The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Review Date:
Director: Peter Jackson
Writer: Frances Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Stephen Sinclair, Peter Jackson
Producers: Frances Walsh, Peter Jackson, Barrie Osborne
Elijah Wood
Viggo Mortensen
Ian McKellen
This movie follows the adventures of the remaining members of the fellowship established in part one, as Frodo and Sam continue towards Mordor to destroy that damn ring, Pippin and Merry hook up with some crazy talking/walking trees, and Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli hook up with a king and his people, all of whom are preparing themselves for an upcoming war against Saruman and all of his evil forces. And if all that doesn’t mean anything to you, rent THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING and catch up on the story before seeing this film.
A mediocre follow-up to the impressive opening picture, THE TWO TOWERS is too long, spends too much time with bits that don’t bring much to the story, too little time with the characters that we got to know in the first installment and other than an all-out war between good and bad to end things off on a high note, not much that’s particularly memorable. In retrospect, I wasn’t particularly interested in seeing the first movie, but I have to admit that once it got going, I quite enjoyed myself (it even came through stronger on DVD the second time around). It had a rhythm, a good pace, emotional highs, solid action sequences, many unforgettable moments. This time around, I was actually looking forward to seeing the sequel, but very little about it impressed me at all. Many of the characters that we met the first time are barely even seen here, like Liv Tyler, whose character has her face pasted on this film’s poster, yet only has about five minutes of screen-time in a story-line that doesn’t even seem to fit within all of the other stuff. Christopher Lee’s Saruman is also barely shown, while Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving essentially wander through for cameo appearances. The film does bring new players into the game, like Tree-Beard, a hard-to-understand boring walking/talking tree, who spends much of the movie carrying two hobbits on his shoulders, but none are memorable or all that interesting. Brad Dourif’s Wormtongue character is somewhat engaging, but he “gets off” way too easily under the circumstances, in a Bond villain-esque type of scene (“No, let him go…enough blood has been shed”-gimme a break!), while others like The King and his daughter, barely made any kind of impact on me. Other than having the “hots” for Aragorn (who doesn’t!), the daughter didn’t bring much else to the proceedings. Looking back, all the stuff with the two hobbits and the trees could have been excised altogether, and nobody would have gotten hurt (at least, from a narrative point of view).

Gandalf is also quite absent from the movie, and even when he does eventually show his white mug, disappears just as quickly, only to reappear almost an hour later, with only a few minutes left in the show (Maybe he went to get his name officially changed to Gandalf the “Wizard Who Doesn’t Do Much Wizarding” for the next installment). So which characters are we left with? Well, Frodo and Sam are two of our point-men, who along with an amazing CGI creation called Gollum, walk along, discuss the ring, Gollum’s intentions, and walk some more. They go through a couple of twists, but all in all, their journey isn’t all that substantial. In fact, the “ring” itself seemed to taken a backseat in this film. The plotline was centered more around Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli, and the impending war which was about to break out. In fact, much of the movie is essentially just the anticipation of the war, conversations about it, strategies and such, but very little real action. When the end battle finally hits, it is quite a feat, with thousands of creepy Uruk-hai going ape-shit on the gang of goodies from Middle-Earth, but a lot of the stuff before it didn’t particularly hype or excite me. Much like the first film, I had trouble understanding some of the names of the people and places here as well, and even mistook a couple of players for one another (every other guy on a horse seemed to have long hair and a goatee!) Barâd-Dûr this!! At one point, the King’s son dies, but I had no idea who the guy was or why we should be grieving for him…as an audience. But to be fair to the film, I’m not usually interested in “fantasy” movies anyway, and I guess this movie is a perfect example of one which simply did not connect with me. In fact, if this was a stand-alone film, I would likely review it even harsher (since you really do need at least some knowledge of this world to appreciate much of this stuff). Some of the bits that I did like included the kickass score, which still…kicks ass, as well as the characters of Legolas and Aragorn, both of whom are cool as heck and continue to pile dead bodies into their respective “kill” columns. Mortensen’s hair also comes through as per its usual style. Nice show!

Gimli, on the other hand, seems to have turned into more of an “Eddie Murphy” type character here, with one-liners being dropped left and right, while Gollum is the one who ultimately steals the show. I don’t know how many close-ups they did of this grotesque creature, but no matter how many times he was shown, I was quite convinced of his performance and appearance among the other players. A big hand to the computer folks behind that one (although I could have done without the zillion times he said “Precious…”). A thumbs down to the computer folks who put Merry and Pippin on Treebeard though. Blue-screen anyone? In the end, I can’t say that I liked this film as I did the first installment, which had plot turns, interesting character developments, palpable suspense, memorable action sequences and an ending that kept you wanting more. This go-around bored me, confused me at times and didn’t really get too much deeper into its characters. The first film also had a greater “feel” of actual Middle-Earth. Many of the outdoor scenes here (and trust me, there are many sequences featuring only the score and characters running/horseback-riding from hilltop to hilltop), just felt like New Zealand. The darkness, the suspense and the thrills from the first installment were absent here. I wanted to like this movie, I wanted it to transport me further into the world of these engaging characters, I wanted to be swept away into its epic proportions, but in the end, I wasn’t pulled in, I wasn’t surprised by much and I wasn’t emotionally attached to anyone. Having said that, the final war sequence is definitely something to see, Legolas is still the man (although still not developed any more than just a cool-looking dude who can shoot bullet-speed arrows through a dime), Gollum is amazingly created and quite disturbing, and Aragorn is the man of the hour. Maybe if they had cut about 45 minutes out of this puppy, it might’ve been a lot more entertaining. Who knows. Still interested to see how it all turns out though. Go Frodo, go Frodo…go-go, go Frodo! (and keep an eye on that Samwise Gamgee dude…he seems to be scoping you out, bro)

(c) 2021 Berge Garabedian