WARNING: THIS REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS FOR THE FILM THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers picks up exactly where the story left off from the first film, and continues with its success. The fellowship is broken, with Frodo and Sam left to go to Mordor, Boromir dead and Gandalf lost to the Balrog of Morgoth. Merry and Pippin have been kidnapped by orcs (they’re taking the hobbits to Isengard!) with Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli in pursuit.
Since it is a sequel, the film wastes less time introducing the characters and the universe, getting straight into the action. There is a wider scope to this film, as it focuses on the other races of Middle Earth, especially the men of the kingdoms of Gondor and Rohan. This introduction of politics makes it feel less isolated than its predecessor, getting the balance right between keeping the audience interested; yet not dragging on too long (I’m looking at you, Phantom Menace). This is another way to introduce several new characters, in particular Théoden, King of Rohan (Bernard Hill, Titanic, True Crime), his niece Éowyn (Miranda Otto, The Thin Red Line, What Lies Beneath) and Boromir’s brother, Faramir (David Wenham, 300, Australia), all of which maintain the solid standard of acting that was seen in Fellowship.
The screen time is more evenly distributed this time around; most noticeably the role of Saruman (Christopher Lee, Star Wars, The Man with the Golden Gun) has increased. But the role that steals the show is that of Gollum/Sméagol (Andy Serkis, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, The Adventures of Tintin). A pitiful creature with a split personality and corrupted by the ring, we caught a glimpse of him in the first film. He acts as a guide for Sam and Frodo, leading them into Mordor. Serkis nails the role perfectly, at times making the audience sympathise with Sméagol, at others making them despise Gollum, which is accentuated by his excellent motion capture.
It’s also nice to see the various flora and fauna of Middle Earth. Several new creatures are introduced, like the wolf-like wargs, and the Ents, gigantic tree creatures that act as ‘shepherds’ of the forest. Since the Ents are quite slow creatures, this reduces the pace of the film a little, but not to a significantly detrimental effect. Peter Jackson still makes Tolkien’s original ecological message come through, but still gives his own interpretation of it.
The overall tone to The Two Towers is much darker than Fellowship. But whenever it begins to get too dark, a sense of comic relief is introduced by Gimli, and his banter between Legolas. There are also a lot more action sequences, particularly towards the climax and the siege of Helm’s Deep. These are extremely well shot and the film’s music score by Howard shore gets the pace just right, giving the feelings of both desperation and victory at exactly the right moments.
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers has a much larger scope than the first film, the screen time is more evenly spread out and a wider view of Tolkien’s fantasy world is portrayed. Gollum gives the film its most memorable performance, making The Two Towers better than its predecessor.