This is a retro-post. I put this online 24 December 2005 using the date it was originally sent out.
LOTR: Two Towers Review
First, it’s hard to say whether a review of this film contains Spoilers because if you’ve read the book, you already know what happens. If you’ve not read the book, stop now.
Let me start by saying I had heard a number of reviews of this film saying it was better than the first. Alone, that was disturbing because I consider the first one of the best films ever made — it is, as I’ve often mentioned, as CNN called it ‘One of the most perfect films ever made since Gone With The Wind.’
The great: the acting of all the characters was still amazing. Elijah Wood is amazing, Sean Astin has gotten MUCH better — he clearly has grown into his role. Faramir is fantastic, but more on him later. Gandalf, in his greatly reduced role is perfect. I mean that literally and in every sense.
The good: The Ents were not what I expected. They were thinner, shorter, and less bulkier. That being said I still liked Jackson’s vision. Gollum was met with the fear of Jar Jar Binks in my mind. My only real complaint was his eyes. I have to say he makes a believable CGI character because you don’t realize he’s CGI unless you are thinking about it. Gollum is quite clearly insane (clinically speaking) and that comes through flawlessly. The ring’s effect on him is evident and you can see Frodo slowly going that way as well. Knowing what happens to Frodo in the first denouement of the last book, it’s foreshadowing at its best. Watching the friendship of Legolas and Gimli grow is pleasing.
The average: The movie is spread too thin. No one character gets much screen time. The main characters are reduced to bare notice (Frodo and Sam — it is after all their story and everyone else is secondary) and others (Merry and Pippin — the fact that they grow up in the second book) are a token afterthought. Eowen spends too much time making doe eyes, but I’m picking at a nit here.
The ugly: In the first film, some liberties were taken with the book. In this second film, enormous liberties are taken with the book. Further, you will find that the sequencing has been altered. That being said, I don’t mind the resequencing so much except that it’s very distracting because if you’re expecting something specific to happen next, it doesn’t. Also on the ugly side is the fact that, once again, there is a dwarf-tossing comment. Although it might be funny in another context, in this setting it’s brutally jarring.
I wasn’t impressed with the Nazgul. Too much reminder of an earthworm for me. In my mind it was supposed to be closer to a pterodactyl. Speaking of worms, Grima (Wormtongue) was too tall. He’s supposed to be a small, weasley, subtle character. In LOTR:TT he’s far too over-the-top.
Faramir needed quite a bit more screen time. He seemed a directionless, pointless character. And he isn’t. You really can’t see any motivational reasons because he’s given such short time. Although you know he loved his brother and feels his loss, you don’t know HOW much — in the book this gets better attention and it’s very important.
The first film seemed too short by at least an hour, this one seemed every minute of its over three hours. I don’t know if that’s a complaint or not. It certainly makes you understand the ‘feel’ of Tolkien’s world much better.
Visually this film is a masterpiece beyond all imagination. It’s at least as good as the first one from that aspect. Helm’s Deep, Rohan, look exactly like I pictured more or less. Gondor is close, though it was all grey, and I thought a bit more colour was in order. The Foley Artists were clearly challenged by this film, and they’ve done a good job. The war scenes were amazing and gritty.
It may seem I didn’t LIKE the film, but that isn’t true. It’s just not as good as the first in my opinion.