DED's Two Towers Review - On first viewing...
I have only about three things to bash on: screenplay, editing, and music. Otherwise, it was a fantastic film. Now, I'll gripe first, and cover the ups last.
SCREENPLAY: Well, the story deviated from Tolkien's significantly. It is definitely understandable that you cannot READ a movie, and WATCH a book; however, there were some things that just broke a bit too far in continuity and are hardly forgivable, except for the fact it looked cool. I'm all for changing SOME storyline to make the film watchable, but completely altering it is a bit too far. The Elves were NOT in Helm's Deep, and them showing up at a midnight hour from nowhere made things even more confusing. Haldir just waltzes in and says, "Hi, I'm here, what's up? We're here to help you out... yea... because we somehow knew you'd need it." Gandalf was in Lorien, but didn't know Theodin was going to Helm's Deep at the time. Anyway, long story short, Elves in Helm's Deep just made things a little too confusing, and UNNECCESSARY. Another part of the screenplay that dramatically slowed the movie down was Aragorn and Arwen's story; though I completely don't mind PJ messing with the their story in the film, how it was placed and played out was a bit awkward in its timing. This could probably go listed as an EDITING fault, but I feel it was probably planned this way in the screenplay too, and could have been avoided there. Though the story is credible and somewhat necessary for establishing character depth (and stuff in ROTK), it just didn't completely "work" in its timing.
EDITING: This would include two major things: the beginning and the ending. This, I know, would have been HARD AS HELL to put together, and I know it was, and they did it. The beginning had the makes of a great beginning, I think ALL the film is there, just that it wasn't quite put together "perfectly". The beginning was AWESOME. Gandalf falling with the Balrog, was completely perfect. I saw what I wanted to see. However, it was before you see that happening which concerns me. It begins with a scene with a white mountain; all Jackson needed to make the beginning work, was an entrance to Middle-earth; and unfortunately, this mountain didn't do it for me to create a flawless film. It needed something more than that. Perhaps a camera panning Moria followed with epic music, leading to the bridge. But the mountain... well, it was "okay", what made it okay, of course, was Gandalf whacking the Balrog, which was awesome! Next would be the ending, I know it was a long movie, but honestly, story-wise, it felt too short. But overall, the nonlinear format of the story made it a difficult story to put to film, and hindered it a bit. We go between Frodo & Sam, Merry & Pippin, and Aragorn, Legolas, & Gimli. This could work, and it did to a large extent, but in some places it was ill-placed and made the pacing of the movie funny. There was actually a moment when they return to Merry & Pippin when I thought, "Huh? Wha? Where am I?" The film simply strayed a bit too long on other things, and didn't check up on Merry & Pippin, which made it feel funny. Worst of all, is when it did go back to Merry & Pippin, I had grown so attached to the Aragorn, Legolas, & Gimli situation, that I wanted to go back to it; and though it does go back, at that moment it almost made me upset. Also, Helm's Deep, though it is a good portion of the film, I think it lacked TIME to spend in the actual battle. Some may say it was long, but I felt the audience should have gotten lost in the blood bath, and with other stories to cut in with, it never let you sink in. Though understandable, it lost some aesthetic value because of it. I'm sure this might be remedied in the extended DVD, but I'm not sure.
MUSIC: There are some points when the music hits RIGHT ON THE MONEY, and would seriously make me get teary-eyed just for the grandness of film and music coming together for perfect moments, and there were some of those. But throughout the film, it seemed a bit confused. Where some scenes maybe should have felt morose and morbid, they felt grand and bold. Overall, it was too grand and bold, you just can't feel grand and bold all the time about LOTR, it's not meant to be so. Grand & tragic, and/or bold and tragic would have fit a lot better. What was kool, actually, was the theme for the warring elves in Helm's Deep, I was impressed by that, although, as I said earlier, they didn't belong in Helm's Deep. Overall, there were SOME themes that worked, BUT it was really lacking the rhythm it needed to match the movie. This feels directly related to the editing of the movie. But it still is missing the pounding, rhythmic theme I was waiting for that would inspire me with awe.
That's the end to the gripes, now you have to remember, this is based on ONE viewing thus far (as it should be). But overall I think the confused state I describe is due to the fact it is the middle film. It had so much stuff to cover, and it's all thrown out at you at once (and I'm complaining it needed more!). Jackson covered what was needed, and he did it well (just not perfectly, like I described).
Now, let's get to what floored me: the Balrog, Orc's characterization, Gollum, and The Black Gate.
THE BALROG: Was he not awesome?! What is cooler than a wizard hacking away at a fiery monster from hell?! The falling was great and really gave you perspective as to what Tolkien described to be "the deepness of Moria." The intro scene was superb, I can only hope though, there is more to the battle with the Balrog when Gandalf recaps in Fangorn on the extended DVD.
ORC'S CHARACTERIZATION: Merry & Pippin getting punked by orcs was awesome. The characters were completely believable, and their speech did not seem awkward.
GOLLUM: I'm only gonna say: WOW! and... forget jar jar!
THE BLACK GATE: WOW! I mean, THAT made me feel I was in Mordor, just utterly and completely floored. The trolls opening the gates... I was speechless..
There were really some stunning moments in this movie, it was a great film compared to the vast spectrum of this kind (I hope you pickup the sarcasm there, since it is the ONLY one of its kind). I can?t stress how much I appreciate Jackson?s vision (besides my gripe about elves in Helm's Deep, which seems to be the biggie). But the film was just tremoundous in magnitude, I probably could not do such a good job, so kudos to the filmmakers. I hoping the extended DVD of Two Towers will fix some, if not most editing errors. As it stands now though, I know I will be watching it OVER and OVER in theatres; there's so much information to soak up even though he didn't exactly cover everything in the book (which would add two more hours, if not more, of film).
I'm feeling 9.2ish on a scale of 1 to 10, mainly for pacing and music. These are things that can be fixed, the film is there, and is very capable of reaching 10. I almost feel the movie was rushed out the door somehow. If it was done to the tee (except cutting the elves out of Helm's Deep, which is a bit permanent to the film), it would get 9.9. The .1 is the elves at Helm?s Deep, and that will never leave the film, unfortunately. Honestly, it would have added to leave them out, as the situation would have grown far more desperate, as it should have been.