The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Review

by Bob Bloom (bobbloom AT iquest DOT net)
December 19th, 2002

THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS (2002) 3 1/2 stars out of 4. Starring Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Sean Astin, Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Christopher Lee, Brad Dourif, Bernard Hill, Liv Tyler, Miranda Otto, Andy Serkis, John Noble, Karl Urban, Hugo Weaving and David Wenham. Music by Howard Shore. Director of photography Andrew Lesnie. Based on the novel by J. R. R. Tolkien. Screenplay by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Peter Jackson. Directed by Peter Jackson. Rated PG-13. Running time: Approx. 180 minutes.

While not adhering as closely to J. R. R. Tolkien's text as did The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers offers a majestic canvas that continues the saga of the titanic struggle for the preservation of Middle Earth.

This adaptation of the trilogy's second book is darker and more brutal than its predecessor.
The Two Towers fills three hours with sweeping spectacle, creative computer-generated images, thrilling battles and individual heroism.
For those who did not see the first film, I suggest you read the book or secure a copy of the video or DVD because Two Towers offers no recaps. It picks up where the Ring closed, with the fellowship splintered into three groups.

The Orcs have carried off hobbits Pippin and Merry; the ring-bearer Frodo and his friend, Sam, are on the treacherous path to Mordor to cast the ring into the fires of Mount Doom; and the three surviving companions, Aragorn, the elf Legalos and the dwarf Gimli are tracking the Orcs in an attempt to rescue Pippin and Merry.

Director Peter Jackson has wisely reshaped events so that the epic battle of Helm's Deep and the Ents attack on Isengard, which occur near the middle of the book, now comprise the film's final reels, thus giving Two Towers a more satisfying and purposeful finish.

Two Towers continually cuts from one storyline to another, as it follows the trials and tribulations of the various factions. This process feeds your eagerness and fans your expectations for what comes.
The technical talents of Jackson's special effects wizards are more in evidence in this outing. Their most captivating character is Gollum, the unwilling and reluctant guide for Frodo and Sam. Gollum, the former owner of the ring, is so lifelike yet so pitiful that you soon forget he's actually only pixels. The scenes in which Gollum battles with his alter-ego Smeagol are frighteningly funny.

The movie offers many stunning and jaw-dropping set pieces, and none is more exciting than the siege at Helm's Deep, which Jackson has transformed into mankind's last stand, an Armageddon-like fight for survival against overwhelming odds. Shot amidst a driving rain, the clash ranks as one of the most impressive battle sequences ever put to film. It's a mesmerizing mixture of stuntwork and special effects, as a few hundred men and elves withstand the savage assault from thousands of demon-driven Orcs.

Another inspired bit of movie magic is Treebeard, the wise old Ent, who rescues Pippin and Merry, and then leads the rest of his kind against the evil Saruman.

The effect of these giant living trees toppling the wizard's stronghold is most awesome, even though its computer-generated origins are more apparent.

The look of the film is more muted than Fellowship simply because of the epic's tone. The threat from the dark lord Sauron continually grows as his evil influence spreads across Middle Earth.

At the same time, the film offers some poetic and touching moments, thanks to the screenwriters, especially those centering on the love between Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) and the elf beauty Arwen (Liv Tyler), a plotline not in the second book, which they borrowed from an appendix written by Tolkien.

More so than in the first film, it is Mortensen who dominates here, growing in stature as he asserts his power and wisdom. Sean Astin's Sam also shows more fierceness and backbone as Frodo's protector.

As his character draws closer to Mordor, Elijah Wood's Frodo displays more melancholy, inner conflict, fear and determination to complete his task.

Oscar nominee Ian McKellen returns as the transformed Gandalf the White, while Christopher Lee relishes his screen time as the evil Saruman.

The film's three hours fly by as Jackson balances the various storylines like a master juggler. The Two Towers is a worthy continuation of The Lord of the Rings epic. The ending may disappoint some Tolkien purists, but it does serve its cinematic purpose.
And what was excised here will probably appear in the opening reels of the third film, The Return of the King.

The Two Towers is epic filmmaking at its finest, an intelligent and literate translation of a well-known and well-loved book that has enthralled millions. This film will no doubt do the same.

Bob Bloom is the film critic at the Journal and Courier in Lafayette, IN. He can be reached by e-mail at [email protected] or at [email protected] Other reviews by Bloom can be found at by clicking on movies.
Bloom's reviews also appear on the Web at the Rottentomatoes Web site, and at the Internet Movie Database:

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