Why, oh Why?! - This movie is why I'm a purist.
Here is a sample of the changes he made:
-Kicked Eomer out of Rohan, only to have him return with impecable timing. Were there scenes developing Eomer's character to the point where the audience could understand why he remains loyal to his failing king this would be acceptable, but there aren't, so it's just a confusing, senseless piece of drivel.
-Had Grima's bodyguards attack their guests in the hall of their King. There is absolutely no way a man of Rohan would do this.
-Had Theoden be directly posessed by Saruman instead of merely under his spell. This is the equivalent of the wizard's duel in FOTR, i.e. it is a decent scene but completely changes the nature of magic from subtle (most of it is poetry. frikkin poetry) to overt clashes of unseen forces. Also, Gandalf reawakening the courage in Theoden's heart with a bold speech is vastly more dramatic than pointing his staff and saying "OUT!"
-Made the Rohirrim take all their women and children to certain battle at Helm's Deep. Theoden knew he rode to a war he was unlikely to win. This totally destroys the image of Theoden as a wise, proud, and strong king, as any seasoned warrior, such as Theoden, knows that refugees are a burden on campaign.
-Tossed Aragorn off a cliff into a river, "killing" him. This only adds drama for someone who hasn't read the book or seen the trailer, because everybody else knows he is at Helm's Deep, which happens later. But even in the deplorable event that the viewer had no idea that he lives this simple fact can be discerned simply by looking at how it is handled within the movie. In FOTR when Gandalf falls to his doom and Boromir is slain, both are painful, drawn out scenes where the viewer is given time to lament the inevitable. But Aragorn, who is at least as important as Gandalf and definately more so than Boromir, simply disappears over the edge. As if this weren't dumb enough, Jackson then spent a good ten minutes getting him back into the story. Wouldn't this time be better spent developing characters? Or the plot? Or at least in pretty shots of Rohan, Fangorn, Emyn Muil, the Dead Marshes, Ithilien, or Henneth Anun? Yes, it would.
-Ignored Shadowfax after a beautiful, Legend-esque shot. We don't even get a hint of who Shadowfax is or what he represents. Stupid, stupid.
-Cut out Wellinghall. I know this is a minor scene that doesn't really advance the plot, but is one of the most interesting and background-developing parts in all of LOTR.
Adding this scene would require maybe five to ten minutes, which is, gee, about the length of the Aragorn-in-the-river bit...
-Reduced the Ents to hasty, bratty little children who think only of their immediate needs and then throw temper tantrums when they find out that Saruman is a meanie.
-Had a band of Elves show up at Helm's Deep. The only reason I can see for this to happen is as a way to get Narsil to Aragorn. But no, all we get is a bunch of stupid (more on this below) Elves, presumably from Imladris, led by Haldir, of all people!
-Replaced realism with action at Helm's Deep. If you know anything about medieval warfare you will laugh at that entire scene, as did myself and my friends. Elvish archers waiting until the last second to fire; no forked polearms to push back the ladders; no boiling oil to dump on the attackers; Elves being stupid and not hiding behind the big crenellations (blocks on top of the wall for hidind behind); an object that looks like a WWII-era sea-mine to blow up the wall; the Isengard Olympic Team Kamikaze Torch-Bearer to light it; the elves being horribly stupid and impaling themselves on an Uruk Hai pike hedg instead of just standing back and shooting them all (elvish specialty); there being a POSTern gate near the FRONT of the keep; a cavalry charge of about five mowing down Uruk Hai elite like there's no tomorrow; cavalry charging down an impossibly steep slope (it had to be at least 60 degrees) into a pike hedge and winning (the fact that they charge a pike hedge at all is highly dubious); and throughout the whole thing, just like in FOTR, the only fighters who can take any kind of damage are the heroes of both sides. Uruk Hai, just like their "lesser" cousins from Moria, die with a single hit. Armor (again) does nil. Just after Legolas says "Their armor is weaker just beneath the arms, and at the throat," guess where the Orcs get hit: the chest. And yet every one of them dies. This is the kind of maggot pus Jackson serves for a climax.
And now off to Frodo, Sam, and Smeagol.
-Why does Frodo fall in the water? The Ring wouldn't pull him towards the long-dead elf, that's for sure. And this entire scene was filmed with hardly more creepiness than a stroll through the Shire.
-Faramir. Aside from the fact that he's replaced with Boromir in all but body he's great. With the simple fact that he goes after the ring the whole purpose of the two brothers is destroyed. It should be that Boromir, brought up to be the next Steward of Gondor, succumbs to his lust for the Ring's power while Faramir, raised in his shadow, is humbler and resists. But no, now they both give in! How lame!
-Henneth Anun, the last bit of comfort Frodo and Sam get until the very end of ROTK, lasts all of ten minutes and is stripped of all its beauty to make time for....
-Osgiliath. Why, oh shy!? Apart from the fact that it looks like a Mel Brooks set, every event therein is horribly against the grain of the books. What was Peter thinking to have a face-to-face encounter between Frodo and a Nazgul? The scariest part about them is their cold remoteness, the sheer indistinctness of their menace. But here we see one in the flesh, close-up, and it sees the Ringbearer. Would not the other eight, not to mention all Sauron's forces in Minas Morgul rush out after him, making escape up the stairs of Cirith Ungol impossible.
-And then of course we have that idiotic speach Sam gives Frodo just after saving him from the Nazgul. The whole thing could be straight out of George W's book of stock speaches. BLEH!!
-But the final, crowning travesty is complete lack of seven (!) chapters, namely The Road to Isengard, The Voice of Saruman, The Palantir, The Journey to the Cross-roads, The Stairs of Cirith Ungol, Shelob's Lair, and The Choices of Master Samwise. Out of 21 chapters, that is one third.
There a two general general flaws I'd like to mention. Firstly, each scene felt compressed, as though I was being shown only the highlights of that particular segment. And secondly, I felt the editing was overall rather poor. The plot threads were: Sam, Frodo, and Gollum; Merry and Pippin; Legolas, Gimli, and Aragorn; with occasional interludes of Arwen and Elrond; Gandalf and the Balrog; Aragorn in the river; Saruman and Grima; Rohan peasants; and Arwen and Aragorn. The way it flip-flopped between all these plots and subplots was quite irritating, with one just starting to flesh out when we are whisked off to another, then another, then....
Oh, and why is Haldir so extraordinarily large-nosed? He's a frikkin' elf!
All this said, there are some pretty freakin' excellent aspects to the Two Towers. Immediately coming to mind is the music, which fits the bill perfectly, just as is FOTR. I particularly enjoyed the use of the Lothlorien theme as battle music during Helm's Deep, although this leads me to believe the elves were from Lothlorien, as does the presence of Haldir. But this is contradictory to what is implied by the Elrond/Arwen scene, which was another beautiful bit of filmmaking. Those two, the music and Arwen's final interview with her father, are my favorite aspects of the whole thing.
But unfortunately those two cannot stand against the tide of flaws present in this film.