By Roger Friedman
We finally got to see The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers last night and, as I predicted from the 16 minutes of footage shown in the fall, this will be a big hit.
It’s also quite likely to be an Oscar nominee for Best Picture, joining Gangs of New York and Chicago (each from Miramax, which will distribute a low-budget documentary I co-produced next year), Catch Me If You Can (from DreamWorks, whose annual Christmas party I attend), and one of the following films: Far From Heaven, Antwone Fisher, or The Hours.
Lord of the Rings is from New Line Cinema, which took a big risk in agreeing to make three films when the aforementioned Miramax balked at the idea.
The Two Towers features breathtaking battle scenes that involve a lot of computer-generated graphics but enough human interaction to make the whole business seem very real. It also boasts a beguiling CGI character named Gollum who looked to me like he the was love child of Sylvia Sidney in her older years and Peter Lorre.
There are several terrific human performances, not the least of which is from Bernard Hill as the King. He’s a total surprise and a find, with the potential for a supporting-actor nod. Ian McKellen is just as good as before as Gandalf and Miranda Otto is the fetching princess.
Viggo Mortensen, who should have been a movie star long before this, will maybe now break through. He is photographed as nicely as possible by director Peter Jackson, who obviously saw Mortensen as his matinee-idol hero. He was right.
But I think the real success of The Two Towers comes not from the story — which, frankly, is hard to follow in the first hour, but then settles down. (A map, shown in the last hour, would have been more helpful early on.)
No, the real success comes in the camaraderie among the characters and the actors. It’s a very human movie after all. The people really seem to like each other, and we like them because of it.
With all this emotion and bonding, The Two Towers has everything that made the original Star Wars movies so popular, and everything that the two recent ones have sorely lacked.
The Two Towers will open on Dec. 20, the same day as Gangs of New York. What a weekend that will be! Two epic stories of very different natures, and each will be fighting for the same awards. After last year’s paucity of good films, we’re really basking in a glow right now. Every December should be so fruitful.
<i>Thanks to Brogund Brandybuck for sending this in!</i>