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Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers,
Reviewed by Falstaff
Peter Jackson distorted the plot of the book in a few instances.
I knew this would happen, even before seeing the first movie in
this most-anticipated trilogy. That is what happens when a book
of such scope and magnitude is made into a film. And although Jackson
has taken a few more liberties in the second movie, the experience
of seeing this epic tale on the big screen is not lessened for it.
And most of the adjustments are understandable.
First and most
importantly: Gollum. From the few short snippets that are seen of
him in Fellowship, I knew that Gollum would be wonderfully done,
but I had no idea of how wonderful it could be.
This is no normal
CG creation. This is an actual CG character, with a performance
that is as convincing and memorable as the performances of any other
member of the cast. Andy Serkis did not just provide the voice,
but created an entire character: his face is frighteningly similar
to the rendered Gollum, and his body movements and physical performance
were the models for the animation team. Some of the most memorable
scenes of the movie will be the Smeagol/Gollum conversations, where
voice acting and animation combine to create two distinct characters
with the same face.
Oh yeah, and
the CG looked really good too. The combination of live-action and
CG is immaculate, even down to a cloak on the ground getting caught
between Gollum’s toes in his initial scuffle with Frodo and
Sam. There is nothing on the screen that would make one believe
that Gollum is not actually there – the environment reacts
to him, Frodo and Sam react exactly as they should when touched
by him, and the rendering is of such quality that you actually want
to believe that the emaciated, frog-like creature actually was on
the set. And the number of different facial expressions that Gollum
has is seemingly unending. In the year of CG characters (such as
Dobby the House-Elf and Yoda), Gollum certainly takes top marks.
On to the rest
of the (as expected) wonderful casting.
plays the troubled King of Rohan, Theoden, perfectly. His performances
across the screen from Ian McKellan and Viggo Mortensen are dramatic
and compelling. Hill is goes from feeble and bewitched to powerful
and wrathful and then to sad and distraught with convincing ease.
joins the cast as Eowyn, sister of Eomer, played by Karl Urban.
Both of these actors make fine additions to the movie. Otto’s
Eowyn is stunningly beautiful and yet has the fiery essence of this
woman who refuses to be trapped in a society led by men. Urban’s
Eomer is also as proud as expected, and although he interacts with
the other characters less than in the book (although Jackson still
has him bandying words with Gimli), he is a faithful portrayal nonetheless.
The big surprise
was Brad Dourif, who plays Theoden’s treacherous counselor,
Grima Wormtounge, as if it was second nature to him. Dourif’s
portrayal is delightfully slimy and venomous, and his screen time
with Otto and the others is time well spent. The sniveling servant
of Saruman has practically leapt off of the pages of Tolkien’s
book and into the arms of Dourif, who certainly knows how to treat
The most liberty
was taken with the character of Faramir, played by David Wenham.
Wenham does not get a lot of screen time, but if the previews for
the extended editions are any clue, that will be remedied in November.
Wenham does do a good job with this minor character, presenting
his conflicted thoughts about the ring and its bearer well in the
short time allotted to him.
sends Faramir and the Hobbits to Osgiliath, he does so with good
reason: most of the scenes in the book that involve Faramir are
purely dialogue, with little or no action or movement. Jackson needed
to tell more about the character, but obviously did not want to
spend time with lengthy and boring conversations about Faramir’s
relationship with his brother and father. Although a rather large
departure from the book, it is one well spent, and certainly does
not detract from the story at all.
The final new
member of the cast is an old member of the cast. John Rhys-Davies
provides the voice (and face) for Treebeard the Ent. I must say,
Jackson’s Ents look much better than anything I had ever pictured
while reading the books. Although many memorable scenes are cut
from Fangorn Forest, Treebeard and the other Ents are well-created
enough to make up for it, and the flooding of Isengard is nothing
short of exciting. Another good job from the effects team.
The sets and
landscapes here are marvelous. Meduseld and the rest of Edoras are
beautifully built, and Helm’s Deep is incredible. New Zealand
has provided Jackson with some truly wonderful landscapes to work
with, and he uses them to his best effort.
This movie is
long, and has so many new and wonderful things in it that it is
hard to say everything about it at one time or for any extended
length, so I shall conclude with a number of shorter remarks.
battle sequence between Gandalf and the Balrog is exciting, and
just one more example of the wonderful work of the effects team
that Jackson has working for him.
Wow. That is all I can say. Wow.
These scenes were great. Not too long and not too short, Jackson
gives plenty of time to set up not only Frodo’s growing concern
with the ring, but also Sam’s concern with Frodo without making
the scenes overly long and stilted, as he could have done. We can
only watch the three of them walk around for so long without getting
The Battle of
Helm’s Deep. This battle was so big, it is hard to imagine
how Jackson and co. will be able to tackle the Battle of Pelennor
Fields and make it bigger and even more spectacular. The battle
was huge without being overwhelming, but still about as epic as
has ever been seen on the big screen. Also, I am not sure why Jackson
decided to send Elves to the Deep, but I am glad he did, because
the company of archers was something spectacular to see.
The Warg Riders.
Yet again. Wow. I had always imagined wargs to be smaller and more
wolf-like, but I am glad that the design team did not – the
hyena/bear/wolf hybrid beasts were just plain nasty.
The Fell Beasts.
I never did get a good mental picture of these creatures while reading
the books, so this was something that I was curious to see. Although
the scene where Frodo stands practically nose-to-nose with one of
the Nazgul’s steeds was a bit strange, overall, the creatures
were really cool. And huge, very, very huge.
Strangely, the thing I noticed most about this movie is the rather
large amount of voice-overs during the movie. I am not a big fan
of voice-overs, but Jackson uses them well here. Galadriel, Elrond,
Gandalf, even Sam all have rather long and drawn out monologues,
during which we are given nice montages of things going on in Middle
Earth. An old device used rather well, I must say.
Adjustments. First of all, the movie ends nowhere near where the
books do. That is good, however, because in truth, not much happens
in the novel of The Return of the King. I am glad Jackson saved
something for his third movie besides a battle and a long, drawn-out
resolution. It was also nice to see more of Arwen – Tolkien
never gave her much time in the book, and left much of the relationship
between Aragorn and Arwen up to the imagination. The near-drowning
of Aragorn was strange, but also worked well to set up even more
the love that Eowyn has for him, as well as to show his importance
to the others in the movie. My only complaint to Jackson would be
his abuse of Gimli. Although much of his comic relief was not only
funny but also necessary to break up the tense moments of the film,
Gimli could have been given a few more serious moments (especially
during the battle) to even out the character. Gimli kicked a lot
of orc butt in the book, and I missed this in the movie. As for
Shelob, we will just have to wait until December.
Overall, I think
Jackson did a good job of putting together a movie made from a book
that takes place in three different locations at the same time without
being too choppy in doing so. Die-hard fans of the book will certainly
complain, but that does not take away from the fantastic job done
by the filmmakers here. Another memorable episode in the trilogy
that started modern fantasy fiction, and may restart modern fantasy