Director Peter Jackson brings us the middle segment of the Lord of the Rings series, The Two Towers, this time with less exposition, more action, and a much darker flavor overall. By making changes here and there to Tolkien’s story and keeping things exciting, Jackson succeeds at making this transitory segment hold the audience’s attention throughout. The Fellowship of the first film has broken–one central plot has become three subplots.
Frodo and Sam meet up with Gollum, a shriveled, fetus-like creature long ago consumed by the Ring. As probably the most interesting character in the movie, Gollum shows what is possible with CG characters in live-action movies. Many scenes consist solely of him talking to himself in schizophrenic way, battling himself in a struggle between his two personalities, a good Smeagol (his hobbit self) and Gollum, the creature who consumed by the ring. This was one time in the series so far in which my own imagination seemed lacking in comparison to the film’s interpretation of the story.
Merry and Pippin, meanwhile, meet up with Treebeard and the Ents, a race of walking, talking trees. These scenes at first seemed lacking, as if interrupting the real action of the film, but eventually pulled it together at the end. I was somewhat disappointed, as all of the scenes with Treebeard comprise my favorite part of the series. If nothing else, the books are worth reading for the philosophical conversations between Merry and Pippin and Treebeard. Despite my disappointment, I realize that most dialogue-based scenes have to be subordinated to more visually interesting scenes in the book-to-film translation.
Finally, the largest component of the plot involved Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli, along with Gandalf (SURPRISE!! Oh wait, chances are, you’ve seen one of the ads where they reveal this…) becoming involved in the people of the village Edoras, its movement to war, and the battle that ensues. This battle was incredible and definitely a remarkable achievement in film. The audience is first shown the entire fortress of Helms Deep from different angles, creating the effect that Helms Deep is a very real place that you can visualize in your head throughout the battle. The filmmakers employ a program that generates battle sequences, the combatants, and their actions in the battle, to outstanding results.
Some of the changes to the books were questionable, and it seemed like many of them were just redundant in relation to what else could have been kept in. Others were good and did much to enhance the action. One of the biggest problems that I have with this installment is how all of the humans in the evil armies of Sauron look not slightly but blatantly Arab. I doubt this is intentional, because the movies were filmed some two years ago and conceptualized even before that, and also because they were made by New Zealanders. Nonetheless, with its theme of unity against evil, it is bound to draw comparisons with current international politics.
Despite its many tweaks to Tolkien’s material, The Two Towers is an enjoyable film well worth your money, and it successfully sets the stage for next year’s conclusion, The Return of the King.