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Matt's The Two Towers Review
Peter Jackson and his team tackled the rest of the Lord of the Rings series with the same vigor and respect for the source material they had when making the first film. With The Two Towers, the story becomes, if anything, even bigger and more panoramic than Fellowship of the Ring. The Two Towers features the first of three major battles in the series, and it was easily the biggest and most extravagant action set-piece of its time. Since the second installment was even more action-oriented than the first one, the popularity of the series only grew beyond what it was, and it’s not hard to see why.
- Middle child syndrome – Yes, as with most trilogies of this nature, The Two Towers suffered a bit of the dreaded middle child syndrome. The Two Towers picks up right where Fellowship of the Ring left off – so good luck following the film if you never saw Fellowship of the Ring – and the ending of the film has only a small amount of resolution, with a couple of cliffhangers included. The Two Towers starts off fast, hits hard, and leaves you wanting more when the credits roll. By no means does this film stand by itself, but on the other hand, the same could be said for the other two films. Is that a weakness? Depends on who you ask, but I say no.
- Adaptation – Here is where things get tricky for this series. The Lord of the Rings was not written to be three separate novels, which is why The Two Towers and the Return of the King bleed into each other so much in terms of content. There’s a lot of battles, and a lot of other stuff going on, and there’s even more characters to keep track of. For example, technically Rohan should have been introduced in the first one, but they streamlined that part of the novel, deciding instead to introduce Rohan at the time in the story when Rohan becomes important. They even moved a couple of action set-pieces – like the Shelob sequence – into the Return of the King film. The changed structure made the movies a bit easier to digest, and therefore I have no problem with the changes they made in this installment. The story is very much intact and virtually everything I expected to see in this film, I saw.
(There are some slight SPOILERS in the final two bullets for this section. Those of you who haven’t seen this film should consider skipping down to the “Performances” section.)
- Faramir – In what I can only imagine was an effort to create tension, Faramir’s reaction to the one ring, and by extension, his character, was changed. In the novel, Faramir stood in contrast to his brother Boromir by rejecting the influence of the ring outright – as though he wasn’t even tempted. I was bothered by this drastic change when I saw The Two Towers in the theater, even though he eventually lets Frodo go once they reach Osgiliath. The extended version of The Two Towers rectifies this change to a satisfactory degree by added a key scene at the end. It is mostly for this reason that I consider the extended version of this film far superior to the theatrical. The extended version of The Two Towers in particular felt more “complete” than its theatrical counterpart.
- This is more of a nitpick than anything else, and it’s not really big enough to effect the score for the film in any way, but I had a slight problem with the Ents. In the book, after much deliberation, the Ents make the decision to go to war with Isengard. In the movie they change it so that Treebeard is basically hoodwinked into seeing the destruction Saruman has inflicted on Fangorn Forest. I’m not sure what that change added to the movie besides maybe involving the hobbits into that part of the plot as more than witnesses. The end result was the same, even some of the same dialogue was delivered as they marched on Isengard, but the change irked me just a little bit.
Building on all the excellent performances featured in Fellowship of the Ring, the Two towers introduces several new characters, all of whom turn in excellent performances. To be blunt, there are no bad performances in the Lord of the Rings films. These two, however, stood out from the rest of the new cast members:
- Bernard Hill’s performances as the aging King Theoden blew me away. The circumstances of the plot demanded that they get an outstanding performer to portray that character because he has some emotionally heavy scenes near the beginning of the film.
- Miranda Otto caught my attention in this film in a way that she never did with any of her previous work – I’d seen her in one or two things before she took on the role of Eowyn like she was born to play it. Eowyn is an important character, she adds a lot of emotional weight to the Rohan storyline, and she has an important part to play in Return of the King. She also has something of an interesting dynamic with Viggo Mortensen’s Aragorn, but I don’t want to say too much. The part demanded that she be strong without turning into Sarah Connor, while at the same time vulnerable without turning into a damsel in distress. Otto pulls it off nicely.
Music, Cinematography and Special Effects
- Howard Shore hits it out of the park once again with his score for The Two Towers, taking the cues he established in the first film and not discarding it, but building on it. His cues for Rohan, and the Ent march are particularly memorable.
- The cinematography is as excellent as it ever was, although the landscapes in this one aren’t quite as flashy as they were in the first one. The Rohan sets are quite a sight, and an interesting contrast to the architecture of the Elven locations like Rivendell.
- The Two Towers broke ground as far as the sheer scale of the battle of Helm’s deep. Gollum is also an extraordinary achievement in motion capture, which got a lot of attention when this film came out in 2002. All is done very convincingly, and the effects are clean enough so I think the film will age fairly well. That, in the end, is the most important thing.
The Bottom Line
If you loved the Fellowship of the Ring, I guarantee you’ll love the Two Towers. I’ve always maintained that Fellowship of the Ring is my favorite of the series, but The Two Towers is a masterpiece in its own right. The Two Towers broke ground with Gollum and Helm’s Deep, and despite numerous changes they made from the source material, the story and the characters remain intact. This is a great adaptation of a great work of literature. And if you make it through The Two Towers thinking it can’t get any bigger, emotionally moving, or jaw-dropping than this, wait till you see Return of the King. 10/10