What’s wrong with Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers?
Well, to quote my 13-year-old nephew, “It wasn’t long enough!”
It’s only 2 hours 59 minutes. And that’s not enough time to explain why it’s called The Two Towers. I assume that it is a reference to Sauron’s tower and Saruman’s tower…yeah? Is that right? Beats me.
And I don’t really care.
The Two Towers proves that the Lord of the Rings series will probably stand as the greatest fantasy film trilogy of all time. It’s got all the making-kids-read benefits of Harry Potter, the strong characters of Star Wars and the visual singularity of The Matrix series that’s going to play out next year. It has it all.
Writing about this movie right now is a little weird. After all, so many people have read the books that spoilers aren’t true spoilers. Nonetheless, I’m not that interested in taking you through the story… that’s what the movie is for.
In many ways, The Two Towers is a classic middle movie. It jumps right into major league action from the first frames. And it leaves you ready for the big wrap up. But the idea that it is a “middle movie” devalues it in a way that is unfair.
As with the first film, a second viewing enhanced the glories of the film and settled my issues with some of the differences from the first film that I wasn’t quite as happy about the first time around. For instance, Liv Tyler and Cate Blanchett are barely in this film… just barely. And I didn’t get nearly enough Gandalf for my tastes. Also, the fellowship’s split at the end of the first film continues here, so instead of having one story, you have three. Yet, on second viewing, it didn’t bother me as much.
The upside of the split is that it opens the door to new characters. For me, the greatest invention of The Two Towers is a fully participating Smeagal/Gollum. Like last year, Harry Potter and LOTR put their flags in some similar territory. There was a troll in Potter last year and then the cave troll in Ring blew it out of the water. Likewise, this year we have Dobbie in Chamber of Secrets, a CG character that is truly remarkable. And then you have Smeagal, who blows Dobbie right out of the proverbial water. Smeagal lives and breathes and has hair and skin and slightly over-sized eyes, but ***ed if you can’t imagine a CG human being in a few years that doesn’t look like it stepped out of a comic book.
Meanwhile, Merry and Pippin meet up with an anthropomorphized creature who starts as a quiet presence, but who becomes a big part of the film’s emotional grounding by the end.
And Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli get the lion’s share of screen time in this film. The fate of human kind is in their hands. Lending them more than a hand are Bernard Hill, Miranda Otto and a wondrously evil Brad Dourif, who slithers through his role as Wormtongue. This trio joins in the defense of Rohan, which leads them to Helm’s Deep.
There isn’t a lot more I really want to say about this film. It is a near-perfect piece of filmmaking. The map is, obviously, strong. And the work from Peter Jackson and his team is not only flawless, it is breaking through new barriers for the second year in a row.
We’ll talk more about the details as the film gets closer. But I’ll leave you with this… The Two Towers will disappoint no one. It is a great ride. And I can’t wait – though I will have to – for Return of the King. You can hear the heart beating already…