(or: it only looks better than Bakshi)
Return of the King
Déagol and Sméagol are fishing in a boat in the middle of the River Anduin, which remarkably has no current whatsoever, and is very narrow for such a mighty river. Déagol falls in and into a homage to Bakshi. He finds a ring. Sméagol kills him for it. His family then drive him out and curse him for being a murderer. More fool him for telling them; he should have kept quiet about it like in the book.
Frodo and Sam are sleeping in an unexplained diamond shaped stone construction in Ithilien. Frodo is stroking the ring. Gollum tells them to move on.
Aragorn, Gandalf, Legolas, Gimli and others are riding to Isengard. The credits roll. Merry and Pippin deliver some comic relief. Merry begins to cackle hysterically, leading the viewer to wonder if it was really tobacco that Saruman was hoarding. They are sitting among some ruins made of stones and mortar; where they found such a place in Isengard is not explained. Pippin happens to find a palantír lying on the ground nearby; presumably Saruman leaves it lying around outside his tower all the time. Treebeard tells Gandalf that he is glad that Gandalf has arrived as he is needed to deal with Saruman. Gandalf agrees, and then rides away to Edoras without further comment.
There is a victory feast in Edoras. Apparently Théoden is not thinking of doing anything like riding to war any time soon. Éowyn gets Aragorn a drink. Merry and Pippin dance on a table.
Gollum debates with himself and a puddle whether or not he should kill Sam and Frodo. He has apparently forgotten that he had this exact same debate with himself two nights ago. He also finds it necessary to explain to himself why he wants the ring, and then recites his entire plot to hand them over to Shelob AGAIN. Sam hits him.
In Edoras, Legolas suddenly announces that there is a sleepless malice in the East. One wonders if he has only just discovered this, and, if not, why he is mentioning it to Aragorn. Pippin steals a Palantír. This enables the audience to discover what Palantíri do; the filmmakers will then ignore their part in the plot from now on. Several strange things happen when Pippin looks into the Stone. He shuts his eyes, which the casual observer might think hindered the use of a Palantír. Legolas suddenly becomes aware of this through a closed door. Sauron says ' I see you' a facile comment more associated with 3 year olds (although it does seem to be his standard response to anyone doing anything whatsoever throughout the film..presumably if one has incarnated oneself as a giant eyeball the number of verbs one can apply to oneself is pretty limited.). The Palantír bursts in to flame but luckily doesn't seem to burn Pippin, and Pippin falls on the floor and thrashes around, thus changing the physical orientation of the Palantír several times, without apparently changing what he can see in it.
In the Hall at Meduseld, Gandalf tells those characters with a contract for the series (even those who have no reason to be there), but not any of the Councillors of the King, (who you might think would want to know) that in the Palantír Pippin saw Minas Tirith in flames. This Palantír seems to think it is the Mirror of Galadriel. From this information, he concludes that Sauron is about to attack Minas Tirith. This has apparently never occurred to him before and he is very interested to have discovered Sauron's secret plan : attacking his traditional enemy (whose ex-Capital he captured just last week after months of open war). It also appears that they need to send a warning about this to Minas Tirith, as evidently this idea had never occurred to them either.
Gandalf sets off for Minas Tirith with Pippin. Gandalf succeeds in mounting a bareback horse without any assistance, and without jumping either. Merry is so upset at Pippin's departure that he runs up a watchtower and hits some guards.
Arwen is riding to the sea. She decides not to ride to the sea. She tells her father to reforge the sword. A few flashbacks to the Last Alliance, completely incomprehensible to anyone who is not already sufficiently familiar with the books not to need them. Arwen becomes mortal, which for some reason convinces Elrond to forge the sword anew.
After 31 minutes, we finally reach a scene that belongs to RotK, rather than the Two Towers
Gandalf comes to Minas Tirith. He gallops poor Shadowfax through paved streets, nearly running down several hapless pedestrians. As he passes, the banner of the King of Gondor is seen fluttering over the city. Pippin stops in his tracks to inform Gandalf that he sees a tree.
They speak to Denethor, with another incomprehensible flashback to Fellowship. Pippin offers his service to Denethor, which seems to annoy Gandalf. Denethor says that he will not fight and will not allow Aragorn to return. Sauron seems to have done a very thorough job of corrupting him, even without any Palantír.
Pippin and Gandalf look over a balcony. The Lord of the Nine puts on his armour. Gandalf explains to Pippin who the Lord of the Nine is, even though Pippin knew perfectly well ever since Weathertop.
Frodo and party come to Minas Morgul. The others are so interested in the stairs that the nearly don't notice him being drawn away. A big army comes forth from Minas Morgul.
Gandalf sends Pippin to light the Beacons. One of these is apparently within Minas Tirith itself, which is handy. Pippin starts climbing. It is day.
Faramir is defending Osgiliath from attack. His strategy seems to be to wait until half the enemy has passed the only defensible spot, and then spring out and start fighting when he has made sure that he is surrounded. It is night.
Pippin lights the beacon, and the other beacons take their cue. Most of these beacons are above the clouds, and so invisible from the ground. They would therefore seem to be of limited use in summoning aid except in exceptionally fine weather. It is day. (Doesn't Denethor ever SAY anything about what Pippin just did??)
NOW, the muster of Rohan starts. This is achieved by ringing a small bell. Théoden says that they will ride in 3 days. He says also that every able bodied man will go. This should please the men of Dunland no end. Strangely no one points out that, if he does this, he's unlikely to have a country to come back to. It is day
Gandalf announces that the fate of Middle Earth will be decided at Minas Tirith. Silly me, there was I thinking Mount Doom might come into it somewhere. Still, Galadriel, Dain, Brand, Thranduil etc. must be glad that the War is not going to affect them.
We are back at the defence of Osgiliath. It is still night, with dawn just breaking. The Gondoreans retreat. At this point the Nazgul show up. Where they have been for the rest of the battle is anyone's guess. They might have been useful earlier. No wonder Sauron has lost every military campaign he's ever undertaken to date. A large orc announces that the day of men is over and the age of the orc is beginning. It doesn't seem to have occurred to him that Sauron ruled almost all the men of Middle Earth for 2000 years without any harm coming to most of them.
Gandalf rides out from Minas Tirith to drive off the Nazgul. For some reason he has Pippin with him. What use he thinks Pippin will be is not entirely clear.
Faramir makes it safely back to the gate, uninjured. He reports to Gandalf on what has been happening (Wouldn't it be more appropriate to report to Denethor?).
Frodo gets help in climbing from Gollum. Sam is suspicious of this. Gollum tells Frodo that Sam wants the Ring.
Pippin swears allegiance to Denethor, even though he was apparently issued with his livery the previous day (or possibly 3 days ago, depending how you deal with the whole, day/night thing.) Denethor then orders an attack on Osgiliath, revealing that he is mad as a hatter. Which is odd, in the absence of a Palantir.
Frodo and Sam are asleep right on the edge of a precipice above Moinas Morgul. Gollum, given this situation, decides to get rid of Sam. Rather than push him over the cliff, or push both of them over the cliff and go find the bodies, he decides to achieve this by throwing the food supplies over the edge of the cliff instead. Frodo sends Sam away, in the belief that he has taken the food. This leaves Frodo and Sam without any food whatsoever. What they eat for the remaining 14 days of their journey is therefore anyone's guess.
Some men ride out of Minas Tirith to assault Osgiliath. Gandalf appears and urges Faramir to refuse to carry out the order, thus betraying his father and Head of State. What Manwë had to say about this when Gandalf got home can only be imagined.
A very dramatic scene now ensues in which Merry sings, the cavalry advances on some incredulous orcs, and Denethor has some difficulty eating tomatoes. Meanwhile, Gandalf sits in a courtyard, with the air of a man who might be more usefully employed elsewhere.
The Rohirrim have been mustered. There are 6000 of them. Legolas starts explaining about the Paths of the Dead to anyone who is interested, although why he knows more about this than the Rohirrim is not explained. A horse starts having hysterics near the Gate; Aragorn stares at it in a way odd for a man who, as we will see, has never thought of going that way.
Éowyn gives Merry some plate mail apparently made to fit him. They must have the fastest smiths known to man in Rohan. She also gives him a blunt sword, in place of his own, functional one, and tells him to go and sharpen it.
Aragorn dreams of Arwen. Elrond suddenly shows up, having apparently reforged Narsil and ridden the 900+ miles from Rivendell in about 6 days. He informs Aragorn that Arwen is dying (for no particular reason except to motivate Aragorn), and that her life will fade as Sauron's power grows (?). Elrond further informs him that there is a fleet of corsair ships sailing against Pelargir. How he knows this given that he lives nearly 2000 miles away from the action is not clear. He then suggests that Aragorn call the dead to war; apparently if you wave Anduril at them they will follow you. So nothing to do with fulfilling their oath, then, they're just nasty ghosts who obey anyone who waves Anduril at them. Aragorn and Elrond then start speaking Elvish for no good reason, given that they've been speaking Westron the rest of the scene.
Éowyn doesn't want Aragorn to go. Legolas and Gimli decide to go even though Aragorn doesn't want them to. All 3 ride off down the Path, with Legolas of all people reciting the plot again. When they reach the Gate, their horses bolt. Among the things the horses take with them is the sheath for Anduril; does Aragorn have to carry the damn thing in his hand from now on? Aragorn and co head off into the Paths of the Dead. Their horses having left they are now on foot. This does not seem to inhibit them from covering the 400 miles to Pelargir in less than 12 hours.
The Rohirrim ride. They too will have to cover a lot of ground dead quick if they're to prevent Minas Tirith falling. But at least they are mounted.
Aragorn calls the dead to him. He does this in a huge underground hall which looks like something out of a dwarven kingdom. What this is doing here or why the Oathbreakers are waiting there is unknown; did they live there when they were alive? The place seems unnecessarily equipped with excessive staircases. Aragorn locks blades with the King of the Dead and summons him to war. Given the timeline (expressed below) we can only hope he has a fleet of Lamborghinis.
The army of Mordor advances. Faramir is brought home unconscious by his faithful horse. The army of Mordor are only a few hundred yards behind. A lot of trouble might have been saved if they'd run faster.
The arrival of Faramir makes Denethor unhappy. He looks over the battlements and sees the army of Mordor. This disconcerts him, and he shouts for his men to abandon their posts. He must have an exceptionally loud voice, because every man in the city hears him and follows his orders. Gandalf decides to forget the bit about not being permitted to interfere directly again, and hits Denethor viciously with a big stick (one can imagine Manwë cringing with embarrassment somewhere in Valinor). He takes command of the troops and starts organising the defence of the city. Exactly why the troops start obeying a random man who just hit their Lord with a stick, and indeed why his bodyguard have nothing to say to Gandalf about this hitting with stick is not explained.
The Nazgul swoop dramatically on the city at many levels and angles. If you count carefully you will see that there are ten of them.
Frodo comes to Shelob's lair. As Sam has gone, Frodo is left to face the physical as well as the spiritual struggle, which is a little odd. We see Sam climbing painstakingly down the stair. We see that he has climbed down an extermly long way, although fortunately he is able to climb back up very quickly and easily in order to come upon Frodo in the nick of time. Sam finds the missing bread; this leads him to realise that Gollum threw the bread over the edge, which leads the audience to wonder if he thought the bread walked off on its own before he found it lying there.
Frodo gets caught in a spider's web. He is hanging a good foot off the floor; did he happen to be jumping when he stumbled into it? Frodo escapes from Shelob in the nick of time. Gollum attacks him, presumably because Sam is not there to attack. Gollum falls off a cliff a very long way. The viewer would be forgiven for wondering how on earth he survived such a long fall.
The intermission comes here in those cinemas which show the picture with an intermission. It will be noted that it is still within the Two Towers.
Frodo is feeling tired. He sees an image of Galadriel encouraging him. He stumbles on. Shelob creeps up behind him and, after a very long cliffhanger, poisons him. Just as she is about to drag him away, Sam, who has managed to climb up all those stairs in a very short time, arrives, picks up the Star Glass (where he found it is anyone's guess) and begins a long and overdramatic battle. Eventually he drives away Shelob and runs to Frodo. He pulls back the webs covering his face. Someone has washed his face while he was unconscious; it was filthy when Shelob stung him, but is clean now.
We are back at the Siege of Minas Tirith. Let's pause to consider the timeline again. Faramir rode to attack Osgiliath. This was in the daytime. After that Aragorn woke up from a dream of Arwen, at night and resolves to summon the Dead. Then Rohan rode.
Next Faramir arrived back, some 30 seconds before the Siege began. So we must therefore assume that (if Faramir wasn't fighting or being dragged by his horse for more than a day, which seems unlikely given the nature of the battle) that The Rohirrim and Aragorn made their journeys in less than 12 hours (the length of the battle i.e. during one daylight period). In the case of Aragorn's 800 mile journey on foot, this is surprising. I guess we know now why they call him Strider.
Denethor proposes to burn himself and Faramir alive. Merry tried to prevent this by shouting a lot and pulling at one small bundle of sticks. Denethor throws him out.
There is a battle going on with catapults in which huge chunks are knocked off the city walls of Minas Tirith. And there we were thinking they were made of that imperishable stuff that Isengard was made of. Gandalf is commanding the retreat.
The Rohirrim arrive and shout a lot.
Pippin tells Gandalf what is going on in the Houses of the Dead.
The Rohirrim charge the orcs. They are very successful given the relative numbers on each side, and indeed seem to suffer no casualties at all. The orcs, meanwhile all flee; clearly the part about Sauron's will driving them on and making it impossible for them to flee doesn't apply here.
Denthor pours paraffin on himself and orders the pyre lit. The doors fly open; there is Gandalf, mounted and facing forwards. From this shot we are presumably to assume that Shadowfax can open door handles. There is a dramatic scene in which Gandalf deliberately throws Denethor onto the funeral pyre. ( I refer my honourable friend the answer I gave some moments ago about Manwë being embarrassed). Denethor runs a good quarter of a mile in flames and throws himself off the Citadel. As this is immediately above the gate, where the fighting is, one can only wonder what he landed on.
There is more fighting. Pippin gets nervous about being killed, and Gandalf proceeds to offer him some words of wisdom that must count as the greatest cause for Manwë to be annoyed yet. He says that death is a path we all must take (he seems to have forgotten that he is immortal). He then describes Tol Eressea in some detail. Is he preaching that Men go to the Undying Lands on their deaths?
The Lord of the Nine sends Theoden flying across the field. The Corsair ships turn up. Aragorn was evidently so impressed with the Dead that he decided not to release them from their oath when they fulfilled it, but has brought them on to this battle too. They swarm off the ships. The orcs flee. Again. Sauron's will really is slipping.
Éowyn and Merry destroy the Witch King. Some prehistoric (American) elephants arrive (how did they get to Middle Earth?). The tide of battle gets interesting, but then the dead arrive and everything is over in 10 seconds flat. The Army of the Dead has increased considerably in size since Aragorn summoned it. Meanwhile, Legolas has demonstrated his sk8ers balance again, and also shot an elephant through the back of the skull with some arrows. Since it is a known fact that neither a high powered rifle nor a shotgun at point blank range can pass through the reinforced bone of even an Indian elephant's skull, we are impressed with both Legolas's strength and the properties of Mallorn wood.
Éowyn says goodbye to Theoden; the Star Wars fans fail to keep a straight face.
After the battle, the Dead ask if they can go now, Gimli provides some comic relief, and Merry finds Pippin. He doesn't seem to have been harmed in any way by stabbing the Witch King (we have no idea if Éowyn has been harmed, as she has now vanished from the story completely)
Sam needs to rescue Frodo from the tower of Cirith Ungol. Most of the orcs having killed each other, there are three left for him to fight. Sam gets a good case of Named Character Syndrome and kills all three orcs, even though he has had no training in the use of swords and the orcs are soldiers, and even though he is attacking uphill, and even though they are armoured and he is not. In the course of these scenes, we ask ourselves why it never occurred to anyone to provide the narrow staircase with a handrail so that extras wouldn't keep falling off it all the way to the bottom of the tower.
Another patent cliffhanger is inserted; an orc is just about to kill Frodo for no reason whatsoever and in defiance of orders, when |Sam creeps up behind him and kills him. Sam rescues Frodo and tells him, in a direct quote from the book' You can't go walking about… in naught but your skin' He seems to have failed to observe that Frodo is in fact not naked, but wearing a pair of natty elasticated underpants, plus his trousers.
They set off into Mordor, where they see an unconvincing eye pretending to be a lighthouse. This eye gets sillier with every passing film.
Aragorn, who has clearly had no issues with just marching into Minas Tirith and taking over, and doesn't feel like taking any counsell from his subject Lords either, other than Eomer (though he does appear to take council from Legolas and Gimli ?), decides to march on the Morannon as a distraction. Strangely Gandalf is opposed to this, though what exactly he proposes is not mentioned.
Sam and Frodo see the armies of Mordor move out, and set off across Gorgoroth, which is, unaccountably, covered mostly with large rocks of unknown origin.
Aragorn is marching to the gate, wearing the livery of Minas Tirith, Not shy of just marching in and taking over, is he? The army reaches the Black Gate and Aragorn calls out for the Lord of the Land to come forth that justice be done upon him. This suggestion is rather funny in light of the fact that in this version Sauron has incarnated himself as a giant eyeball; a marvellously amusing image is called to mind. By the time Aragorn has finished doing this everyone's horses have mysteriously vanished without trace, even though they were sitting on them a few seconds previously.
There is now a scene where LighthouseEye narrowly misses seeing Frodo. It is rather humourous too. The suggestion that Sauron, universally associated with shadow and darkness, should be shining forth as a bright light is rather odd.
The Black Gate opens and we can see Lugburz behind them. Quite apart from the fact that there should be a mountain range in the way, this raises interesting questions about how big Lugburz is exactly. Assuming the Black Gate is about 100 feet high and about half a mile away, I make the height of Lugburz 100x sin1/2500 miles high. No wonder it falls down when Sauron's will stops holding it up.
Aragorn's army is surrounded by the forces of Mordor. Aragorn charges towards them crying 'For Frodo!'. As the film editor has left him no reason to assume Frodo dead, his reasons for doing this are obscure. The Eagles turn up, without an explanation of who or what they are, and proceed to drop Nazgul on people's heads.
Gollum attacks Sam, who does not show him mercy but instead wounds him with a sword. Someone really understood the themes of this book didn't they? Frodo claims the Ring for his own in Mount Doom. Gollum attacks him. They both fall over the edge of the Sammauth Naur, and another totally pointless cliffhanger (literally) is introduced at the climactic moment, thus distracting from all that minor business about the Ring. Frodo is hauled back from his position above the lava (astonishingly, there doesn't seem to be any heat related problem with hanging directly above a lava flow; indeed Frodo doesn't even sweat much. Neither does it appear to be causing any fume related difficulties). Sam and Frodo then run away from the advancing lava; Frodo does this with surprising vigour for someone who couldn't even stand unaided a few minutes ago. The lava misses them by a couple of feet, but this is not harmful in any way either.
We see the Downfall of Mordor. The Morannon and the ground around it collapse; fortunately the collapse stops about 3 feet short of the army of our heroes. I wonder what would have happened if Aragorn had run forwards just slightly faster? Sauron makes silly expressions with his electric eye as the tower collapses. Interestingly, the movies offer no explanation at all of why Sauron's downfall should make buildings fall over.
We see Elessar's coronation. Large numbers of rose petals fall from the sky, perplexingly. Perhaps the Eagles are dropping them. Aragorn tells the assembled company that the hobbits need bow to no one, and kneels to them. Exactly why Merry and Pippin are also worthy of this honour is a matter for conjecture.
The hobbits arrive home. In spite of the fact that Merry and Pippin went out stealing vegetables one day and vanished without trace, and without letting anyone know what they were doing, no one seems to have missed them, or to be surprised at their return. Indeed, Frodo and Sam didn't ell anyone where they were going either, and were thus presumably lucky not to come back to find the Sackville-Bagginses auctioning off Bag End again.
Frodo finished the Red Book and entrusts it to Sam. It is written in (we assume) Westron, but Frodo has added random vowels in the form of Feanorean techtari over many of the letters. he has also shortened the title of the Red Book to 'the Lord of the Rings'
The Ringbearers sail into the West. Gandalf has forgotten his horse. Sam arrives home at Bag End to find Rosie remarkably large for a child of 7 months old. He has an American style postbox outside his front gate. Tolkien would be horrified.
AND THIS SHAMBLES, BOYS AND GIRLS IS HOW YOU WIN AN OSCAR FOR SCRIPTWRITING AND EDITING. MELKOR HELP US ALL.