Chance made me go to the opening night of “The Two Towers”, the sequel to last year’s “The Fellowship of the Ring”. A colleague had bought two tickets and had run amiss of his date, so that there was an immediate opening. We were very late, so that a lot of this review will be tainted by the spectacle of elves with elongated faces and flat hobbits. The Two Towers is the second book in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. As such it is the toughest, having to build on a predecessor and not ending quite satisfactorily. And yet, it seemed a much better movie than last year’s. For one, the adaptation does not follow the book in its time frame and stops short of the end of book two. This will allow the script to continue unburdened into the last chapter, and didn’t fill up this movie with too much action.
The story line benefits from the central position. The recap in the beginning is held to a minimum, and the action starts right away. We are still puzzled by the overlay of independent story lines, but the movie is excellent in casting the environment – each story line occurs on a completely different background, and the choice of barren grassland, forest or desert quite work in the sense of the German ‘leitmotiv’.
The actors must have gone to acting class, too. Frodo, in particular, seems less wooden. The elves continuously look bored and emotionless, Gandalf uninspired (he was better in the first sequel, but then he had a much more rewarding part, there).
The real surprise of the movie is doubtlessly Gollum, whose motions and emotions are touching and convincing. I never quite figured out how much of him is computer generated and how much is actually human acting: regardless, he is pretty much the only entity that saves the movie’s emotional balance. If this movie is going to get as many nominations for Academy Awards as last year’s Gollum should get a fair share of them.
Otherwise? From a manufacturing point, this movie is better. The first in the sequel got so lost in scenery and special effects that there was no story to tell, in the end. This one has less story line to unravel (due to the artificial cut towards the end) and is less fond of sweeping vistas (you’ll get to see a-plenty, still).
Things I didn’t like? The love story between Aragorn and the elvish princess is quite useless in the movie. She ends up looking just like a distraction to the necessary love story between the heiress of Rohan and the valiant knight. (She is astoundingly beautiful, though, regardless of the exaggerated lip job).
The elves are a thorn in my side. They are too cold, too unimpressive, too WASP-y. Instead of looking wise and powerful, they are cookie-cutter robots, the good version of the evil orks. Even the head of the elvish army, the only other elf that really matters in the movie, looks so much like the ugly version of Legolas that when the former dies, it took me quite a while from my oblongated view to realize it wasn’t the latter that did.
And, really, just for grumbling… Can you imagine attacking a fortress attached to a mountain wall with ten thousand people? That’s not gonna work, folks! As soon as the first thousand are dead, they are an impenetrable mountain that prevents anyone else from reaching the walls…
And what’s up with the ents? Surely one could have done a better job at making them come real. They look like sticky figures with leaves attached! How will Frodo make it to the mountain and throw the ring into it, if that thing spews miles of lava?
You know, i went to Ice Age because of the squirrel. If you go to The Two Towers, watch for Gollum, and really otherwise wait for next year…