Copyright © 2002 by New Line Cinema
‘The Two Towers’ picks up immediately from where the first chapter left off. Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd) have been taken hostage by the Uruk-hai, followers of Saruman (Christopher Lee) while in pursuit are Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) and Legolas (Orlando Bloom). They learn that the two Hobbits have escaped from their captors and are now in the company of Treebeard (John Rhys-Davies), the leader of the Ents. Both sides will join forces to relinquish Saruman of his mighty army; the former takes the fight to Saruman’s doorstep and the latter, joined by the Elves will battle at Helm’s Deep with the citizens of Rohan, led by King Théoden (Bernard Hill). Meanwhile, Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) are still on their quest to destroy the One Ring with the aid of an unexpected source, Gollum (Andy Serkis) himself.
The highest grossing film 0f 2002 does what many sequels fail to achieve; to massively entertain and emotionally resonate with moviegoers of all ages. Being the most difficult portion to put on film that does not have a beginning and still cannot conclude, the result is remarkable; a character-driven piece with a whole lot of heart which climaxes with another well engineered battle sequence to be remembered as one of the most elaborate ever presented on screen.
Through the opening shot where we are treated to a glimpse of how Gandalf (Ian McKellen) fell in the mines of Moria, it says it all of what should be anticipated in the movie’s remaining running time – pressurised tension, mind-blowing action and heartfelt emotion. The pace moves along quickly once the star of this episode emerges, Gollum, a repulsive hobbit-like creature suffering from schizophrenia. In possession of the ring for so long as the prior owner, it gave him unnaturally long life and degraded his physicality fitting of the ring’s corruptive supremacy.
Serkis is in fine form here and easily steals the show as one of the most realistically portrayed computer-generated characters ever rendered by a special effects team. The staff of Weta Digital have definitely outdone themselves in capturing the complexities of this very tortured soul and his essence is brought out by a soulful performance from Serkis. His commitment to the role has him not only providing Gollum with a voice but also his movements via a motion capture suit.
It could have gone annoyingly wrong with such an over the top persona en route to replicating another Jar Jar Binks of the ‘Star Wars’ fame but Serkis’ firm understanding on Gollum’s treacherous motivations help him deliver a balanced turn as this sometimes sympathetic guide to Frodo and Sam. Together, they form a unique partnership to Mordor. As Frodo begins to comprehend the effects of the One Ring, we are able to witness him spiralling into the dark side.
Wood is especially engaging and conveys his emotions well through his expressive eyes. His change from naiveté to a self-absorbed loner is well contrasted with Astin’s always optimistic and fiercely protective friend, Sam. Another noteworthy relationship is of Elrond, Elven lord of Rivendell (Hugo Weaving) and Arwen (Liv Tyler). A truly heartbreaking moment to see a father having to part with his beloved daughter as Aragorn’s true love is convinced of leaving the world for good.
As much as I like the film’s three-hour long theatrical cut, it could have still been longer (thankfully, there is the extended version). Attention to newcomers in Rohan (King Théoden, Éowyn – Miranda Otto, Éomer – Karl Urban and Gríma Wormtongue – Brad Dourif) Fangorn (Treebeard) and Ithilien (Faramir – David Wenham) are adequate but more expository information would have improved their overall presence. Among the many mentioned, only Hill’s Théoden manages to imbue the majestic resonance – a feat which the others seemed to be trailing behind.
Nevertheless, these shortcomings are too miniscule to rob of the enjoyment for pure spectacle with a continuous exploration on the human psyche and the challenges that lie ahead for our heroes to face in these dire times. A larger and more sprawling production it may be, but under the reins of Peter Jackson, it never veers into Michael Bayesque mayhem and is a perfect setup for ‘The Return of the King’ to claim its box office throne successively.
Rated PG-13 for epic battle sequences and scary images