Having read Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” I knew that the Hobbits would be separate from the slightly taller members of the Fellowship for the whole film. Also, knowing a lot less of this film would be spent travelling I was confident that the Hobbits would get some of their own screen time as the unlikely heroes in a world filled with treachery. Sadly I was wrong — The Hobbits are almost nowhere to be seen for a majority of the adventure. I can’t pretend I’m not upset that they have been pushed aside like the little folk they are, but in what has been provided to replace them is certainly interesting and better in almost every way than “The Fellowship of the Ring”.
Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Samwise (Sean Astin) have become separated from the rest of the Fellowship and are now travelling to Mordor with the aid of Gollum (Andy Serkis) who I’m sure needs no introduction. Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd) have been abducted by Orcs that are now returning them to Isengard for the evil wizard Saruman (Christopher Lee). Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and — reluctantly — Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) are following close behind the Uruk-Hai pack. When Merry and Pippin wander into the forest the three heroes on their tail become wrapped up in affairs at the city of Rohan.
King Theoden (Bernard Hill) has become possessed by Saruman who has tainted the fragile King. Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas and Gandalf (Ian McKellen) all save the King and convince him they are under threat from Isengard and Mordor simultaneously. As the armies of Mordor are set in motion, battles of a huge scale are set and we get to watch them play out, and play out they do!
Less travelling means that each of the locations in “The Two Towers” are unique and fully realised. Rohan feels like a different place to Helm’s Deep. It feels real, it does not feel cobbled together like say Bree was in “Fellowship”. As a result of everywhere having an actual personality and presence I feel more involved with Middle Earth in this installment. Yes, the movies both feel very similar but the improvements are clear. Fantasy relies on an interesting world, and “The Two Towers” never ceases to be interesting.
As for Frodo, the guy that the whole quest is resting on, he is as I’ve said unfortunately pushed to the side somewhat. This is unfortunate because the scenes involving Sam and Frodo are some of the best in the film because of Gollum. Expertly portrayed by Andy Serkis using what was state of the art motion capture technology, Gollum is a creature that has been tortured by the ring for over half a millennium. It has literally split his personality down the middle and often the best dialogue in the film is between Gollum and Smeagol. Smeagol is Gollum’s original name before he was tainted, and his more compassionate side is trying to break from the evil side that is selfish and wants nothing but the ring.
Gollum adds humour to each of his scenes, and the side plot of Frodo pitying Gollum and Sam despising him was very strong when it was actually happening. Merry and Pippin do very little besides talking to Ents in Fanghorn Forest in the background. The scenes involving these two feel thrown in momentarily just to remind us that they are still there, and that’s because they are.
The armies of Mordor and Isengard eventually clash with the heroes and the final 50 minutes or so is dedicated to a few large scale battles, mainly the battle of Helm’s Deep. The battle takes place at night, and the huge Uruk-Hai army is lit only by the torches they carry. The battle is impressive and memorable to say the least, I feel like it will be what causes people to prefer this film to the previous one, and I can’t say I blame them. While it is almost completely action with little to no exposition, it is well directed by Peter Jackson to the point where you feel as though you could watch Gimli swing his axe in the heads of Uruk-Hai all day. Of course you couldn’t — that would be awful — but I didn’t get bored.
“The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” is better in every way than the first movie apart from Hobbit screen time. I hope that “Return of the King” features more of the true heroes of Middle Earth as opposed to the un-killable tall folk that have become the main protagonists. Here’s to hoping that Peter Jackson did us good on this request.