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The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers


Year of release

Directed by
Peter Jackson

Written by
Peter Jackson (script)
Fran Walsh (script)
Philippa Boyens (script)
J.R.R. Tolkien (novel)

Andy Serkis
Orlando Bloom
Bernard Hill
John Rhys-Davies
Dominic Monaghan

The Two Towers

Plot – The fellowship lies divided. Sam and Frodo continue to edge closer to Mordor, and are joined along the way by a creature by the name of Gollum. Formerly no more than a normal hobbit-like being he fell under the spell of the One Ring long ago, and has been corrupted by its power ever since. While he agrees to lead the hobbits to Mount Doom his ulterior motive is always to snatch the ring for himself. Meanwhile, the battling trio of Legolas, Gimli and Aragorn are on the hunt for their kidnapped comrades, Merry and Pippin, but find themselves drawn into a battle at Helm's Deep, as they stand alongside the men of Rohan against the immense might of Saruman's army.

And now we come to the black sheep of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Though to be fair, can you really call a film that garnered six Academy Award nominations, generated a score of 8.7 on imdb to rank as the #21 film of all time and is the owner of a 96% freshness rating on rottentomatoes, the black sheep of anything? In general however it does appear to be the least loved of the series, and while I still think it's an absolute piece of cinematic brilliance I can understand why this feeling exists. While Fellowship was perhaps the most entertaining and adventurous of the trilogy, packed with the fun of meeting all the characters; and Return of the King the most epic, this is the film that has the unenviable prospect of moving all the pieces into place for the finale. The Two Towers does however have one or two tricks up its sleeve, the battle at Helm's Deep for instance (but more on that later). The absolute ace that this instalment has to play however is in the character of Gollum

Gollum has to rank up there amongst my favourite ever film characters, brought to life through a combination of incredible CGI and a performance from Andy Serkis that is arguably even more incredible. Gollum is an absolutely wonderful creation that succeeds both as a digital accomplishment and as a character. He's such a pitiful, wretched creature; and yet one I couldn't help but have a certain degree of sympathy for. The man he once was, Smeagol, was not evil, he has just been corrupted and poisoned by the ring. With his duelling personalities constantly in a battle for control, Gollum is like someone with the mind of a psycho, but the temperament of a child prone to hissy fits and tantrums. I have to say I also found him to be terrifically funny at times with his childish antics and constant insults towards Sam - “Stupid, fat hobbit!” And then of course there is one of the trilogy's standout scenes; the schizophrenic conversation that occurs between Gollum and Smeagol as they wrestle for control. It is a terrific slice of acting from Serkis as he just brings both vastly contrasting sides of the character vividly to the fore, and it's perfectly filmed by Jackson. It's such a simple techniques he employs, alternating the angle and location of the camera very slightly, but it just works an absolute treat. I remember at the time of the film's release there was quite a bit of discussion about whether Andy Serkis should be nominated for an Oscar, whether a CGI character should really be taken into consideration. I am definitely of the belief that he should have been nominated. Yes it may not be his face up on that screen but it is Serkis that truly creates that character with a wonderful performance. A performance of ticks, coughs, splutters, Tourette's-like outbursts and great chemistry with Sam and Frodo.

While Gollum may be the star addition, a number of his fellow newcomers also fit nicely into the large Middle Earth jigsaw and contribute strongly to the overall piece. Karl Urban delivers a strong warrior in Eomer, while Miranda Otto is lovely as Eowyn, creating a chacter of great strength and grace. On the other side of the good/evil divide the excellent Brad Douriff (an actor I've always liked) is a perfect fit for the slimy Grima Wormtongue. The other performance from a newcomer that really drew me in was Bernard Hill's turn as Theoden, the King of Rohan. Once he is awoken from his magic-induced slumber by Gandalf, Theoden just grows and grows into a tower of strength for Rohan. The character is also graced with quite a bit of depth, and Hill seems to relish tapping into it. After the torment he had been put through by Saruman I'm sure he would love nothing more than to ride out and smash the heads of an orc or two, but he feels the weight of the obligation to his people and must do what he feels is best for them. While Gandalf the White is a more non-nonsense proposition than his Grey counterpart and perhaps not as eccentric or likeable, the wonderful Sir Ian McKellen is still a joy to watch. We are also given the chance to spend a little bit more time in the company of the orcs, but they most certainly do not validate the old saying of the heart growing fonder with time; they're are still foul, disgusting beasts!

The other truly notable and memorable addition alongside Gollum however would have to be Treebeard and his fellow Ents. Now I can see why the Ents wouldn't be the most popular of creations on screen; they are after all walking, talking trees! And while I will admit they are a rather silly and goofy concoction, I still like them. I find their goofiness rather charming, and the frustration they generate in others amusing. I also really love the herky-jerky movement they have been imbued with, it gives them a bit of a classic stop motion vibe which just adds to the charm.

I know that one of the very few complaints some die-hard Tolkien fans had over the big screen translation was over the depiction of Gimli, feeling that he was relegated to a bit of a fool just for comic relief. I've never seen this as a problem however. Yes he does provide some very welcome comic relief throughout this film, and the series as a whole, but the character is still given the chance to prove his heroism when he displays the qualities of a brave warrior in battle. And I think the humour generated from the character really helps make Gimli a likeable presence. Without it he would likely just have been a gruff weapon of destruction. The humour adds another little dimension on to him. As a result he was a character I really came to care for. I particularly enjoyed his friendship and good natured rivalry with Orlando Bloom's Legolas.

The one area where I would perhaps give TTT the edge over its two stable mates is in character development. Fellowship introduced us to the characters, this then moulds them into the characters that will feature in RotK. The vital transition of Aragorn from reluctant outsider to the heroic king in waiting really kicks into gear, with Viggo Mortensen truly beginning to shine here; an excellent package of courage and charisma. His love for Arwen also begins to come to the fore. The friendship between Sam and Frodo really comes into focus with Sam beginning to show his great strength, and the previously cheerful Frodo begins to feel the immense strain of the ring around his neck. While their fellow hobbits, Merry and Pippin, begin the journey from bumbling clowns to individuals of steely determination and bravery. The film is able to achieve this despite the fact the film is not as focused or tight as previously. In The Fellowship we had one large group encompassing all of our characters; here the fellowship have been split into three separate groups and storylines, with the film cross cutting back and forth between the narratives. The fact it all remains so fluid is a credit to Jackson, and his ability to juggle the disparate strands into a cohesive and satisfying journey.

And then of course there is the remarkable battle at Helm's Deep. Unfolding on a scale that had rarely been seen before, or indeed since, it was arguably the main talking point that people came away with at the time. From the brilliant scene where Saruman unveils his immense army to Grima and the audience you just get the feeling you're about to see something astonishing. And lasting some 40 or so minutes it is a roaring success in terms of its scope and sheer epicness. And it's not just all about the hacking and slashing; featuring thousands of characters on screen at any given time there is just such incredible depth there in terms of the design and the pure construction of it all. So much is going on all over the screen, so many little details, that you dare not look away for even the briefest of moments. While they may not be new or revolutionary tactics, the darkness that shrouds the mountain valley and the torrential rain that pounds the corpse-strewn field just creates such an atmospheric and ominous setting for the battle to unfold. It's a tremendously constructed battle, one that really tells a story instead of just being loud and bombastic. Jackson weaves the story perfectly, toing and froing back and forth, constantly keeping us on our toes as to the direction the battle will take. One moment our heroes will have the edge and then something happens to turn the tide in favour of the orcs. Then when all seems loss for the men of Rohan a ray of hope will place them back in the ascendancy. It's a tremendous mix of action and drama, with the odd touch of humour thrown in for good measure; it's like a little film in its own right. Truly one of the most exceptional examples of war even presented on screen. Oh and Legolas uses a shild as a surfboard; how awesome is that?!

Conclusion – While it may be my least favourite of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Two Towers is still a wonderful piece of epic fantasy in its own right. Incredible action, strong character work and the arrival of Gollum ensure this is still an absolutey first class film from Jackson.