When we last left our heroes of Middle-Earth, Frodo and Sam had abandoned the rest of the Fellowship to head for Mordor on their own. Meanwhile, Merry and Pippin had been kidnapped by Saruman’s Orcs while the rest of the now-dissolved Fellowship—Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli—are trying to hunt down the Orcs and free the hobbits.
In any trilogy, the second film is the least set in stone. The first film is going to introduce us to our protagonists and antagonists, and set up the conflict. The last film is going to present the final confrontation between the good guys and the bad guys. But the second film serves mainly as a bridge from Act I to Act III, with a lot of its efforts spent putting the pieces in place for the last showdown. This can be a mixed blessing. While some second acts feel as if they are treading water or repeating themselves (The Matrix Reloaded, The Bourne Supremacy), others are often considered the best of the series, thanks in part to a lack of necessary exposition or resolution. The Empire Strikes Back, the only legitimately good Star Wars movie, is the best example of this phenomenon.* Continue reading