Another Spectacular Spectacle
"The battle between Good and Evil always makes a great movie," said the woman sitting in front of me right before Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers started. Although I didn’t talk with her after the film, I’m fairly certain she got her money’s worth. An abundance of "good," "evil," and "battles" fills the screen for almost three hours during Peter Jackson's second movie based on J.R.R. Tokien’s mythological classic. And, like The Fellowship of the Ring, awesome creatures and breathtaking scenery add to the spectacle before us.
Filmed in New Zealand, The Two Towers showcases snow-capped mountains, sparkling lakes, and immense forests. It’s almost enough to persuade one to move there – at least until weird creatures start making their appearance. Enormous flying dragons, hyena/bear-like animals with VERY sharp teeth, huge talking trees, and a creepy little man called Gollum (who looks like Peter Lorre and Mia Farrow’s love child) are some of the unusual creatures featured in this most cinematic of epic adventures.
Representing "Good," wide-eyed hobbit Frodo (Elijah Wood) finds himself interrupted in his journey to Mordor where he plans to destroy the powerful Ring before it falls into the hands of Evildoers. He and his fellow-hobbit Sam (Sean Astin) have become separated from their other friends and protectors – who are also among the forces of "Good." It’s a treat to see Aragorn, played by hunky Viggo Mortensen, getting more attention this time. He’s easy to accept as the traditional courageous hero, especially when motivating King Théoden (Bernard Hill) to ride with him into a fight with hordes of bloodthirsty soldiers – even though their brave action seems doomed from the start. And, happily, that crafty wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) returns to help. Astride a magnificent white horse, he’s quite a spectacle himself – with his long white hair and white robes flowing as his steed gallops into battle. ("I’m now Gandalf the White, not Gandalf the Grey," he explains.)
"Evil" is easy to spot in The Two Towers, at least by everyone except Gollum, who struggles with a dual personality, and Treebeard, a talking tree who refuses to take sides at first because "No one is on my side." Saruman (Christoper Lee), a corrupt wizard under control of the dark lord Sauron, continues to personify evil in this part of the trilogy. But his accomplice, Grima Wormtongue (Brad Dourif) is no slouch either when it comes to doing bad things. By creating a vast Uruk-hai army, these two plan to destroy Man and Middle-earth.
And they almost succeed – as depicted in one of the most action-packed battle scenes ever filmed. However, with so much maiming and killing going on, I’m surprised, but not disappointed, at the lack of specific violence and bloodshed shown on screen (perhaps to maintain a "PG-13" rating?). Involving and exciting, this lengthy sequence matches Black Hawk Down for its you-are-there feeling.
I’m also pleased that The Two Towers moves along at a faster pace than Fellowship of the Ring, probably because it’s much less talky. My only criticism? More humor is needed. Although Gimli the Dwarf (John Rhys Davies) says a couple of funny things, that’s not enough for me. On second thought, is there anything very amusing about the battle between Good and Evil? In the immortal words of Emily Littela (Gilda Radner’s famous "SNL" character), "Never mind."
(Released by New Line Cinema and rated "PG-13" for epic battle sequences and scary images.)