The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Review by Maria VandenbergThe movie that Tolkien fans have eagerly awaited since the release of part one in December 2001, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is likely to merely whet appetites for the third and final part of this fantastical trilogy, anticipated this coming winter.

Like millions of others, I ventured out to see the second film and found it bigger, blacker, and bolder. There were aspects of this movie that both fascinated and frustrated, committed and complicated. Let me be frank in saying that I am not a huge fantasy fan, yet something about this trilogy entices one to watch while being intrigued by the brilliance of the cinematography and simultaneously repulsed by the sheer ugliness of some of the characters.

Being the middle of this journey to save Middle Earth, the challenge for viewers is a movie with no true beginning or ending. The Two Towers picks up where The Fellowship of the Ring ended, with the hobbits Frodo and Sam continuing toward Mount Doom to destroy the ring of power. It ends with these two hobbits continuing toward Mount Doom. So while a lot happens, it seems that not much progress is really made. The movie embarks from the point where the fellowship has been divided into three distinct groups. Frodo (Elijah Wood) and his faithful sidekick Sam (Sean Astin) are on their own in their quest to destroy the ring. The second group consists of the warrior Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), dwarf Gimli (John-Rhys Davies), and elf Legolas (Orlando Bloom), in pursuit of Urukhai warriors who captured the third group, hobbits Pippin (Billy Boyd) and Merry (Dominic Monaghan). And to top it all off, Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen), previously thought deceased, has returned to the fellowship as Gandalf the White.

Without going into further detail about the plotline, there is much to be discussed. The story is essentially and fundamentally about good versus evil. In this world of Middle Earth, the order of creation ranks the Elves first, followed by Men, Dwarves, and Ents (anthropomorphic tree creatures), while the Spirit of Evil in Melkor distorts creation to his own end in making Orcs, Trolls, Balrogs and other dreadful creatures. Director Peter Jackson, in his interpretation of Tolkien’s vision of Middle Earth, spares no expense in his portrayal of the differences. The Elves are immortal and their appearance is somehow intact no matter the circumstances. Men, on the contrary, physically demonstrate strength and weakness when faced with adversity. Dwarves are stubborn, yet carry within them an intrinsic nobility and loyalty. On the other hand are the Orcs and other creatures of evil. Jackson gives evil its due ugliness. Evil is the absence of love, goodness or beauty, and when you look at an Orc there is absolutely nothing that is loveable or endearing – they are revolting and frightening. These evil creatures have no redeeming qualities whatsoever.

In the first film, the focus was primarily upon Frodo and the great responsibility he has as Ringbearer. The Two Towers follows Aragorn’s group, and their preparation and participation in various battles, culminating in the great battle at Helm’s Deep. When I said that this movie was bigger, blacker and bolder, that was directly in reference to the battle scenes. This is a war movie. The fighting scenes at Helm’s Deep are the most compelling because of the extensive use of computer technology for fleshing out the army of Sarumon, 10,000 strong (unfortunately, it tends to look like hundreds of thousands rather then tens of thousands, but it is still amazing, considering the technology).

What has initiated the most dialogue though is the fascinating character of Gollum, a computer animated character. Jackson, in conjunction with Weta Workshop animators, succeeded in making a legitimate and realistic computer-generated image alongside real-life characters. Not only that, the actual personality of Gollum contributes so much to the story line of The Two Towers. He has given the Ring it’s most famous name in calling it “My Precious,” in his rather creepy, whispery voice. He is a character with a dual or split personality, who alternatively covets the Ring, or is an obedient servant and guide to “Master” Frodo. Somehow it is Gollum who most adequately represents mankind and conscience – this eternal battle between internal good and evil. A well-developed conscience in combat against the evils of power, ambition, and all other human baseness – the choices people are faced with every moment of every day.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is most definitely not a movie for young children. Although the message the movie conveys is good, the complexity of the story and the number of violent scenes is not appropriate for young viewers. It is a long movie that lacks some of the drama and emotion of the first movie. These elements are replaced with the action and darkness of the second film.

The genius of Jackson in filming the trilogy simultaneously is that there is a great deal of continuity in the overall quality of the movie. The scenery and landscapes of The Two Towers are as beautiful and awe-inspiring as The Fellowship of the Ring, but the second film surpasses the first in its special effects. The drawback of this second film is that if viewed independently of The Fellowship of the Rings, it makes no sense. Preparation for this movie should include a recent viewing of the first film, which makes the transition to the second film easier to get into and follow. And then wait for the final instalment, expected in December.