Gandalf and Aragorn lead the World of Men against Sauron’s army to draw his gaze from Frodo and Sam as they approach Mount Doom with the One Ring. (IMDb)
The lengthy final battle takes away from some character work, but it’s undeniably epic, with its dizzying camerawork (see the flying rock perspective), artful editing (the montage with Pippin’s song is perfect), awesome action (see the elephant take-downs), and a memorable one-liner or two (“I am no man!”). Meanwhile, Frodo and Sam’s more focused and torturous journey adds some welcome emotion, added to further in the moving final few scenes (see the bow to the hobbits and the tearful farewell).
While Frodo and Sam edge closer to Mordor with the help of the shifty Gollum, the divided fellowship makes a stand against Sauron’s new ally, Saruman, and his hordes of Isengard. (IMDb)
The fragmented and widespread narrative here gives the film a monumental feel, but at the expense of the kind of tension and character development that require an unwavering approach–so despite this sequel’s equally masterful set design, music, and camerawork, delightful pops of comedy, and fantastic battle scenes, it still feels a shame that the tantalizing interplay between Sam, Frodo, and Gollum in particular struggles to get into a good groove, even within the film’s massive run-time.