Director: Peter Jackson
Cast: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Sean Astin, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Bean, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, Dominic Monaghan, Billy Boyd, John Rhys-Davies, Cate Blanchett, Andy Serkis, Hugo Weaving, Liv Tyler, Bernard Hill, David Wenham, John Noble, Miranda Otto, Karl Urban, Brad Dourif
Synopsis: The Fellowship has broken, and we follow the remaining members now in three separate groups. Frodo and Sam continue the trek to Mordor, a journey which has them finally meet Gollum, former bearer of the ring. Merry and Pippin manage to escape the Uruk Hai, and meet Treebeard and his fellow Ents. Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli are on their trial until they meet an unexpected friend.
With our hiatus over, I now have a bit more time to complete my trilogy review, and I feel it is appropriate to get this done as a refresher for our readers before we put up the relevant New Zealand and Lord of the Rings Tour reviews. The Two Towers is an especially important review, as many of the sites my Bride and I visited were in this film.
This is perhaps the hardest of the three films to review as a fan of both the films and the original novels, as this is the film that takes the greatest liberties with the source text. As mentioned in my Fellowship review, once again Jackson has been successful at making changes that at least keep the feel of this world alive, and are true to the spirit of Tolkien’s work, but when I was first watching it in the cinema, I did find myself at times disappointed. Where is Shelob?? I have to wait until the next film??? And Faramir, that upstanding character of honour, so tempted by the ring, to the point of stealing it from Frodo?
Yet, the changes mentioned above, and others, do make more sense than what was originally there, at least in a cinematic sense. Changing Shelob’s appearance to the next film was at the very least chronologically accurate, if a timeline of events was to be drawn, and for Faramir being so ready to reject the ring on-screen does diminish the efforts made earlier to emphasise its power (all explained by Jackson himself in the extended edition commentary). So with the passing of time, The Two Towers is now for me a superior film to Fellowship. The action not only starts to take off, but character arcs are allowed room to truly develop.
This is especially true of the new characters added in this instalment. Rohan had not yer been officially introduced, and as a realm, it adds more colour and depth to Middle Earth. Bernard Hill’s portrayal of King Theoden absolutely blows me away with each viewing. He is a great man who nis convinced of his own inadequacy in the overwhelming events that are occurring around him, and despite this he proves himself a man of true character and humanity. His performance after the death of Theoden’s son is perhaps the one moment in the trilogy where I could not hold back the tears, and his recitation of the “Where is the Horse and the Rider” poem as he prepares for battle absolutely resonates.
In addition,other prominent members of his court also bring a welcome change to the mix. Otto’s Eowyn is much less annoying than I found her in the book, and is an amazing combination of power and independence with frailty and vulnerability. Her brother Eomer brought Karl Urban to my attention for the first time, so when he was cast as the new Doctor McCoy in Star Trek, I was absolutely delighted. Then Brad Dourif, a character actor I have loved for some time, was perfectly slimy, but with some hidden depth, playing Grima Wormtongue.
In my fellowship review, I was discussing the success of the adaptation, and all the elements that gave Middle Earth authenticity. This remains true for Two Towers, but another element that remains true throughout these films that I would like to reflect on here are how character is developed throughout. I have already spent some time discussing Theoden, but this is of course also the film that introduced us to Gollum, and it also examines the effect Gollum has on the Frodo/Sam relationship. Sam in particular really excels as a character, ever the optimist, and even Frodo reflecting by the end of the film that he would have gotten nowhere without that support. This also of course follows Sam’s brilliant monologue, which aptly summarised the events and the point of this middle feature. If Jackson had not had such a strong focus on character development, then the reality established by the amazing settings would have crumbled, and these would have been little more than visually brilliant cookie-cutter films. Showing that these characters are fighting against the odds, and showing strength in great adversity, is perhaps a universal story, but it is one that keeps interest of the audience. It leaves the viewing public actually caring about the fate of these heroes.
My final rating for this film should of course be no surprise!
5 stars (out of 5)