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The Two Towers
A homage to mythical heroism, loyalty, friendship, and courage

by David J. Ramond, Opinion editor emeritus


In December, the long-anticipated second part of the Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers opened on thousands of movie screens across the nation.

Part one, Fellowship of the Ring, was a financial and critical success, so there were inevitable concerns about the quality of the sequel. Of particular concern were the millions of J.R.R. Tolkien fans who could prove either an enthusiastic movie audience or vicious critics. Well, they will probably be both. The Two Towers both delivers and disappoints, at times offering too much, at times not enough, occasionally confusing but overall immensely enjoyable.

Lord of the Rings

Like its predecessor, The Two Towers makes good use of the lush diversity of the New Zealand countryside, offering a backdrop both grand in scale and pleasing to the eyes. It is an epic film using grand sets and thousands of extras, culminating in the climatic Battle of Helmís Deep. A combination of computer graphics and photographic artistry provides enough special effects to satisfy the most dedicated of action cinema fans.

In Two Towers, director and co-screenwriter Peter Jackson takes more liberties with the original novel, adding scenes, characters, and dialogue. In some cases, this was accomplished successfully, such as developing the complex relationship between the human Aragorn and the elvish princess Arwen or detailing the tragic self-doubt of Theoden. Less successful was Jacksonís decision to portray the activities of the hobbits Frodo and Sam and their quest to enter Mordor in counterpoint to the efforts of their friends to turn back the renegade sorcerer Saruman. While clear enough in the novel, the effect here is an often-confusing muddle not helped by ragged editing.

Yet, for all that, Jackson remains consistently true to Tolkienís themes of mythical heroism, loyalty, friendship, and courage. Conveying these are some fine dramatic acting performances, including that of the long-suffering ring-bearer Frodo, played by Elijah Wood, and the uncomplicatedly loyal Sam, played by Sean Austin. Perhaps the most surprising acting is provided by Andy Serkis, the human model for the CGI-generated character Gollum. Serkins does a remarkable job of giving a sense of self-tortured madness to what would otherwise be a mere animated character.

Two Towers has a running time more than three hours, and there are moments when we feel that length. Nevertheless, like last seasonís The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers combines artistic and technical quality with action-oriented popular cinematic appeal. While not without flaws, it should prove both a financial and critical success, paving the way for the climax of the trilogy, 1993ís The Return of the King.



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