out of Five
Running time: 179
Utterly astonishing, truly epic film that comfortably exceeds all possible expectations – with stunning action sequences, jaw-dropping special effects and thoroughly engaging characters, this is a directorial tour de force.
Last year’s release of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring delighted both Tolkein fans and cinema-goers alike, emerging as one of the best films of the year and picking up a few Oscar nominations to boot.
With the recent release of the special extended-edition DVD, audiences are currently panting with anticipation at the prospect of the second film in the trilogy, The Two Towers. Thankfully, director Peter Jackson – a self-confessed Tolkein fan - has far exceeded all possible expectations and delivered a breath-taking, thrilling, exhilarating piece of epic cinema, of the kind that they really don’t make anymore. Until now.
Straight Into The Action
A major benefit of the second film is that we don’t need to be introduced to all the characters again and the action can just kick straight off. Which it does, with a spectacular duel between Gandalf and the Balrog that both whets your appetite for what’s to come, while gently reminding you just where Gandalf has got to.
The plot then splits into three main strands. Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) continue upon their quest towards Mordor. They are almost immediately attacked by the repulsive, yet ultimately tragic Gollum (an entirely computer-generated creation, beautifully voiced by Andy Serkis), who they persuade to act as their guide.
Meanwhile, Aragorn (Viggo Mortenson, really coming into his own and
effectively the main ‘hero’ of the second film), Legolas (Orlando Bloom, not about to lose any of his admiring army of female fans this time round) and Gimli (John Rhys-Davies, providing the dwarf-based comedy asides in a way that’s disturbingly reminiscent of C-3PO in Episode II, only funnier) attempt to rescue the two remaining Hobbits (Merry and Pippin – Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd).
Instead, however, they encounter a reborn Gandalf The White (Ian McKellen, wonderful), who leads them on a mission to aid the besieged kingdom of Rohan, whose King (Bernard Hill, also wonderful) has fallen under Saruman’s evil spell, thanks to the manipulations of Wormtongue, brilliantly played by Brad Dourif.
As for Merry and Pippin, they encounter Treebeard, a walking, talking
tree-shepherd (voiced by John Rhys-Davies / Gimli), who proves an unexpected ally against Saruman, while also delivering an effective but none-too-subtle ecological message that will please tree-huggers everywhere. (“Trees are great, mmm-kay?”)
Epic…Simple As That
‘Epic’ is a word that will inevitably occur again and again in connection with The Two Towers and it simply doesn’t do it justice. The sheer scope of the film, in terms of the beautiful cinematography and the marshalling of the jaw-dropping battle-sequences has to be experienced to be believed. It is, quite simply, unlike any film you have seen this year.
Having said that, it’s not exactly flawless, as some of the lines are
slightly embarrassing in a fantasy-literature type way (most are played for laughs, some aren’t). However, for the most part, Jackson overcomes this thanks to his superb actors, notably Hill, McKellen and Mortenson.
The set pieces, however, are simply breath taking, from the siege of Helm’s Deep to the various battles and skirmishes along the way. As for the effects, it’s impossible to tell the CGI stuff from the genuine locations – a sure sign of a job well done.
Character-wise, both Gollum (who will almost certainly emerge as the film’s main talking-point) and Treebeard are so perfectly rendered that they deserve their own category at the Oscars this year. One scene in particular has Gollum splashing through the river and it looks so incredibly real that you never question it.
To sum up, this is a terrific film, even if you weren’t a big fan of the first instalment. It picks you up and sweeps you along with it, your eyes so glued to the screen that you don’t begrudge a second of its buttock-punishing running time. A truly unmissable, yes, EPIC experience.
Tell us what you thought of it.