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2002, dir. Peter Jackson
179 min. Rated PG-13.
Starring: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellan, Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen.

Review by Noel Wood



That's really it in a nutshell, folks.

After seeing FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING a year ago, I was, like many others, just absolutely dying to get to the next installment as soon as possible. And while a year between sequels isn't that much time in the grand scheme of things, it sure does seem like an eternity when you're waiting for something as big as THE TWO TOWERS.


First, my funny anecdote for the day, resulting from my past weekend working a second holiday job. I'm selling posters and frames in a mall here, so the clientel aren't exactly rocket scientists or anything, which helps make this bit all the more amusing. Here's the passage between myself and some fifteen-year-old geek chicK:

Me: Hi, can I help you?
Her: Yes, do you have the Lord of the Rings Poster?
Me: Which one> [We carry four different posters]
Her: The one you have hanging in the front.
Me: Which one? The one with the two statues? (I then put my hand up in a 'stop in the name of love' pose to emulate the statue of the king on the poster)
Her: No, it's not called the two statues, it's called the Two Towers.
Me: I know. But are you looking for the poster with the two statues on it that's hanging up in the front? Or the Two Towers one-sheet?
Her: (Moan of frustration) Are you even familiar with Lord of the Rings?
Me: Yes. I just saw the new movie the other night. But the poster we have up front has two statues on it.
Her: Nevermind, you don't know what you're talking about!

At this point, she stormed out of the store in a huff. By the way, this is the poster I'm talking about, which was displayed prominently in the front of the store:

Ah well. I lost a $7.99 sale.

Anyway, back to the movie:

THE TWO TOWERS starts off in grand fashion. We're thrust right into the action, recalling the battle scene from FOTR in which Gandalf has his epic battle with Balrog, but rather than moving on to the events of the next film right away, we view what we missed before -- the two combatants' struggles after Gandalf drops from the ledge, much to the horror of Frodo. And as that scene abruptly ends, we go back to our halfling friends Frodo and Samwise, who are entering a lighthearted conversation about victuals. And that's the balance here in this film -- doses of dramatic tension are spliced with amazing battle scenes, but there's just enough light fare and comedic bits to keep it all tied together.


The LOTR series has been compared to the STAR WARS series, as far as the film versions go at least, and never is this more apparent than in this installment. And yes, I realize that the filmmaking style of STAR WARS harkens back to the grand epics of years gone by, but in specific I'm referring to the filp-flopping of action between the main groups of characters in the film. In FOTR, most of our action centers around our group of heroes on their quest to destroy the ring, but they are split at the end of that film. Frodo and Samwise descend toward their destination, Merry and Pippin are captured by Orcs, and Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli continue on their own. And all during THE TWO TOWERS, each group follows their own adventure, never crossing paths during the course of the majority of the film. Also, our gears have shifted a bit here in that Frodo no longer seems to be our central hero, while Aragorn takes center stage. Not only does he lead his men into battle with hordes of enemies, but his ill-advised romance with elven Arwen is chronicled in dream sequences and flashbacks that Tolkien never envisioned.


In fact, the film does stray from the book quite a bit, much more than its predecessor does. But in this case, I can forgive it, because the liberties that Jackson take make it rule the fucking Earth. Yeah, it's a huge action movie, and while that may not have been the intent of the original story, it's played out beautifully, climaxing with the last hour or so and one of the greatest battle scenes ever to be put on celluloid. And the amazing thing about it is that almost everything you see on screen isn't even there. It's mainly computer-generated effects. And it's probably the most convincing CGI-dependent film I've seen yet, far better than anything Lucas or Spielberg have pulled off as of yet.

A prime example of this is Gollum, who may as well get an Oscar nomination for his performance. It's not hard to forget that Gollum/Smeagol isn't really there, considering the complexity of the character on screen. Facial features and ticks, the glazed eyes and scraggly hair, and the haunting split personality he carries are truly a masterful accomplishment. When his ring-obsessed darker side takes over, it's unnerving and chilling. Another major CGI character, Treebeard, is well done as well. And while his sequences in which he hauls Merry and Pippin through the forest are slow and plodding, they work well to help evenly pace the movie, and add some unexpected bits of humor.


But on the whole, this movie is much more of a complete film than the first. It's darker, more intense, and definitely more compelling. It's rare that you get a movie where the audience actually gets involved. In the last STAR WARS movie, audiences cheered the credits and hollered for Yoda's fight sequence, but little else. In this one, there were several moments that elicited applause from my theater, including two appearances by Gandalf, the freeing of King Theodon, and this wicked cool sequence where Legolas mounts a horse backward in this slow motion shot that was just amazing.

Sure, the Tolkienites are going to have a field day ripping this one to shreds. But you know what? They can deal with it. You know why? Because even if it doesn't hold true to the book in a lot of aspects, it still kicks ass. I didn't go to see a great book. I went to see a great movie, and that's exactly what I got. It's like those folks who think Stanley Kubrick ruined THE SHINING and A CLOCKWORK ORANGE and 2001. Deal with the changes, people.


Oh yeah, One thing bugged me. It was the fact that Liv Tyler gets third billing in the film. I mean, she looks nice and all, but she's in the film for all of twenty-seven seconds or something like that. But yet somehow, she gets billed ahead of Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom, John Rhys-Davies, and Sean Astin, all of whom are much more significant characters. The only people booked ahead of her are Ian McKellan and Elijah Wood. But that's a minor quibble.

Oh yeah, and they probably could have done away with the "Dwarf Tossing" joke, but I'll admit, I laughed.


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