Lord of the Rings:
The Two Towers
review by Dan Lybarger, 20 December 2002

With The Fellowship of the Ring, director Peter Jackson (who has come a long way from his horror-tinged comedies Bad Taste and Meet the Feebles) and a slew of talented collaborators have managed to make J.R.R. Tolkien's dense fantasy trilogy The Lord of the Rings eloquently cinematic. Now that Jackson has established his make-believe world, he can have fun with it. Unburdened by the exposition of the first installment, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers moves at a breathless pace and gives the characters room to grow. If you haven't seen The Fellowship of the Ring in a while, you might want to watch it again, particularly in the new expanded cut that has just come out on video. Jackson leaps immediately into the new tale without stopping to explain.

In order to prevent the physically dead but spiritually potent lord Sauron from regaining control of Middle Earth, there are three separate developments that could maintain freedom and destroy the ring that gave and continues to give him power. The reluctant Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) is still carrying the ring around his neck and is desperately trying to make it to Mt. Doom so that he can destroy the evil jewelry. The task is Herculean because the ring has an addictive quality that taunts Frodo and tempts others who don't comprehend its lethal potency. He and his hobbit-in-arms Sam (Sean Astin) have an additional obstacle because their guide is a delusional, vindictive creature named Gollum (voice by Andy Serkis) who used to own the ring ("my precious," he keeps whispering) and now eagerly wants it back even if it costs Frodo and Sam their lives.

Meanwhile the prankster hobbits Merry and Pippin (Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd) have escaped from their Orc captors only to fall into the hands of an Ent named Treebeard (voice by John Rhys-Davies). It's an appropriate moniker because he and his fellow Ents look like the tall vegetation they cultivate and protect. Treebeard and his cohorts too busy trying to decide if Merry and Pippin are the destructive Orcs instead of trying to return the duo to their comrades. Their friends in the recently dissolved fellowship—dwarf Gimil (Rhys-Davies again), elf marksman Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and human ranger Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen)—have issues of their own to resolve. On their way to rescue Merry and Pippin, the trio discovers that the important kingdom of Rohan is about to be overrun by orcs led by Sauron's chief disciple Sarumon (eternal bad boy Christopher Lee). Rohan's troops are greatly outnumbered by the orcs, and a treacherous courtier (Brad Dourif) is giving the king bad advice. It doesn't help that the king (Bernard Hill) is under a spell that dulls his senses and ages him. Thanks to a surprise reappearance by the noble wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen), who didn't really die in a mineshaft as was thought to in The Fellowship of the Ring, the odds don't seem quite so hopeless.

Jackson and his cowriters Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Stephen Sinclair miraculously handle all of these story strands without getting them tangled. Jackson and his cohorts provide the briefest of explanations to Tolkien's intricate world during three-hour running time. There is such a sense of commitment and detail that blinking during a quick plot point makes a viewer fell lost for only a second.  This meticulousness pays off handsomely with Gollum. For a computer-generated image, he looks remarkably lifelike and is fantastically expressive. He gives the human performers a run for their money. The scene where he literally debates with himself over whether to kill Frodo and Sam (a la A Beautiful Mind) is suitably creepy. Careful viewers will notice how his mannerisms and Frodo's will look more and more similar as the movie progresses. The final battle scenes have a jaw-dropping vastness that would make Cecil B. DeMille proud. It really does look as if 10,000 Orcs are coming to take no prisoners. While many of these images dazzle, Jackson thankfully places as much of his energy in the way the characters develop as he does on the special effects. It's a pleasure to see Merry and Pippin mature from being likable but annoying goofballs into full-fledged heroes. The sad-eyed Wood, who was born to play the tormented protagonist, gives his computerized co-star a worthy counterpoint.

Now that viewers have had a chance to get oriented, The Two Towers is much faster than its predecessor, and the humor more focused and appropriate. Unfortunately, like its predecessor, it disappoints its viewers by making them wait yet another year for a resolution. It's a shame more recent films can't let us down in such a thrilling and enchanting manner.

Directed by:
Peter Jackson

Elijah Wood
Ian McKellen
Viggo Mortensen
Sean Astin
Billy Boyd
Liv Tyler
John Rhys-Davies
Dominic Monaghan
Christopher Lee
Miranda Otto
Brad Dourif
Orlando Bloom
Cate Blanchett
Karl Urban
Bernard Hill
David Wenham
Andy Serkis
Robyn Malcolm
John Leigh

Written by:
Peter Jackson
Fran Walsh
Philippa Boyens 
Stephen Sinclair

PG-13 - Parents
Strongly Cautioned.
Some material may
be inappropriate for
children under 13.







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