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I liked the first movie, but not being such a fan of The Lord Of The Rings saga, didn't quite fall in love with it. This second part though really wheeled me in. I really, really, REALLY, like this movie. I think 3 things most notably marked me.
First, this movie contains one of the most amazing battle sequence ever filmed: Helm's Deep. I think it ranks second only to Saving Private Ryan's opening battle. It's not just the technical perfection of it, but also the tension that has mounted throughout the movie around it eventually happening. At that time, you are fully involved with the characters and gasping at every moment when danger approaches them. And when Gandalf and the men of Gondor come to save the day, one cannot help but cheer, and be relieved. Technically too, it's simply astonishing. Probably one of the most complex CGI scene ever done. And it looks great throughout.
Second, Gollum/Smeagol. I am going to gasp with a Keanu's "Woh!". This is the first time that a CGI character fully involved me. I think technically that it's amazing (using techniques that were used in Final Fantasy), but the character is also quite complex, and Jackson did not shy away from really exploring the emotional range of this disturbed creature in many daring close-ups. The result is a rich, complex character that blends itself perfectly with the rest of the scenes, and manages to pull off great acting moments. This is a first.
Third, Legolas. This character is VERY cool. I think he is my favorite character in the whole story. He does not do much, but every time he is on the screen, he manages to grab most of the visual space. It's a great performance right there.
This film is much better paced than the first installement. I really did not see the 3 hours go by, and wished there was another hour or two more. I am really looking forward seeing it again, or watching the extended cut when it comes out on DVD next November. It's visually astonishingly rich in details. So much work has gone into this it's incredible. The writing is much better than the first one too. The 3 story lines are well kept together and i never felt that the transitions between all 3 were artificial.
The only reproach i have is that i felt the movie started too quickly. I really liked the introduction for the first movie, and i wish that something similar would have been done to ease us back into the story. It took me some time to get back into the mood of the film, inspite of a very powerful first scene.
- Laurent Hasson