The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Review

by Jon Popick (jpopick AT sick-boy DOT com)
December 20th, 2002

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In some ways, The Two Towers is better than The Fellowship of the Ring. And in some ways, it's a little bit worse. The point is it's not the exact same movie we saw in theatres last year, like, say, the first two Harry Potter films. For that reason alone, Towers deserves kudos. But of course there are plenty of other reasons to heap massive amounts of praise upon it.
Towers picks up right where Ring left off (and with absolutely no recap, so don't bother going if you haven't seen the first flick, or at least read the book), with the Fellowship splintered into three groups headed in different directions. Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) continue on their way to destroy the all-powerful ring, while Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) try to track down the frightening Uruk-hai warriors who have kidnapped Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd).

The character we all thought died in Ring - Gandalf (Ian McKellen) - kicks off Towers as writer-director Peter Jackson shows the wizard battling that crazy fire monster deal as they fell into a bottomless abyss. It's wicked cool, but we all know Gandalf survived because he's in Towers' trailer (which is, like, not wicked cool at all). Anyway, the three separate factions of the Fellowship proceed on their merry way, encountering new characters and new (but still dire) situations involving more close calls, more bad injuries and more characters returning from the dead.

The main problem I had with Towers (other than the evil not being nearly as menacing this time around - Christopher Lee's Saruman and that flaming vagina thing remain tucked inside the two titular towers and, mostly, out of both sight and mind) is...well, downright confusion. I ain't the smartest guy in the world, but I'm no dummy, either. I haven't read the books, and I found it very difficult to keep track of where everyone was, not to mention where they were headed. In Ring, the Fellowship went from Point A to Point B as a group; that's easy. But they're all over the place this time. I know there's an atlas of Middle-Earth in the books - maybe they should hand out maps on the way into the theatre, or put one of those translucent diagrams in the corner of the screen, like a videogame. Of course, it doesn't help that the locations all have nutty names, like Rohan, Mordor and Gondor (and don't get me started on the characters: We've got Saruman and Sauron, Éowyn and Éomer, Arwen and Morwen, Boromir and Faramir).

I should also mention I liked Ring a lot better the second and third times I saw it, and I anticipate Towers will probably be the same way. Of course, anyone's potential confusion will likely be forgotten when it comes time for the Battle of Helm's Deep, which might be the most amazing, large-scale undertaking I've ever seen on the screen. Those Uruk-hai chaps are frightening enough when there are just a handful of them, but 10,000-plus taking to the Deep in one hell of a battle scene left my mouth agape and my palms sweaty. As impressive and memorable as it was, however, the clash still takes a backseat to the emergence of Gollum (Andy Serkis) as a major character in the film. The CG critter, who blows away that Dobby shit from Harry Potter, gets more screen time and ends up becoming the most complex character in Towers.

There's still more - way more than I can even get into here - happening in Towers. All of the things you dug from the first film are back and, generally, bigger and better. There's more of an emphasis on the whole nature-versus-industry thing, and - yes - there are walking, talking trees. From what I understand, Towers strays from the book more often than Ring did (especially the premature ending), so hardcore fans might have something to gripe about. But in the grand scheme, Towers should be making them (and everyone else) squeal instead of sulk.

2:59 - PG-13 for epic battle sequences and scary images

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