Lord of the Rings: Two Towers

8 out of 10


A Visual Feast That Strays From The Original Story

Another year, another Lord of the Rings movie. As did The Fellowship of the Ring last year, The Two Towers has done tremendously well at the box office. And with good reason. It is a film excellently done.

The story picks up where the Fellowship left off. Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Gimli(John Rhys-Davies), the Hunters, are on the trail of the Uruk-hai who've taken Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd) while Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) are still on the path to destroying the evil One Ring. Along the way the Hunters encounter the riders of Rohan, a good but troubled people caught in the middle of Saruman's (Christopher Lee) plans. Across the river Frodo and Sam finally meet the mysterious Gollum, whose role in the grand scheme of things has yet to be fully demonstrated.

The movie focuses more on the Rohan plot than the Frodo plot. In the original books by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers was divided equally between the two, but director Peter Jackson seems to have chosen to push some events into the film version of the next part of the trilogy. This is fine as you want a good chunk of time to really enjoy the effort that went into the much talked about battle of Helm's Deep. Thousands of computer generated Uruk warriors each programmed with enough intelligence to know how to fight for themselves make for a great achievement in animation. Gollum, too, is an electronic marvel. What you see on the screen may be an image, but the realism comes from actor Andy Serkis who's 'costume' allowed the computer to register his every move and facial expression. This acting and the animated character were made inseparable in the process and resulted in one of the most lifelike movie illusions to date.

What I didn't like much were some of the changes that were made. Some I could understand with literature and film being very different media and the whole thing having to fit within a three hour timeframe, but it seems that some elements of the story were reversed unnecessarily. David Wenham did a great job of portraying the ranger Faramir as he was scripted, but the original Captain of Gondor wasn't nearly as dark and menacing. The decision to have Faramir impede Frodo's progress rather than help him bothered me. It seems to have been just an excuse to show off the set of the ruins of Osgiliath, which is not visited in the original until sometime in The Return of the King. Furthermore it goes completely against the story to have Sam ramble on about the effects of the Ring in front of the entire band of rangers. Desperate or not, such carelessness was uncalled for. It could have been done better.

Perhaps the most troubling of all was the scripting of the Ents. The tree-like beings were known for taking their time about everything and though the great debate did last long, it is beyond me why Jackson changed the result. This allowed Merry and Pippin to have a nice little dramatic talk about their part in all these events, but it paved the way for Treebeard, the oldest of the Ents, to later act completely un-Entlike and decide on an instant's notice to attack Saruman's fortress after the decision of the great debate not to. This oversight of the Ents' nature is inexcusable.

The whole bit about Aragorn and Arwen (Liv Tyler) could have been done better, too. I think it was good to have this background information which was only included in the books within the appendices, but in the movie it feels like an interruption to everything that's going on. I kept wanting the dream/memories to end and get back to the real events going on.

Other characters of note are Karl Urban as Eomer, Miranda Otto's Eowyn and Bernard Hill did a good job as Theoden, king of Rohan. Highest marks, however, go to Brad Dourif for his eerily accurate depiction of the deceitful Grima. Though the appropriately designed costume may have had something to do with it, he seemed every bit the traitorous worm he is supposed to be.

All in all, it was a wonderful movie that was well worth seeing, maybe even if you haven't seen The Fellowship of the Ring. Just don't expect it to go by the book for this one strays from the original story even more than the first film of the trilogy. It is The Lord of the Rings, but not the way Tolkien told it.

On the other hand, it makes me really excited to see how they're going to put everything together in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, due out in theatres December 2003.

A Great Film If Not Compared With The Books

Film Critic: Erica N. Cebrowski