A Fan-girl Checks her Baggage at the Door - A review of The Two Towers from the bottom of the world and the heart of fandom

There were challenges for me in enjoying The Two Towers this year - and the biggest ones had nothing to do with the movie itself (although there were some), but my position on the 'fan' side of the fence is in no real danger. I had just finished a remarkable, wonderful month in New Zealand and was replete with images of Middle-earth down-under. I had also just spent several days with some of the most sincere fans in the world on the Red Carpet movie tour. Finally, Wellington and the Embassy Theatre on the day of the premiere was probably the place in the world throbbing hardest and loudest with TTT expectation. That is an awful lot of baggage to carry into a movie theatre. It took a couple viewings before I was able to check it all at the counter and enter armed only with popcorn - and only then was I able to enter Peter Jackson's Middle-earth.

"This place looks familiar."
"That's because we've been here before..."

Those words threw me straight out of the story and onto the slopes of Whakapapa ski resort, where I had been just the day before. Yes, it sure did look familiar! Even the mist was the same. A double-edged sword of an experience - on one hand, I was completely distracted from the movie; on the other hand, I was completely enthralled to realise I was actually there, in the Emyn Muil.

After the novelty of seeing The Two Towers as a virtual postcard of my holiday waned, I think I can conclude that my experience was a good one. Middle-earth is a real place, meant to be part of our world, and so being in real places that represent the locales of Middle-earth in the end enhanced my enjoyment of the films (and even the books).

"Let's hear about Frodo and the Ring!"
"Yes, that's one of my favorite stories."

Trying to get over the attachment us fans (particularly purists) have to specific plot or character points - and the endless discussion we can generate about them - was a little harder. Probably harder for TTT than for FOTR since I was intensely surrounded by it even more this time. It can sometimes be hard to just 'let go' into the movie when everyone (including yourself) is busy pointing out where it departs from the book, or where the continuity errors are, or how Viggo broke his toe there...

Once I took a step back, though, I remembered that what I enjoy about being with other LOTR fans (of the books, movies or both) is in fact to listen to other points of view, other interpretations and new outlooks on a story I sometimes come dangerously close to taking for granted.

From here, it is not too big a step to see the movies as another opportunity to hear, see and even feel (through the rumblings of big sub-woofers!) a version of Lord of the Rings created by a dedicated, fanatic, and (fortunately) well-funded group of people. In the dark theatre of my mind, I have a chance to interrogate Peter Jackson and Co. on their interpretation.

I suppose, like many of you, some of the most pressing topics in TTT that I would challenge PJ about would be the course Faramir takes and the offering of the Ring to the Witchking.

After watching TTT several times, I think I am beginning to see the argument for Faramir's struggle with desire for the Ring. The desire is one that is Faramir's Achilles heel of sorts in the book - the desire to please his father and to replace the loss of Boromir. I think that is what drives the movie Faramir to want to take the Ring to Gondor. His personal desire for the power that the Ring could give him is not his motivation - as in the book, I think the movie Faramir remains pure in this regard. The arguments put forward by Peter Jackson and Phillipa Boyens in the interview linked to this site was also food for thought, and focused me a bit more on how the Ring might challenge someone even as selfless (or self aware) as Faramir.

I think I have quelled my doubts about the scene where Frodo offers the Ring to the Nazgul. To do this, I really did have to remove myself from a book-centered point of view. What did the servant of Sauron actually see here? The Ring in Osgiliath, in Gondor. As Tolkien expressed in the book, Sauron's last thought would be that the Ring is there because it is on the road to Orodruin and its destruction. Instead, Sauron would probably assume the Ring was in Gondor because a Man is going to take it. So, you might argue that the process of drawing the Eye of Sauron to Gondor is actually aided by this move.

Those are two short examples of the way the movie is leading me to think and challenge my understanding of the story. There will be examples where I will still think PJ and company are completely out to lunch, but then, there were lots of times I thought Mark-Edmond (the Tolkien Virgin) was too. The same holds for most people I have ever discussed the story with. Heck, I even disagree with Tolkien on one point - Faramir has light brown/blonde/reddish hair, no matter how many times he writes it as 'raven'! But despite this, I still enjoy learning what they thought about the story.

"For I will sing to you of Frodo of the Nine Fingers and the Ring of Doom."
"O great glory and splendor! And all my wishes have come true!" And then he wept.

Although I cannot throw myself unabashedly on the fan-wagon and say all my wishes have come true, I can honestly say the glory and splendor of the tale remain in The Two Towers, and (for myself) are even renewed. And yeah, I wept too.

The appearance of Gandalf the White, the poem of the Rohirrim, the gosh-darn cool way Legolas gets on that horse, Eowyn's fear of the cage (and the sound of it slamming shut when she believes Aragorn is dead), (surprisingly for me) the appearance of Elves at Helms Deep, the charge of Eomer, the stewed rabbit, and (especially) Stinker vs Slinker... all reached deep into the same well of emotion the book originally did. It is also a particularly deep and secret place in my soul, and one that is so rarely visited by any movie, book or dream, that this film holds a special place in my heart.

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