To review Jackson’s interpretation of The Two Towers, you really need to write two reviews: one that covers all the technical aspects pertaining to the film; the other that addresses the issue of Screen Adaptation as it pertains to Tolkien’s work.
The film is splendid to watch. It has all of the technical pieces in place, with very few flaws. Some of the editing could have been a little smoother in battle seguences (and the Wargs scene), but otherwise, it is nearly flawless. One of the special aspects of Jackson’s direction and Osborne’s production is that the proverbial bells and whistles never overwhelm the stellar acting. The film captures all of the moments with appropriate emotion: sweeping when needed, subtle and intimate when appropriate. That is an extremely difficult balance to achieve, and all involved should be proud.
The special effects… well, there just aren’t enough superlatives to describe how good everything is. Everyone… from the Ents, to Wargs… from mattes to miniatures… from sweeps to Smeagol are as perfect as anyone could have asked for them to be.
That having been said, there is, however, one area that needs improvement: the Adapted Screenplay. There are changes in the plot that were completely unnecessary and that changed the overall tone and theme of some of Tolkien’s most personal pet themes. To compress a novel for screen required utmost attention to detail. Something as popularly known as Tolkien’s works should have had its starting point in following the author’s word and intent to the degree that it was applicable… and not deviating from that unless absolutely necessary.
There certainly were no times in this film where these departures ever appeared necessary. These changes have for some new initiates, marred the dynamics of what Tolkien intended to present…and issues that were near and very dear to his heart.
Faramir was his mother’s son, not his father’s reflection: that was Boromir’s role, and that was over. We did not need a proverbial ‘attack of the clones’ where Faramir is Boromir’s shadow. (I might add, without nearly the honor and likable characteristics that Boromir had).
We certainly did not need the Hobbits going to Osgiliath and Frodo trying to give The One Ring to a wraith…it is completely illogical to the rules of Tolkien’s created world: if the Dark Lord knows where The Ring is, the quest is lost. That scene ruins the entire concept of the law in Middle-earth… that’s a major flaw. Even if underinformed audiences don’t know this, it is still inexcusable considering that the plot should not have gone there in the first place. This did not go a little off Tolkien’s road… it got lost in the deep woods. This is an area that needs some serious re-working in The Return of the King.
The coming installment needs to be on Tolkien’s road…not anyone else’s agenda. Perhaps consultants with a broader appreciation of Tolkien’s vision who have some experience in storyline compression should be employed. It certainly couldn’t hurt.
The emsemble cast is simply stellar. The acting performances took some lines that would have drowned with other actors and raised them to acceptable and authentic performance. Tolkien’s character dialog, even when transferred between characters, generally seemed to work even when it migrated from place to place (example: Smeagol quoting the poem from The Barrow Wights in The Dead Marshes). If some of the wanderings away from pertinent plot were removed, there would have been time to give more screentime and attention to performances by Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, David Wenham, and even Viggo Mortensen. If dialog from ‘The Window on the West ” and “The Taming of Smeagol” were used more generously, this would be a shoe-in for an Oscar for Best Picture, hands down.
Andy Serkis and the Weta team should get some award attention for the portrayal of Smeagol. He was fantastic! Supporting character roles like Bernard Hill’s Theoden, Miranda Otto’s Eowyn, and Karl Urban‘s Eomer were well played.
Overall, all things considered, the film is a good one. Had the dialog of the author of the book of the 20th Century been more fully honored, it would have been a spectacular one.