Sean Astin as Frodo's stout-hearted companion Sam brought the first film into emotional focus, as they set off for the perils of Mordor together in its bravely anti-climactic last scene. And Sam brings a lump to the throat this time too, as he waxes lyrical about the meaning of their quest: how ordinary folk must endure dark times and search for good in this world. The centrepiece in the Tolkien triptych is more of the same. Much, much more. Those who found The Fellowship of the Ring exhaustingly episodic will not be encouraged by the proliferation of subplots here: Mortensen's Aragorn emerges as a charismatic leader; Pippin and Merryweather get lost in the woods; Arwen is token romantic interest; Gandalf is resurrected only to disappear for most of the running time; while Frodo and Sam are sidetracked by a CGI Gollum with a split personality. A naked, scuttling creature of debasement and deceit, Gollum exposes the insidious corruptive power hanging round Frodo's neck. In size and scale, Jackson has redefined the word 'epic' - but his attention to the small things really gives this series its awesome stature.