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The Ring Continues: The Two Towers
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (Extended Edition, DVD)
Member Name: Jarisleif
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (Extended Edition, DVD)
Advantages: Excellent directing
Disadvantages: A little drawn-out, but it's essential to the plot
Warning: Spoilers will likely be given during this review.
The film was a massive 2hr 59mins in length and starred Elijah Wood ("The Faculty", "Green Street Hooligans", "Deep Impact") as Frodo Baggins, Sean Astin ("The Goonies", "50 First Dates", "Memphis Belle") as Samwise Gamgee, and Viggo Mortensen ("Eastern Promises", "Carlito's Way", "A History of Violence") as Aragorn. Other notable appearances come courtesy of Sir Ian McKellen, Dominic Monaghan and Brad Dourif, amongst others.
The plot for the film reads as follows: While Frodo and Sam edge closer to Mordor with the help of the shifty Gollum, the divided fellowship makes a stand against Sauron's new ally, Saruman, and his hordes of Isengard.
The second of the trilogy of films is split into three parts which interchange as it plays out. The first of those is Frodo and Sam's journey towards Mordor, with the second following the story of Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas as they join up with Gandalf, and the third surrounds Merry and Pippin as they meet Treebeard. This film won two Academy Awards, Best Visual Effects and Best Sound Editing. It was a massive box office success which grossed well in excess of $900m, but there is only one question which remains. Is it any good? Let's find out!
The film's main opening scene deal with Gandalf fighting the Balrog, where, in "The fellowship of the Ring", he was slain by the beast. It's a great fight scene that, unfortunately, is heavily reliant on CGI but it works. The next thing we see is Frodo awakening from a nightmare and screaming Galdalf's name. I often wondered if the two were spiritually connected, and the dream sent a message from the wizard to the Hobbit that he wasn't done and was to resurrect as Gandalf the White, but this time stronger than before. There are a few funny scenes, including one where Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli are running and the latter member can't keep up with his two comrades and pauses as he huffs and puffs before uttering "I'm wasted on cross-country! We dwarves are natural sprinters! Very dangerous over short distances!" Another scene involving our favourite dwarf is where the there is a feast in Théoden's castle and he seems to be eating and drinking for many men. He's a naturally funny character and loves to tell tales of old, even if he doesn't think he's being witty he ends up saying something which makes me laugh.
More excellent scenes include one where the hobbits, Merry and Pippin, are in Fangorn Forest, and the scenery looks like it's been shot in 3D. Throughout the duo's journey, there is wonderful CGI with Treebeard who is accompanying them. It is during this part of the tale where we see Gandalf the White explaining how he returned from when he was once known as Gandalf the Grey. It appears that this Gandalf is younger in years, more active, and sharper than he once was, but he's also more serious and doesn't have as much of a sense of humour. Speaking of humour, Cate Blanchett performs her part as Galadriel to a tee. There is an aura about her - warm eyes but not overly beautiful - and I think that was the intention to make her look normal without too much makeup, and that works well. One of the most poignant and important scenes is where Frodo realises that Smeagol is really Gollum and was corrupted by the Ring. There is a sort of cat-and-mouse rivalry between Smeagol and Samwise, both vying for Frodo's attention and both clearly despising each other. Sam doesn't trust Gollum and the latter is trying to deceive Frodo into thinking he's helping him for a good cause. There is a good scene where it appears he's talking to himself but the cameras give the impression that there's two of him as it swaps between his two personalities (Smeagol and Gollum). It's CGI but it's really good work. Another funny scene is where Samwise is cooking rabbit and says "What we need is a few good taters." And Gollum asks "What's taters, precious? What's taters, eh?" I laughed at that a lot and completely missed Sam's reply of "Po-tay-toes! Boil 'em, mash 'em, stick 'em in a stew... Lovely big golden chips with a nice piece of fried fish." I even had to rewind to hear it properly!
There are other scenes which are just as important, but to name them all would be giving it away a little too much. I suspect, though, that if you're reading this review, you've probably seen the film anyway! Some of the more somber parts include the grief-stricken mood as the warriors realise Aragorn has met his death, falling over a cliff during battle. Fortunately, however, this is short-lived as, awhile later, he reappears unharmed and ready for battle once more. There is a very short scene where the look of reluctance is shown amongst the villagers as the women let their men go and prepare to fight. This is probably what it was like during World War II when young men were called up to the frontlines.
Of the acting, I thought most, if not all, performed their parts incredibly well. Brad Dourif is one that stands out for me in his portrayal of Grima Wormtongue and I'm surprised he didn't receive any Academy Award recognition for his part, though I suspect it's because he wasn't in a lot of scenes. His reply to Eowynas she asks him to leave her alone is masterful, which I have decided to include here for its excellence: "Oh, but you are alone. Who knows what you have spoken to the darkness, alone, in the bitter watches of the night, when all your life seems to shrink, the walls of your bower closing in about you, a hutch to trammel some wild thing in? So fair, yet so cold like a morning of pale spring still clinging to winter's chill." Bernard Hill also comes in for special praise. I always thought he was a fine actor, and seeing him play the part of Théoden is a joy, though I half expect him to go back into his Yosser Hughes character in "Boys From the Blackstuff".
The cinematography is, once more, visually stunning. This includes a scene where Arwen was leaving after speaking with her father, Elrond. The image of the line of people walking across the bridge with lanterns and a waterfall in the background was especially pleasing. Another eye-catching sight was the lack of colour at the gates of Mordor. This gives power to the scene and the marching of the orcs sounds incredible. Another compelling part happens when Saruman is looking over his tower balcony at 10,000 of his army (Uruk-hai). It's very impressive scene but also reminds me of Adolf Hitler and his many thousands of armies who came to witness his speeches during World War II in Berlin. The fight choreography, too, is a joy to behold. When the elven archers decide to form an alliance in the final fight, they look magnificent as they pull back their bows for the first time, unflinching as the rain beats down upon them.
Sir Ian McKellen is a convincing Gandalf. Plays the part wonderfully and, it seems, with ease. It's almost as if he was born to be the wizard, and I really can't think of anyone else who could have played the part. Apparently Sean Connery was offered the part but I'm glad McKellen took it on. The accent and deep voice give power to the character and putting him together as a wizard opposite Christopher Lee's Saruman is a fitting double act, if you like. He's a kind-hearted wizard who's very protective of the Hobbits, especially Frodo. He's also fun-loving but has a serious side at the same time.
Gollum is a great character which was derived from Smeagol. His desire and lust for the One Ring has warped his mind to where it's all he can think about and the ring is how he got his transformation. I was always unsure if he helps Frodo and Sam because he has sworn on the Ring or if it's because he wants it. He's a strange character but you can't help but feel for him. He provides moments of comedy throughout the film, even though I don't think it's purposely planned. He's not really a bad guy but sometimes his desperation to get the Ring back causes him to become hateful. Andy Serkis voices the character brilliantly and it's believed he can't travel on the London Underground without people asking him to "do the voice", which must be very annoying for the actor.
Gimli is one of my favourites. You can't get much better than a dwarf with a Scottish accent, and John Rhys-Davies plays a brilliant portrayal. He has great camaraderie with Legolas - an elf - which isn't common between the two races. There's an excellent scene which is the first battle of the film where the pair are keeping score of how many kills they've each had. Legolas, having shot an Uruk with his bow and arrow proclaims: "Forty three". Gimli, somewhat bemused, says "He was already dead!" Surprised, Legolas replies: "He was twitching." To which Gimli retorts: "He was twitching because he's got my axe embedded in his nervous system!" It's an amusing dialogue which is ended as Legolas rescues Gimli and says "That one counts as mine".
I adore the second part of the trilogy, though it's not quite my favourite of the three. It has many wonderful moments just like "The Fellowship of the Ring" but it often goes a little too quiet and more emphasis is on these intricate little scenes than on the major battles. That should not put you off from buying it, however, because it's these parts that complete the story and without them you'd be left wondering what was happening. Of course, they can be a tad confusing but that just forces you to watch it again, and that's never a bad thing. I can't recommend this film enough but if you are a novice to Tolkien's masterpiece, go out and buy the trilogy in its entirety. You'll thank me later for it.
What the Critics Say:
Entertainment Weekly: "What it comes down to is superbly staged battle scenes and moral alliances forged in earnest yet purged of the wit and dynamic, bristly ego that define true on-screen personality."
Los Angeles Times: "If the second film never reaches the highs of the first - we have met the players before and there are no new worlds of wonder - it nonetheless invests movie going with a sense of adventure."
Philadelphia Enquirer: "Jackson's superior sequel to last year's first installment in his Rings cycle resurrects the beloved Gandalf (majestic Ian McKellen) and rejuvenates the audience, too."
USA Today: "Epic battles, spectacular effects and multiple story lines makes this movie a most excellent middle chapter in the film trilogy."
Variety: "Has a sharper narrative focus and a livelier sense of forward movement than did the more episodic first installment."
My rating: 9/10
Summary: Magnificent film. One of the best.