I still remember leaving the cinema subsequent to the first session I saw of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Little did I know that the screening I attended would cause a never-ending obsession with the epic trilogy. Instantly I was completely hooked, and the cliff-hanger at the end of the first film made my anticipation even higher for the second. Alas, 12 months later Peter Jackson and his talented creative team reeled out the second instalment for which I waited with baited breath. Just like the first film, I remember booking tickets in advance and heading to a screening on Boxing Day of 2002: exactly one year since I initially saw the first film. Just like its predecessor, I absolutely loved The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.
The reception from critics and audiences was a mixed bag. Be that as it may, I will always adore all three additions in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Like its predecessor the film flaunts visceral filmmaking: astounding special effects, mind-blowing cinematography, amazing locations and incredible production values! Where the first LOTR film was essentially a road story of epic proportions, The Two Towers is a rich, heroic epic containing powerful and moving themes of friendship and courage in times of peril. With so many powerful underlying messages, the film also moves at a brisk pace with testosterone and intensity during the action scenes.
Like the first film, The Two Towers was acknowledged worldwide with critical acclaim and recognition from the Oscar committee. This film scored a mere 6 Oscar nominations (including Best Picture), ultimately walking away with two wins. In addition to this, award ceremonies globally recognised the film with several awards. There can be no disagreeances on this front: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is an exceptional movie that even dwarfs the original film with its increasingly expanded definition of the word "epic".
This second instalment in Peter Jackson's epic trilogy continues the story where it concluded at the end of The Fellowship of the Ring: basically, the fellowship is broken with groups of characters being separated from each other. The film does not open with any flashbacks or lines of narration: there is no help to assist first-time viewers to find their footing. Instead we're thrown straight into the action. If someone was to edit the first two films together (erasing the opening titles, of course) the transition would be fundamentally seamless.
Anyway, the original nine members of the fellowship have been broken apart. Frodo Baggins (Wood) is now travelling to Mordor with companion Samwise Gamgee (Astin). The camaraderie of the two is what keeps the flame of their spirit and determination burning. However they strike a hindrance when they discover that they are hopelessly lost. A ray of hope begins to shine as the tragic creature Gollum (a digital character played by Andy Serkis) is visibly following them. Gollum was once a Hobbit named Sméagol...who became a deformed creature because of the effect of the ring he now refers to as his "precious". Gollum is the ultimate expression of the One Ring's corrupting and draining influence, and serves as a reminder of the urgency of Frodo's mission while guiding him towards the boundaries of Mordor. Upon capturing Gollum, Frodo and Sam convince the troubled creature to act as a guide to help them navigate the difficult lands through which they are crossing. In an alternative storyline (that is vitally linked and occurring simultaneously) we find Aragorn (Mortensen), Legolas (Bloom) and Gimli (Rhys-Davis) who are tracking the Uruk-Hai warriors that kidnapped Merry (Monaghan) and Pippin (Boyd). Their pursuit of the Uruk-Hai brings them to the land of Rohan that is under threat. King Théoden (Hill) has too long been under the treacherous influence of his advisor Grima Wormtongue (Dourif). With the land of Rohan under threat of imminent attack, the inhabitants are advised to leave immediately and flee to the stronghold of Helm's Deep. Meanwhile, Saruman (Lee) is raising an army of several thousand Uruk-Hai warriors to advance on Helm's Deep. In the neighbouring forest of Fangorn, Merry and Pippin are under the very safe guard of the Ents. These Ents are creatures that are essentially walking trees. On the eve of the fight for Middle Earth, the Ents are reluctant to get involved. Most of their story is concerned with their decision-making process and subsequent battle.
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is a truly spectacular second part of an excellent trilogy. This film is darker, more focused, more deeply emotional and overall more exciting than its predecessor! Identical to the first film, The Two Towers is filmed against the magnificent scenery of New Zealand that is marvellously showcased as Middle Earth. This film is simply a visual enchantment. Even after repeated screenings you will still be trying to grasp the attention to detail in every single shot.
The special effects work is nothing short of mind-blowing! There's a spectacular assortment of technical wizardry on exhibition here, highlighted by the amazing CGI creation of Gollum. The character was created in a computer, using actor Serkis as a model for which to animate his mannerisms. Every piece of Gollum has been inserted by computer, and yet it's almost impossible to point out any flaws in the CGI. Shadow detail, skin texture...everything has been brilliantly detailed by the ideal creative team! Even though Gollum is a computer creation we can experience his emotions with a great deal of potency. His story is tragic and enough to make you cry. His mannerisms and voice by Andy Serkis is just the icing on the cake. There are certainly multiple facets to explore with this character, especially with dual personalities buzzing around in the mind of Gollum. This is all shown extremely well. I can't compliment the filmmakers enough!
Of course, The Two Towers features an outstanding cast. In my review of the first film I mention most of the cast in-depth. I will prominently mention the new members of the cast this time. Bernard Hill is an exceptional character portrayal of King Théoden. At first the king is weak and dying...then he becomes rejuvenated and younger. Hill plays both of these character personalities to perfection. I simply cannot imagine anyone but Hill pulling off this role. Miranda Otto is stunning and idyllic as Éowyn: a confident and feisty woman (also very beautiful) who spends most of the movie proving her worth in combat. Many of these bonding scenes with co-star Viggo Mortensen are very compelling, and their chemistry sizzles. Karl Urban's best role is on display here as he portrays the soldier Éomer. His lines are never contrived and he looks the part. David Wenham is yet another commendable addition to the cast as Gondorian ranger Faramir. During combat his lines are delivered with great intensity. Wenham never strikes a false note. There's also a powerhouse performance by Christopher Lee as the powerful white wizard, and a sadistic-looking Brad Dourif as the deformed Wormtongue. John Rhys-Davis also voiced Treebeard the Ent who is fittingly introduced in this second instalment.
Overall, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is every bit as stunning as its forerunner. With a gorgeous, motivating score from Howard Shore (that establishes a number of trademark themes for characters, locations, etc), exquisitely dazzling visuals, a solid script and plenty of testosterone this is indeed a film for the history books. The Fellowship of the Ring was a hard act to follow, but Jackson and his superlative creative team pull off a film that suitably matches its predecessor in terms of visuals, heart and intensity. This film created further reason for my never-ending obsession with the trilogy. I have so far attended 2 marathons, and I viewed The Two Towers singularly in the cinema on multiple occasions. It's a grand achievement of contemporary filmmaking...a cinematic rush of blood to the head that exhilarates, astounds and enchants; leaving you hungry for more.
The Two Towers continues Tolkein's trilogy in grandiose style, casting a spell that is impossible to resist. The Battle of Helm's Deep is possibly the greatest battle scene in cinematic history. Winner of 2 Oscars. Later released in an extended edition.