Much like Gollum, I suffer from Slinker and Stinker syndrome.
Throughout the course of the movie I heard Slinker in my head, yelling, “Holy crap! It’s better than I’d ever imagined it could be!” while Stinker (obviously a Purist) had me furrowing my brow and tapping my teeth with my fingernail, muttering, “I don’t recall THAT being in the book…”
The Two Towers is without question my favorite book of the three volumes, so I was aware of the danger involved in expecting too much from the film version. Therefore, despite the fact that I’d waited an entire year to see it, I went to the premiere with a carefully guarded, unassuming attitude so as not to set myself up for bitter disappointment. This strategy, however, was completely abandoned the second Sam said, “Let’s see what we’ve got. Some lembas bread — aaaaaaaand — look! Moooore lembas bread!” And then it was all over. Purism be damned.
Elijah and Sean were perfect. Both characters have changed rather drastically, due to the perils they have faced thus far — Frodo’s burden of the Ring, and Sam’s equally heavy burden of caring for Frodo and having to sit back helplessly and watch his downward spiral — and far from being inconsistant, this both added to the realism of the film and kept me from getting bored of the same old characters. (Not…that that’s likely to happen. But there were people there who hadn’t read the books.) I was a little miffed that some of my favorite Emyn Muil scenes were not included (when Sam laments his loss of his Elvish rope and is insulted when Frodo questions his rope-tying skills, for example) but that was a small loss in the light of the performances by Elijah Wood and Sean Astin. I loved the interaction between Samwise and Gollum. (The dirty look Sam shoots Smeagol when he calls him a “stupid, fat hobbit”, for instance. And I will never be able to hear the word “POTATOES” again without rolling on the floor…)
Gollum speaks for himself. If there is anyone on the flaming planet who can complain about Smeagol’s rendering in this movie they can suck my hairy feet. ANDY SERKIS!!!! Gah!!! If he doesn’t get an Oscar I will personally fly from my stupid little town in Canada and kick the butt of every single member of the Academy. Whatever I imagined Gollum to be, it wasn’t half as incredible as the computer-generated creature that Peter Jackson offered us. I always thought I knew what Gollum looked like. Boy, was I missing out! The Smeagol I’ve always pictured lacks the emotion and personality that came through beautifully onscreen. Before I saw the movie I found it very difficult to feel pity for Smeagol even though I recognized this was one of the major themes of the book. Simply ‘knowing’ that he had been a hobbit once was not enough to fuel that emotion for me (just as one generally doesn’t feel sorry for an Orc who is slain, even though Orcs were once Elves). I sided with Sam, wondering why Frodo couldn’t recognize Gollum’s treachery. The movie, however, brought into perspective that which Tolkien had been trying to get through my thick head all along, and what Frodo saw in Gollum — the picture of this pathetic, friendless and tortured life-form who did not deserve the fate that has befallen him. His facial expressions and mannerisms were so realistic that I completely forgot he was animated. Smeagol is, without question, *the* best CGI creature ever in the history of filmmaking, and I challenge anyone to prove otherwise.
A lot of people told me they disliked the frequent Dwarf jokes and thought them in poor taste. On this I have to disagree, as I feel Gimli’s role as the comic relief redeemed his part in the first movie, which was rather flat and devoid of character (not the fault of John Rhys-Davies, of course — the script just didn’t allow for much creativity). Besides, Tolkien himself used Gimli in this manner in The Two Towers, playing up the good-natured banter between he and Legolas and frequently alluding to his poor horsemanship. (I think, also, that a lot of people just don’t *GET* the Dwarf-tossing jokes. For those of you who aren’t aware, “dwarf-tossing” [small “d” cuz they are actual real-life dwarves, if you understand me] is a sport in New Zealand, where the movie was filmed. I think this inside joke is creative, funny, and most welcome. And it’s about time someone other than Pippin was responsible for the slapstick humor and the one-liners, in my opinion.)
Pippin and Merry’s scenes were highly enjoyable. Pippin (thankfully) seems to have grown a brain since the last movie and no longer needs Merry to babysit him. He also seems capable of independant thought! (Surprise, surprise, though — he still throws rocks.) Special effects-wise, Treebeard kicked some serious butt, although I was quite upset at the violent way he treated the hobbits at first. His voice, too, sounded quite rough and gravelly, where I had always imagined it as more musical, like a woodwind instrument. (And where, may I ask, was Quickbeam??) The storming of Isengard was sweet beyond words, though, and I eventually took back all the swear words I had telepathically lobbed at PJ at that point. Funny how it’s always fun to watch Orcs get stomped like bugs.
As far as Arwen goes… I have absolutely no idea why, but I can’t stand Liv Tyler as Arwen. She’s a great actress, and she’s definitely pretty enough to be the Daughter of Lord Elrond (and she can conjure up some damn convincing crocodile tears when required) but for some reason, she strikes me as too modern — and too American — to play Arwen Undomiel. I understand why it made sense to write her into the script [read here for more info] but they just really didn’t *do* it very well.
Faramir…*shudder*. Faramir was cast well, but he was MEAN, dangit! Faramir wasn’t like that in the book — he gave the hobbits STICKS, already! He was a stick-giving kinda guy and I saw no stick-giving in the movie — only unnecessary hobbit-napping to Osgiliath, of all places. (Didn’t Denethor teach his kids to pick on someone their own size???) The five seconds of “oops, maybe I was acting like a bit of a nimrod back there — let me forfeit my life for your cause to make it up to you” wasn’t really enough for me. Meh. I’m hoping this is a set-up for the next movie, and Faramir’s bizarre behavior is serving some Greater Purpose that will be revealed in Return of the King. Because otherwise I’m on the Purist bandwagon on this one.
On a personal note, FARAMIR STOLE SAM’S LINE!! The bastard.
All things considered, however, I absolutely adored the movie. Peter Jackson obviously put a lot of heart into its production. In my opinion the characters were extremely well cast and well played (Wormtongue! Could he *be* any more loathsome? And Eowyn…you can tell she’s dying of cabin fever just by looking into her eyes…) I’d much rather the movie capture the essence of the characters and leave out a few nonessential pieces of the storyline than have Tolkien’s entire work poured out in chronological order, but with flat performances. Additionally, as far as cut scenes go, it’s become obvious that Shelob was not the only item put off until the third movie, since The Two Towers ends before the Company is reunited at Isengard. It makes sense from a movie-making standpoint, of course, since The Two Towers is much longer than Return of the King. (I was just hopin’ to see Pippin steal the Palantir THIS YEAR, Peter. *Sigh* I’ll get over it.)
As a stand-alone movie, I give the film a rousing ten out of ten. As an adaptation of the book, I give it an eight and a half (and it only loses the point and a half because, like I said, Stinker won’t shut up.)