55 of 64 people found the following review helpful
A magnificent epic adventure,
It is remarkably difficult to make any movie. There are so many things to get right that it is amazing that any make it to the big screen at all. The Lord of the Rings was the book they said could never be filmed successfully. To bring us movies of the breathtaking scale and quality of The Fellowship of the Ring and, now, The Towers, director Peter Jackson has performed a feat which is little short of miraculous.
The Two Towers is not so much a sequel, as a continuation, of the story which was begun with the Fellowship of the Ring. Here, as in Tolkien's book, the narrative fractures along with the breaking of the Fellowship, and we follow the various fortunes of: Merry and Pippin who have been carried off by the Uruk-Hai; Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas who are in hot pursuit; and Frodo and Sam as they stumble inexorably towards Mordor. Along the way, their paths cross with other influential entities including the Riders of Rohan, the Rangers of Ithilien, the Shepherds of the Forest, and the wretched Gollum.
So how successfully were the various elements of this film production achieved? First and foremost, it had to withstand the scrutiny and expectations of a planet full of people devoted to Tolkien's books. In this respect it performed admirably. Unlike the first installment which was forced to carve out significant chunks of the book, this one appears to have retained most of the main events. The most notable exception was Frodo and Sam's journey through Cirith Ungol, but this has been postponed until the next film to provide more balance to that episode, so it doesn't count. It evens adds some scenes that do not appear in the book, such as those involving Arwen and Aragorn (which has been lifted from a story in the appendix to The Return of the King). For real fans, the Two Towers is full of seemingly minor scenes that seem to be exact recreations of some of Tolkien's most detailed imagery. My favourite example was the way Eomer's riders all halted and wheeled their horses as one to turn and face Aragorn after he has arisen from hiding to hail them. That is a paragraph from the book that has always stuck in my mind and it was wonderful to see it replayed so faithfully. I look forward to more of the same in the 'extended version' when that comes out on DVD.
Secondly, Jackson had to make a film that would also appeal to those who are not so familiar with the books. While I can't speak fully for such people, I can say that the movie seemed to provide sufficient explanation for the events that were unfolding, although one would almost certainly have to have seen The Fellowship of the Ring to really understand what was going on. In this sense, the Two Towers is unusual amongst movie sequels in that it was not an afterthought, but filmed at the same time as the others. As a result, while it does have moments of drama in its own right, it does very much have a 'middle part' sense about it, which may frustrate some people. However, it would be difficult to not be excited during the buildup to, and swashbuckling action of, the climactic Battle for Helm's Deep. Plus, it is always a good sign when a three hour film doesn't feel at all like three hours.
Special effects? Not just brilliant, but so groundbreaking as to have set a whole new standard for the art. The battle scenes ring with realism and the amazing Gollum heralds the future of CGI characters. The only things that looked even slightly clunky were the Ents, but they may have stood out because of the sheer quality of everything else (along with the difficulty of making a tree-like giant seem real). As always, the hallmark of great effects is that they are not even noticed, and in this case, it is very easy to forget just how much of Tolkien's world had to be created in the effects labs and workshops.
The characters almost all seemed to hit the spot for me. Each of the actors has truly BECOME their characters, especially Viggo Mortensen who bristles with hidden kingly power as Aragorn. Orlando Bloom is dynamic as the nimble elf Legolas, while John Rhys-Davies provides most of the comic relief as the sturdy dwarf Gimli. One of the unexpected stars of the Two Towers is Miranda Otto, who has already captured the beauty, sadness, and courage of Eowyn - despite her finest hour still awaiting us in the Return of the King.
For us New Zealanders, the Two Towers provides additional entertainment. This is not just from seeing the wonderful scenery of our country which provides the backdrop for the story, or from the knowledge that so many of our countrymen (and women) have played such a big part in this production's success. It is the unintended humour that we derive from spotting some of our favourite home grown soap opera stars turning up in important roles such as Craig Parker returning as Haldir the elf, Karl Urban as Eomer, and best of all John Leigh (Lionel Skeggins from Shortland Street) as Hama, the King's guard.
There is very little that I can find to quibble about this film. It should please fans and non-fans alike and has set a new benchmark for the 'epic' film genre. The next book, The Return of the King, contains more drama and action than the other two combined as well as my all time favourite scene from a book. All we can do is hold our breath and wait a year, at which time, we can be sure to be completely blown away.