The second installment of Peter Jackson’s adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s trilogy is a masterwork that confirms the promise of the first: Jackson clearly is working on one of the supreme achievements of motion-picture history. Jackson hits the ground running (after a very brief flashback) with what would be the climactic money scene in any other movie. Then, he builds up at a lightning pace, culminating (after three short hours) in one of the most spectacular battle scenes ever filmed. Jackson subtly spices the movie with references to film history that brilliantly complement Tolkien’s references to world folklore. Jackson also takes some liberties with the text while bringing the characters and places to perfect life. A standout is the creature Gollum, a brilliant digital character modeled on actor Andy Serkis.