Two Towers Review - General impressions, plus a bit of a rant.
Having been fool enough to read a spoiler, I knew that Elves were going to be at Helm's Deep, but most importantly, I knew Haldir was going to die. I loved him in the book, he was one of my favorite characters, and to see him trivialized in the first movie upset me, but then what happens in the second one? Peter puts Elves at Helm's Deep and kills them off. Basically, I spent the entire movie waiting for Haldir to die, and after he was gone, I was left completely numb.
The wait was maddening. I was crying the moment the Elves arrived and I can't remember when I stopped. I was shaking during the entire battle, and every time they cut away to the Ents, I wanted to scream, especially with their agonizing indecision and insistence on taking so frickin' long to do anything (which, I know, is true to the book, but at one point, I turned to my friend and said "That's it--give me a torch!" -- I was so ticked off).
Knowing Haldir was going to die, it was tearing me up, and when it did happen, I was weeping and screaming with each thrust into his body (scared the people behind me--oops). Oh, how Haldir's death devastated me. After that, my laughs came a second behind everyone else's. I hardly felt a thing throughout that last hour (except seeing Gandalf and Eomer surrounded by the light as they arrived, though too late to save the Elves, there I felt a spark). Even now, I'm horrified to think that the last thing Haldir saw was that of Elves lying dead, their bodies abandoned and mixed in with those of the enemy.
Peter took the beings that represented what was good and pure and beautiful about Middle-earth, then destroyed them for no particular reason that I can figure out, and for that, I don't know if I can forgive him. However, I did learn a lesson--I will never read any spoiler for Return of the King. If Peter's going to be killing off any other characters, no matter how secondary they may seem, I don't want to know! I want to find out by surprise like everyone else, instead of end up sitting there, waiting for their demise.
That is my rant. As for the rest of the movie, here are my impressions:
First off, I have to send my love out to my fellow audience members. They were a great crowd, and though it was 12:01 in the morning, they were so enthusiastic, they even cheered through each of the previews (especially X-Men 2, Terminator 3, and there was a great shout as Orlando's name appeared on the Pirates of the Caribbean trailer).
They cheered at the opening New Line Cinema icon. They cheered for Legolas's stunning horsemanship when he mounted the horse behind Gimli. They cheered at Legolas's shield trick (though I know many of you cringed). They cheered when Gimli and Aragorn alone defended the gate of Helm's Deep. They cheered for Sam the Gardener. They laughed at Gollum, they laughed at Gimli, they shouted and cried and reacted in all the right places--they were just an excellent crowd, and I would love to see a movie with them any time.
During the first hour or so of the movie, I varied from wanting them to either hurry up, or slow down! There was so much happening, I felt as if I was being rushed through the story, but on the other hand, I was impatient to see more. (Of course, underlying all this is my dread of Elves appearing at Helm's Deep, so I was not the most patient to begin with.)
The Dead Marshes--talk about the stuff of nightmares! If I wasn't so exhausted, I have no doubt it would have haunted my dreams.
I loved the transformation of Elijah Wood as he portrayed the possession of Frodo--extremely convincing, foreboding, and unnerving in general. Then, in the end, it was sweet to see him back to his old Hobbity self.
Sam -- Sam deserves an award. He remains sensible, loyal, true, and seems to gain in strength even as Frodo weakens. I am so glad for the "your Sam" lines, and that Peter was brave enough to put them in knowing so many would frown upon that moment, because we know what Sam is saying even if others choose not to.
I know we're supposed to find Gollum amusing, and that we're supposed to pity him, but there is enough uncertainty about him that, like Sam, I just couldn't trust him, and I remained wary through even his most sympathetic moments.
It was wonderful to hear Legolas and Aragorn speaking Elvish -- hell, it was wonderful to hear Legolas speak at all and not have him simply stating the obvious all the time. He gained a bit more of a personality in the extended edition, and was finally given a chance to grow here. Still, throughout much of the movie, it seemed that while Gimli and Aragorn rarely left each other's sight, the Elf of the Three Hunters was conspicuously absent and I never could quite figure out where he went. But, when he was there, it was always good to see him. (I'm trying to be as understated as I can about my adoration, so hush!)
It is a pity that Gimli was regulated to comic relief throughout the entire movie, but he is still our stout, brave, good-hearted warrior dwarf. Oh, and I loved that they kept his and Legolas's Orc and Uruk killing competition going throughout the battle. That was priceless.
Aragorn was our hero, of course. When Gandalf returned, he looked as if he'd found the father he'd thought lost, not just the friend. While we know Arwen isn't going anywhere, it was interesting that they left it rather ambiguous as to whether or not she left, leaving room for Aragorn to seek out a new love, if he so chooses. They are slowly bringing Aragorn into his own, and it is good to see him rising to the challenge.
I truly felt for Elrond, and was hoping for his sake that he would be able to convince her to leave. Showing her the loneliness and sorrow of what life would be like with Aragorn's death and beyond brought tears to my eyes--of course, seeing Aragorn dead, and then his grave, those alone would have made me cry. I just don't want any of them to die.
As for Helm's Deep -- yes, we all know how I feel about having Elves there, but I admit, their arrival and display of battle-readiness was spectacular, and Aragorn's embrace of Haldir was touching. Before the Elves arrived, though, (not that they were able to do more than hold off the impending doom for a bit and provide walls of Elvish bodies for the enemy to climb over) I think the movie did an excellent job of portraying just how hopeless the situation was. I was thoroughly depressed as the Men prepared for battle, dressing up even their youngest in battle armor. I couldn't help feeling that all of their lives would be lost for nothing because there was no escape and no chance of winning.
The situation was as gray and desolate as their surroundings, and I think everyone in the theatre felt this was a lost cause, which is why the light at the end brought such a relief. Seeing Gandalf and Eomer surrounded by the dawn was a magical moment, and I truly felt like they were our saviors. In fact, Eomer was one of the film's truly dynamic new characters, and I just wish we could have seen more of him.
A couple more things that bugged the hell out of me concerned the Rohan. They're supposed to be a horse people -- well, where were all the horses? Also, they make a big deal of Eowyn being a shield maiden and able to handle a sword, but then all the women just spent the rest of the time running from the fight or cowering in the caves. To me, that just made no sense.
And, as always, they needed more Merry and Pippin. Billy and Dom are just too good together.
Overall, I'll keep seeing it again and again and again, just because of what it is. My obsession demands no less.