Oh, the sweet ecstasy that is Peter Jackson’s work on this film! If you liked Fellowship, you ought to love The Two Towers, though it takes a different tone than the first film, as does this second part in the book. It is at once foreboding and humorous, tense and exhilirating. If this film doesn’t win Best Picture next April, I don’t know which one will.
The opening scene where Gandalf fights the Balrog was an absolute trip! It was one of the most harrowing and yet brilliant fight scenes in the history of adventure films. There is a hilarious exchange between Gollum and Smeagol that takes place shortly after his initial encounter with Sam and Frodo. It is shot as though there are two Gollums having an argument with one another about what to do with the hobbits. It was one of the best scenes in the movie, and is a good display of why Serkis might get a nomination. The Marshes was a gripping scene. At one point Frodo falls into the bog, where he is greeted by the spirits of the dead warriors. A very observant viewer will recognize a few of the faces as elves from the battle against Sauron in the first film.
The Riders of Rohan are infinitely cooler than the ones on Bakshi’s cartoon, but are just as lethal to the Uruk-Hai at the edge of Fangorn. Had they been at Amon Hen, it wouldn’t have been a fight. Aragorn’s tracking ability is displayed brilliantly, listening to the pace of the Uruk-Hai with his ear to the ground, and discovering the hobbit’s foot/crawl prints in the turf. Eowyn, who is of course Theoden’s niece, is played masterfully by Miranda Otto. She soon becomes quite smitten with Aragorn, and ends up very much concerned for his well-being. They play a bit of a game with the romance between Aragorn and Arwen, trying to make us think the relationship is in jeopardy. Aragorn is show as having tried to give the Evenstar pendant back to Arwen, and Elrond lectures her rather sternly about her future with a mortal man. Aragorn is friendly with Eowyn, but never flirtatious with her. She very much desires not to be alone after Theodred, her cousin and heir to the throne of Rohan, dies at the hands of Orcs. When Aragorn becomes missing after the encounter with the Wargs, she is quite distraught, and you can sense she feels her one chance to fall in love with a great man has faded. One almost feels sympathy for the girl.
Arwen joins the procession of elves leaving Rivendell, but she exchanges a look with her father that says she’s not sailing away with them. Hugo Weaving’s eyebrows say it all. Treebeard is an absolute delight, and for three cutscenes in the action, all we see is Treebeard walking through the forest, the hobbits perched atop his head and shoulder, listening to him go on and on about different things. Treebeard comes to them after the entmoot and says, “I have told your names to the ents, and we have decided….” Merry waits a moment and says, “Decided what?” Treebeard says, “We have decided that you are not Orcs.” This received much laughter and applause in our theater. Despite Merry’s pleas, Treebeard says that the Ents will not go to war. Pippin, however, tells him to go south, so that they may slip past Saruman, because it is the last thing he would expect. Treebeard says, “That doesn’t make sense to me. But you are small.” It is when Treebeard sees the wasteland of Isengard that his anger finally rises. It was a perfect moment, and the storming of Isengard is a wonderful scene, and there were cheers all around. Most notably from myself.
I will repeat this again, Helm’s Deep is AWESOME. Plain and simple. No words can do the scene justice except for EPIC. Gimli is an absoulte riot during the whole film. First he’s gasping for air as they run to Rohan. Eowyn has a good laugh listening to him talk about the difference between Dwarf men and Dwarf women. Aragorn whispers to her, “It’s the beards.” He offers comic relief during all of the battle scenes, including the Warg skirmish. Funniest of all was when he stood in the line upon the deeping wall. The camera pans down the line, displaying stoic elf faces, when suddenly you hear, “You couldn’t pick a better spot than this!” It becomes apparent that Gimli’s helmet is barely visible above the wall. Gilmi asks Legolas what is happening, and the elf responds, “Shall I describe it for you, or get you a box?” That was, by far, the funniest line in the whole picture.
Indeed, there are elves at Helm’s Deep. Galadriel, in a telepathic speech to Elrond, extols the virtue of not leaving Middle Earth to its fate. She knows the Eorlingas will be slaughtered at Helm’s Deep. The elves supply a few thousand archers for the battle, and Haldir leads them there. My opinion is this: Tolkien didn’t say they were there, and he didn’t say that they weren’t. The alteration shows that despite past differences, all people must unite to fight for the common good. The best scene in the film, by far, is when Aragorn convinces Theoden to ride out with him in the midst of all the Uruk-Hai. Gimli is sent to sound the horn of Helm Hammerhand, and it resounds in the halls of Helm’s Deep. Theoden, Aragorn, and a dozen others on horseback, ride through the halls and out the door, scattering and trampling Orcs as they go. The music swells heroically in this moment, which is just at sunrise. As they ride out, a lone white rider appears on the hill just above the ravine. It is Gandalf, who has brought Eomer and thousands of cavalry. The tide turns, and victory is had for the forces of good.
This is an absolutely spectacular film, in my opinion. Please see it, no matter your degree of fanship in the fantasy or Tolkien realm. And remember, it is just a movie. It has sparked more interest in the book than it has detracted from it. I suspect a Supporting Actor nod will go to either Andy Serkis, or even Bernard Hill if he’s lucky. I anticipate a possible lead actor nod for Viggo Mortensen. He really was that good. Go see it now. All ten Hobbit toes up with the five stars.