The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Review

by Robin Clifford (robin AT reelingreviews DOT com)
December 19th, 2002

"The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers"

"Braveheart Down Under with Wizards" would be a more appropriate title for the much anticipated second installment of "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy as director Peter Jackson takes us back to Middle Earth to continue the saga begun in "LotR: The Fellowship of the Ring." The Fellowship has splintered into three groups with young Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) bound and determined to return the coveted Ring from whence it came - to the fires of Mordor in "The Two Towers."

This is an absolutely critic proof film that will draw the fans of part one (and, of course, J.R.R. Tolkein's epic tale) in legions as they clamber to see what happens next to their favorite heroes. The members of the Fellowship, you'll remember, had to divide their forces with Frodo and his loyal friend, Samwise, tasked to destroy the much sought after One Ring of Power. Human warrior Aragorn (Vigo Mortensen), elf archer Legolas Greenleaf (Orlando Bloom) and battle hardened dwarf Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) are tracking down a band of Orcs that hold hobbits Merry and Pip captive, while the great wizard Gandalf the Grey has made a journey of his own to the depths of hell.

These adventures closely follow Tolkein's middle book in the trilogy as it follows up with the characters developed in "The Fellowship." In "The Two Towers" we know all the players, what their missions are and what foes they must fight. Helmer Jackson and company roll up their sleeves and get down to the business of mustering the forces of good and evil as Sauron, with the help of his lackey wizard Sarumon (Christopher Lee), brings his spawn, a phalanx of super Orcs called Uruks, into battle against the humans and their allies of the Middle Earth. This formula has all the makings to provide epic battles and, guess what? The many "LotR" fans will not be disappointed.

The combination of spectacular landscape photography, huge battles with armies numbering in the thousands and the sinister doings of Sauron and his minions are all well and good, but there are a couple of other elements in "The Two Towers" that, if possible, overshadow the epic telling of the war for control of Middle Earth. Only tantalizingly shown in part one, the ubiquitous Gollum/Smeagol (voice of Andy Serkis) comes to the fore as the previous holder of the One Ring that tracks Frodo and Sam in hopes of getting back his "precious" possession. This singular little character turns out to be one of the best things in the film and attains the status of such mythical creations as Yoda and ET. Truth be told, when the action shifts away from this complex diminutive creature, I could not wait until Smeagol came back to center screen. (Gollum is the best special F/X in a film heavily laden with visual effects.)
The other aspect of "The Two Towers" that knocked me out is the appearance of the fabulous Ents, the treeherders in charge of caring for the vast, ancient forests of the fantasy world. One Ent, in particular, Treebeard (voice of John Rhys-Davies), takes on the task of helping Merry and Pippin rejoin their friends and musters the rest of the tree people to help out in the attack on Saruman's heavily guarded fortress. The battle that ensues is one of several that take place during the course of the film but is the most visually striking and memorable.
The regulars from "The Fellowship," for the most part, are back and there are one or two new editions to the story with Bernard Hill appearing as Theoden, the King of Rohan and, in a terrific, slimy performance, Brad Dourif as Sauron's puppet and spy in the kingdom, Grima Wormtongue. Lest you romantics fear, Liv Tyler appears again (in flashback) as Aragorn's elfish lover Arwen Undomiel.

This huge project has made Peter Jackson a formidable force in world-class filmmaking and will ensure his A-list status for the rest of his career. If "The Two Towers" makes only half of what "Fellowship" made at the box office it will be considered a major success. But I don't think this will be the case. The huge, ready-made audience that is chomping at the bit to spend their hard earned dollar are going to flock to the theater in droves. The almost relentless battle sequences makes the characters take a back seat at times, making this a slight bit less enthralling development-wise than "The Fellowship of the Ring," but "The Two Towers" is an epic event.

There are elements of derivativeness to parts of "The Two Towers" with the opening battle between Gandalf and a demon from hell being a reverse "Moby Dick" and with Howard Shore's music score often sounding like something out of "Braveheart." The "conventional" battles between men and Orcs are handled in routine manner and much of the action shone too close in. These are minor nits, though, and I give it an A-.

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