To begin, the theatre I saw the midnight show had 3 showings of this instead of one like last year and there were very big crowds for each, which was VERY nice to see.
The movie starts out fantastic… Gandalf battling the Balrog while falling, and this is NOT a short scene. It was just really exciting and great. The Balrog is killer CGI. Unfortunately, except for fans of the books this movie has little to offer in next two hours leading to the Battle of Helm’s Deep.
I realize it was a midnight show but there were quite a few people who fell asleep during the movie, especially during the whole Elrond/Arwen/Galadriel sequence. I am not talking just nodding off either but full blown snoring from five or six people, it got out of hand. There was a group of eight guys in their late teens who sat in the row in front of me aand were very excited at the start of the film. At one point ALL eight were asleep with their heads thrown back or onto each other’s shoulders.
As a fan of the book there were plenty of little details to keep my interest and I thank Jackson for putting them there but most would mean little to a non-book fan. The Fellowship seemed to fly by but this film drags.
By the time two hours had rolled around you were definitely wondering when this great battle of Helm’s Deep you saw in all the trailers would finally take place. Two Towers is just plain boring… there is no other way to put it.
We start with Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli “hunting some orc” as Aragorn so quaintly put it at the end of the Fellowship. Gimli in this film is again merely comic relief except for hacking a few orcs and managing to insult every ally they run into along the way. Gimli has a running gag, literally, while chasing the orcs which is amusing at first and annoying by the 3rd or 4th instance. He also burps at Theoden and allows himself to be tossed at Helms Deep in a repeat of the Dwarf tossing comment from Moria. I don’t know about any one else but I find these euphemisms a little disgusting especially in a film based, even in some nominal way as Jackson’s LOTR is, on at Tolkien book.
This chase also has one whopper of a continuity error. I had wondered how Jackson would handle the argument among the orcs near Fangorn forest when he had clearly had only the Uruk-Hai sent by the Saruman after the Fellowship. This is no problem for Jackson: he simply adds some regular orcs from Orthanc and has them argue with the Uruks over eating the hobbits. This whole scene plays out very well, very much like the books, but it is impossible from the movie’s standpoint.
For the Tolkien fan there is even Pippin dropping the elf broach from his cloak to be found later by Aragorn who concludes that the hobbits may still be alive since elven broaches do not drop off easily. But elven craftsmanship has gone down some as Pippin is easily able to bite off and drop the one clasp meant to hold the cloak on.
Merry and Pippin of course escape into Fangorn Forest and run into Treebeard the Ent (voiced by John Rhys-Davies, almost the same as Gimli – only without the hint of Scottish). Treebeard takes them to the white wizard, who is a resurrected Gandalf who is no longer Grey but White as in the books. The Ents are pretty good in close up but look and move like preying mantises from a distance. A short entmoot occurs in which the Ents conclude not to help, directly opposite of the book. Treebeard is tricked into going south to drop the hobbits off for the long walk home to the Shire by Pippin. The Ents, upon seeing the destruction Saruman has wrought upon their trees, quickly decide to attack Orthanc.
We are told by Merry previously how the Ents are tree shepherds and all but apparently don’t even know what is happening on the border of their own woods. The Ents, after hitting a few orcs about like golf balls, proceed to destroy a dam holding back a river over Orthanc and drown it as in the book. The dammed river is convenient of course, especially as it hasn’t even been mentioned before in the movie.
Surprisingly, this is the last we see of the Ents in the film. they play no part in the Battle of Helm’s Deep.
Next, thanks to Aragorn’s amazing tracking skills, the future king, Legolas and Gimli enter Fangorn and run into Gandalf, where are shown more of his cool battle with the Balrog and his eventual return to complete his job. In Fangorn we are treated by Legolas to a sweet little speech about the nature of the woods. Legolas in this film, played excellently by Orlando Bloom, has little lines or story other than this. He simply does a lot of cool fighting, Some, like the shield ride down the stairs, is a little too cool.
It’s a shame and I wish Jackson could have given more attention to Legolas.
Gandalf and the boys proceed to Edoras to see about King Theoden who, we have been told by his recently banished nephew Eomer and ninety-five percent of the Rohan army, is useless. Eomer has been banished by Grima Wormtongue, played excellently by Brad Dourif. I had been afraid Grima would come off a lot like Dourif character in David Lynch’s Dune, but he does not. Unfortunately, Jackson quickly makes Dourif’s whole performance irrelevant when Gandalf arrives.
Like the book the boys are disarmed at the door of Theoden’s hall by the guards, but Gandalf is allowed to keep his staff because he is an old man. Upon entering the hall Grima starts screaming about the staff but you wonder why. This is the third staff Gandlaf has had already, and it’s pretty obvious any long stick will do as long as he has his wizard’s stone. Maybe it’s a Sorcerer’s stone? Maybe it’s best not to even go there. Anyway, Gandalf makes it clear that anything evil Grima has done means little as Theoden is possessed by Saruman, causing him to look like the Winter Warlock from Rankin & Bass’ Santa Clause is Coming to Town of all things.
Gandalf battles with Saruman and wins for a change! Theoden quickly loses about 30 years of makeup in a fade effect and is greeted by Eowyn his niece, played very well by Miranda Otto. There is a infatuation by Eowyn with Aragorn as in the book and this is done well. Eowyn is pretty good looking too and seemingly a lot more fun than Arwen. If I were Aragorn looking to toss a dwarf I’d pick Otto over Tyler in a heartbeat.
Theoden, against Gandalf and the boys’ advice, decides to hide out in Helms Deep. Gandalf rides off to find Eomer and his two thousand horsemen and bring them back, as Theoden has only three hundred or so men and boys to fight. Theoden and company are attacked along the way to Helms Deep by, of all things, some orcs on wargs sent by Saruman. This was in the first book but is placed here by Jackson as a treat. Unfortunately this scene only treats us to some of the worst CGI and animitronic effects in the whole movie. The wargs look exactly like the gargoyles come to life from Ghostbusters only covered with fur. Now Ghostbusters was a lot of fun, but it was also fifteen years ago and these wargs look and feel like they were done with fifteen-year-old technology.
There is even one CGI effect where Legolas is pulled, with a flip, onto a moving horse. The CGI effects for this move will make you cringe. They are not even as good as the Two Towers video game they advertise on TV. Also, Aragorn seemingly dies in a fall but is later revived in a dream by Arwen who gives him a kiss and the grace of the Valinor. Yes, you will cringe as hard as you did when she pulled this with Frodo in the first movie.
Aragorn drops the engagement stone Arwen gave him but Legolas finds it and returns it later when Aragorn shows up at Helms deep, where Legolas greets him by saying “You’re late.” Unfortunately this prompts a whole serious of flashback scenes of a Arwen/Aragorn make out session.
We also get a bunch of scenes with the ever pessimistic Agent Smith, I mean Elrond. Hell, this guy is so sure Sauron will win he has already began evacuating Rivendale for the ships at the Grey Havens. We get a few scenes of him and Arwen arguing about her running off to live with that loser boyfriend of hers, Aragorn. Arwen seemingly goes along with the rest for the Grey Havens but she throws us a look like she intends to jump the next bus for LA like any other bratty teenage girl. Lucky for her she will get to be Queen instead of turning tricks somewhere.
Here we also get a strange voiceover by Galadriel about the elves fate. She says it but most is played over Elrond thinking making you wonder if Elrond was suppose to say it but he had Galadriel do it cause Hugo Weaving stinks so bad or was he just finding a way to slip Cate Blanchett in to this film.
What about Frodo and Sam, you ask? Well, they continue on their journey and meet up with Gollum. I don’t know about you but seeing and hearing a little bit more from him what I was looking forward too. Well, turns out Gollum is really Mick Jagger, really old like he is now, with no hair and he talks exactly like Donald Duck. I’m not joking. He’s just a balding anorexic hobbit with big eyes and a loin clothe made of what must be moss as it seems to be growing there. He may have looked better in dark lighting but almost all his scenes are during the day so I guess he has no fear of the Great Yellow Face.
He prompts a lot of pity from Frodo and a lot of tension between Sam and Frodo. Both are a bit over done this early in the story but I think Jackson has no time for it in the third film with the pass through Cirith Ungol and Shelob. Gollum also prompted the most laughs from the audience. He has a few jokes with Sam about taters and things but his internal battle between Smeagol and Gollum is what prompted the most laughs. I didn’t think it was that great but I didn’t find it as funny as most everyone else did.
They go through the Dead Marshes, which prompts a speech from Gollum about this once being a battlefield. It is, of course, the Battle of the Last Alliance which we saw in the prologue to the first film, but thankfully Jackson resists another flashback to Sauron’s lousy finger. Gollum apparently isn’t a cannibal as in the book, so he doesn’t talk about how he tried to eat the dead people in the water and learned not to follow the lights which I would like to have heard.
We FINALLLY see the return of the Nazgul on their flying steeds here. They are not horses though but more like dragons. Eventually this may not bother me, but so soon after Reign of Fire the dragons just don’t seem right. If you haven’t seen Reign of Fire count yourself among those Arwen has given her grace to.
They eventually run into Faramir as in the books and see oliphants, which is cool. But Faramir is apparently a big as jerk as his brother Boromir and actually decides to take them back to Gondor. They get all the way to Osgiliath but he changes his mind after Frodo gives a little speech and let’s them go. Surprisingly this is the last we see of Frodo, Sam and Mick in this film. I thought for sure Jackson would take us at least to the steps of Cirith Ungol if not right up to Shelob’s Lair. Wouldn’t that have been a great way to start off Return of the King?
Well back to the Battle of Helms Deep… or should I say the massacre? Even Legolas thinks it will be and apologizes to Aragorn for it. But thankfully a few score elven archers show up to help. That’s right, Elrond sent them. He’s running for the boats but he has no problem sacrificing these poor saps.
It’s okay, they don’t really die anyway. Who does Elrond send to lead these warriors? Why Haldir, that great queen of an elf who greeted the Fellowship at Lothlorian. He’s just as queenly here too, for a second I thought he was going to show Aragorn Arwen isn’t the only elf who can kiss but thankfully just hugged him. Elves are apparently very effeminate. Some of the archers are so effeminate they look like women.
The battle starts and it’s pretty good. Great fighting and all except that Gimli can’t see over the wall. In a bad CGI scene the archers are standing behind a wall shoot almost straight up over it narrowly missing their own men on the wall and the arrows bend right back down again hitting the orcs. It looked really weird but it has brought me closer to understanding the magic bullet theory.
The orcs start to bust through the gate despite Aragorn’s fine dwarf toss.
Bless all the heavens, Haldir DIES and hopefully won’t be in the Return of the King. Aragorn, Theoden and the rest are pinned down deep in Helms Deep and decide on one last glorious attack. It was nice to see them mount their horses and charge yelling “Forth Eorlingas!” but their horses seem to come out of nowhere and the entirely CGI scene of their charge is not one of the better ones, with orcs falling away rather oddly from the charge.
Dawn breaks to Gandalf leading a charge of Eomer and his two thousand men down a slope, somewhat steeper than one of the better world cup downhill ski runs, to defeat ten thousand orcs apparently bothered by the sun in their eyes for the first time in six hours of film. It’s a great victory and a big hug from Eowyn….here’s hoping she don’t see your engagement stone, Aragorn.
So for FOTR I agreed with Peter Jackson who said it was not Lord of the Rings but still a damn cool movie.
For The Two Towers I would have to say not only is it clearly not Lord of the Rings, it’s not even a cool movie.