Here is the 2nd part of my review of the BBC Audiodrama of The Lord of the Rings. If you missed my review of The Fellowship of the Ring, you can read it here.
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As the first book, The Two Towers begins with Frodo’s narration. This time, though, it’s a recap of what’s gone before, and it feels a bit more in line with the dramatization. I’m still not a big fan of the bookend narrations in each book, but this time it feels less of a stretch.
The audiodrama moves along similarly to the book, with extended portions devoted to each storyline, but not with the absolute division that Tolkien created in his writing. I’ve never really liked the major divisions found in the book–when reading about Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli’s storyline, I tended to forget about Frodo and Sam, and vice-versa. That kind of division wouldn’t work in an audiodrama. The change is welcome.
The first major new character to appear here is Treebeard. I thought the voice was nicely appropriate–there was no electronic manipulation, just a deep, strong, deliberate voice. As the drama continued, I grew to like Treebeard more and more. Maybe this was because there was a singular Entishness to his voice and actions, and because he wasn’t duped by Merry and Pippen to go to Orthanc (as Peter Jackson’s Treebeard was), and because the Entmoot actually lasted 3 days as in the books.
However, there was one bit that felt completely out of place: the songs. Treebeard’s song of the peoples of Middle-earth was awkward, particularly when the background strings jumped in. Similarly, the Ents’ march was odd. MUCH too operatic, and not what I’d imagine the Ents to sing like at all, whatsoever. It’s not enough to make me dislike the Ents, but enough to jar me away from their particular Entishness.
As Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli first meet Theoden, I was happy to realize he was under a much more sinister spell of Saruman. Grima was not the spittle-raving, disgusting, slimy frog as portrayed in the films either — he’s an underhanded conniver working for Saruman, who has Theoden under a sinister–but not obvious–spell. The audiodrama played these characters to nearly a perfect pitch.
Continuing on with the story, I realized that Gimli and Legolas’ relationship hasn’t been established at all, as there’s been no interplay or camraderie. And when they do try to establish it at Helm’s Deep, it feels a little forced to me. And after Helm’s Deep, there is little continuing of their unlikely friendship. Perhaps this is one of aspects of the book that the dramatists decided would be better left out.
Helm’s Deep was also a bit odd. A male choir with pulsing strings was added to the background of the battle, and it was rather distracting. As in a film, music should never distract from a story, it should only serve to intensify the emotions or action we’re hearing and seeing. In this audiobook, much of the music serves to distract, and not intensify.
Moving over to Sam and Frodo, I was happy to find that Gollum’s portrayal was growing on me. He’s still a much more intense Gollum than I’d imagine, but he’s played with such a convincing demeanor, that I started believing it was Gollum.
Faramir, like Aragorn, is redeemed from the films. Here, he is full of the dignity and grace that Tolkien put into him. He is cut in Aragorn’s mold, and is completely unlike the film’s Faramir whose first priority seemed to be looking for his father’s approval. His father, Denethor, is a noble character here too. He is the Steward of Gondor who–thus far into the story–has successfully hid how he came by his knowledge of the enemy. He hasn’t descended into despair by the end of this book yet, but the seeds for that end are planted in the listener.
As in The Fellowship of the Ring, there were some things I didn’t care for too much in The Two Towers. But, as a whole, those distractions were clearly outweighed by the dead-on portrayals that really resonated with me as the true characters from the book.
I have one more review to write for The Return of the King (in about 3 weeks), so in the meantime don’t forget to enter our contest to win your own box set, or you can CLICK HERE to check it out on Amazon.com. We’ve given away one box set so far, and we’ll be giving another away in the next few days, so check your inbox!