Surprisingly enough, it has been some twelve hours since The Two Towers was publicly released, and I could find no article or forum regarding its quality here as of this post – perhaps an internal server error? Perhaps the improbable possibility that no one would have anything to say about it yet? Regardless, I will give my thoughts on the movie, for whatever you find them to be worth.
First, the obvious – wonderful cinematics, CGIs, costumes, and action sequences. It should come as no surprise given what we saw in the Fellowship of the Ring. The plot was, of course, again modified to accomodate the movie screen, but that is hardly worth comment on either. As far as mechanics go, the movie is irreproachable.
However, mechanics only take a movie so far. The first, and most minor, of my questions is about the soundtrack: is it for a the second part of a trilogy (actually, a single story) to have the same music or different music? What New Line has done is keep the same major themes from FOTR – that is, comparable scenes in FOTR and TTT will have nearly the same music, but slightly reiterated – and add new themes for things that did not occur in FOTR. Most striking is the theme of Rohan (or whatever you wish to call it) which is wholly new; but except for this single new theme, the music is largely the same, for better or for boring.
It is not music or mechanics that made Tolkien’s work great, nor even entirely its inventiveness – it was his characters that people have loved for the last half century and the spirit of his world. Where FOTR sacrificed plot for production, it maintained (as long as you are not too begrudging) the spirit and, usually, the characters in the books themselves. TTT saves niether plot, nor spirit, nor characters. Gimli is very nearly reduced to comic relief (a role, if it were to be filled at all, belonging to Peregrin – which was not Tolkien’s intent either, read his letters). Legolas shows amazing short-temperedness and short-sightedness. Most notable, though, is the destruction of Faramir’s character, the noble man who refused the chance of taking the ring and who put Sam to shame for his impudence – in TTT we see the opposite coming true, an abuse not only of Faramir but also of Sam. Merry and Pippin similarly are very un-hobbit-like. When would Merry or Pippin as Tolkien had envisioned them attempt to command ents? Peter Jackson thought it plausible – but the scene with Treebeard smacks heavily of American pop-culture and is utterly devoid of spirit of humility that Tolkien placed in hobbits. Treebeard is made out to be a fool.
In short, the writing is what is most lacking in this movie. If such does not bother you – if you are the type who likes a good action movie – I expect TTT will hit the spot for you. For those of us who really appreciate Tolkien’s work, though, TTT leaves everything lacking that made Tolkien stand out from the myriad of low quality fantasy books that are commercially available.