Spoilers Review of The Two Towers - I don't know why he had to change the story.
But first, I will mention that I have been an avid reader of the Lord of the Rings since I first was introduced to it back in 1979. I was in my junior year in high school, feeling like quite the dork, not really popular and had just started getting extremely interested in reading. So much so that I used to go down to the local bookstore in town and help the women who owned the store with moving of bookshelves just so I could stay in tune with new books that were coming out. My friends (I didn't say I had no friends, just not in the "in crowd" at school) and I would help her out with picking out things that we liked to read, and with the ever "dangerous" Dungeons and Dragons game which also had sucked us in.
The books by Tolkien dragged us into the magical, and believable world of Middle-earth. We could not get enough of it. Since that time, I know that I have read the books almost ever year, including the Unfinished Tales and Silmarillion that his son put out. I never did learn how to speak Elvish, but man-oh-man we tried the Black Speech every time we could work it into a conversation... (can't say that I ever pronounced any of it right, but the film by Bakshi helped get some of it.)
Ok, you are probably sound asleep by now reading this so I guess I should get to the point... I have been waiting 20+ years to see The Lord of the Rings on the big screen, not as a cartoon but as a real-life, honest actor type of thing. So when I heard that it was going to be filmed a few years ago, I wanted to read everything I could about how the movie was going to be made, and who was going to be in it... and if I could afford tickets the to New Zealand and somehow convince some one that I would make a perfect extra for the film... ok the wife kyboshed the idea of going to New Zealand, especially with out her and there is no way that I can act but I had delusions of grandeur. Needless to say, you will not see my name anywhere in the credits, so I waited, ever so impatiently for the release dates... terrified of how it was going to come out. All of the "bad" things that I heard that were going to happen, made me extremely nervous about the end result of the masterpiece that was Tolkien's work..
Now I am not a perfectionist, but I really wanted ever second of the film to be exactly as I read it in the books. Reality did hit home and say, that could not happen. My pictures in my mind of the writings of J.R.R. were going to be different than someone else's ideas. I was pleasantly surprised when I was able to get tickets to the first reasonably houred showings of The Fellowship of the Ring when it came out and I liked it. There were things that I missed, Ol' Tom was nowhere to be found... but I knew that he did not have a big bearing on the film (would not have wanted him missing from the books though) I could deal with that. The cinematography was spectacular, breathtaking (and I bet New Zealand is going to love all the attention it is going to get because of the films) - I could hardly believe that Middle-earth existed on our own planet. There where plenty of things as a true fan of the books that drove me nuts, but I could rationalize those things away, knowing that there was going to be another release that had thirty more minutes in it with some of the scenes that had to come out (Lothlorien's gift giving, etc...) and be seen.
Of course, I went back 2 or 3 times to see the things I might have missed while it was in the theaters. Waiting again ever so impatiently for me to own a copy of the DVD so I could watch over and over again, and then again buying the extended version so I could see the movie like it was totally new again. (great marketing ploy by New Line Cinema to do that).
Now it is a year later, and the second part is out, The Two Towers. I had to see it the day it came out, knowing full well that the theater was going to be packed, I had bought the tickets 2 ½ weeks in advance just to make sure that I could get in. I was overly excited about what I was going to see. I listened to all the propaganda in the extended DVD about how much better TTT was compared to FotR. I was thinking, can that possibly be... it was going to be so much better.
So here begins the actual review of the film...
Everyone asked me when I got to work this morning, How did you like it? Was it better than the first one? What did you like? What did you hate? Etc... well this is how I started my answer. "If you never read the books, this will be at least as exciting, intense, action packed, awe inspiring as the first one, if you read the books only once (along time ago) you will think that the movie is great, keeps your attention the whole way through. The scenery is fantastic, the actors are great looking, the actresses are gorgeous, the villains are utterly evil, the monsters are terrifying and Gollum was fabulous (can CGI characters get best support role nominations?). If you read the books more than once, you will probably be disappointed, not in the cinematography, not in the locations but in the subtle and not so subtly story changes that leave you asking, Why did PJ have to do that? The answer is, "I don't know why he had to change the story".
I thought that the movie beginning was done well, (not in the book that way but I could except the way it was done) I loved the way Gandalf was able to continue the fight down into the depths of the earth, and through the beast down the side of the mountain, I missed Gwahir coming to take him away. There was some wonderful scenes of Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli running across the wilderness. I feel bad that Gimli gets turned into the comic relief but I like the way the characters relationships are building. I liked Grima, but thought he could snivel a little more. Eowyn and Eomer, they came of well. Theoden was interesting in the transformation from ancient, decrepit king into the man he once was, but I don't ever remember him being "possessed" by Saruman. Being psychologically beaten down is different than being possessed, but I guess it leads to good movie making.
Aragorn being thrown off the cliff with the warg he is attacking and being separated from Gimli and Legolas before Helm's Deep was not necessary and did not add any value... there are many other things, Elves at Helm's Deep - ok, they were cool looking archers but they should not have been there and not for the reason that they gave. The suicidal, torch bearing orc cigarette lighter was too absurd - though the concept of explosives was not to me. The conversations between Elrond and Arwen could have happened up to but not including Elrond basically lying and saying that Aragorn was not coming back, Elrond did not know one way or the other.
And the greatest disappointment, her ladyship, SHE, Shelob is not in the movie... because the movie ended before that point. Ok, I guess PJ was looking to have a scary, attention getting scene early in the next movie. Can't blame him, I guess... well, yes I can, it is his movie. And I must make one more protest, the scenes of Osgiliath are amazing, really cool with winged Riders flying over the city, but come on - Frodo was not dragged there in chains by Faramir. And if a Ringwraith ever got as close to the Ring and Frodo for the second time, it would have jumped off the fell beast and grabbed it and Frodo and taken him back to Mordor. Great visuals, but it just should not have / could not have happened.
But... I will be going back to the movies to watch it again, but it will be a matinee - hopefully when it is not packed, just so that I can make sure that what I saw is what I saw, and what I remember is what I remember.
Happy viewing... and still waiting again for the next movie.