A Film Review By Mr. Big Time Mike
Rating: Rated PG-13 for lots of swordplay, arrowplay, axeplay, some evilness, and two dead rabbits
Starring:Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen, Ian McKellen, Sean Astin, John Rhys-Davies, Orlando Bloom, Liv Tyler, Andy Serkis, and Christopher Lee
Directed By:Peter Jackson
Well, Well, Well. Look what we have here. The Mike gets to review something that might stay in town more than a week! I’m Big Time now!
That being said, I bring you The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, the second in this series of film adaptations from J.R.R. Tolkien’s famed trilogy. Director Peter Jackson wastes no time dropping us smack in the middle of the plot started in last year’s The Fellowship of the Ring, and the ride we are in for is a good one.
The story of The Two Towers is broken up into many differing sections, and the film skips often from setting to setting and character to character. The most screentime is given to the trio of warriors; Aragon, Legolas, and Gimli. The three stumble along, searching for the lost hobbits from the end of the first film, Merry and Pippin, running into battles with the dreaded orcs unleashed by the evil Saruon and his minion, Saruman (played by the incomparable Christopher Lee).
Meanwhile, our ring-bearer, Frodo Baggins and his companion Sam continue their quest to destroy the ring, but are soon joined by the dastardly (or is he?) Gollum, whom once possessed the ring and wants back “his precious”. Elsewhere, Merry and Pippin escape the orcs that had captured them, and are introduced to the Ents, a race of walking, talking trees. The particular Ent they meet is instructed to care for them by the White Wizard of the Woods, which we soon find to be Gandalf, having survived his perils from the first film and having gained power to go from being Gandalf the Grey to being Gandalf the White.
But trouble soon comes, as Aragon and company meet up with Gandalf, and journey to the kingdom of Rohan, a kingdom whose king has been possessed by Saruman, and is assisted by a servant named Grima Wormtounge (played by Brad Dourif, most famous for being the voice of Chucky in the Child’s Play films).
The battle between good and evil is soon set, as Saruman sends forth an army of evil against the people of Rohan, intent on destroying humanity. The race of elves also faces this pressure, and is preparing to run and hide, as we learn from Aragon’s encounters with Arwen, his elf lover.
I can’t go too much further into the plot of this film, but I can tell you that the plot of this film flows much more smoothly than the plot of the first film. Knowing the characters’ backgrounds and motives leaves us plenty of room to understand what is happening, and allows much more time for action.
And action is what we get. The film is packed with attacks, surprises, battles, and everything else an action fan could dream of. Those that criticized the first film for being too slow moving will be happier with this one for its heightened activity level. At the same time, there is much more comedy in this film than the first, with dwarf lord Gimli providing a large amount of comic relief.
The new characters introduced in this chapter also add a dimension to the film. The character of Gollum steals every scene “they” are involved in (“they” makes sense…just believe me), and plays an important role in the movement of the story. The inhabitants of Rohan, most notably the King (played by Bernard Hill) and his daughter Eowen (Miranda Otto) add more human characters to watch, while the character of Grima (Dourif) is almost inhuman.
Performances are great throughout the film. Viggo Mortensen as Aragon gives us the true hero we need to cheer for, a role that was not fully tapped in the first film. Sean Astin (RUDY! RUDY! RUDY!) steals many scenes as Sam, and Andy Serkis’ voice part as Gollum is excellent. On the more villainous side, it’s an extreme delight to see Christopher Lee on screen and the pairing of him with Brad Dourif (though Dourif is much more effective in his early scenes) is great to see.
I know I’m blowing this film’s horn very loudly thus far, but there are many problems too. The tone that the first film had seems lost, and like many second installments in trilogies this one really feels like a filler. It’s hard to say that this film will stand up well on its own. Sometimes the comic relief is too blatant, leaving us wondering if the obvious jokes were thrown in at the last minute for those who thought the first film was too serious.
These concerns are all washed away with the last hour of the film, where the battles that are fought set the screen ablaze. The battle between Saruman’s army and the humans is of epic proportions, and the nonstop action is as good as any battle ever put on film. Each set of characters is dealt with properly at the end, and the third installment is set up beautifully.
In short, The Two Towers is a grand film experience, and will entertain you for all of its three hour running time. Is it as good as the first film was? Probably not, but it is more action-packed and should be a good view for any and all this Christmas season.