, because it appears there are several armies around, waiting to get into battle and the circumstances aren't really as desperate as they would have to be. The books have more time to continually remind us of the remains of the army, scattered around Helm's Deep and when they do come to help, it is not surprizing; but it would be in the film.) The help should come at the last moment, at a time, when they were almost defeated. And it does. However by having elves come to fight, they ruin the careful balance the books are trying to convey - the elves are a self-contained species; they last forever and thus do not partake in the trivial events in the world outside their dwellings. This, in my opinion, is one of the most serious flaws the films have.
Also, moving the people of Edoras makes no point. The scene is there, I feel, because they've got to get Aragorn and Eowyn to talk and make it OBVIOUS how she feels for him and how he fails to share these feelings. (The scene where she brings him soup being very representative of this duality.) Further, the point is to develop Eowyn into a more prominent person, because she will be crucial to the victory in ROTK. Additionaly, her performance matters, because she is one of the only three women; and the women watching the film should not feel excluded. (I've commented on the lack of women in the book before, so I shall not dwell on this point further.) In the book, there is only one short paragraph where Eowyn notices Aragorn and realizes what his destiny is; this is also the scene where she falls in love with him; but it is done in a very platonic manner (love being one of Tolkien's weakest points); - the films are much elaborate on that point, thus "correcting" (what I see as) flaws in Tolkien's plot. Love offers a good contrast to the war(s) going on; war/battle is always won by the one who wants it more - those who love have more reasons to want to stay alive. Love as the propelling force is a good (and well developed) theme in the films and while it attracts more ladies to the film, it also offers a good contrast, which is essential in any fight against the "evil of our time".
The reason why Faramir took Sam and Frodo to Osgiliath was, I believe, to show the destruction in Gondor. The state was in ruins, literally. Frodo thus saw what could be gained by destroying the Ring. And they got to have more fun with the Nazgul destroying the near-wasteland of Osgiliath. (Don't you just love names with "th" in them? Theoden, Osgiliath...) I imagined the Nazgul a little differently as well. In the film they look like flying dinosaurs (really loooong necks), I imagined them more like overgrown horses with wings.
I'm completely fascinated by Gollum. Let me repeat myself, (which I aspire not to do too often) - completely. However rarely I openly acknowledge it, this time I could not have refrained from saying it. Not only the way he looks - like a skelleton of a fish, his glossy, repulsive-looking blue skin, stretched over his thinning bones, conveying the image of a wasted soul, his hair (what remains of it) and the big eyes, encapsulating the whole of his essence. The way gollum moves, the way he speaks... left me speechless. Andy Serkis, you are officially my idol and I'm sorry for your back, which must have been killing you by the end of each day's shooting. There is nothing wanting in Gollum, everything is perfect. (And don't you dare oppose me.)
So - final words about The Two Towers: I love the film, but it has the unfortunate fate of being stuck between
two very fascinating films, which both have more to offer plot-wise. The first part has lots of information regarding the Ring and the start of the voyage, whereas the final part ends it in a spectacular way. The lack of a definite ending is a bit depressing in FotR, but TTT substitutes this gap at the end with a longish speech, delivered by Sam. He speaks about the world we once knew and how all that was familliar to us was about to pass. This is where I feel TTT is at its strongest - the feelings of nostalgia, melancholy and mild depression it conveys is just amazing. It is were (at least for me) the film communicates the essence of the series - how worlds pass from knowledge, how everything has to pass, even the greatest things of our time... The ending of TTT is emotion-powered in a way that none of the other two are. FotR ends in the manner "And the adventure continues..." which is captivating, but fails to effectively function as an ending; RotK has the ending, but few emotions. The ending in RotK is what you'd expect from any sort of a heroic story, thus it fails to surprize. Seeing the destruction of Osgiliath moved Sam in a way which contributed to his speech - his affection, his grieveing seemed genuine. It is - and I repeat myself - where the film comunicates on an emotional level, which is not common occurence in mainstream/blockbuster Hollywood production.
Many people complained that the ending in RotK was too long or at least lengthy, but I for my part never found it such. Once you've endured eleven hours of battle, travel, danger, battle, orcs, Shelob, danger and battle, you could take 20 minutes to enjoy victory. If Jackson finished the film 5 minutes after Gollum falls into the abyss, I would have been disappointed. An epic film is all about balance between good and evil (sometimes (platonic) love and hate) - otherwise it's boring. Almost from the moment Frodo starts his journey, there is hardly a moment of feeling safe. Surely, when they're in Rivendell you feel everything's all right, but you know they must press on and finish what they started and face numerous dangers on the way. That's why I'd like to be able to enjoy peace and victory of everything that is good - I do not need to feel rushed. "I" faced numerous dangers and now I want to celebrate.
There were, however, two moments where I couldn't refrain from using crude language; I exclaimed bullshit and it was. The first such moment was when Gandal's wand explodes, when he faces the Witch King. Perhaps they tried to underline the fact that no man could kill him(it). But Gandalf is not a man. Perhaps they tried to emphasize how important Eowyn's share was. Gandalf should have avoided confrontation with Witch King, he wasn't upposed to tackle him; because he would be able to kill him. The important part was that he had better things to do.
The other weird moment was when the ghosts of the dead refuse to help Aragorn and the skulls almost kill them. This is another pointless example of trying to build suspension, where there's no need for it. The caves/underground way is (or should be) frightening enough (they exemplify it wonderfully with the fleeing horses, and here I do not object at all to going against what's written in the book, because it serves a purpose) and why would the ghosts need to refuse, anyway? You've got enough suspension in other scenes to keep the film going and make it interesting.
In summary, I would have difficulties deciding which film is my favourite. While FotR is all that is good and almost flawless, I am more drawn to the other two parts. But which one is better, I couldn't really decide. I think the extended editions improve the film, because they allow for more backstory and develop certain relationships further. This helps the films, because they are not, essentially, character driven stories. Upping the characters makes the film more realistic, more appealing. And also, the scenery is as wonderful as you could hope it to be.
In conclusion there is only one thing to say: I've exhausted myself on the subject and will dedicate my time to writing about other things for a while.