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The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)

(aka: The Two Towers)



Reviews and Comments

This second film in Peter Jackson's adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings sustains the rich splendor of the first and even ups the ante on the visuals. The sacking of Isengard, for instance, is one of the most spectacular sights I've seen in any movie. But the real treasure in The Two Towers is the character of Gollum. Here marks the first time in history that a computer animated character has been brought to life in a live action movie as convincingly as any of the human characters. So wonderful is the realization of Gollum that there was a strong movement to get Andy Serkis -- who not only voiced the character but did motion capture work for the animators to use -- a supporting actor nomination at the Academy Awards. It didn't happen, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't have.

Unfortunately, the film has some narrative problems that Fellowship does not. Most of the comic relief (supplied primarily by Gimli) works wonderfully, but insistent doting on a height gag at Helm's Deep disrupts what should be mounting tension. A subplot involving Aragorn falling off a cliff seems superfluous. A subplot involving Faramir, a soldier of Gondor, is too mechanical: the movie alters the handling of the character from the way the book has it, which would be fine if the movie's rendition worked, but it requires us to accept that Faramir has a spontaneous, seemingly unprompted change of heart at a critical time. There are other problems with this scene, too: it involves an entire company of soldiers rushing to face a winged Nazgul, but when Frodo goes to confront it himself, the soldiers are nowhere around him. Where are they, and what are they doing?

The Ents, while visually convincing, lack depth in the movie's shortened screenplay, and more unwise rewriting requires Treebeard, whose life philosophy hinges on avoiding hastiness, to adopt a rash change of heart.

But I don't want to dwell too much on the negative, because the film succeeds as a whole at the improbable task of bringing such a treasured story to life on the screen. There has never before been a film adaptation of pure epic fantasy that conveys the romanticized richness of a literary fantasy world so fully or so beautifully. Seldom are there fantasy films that bring complex characters to life -- so many of them, too -- compellingly and touchingly.

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