The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

After the slightly disappointing ending to The Fellowship of the Ring — it felt less like an ending and more like an arbitrary decision to cut the film off — The Two Towers continues The Lord of the Rings story, and brings along with it the same sort of problem. It’s the middle film in a three-part series, and as a result, it has no real beginning or ending part, nor does it conclude the vast majority of the arcs that it begins to establish. It leaves you feeling disappointed, not because it’s bad, but because it feels like it’s leading up to something that you’ll don’t get to see. Not yet, at least.

There are three distinct plots this time around. The most important is the one involving Frodo and Sam (Elijah Wood and Sean Astin), the Hobbits tasked with carrying the One Ring to Mordor in order to destroy is. They manage to convince Gollum (motion captured and voice work done by Andy Serkis), the creature who was consumed by the Ring for 500 years and who yearns for it every day, to act as their guide to lead them into the depths, and spend the entirety of the film walking by mountains and through bogs.

The second story involves two other Hobbits, Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd), who begin the film under Orc control but manage to escape early on. They head into a forest and spend pretty much the rest of the film hanging out with the Ents, a group of walking, talking trees. The Hobbits were initially being traced by the three other members of the Fellowship, Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Gimli (John Rhys-Davies), but they end up going on a far different path.

They wind up heading to Rohan, a region ruled by Men, in order to aid them in their fight against the Orc armies. They meet up with Théoden (Bernard Hill), Rohan’s king, and eventually team up with him which will eventually lead to a climactic, seemingly hour-long battle involving Men, Elves, and Orcs, which concludes our film. That battle is most certainly the film’s highlight, as before that, mots of it consists of dialogue and people riding on horseback from one gorgeous location to another.

It’s all set-up with only minimal payout. Most of the character and story arcs don’t conclude in this film, leaving us wanting more. This is a problem with the book as well, but it’s unfortunate that it happens here. We bide our time for far too long, as the Ring has to progress a certain distance before we can actually do anything of importance. Most of what happens here is leading up to the next film, or to the Battle of Helm’s Deep, that hour-long war scene I mentioned earlier.

Speaking of our climactic battle, it’s very exciting and is definitely worth the long time it takes to get to it. If you wanted to see a huge battle involving thousands of orcs and hundreds of humans, this is the one you need to watch. The death toll is large, the action is fresh and exciting, and there’s enough humor injected into it to make it not as depraved as seeing hundreds of people die could be. Each of the characters involved gets a chance to shine, and it’s the most exciting thing to happen in the series thus far.

A few new characters are introduced this time around, the first of which I’ve already mentioned. Théoden is here for about half the film, beginning our story under Saruman’s (Christopher Lee) control. Éomer (Karl Urban), Théoden’s nephew, and Éowyn (Miranda Otto), his niece, play fairly large roles as well. There’s also Faramir (David Wenham), who shows up in the latter portion in Frodo’s storyline. Only Faramir’s story reaches a point where I was happy with it.

What we learn in The Two Towers is that the film is no longer about a Hobbit’s quest to take the Ring to Mordor. Instead, it’s about turning Aragorn into an action star. I know that it’s more about him finally accepting his destiny as Isildur’s heir and more or less becoming who he should have been in the first place, but this film barely touches on that. He becomes the star, gets the most exciting set-pieces, and is basically there just to kick all kinds of tail. The Hobbits are all more secondary characters, and their stories lack the energy of Aragorn’s, this time around, at least.

The film still looks great, and despite all the meandering, is constantly entertaining. The world’s fate is at stake, and while each action might not directly impact it, you watch to see what will eventually matter. These are all rich characters that are well-acted, so if you get to see a lot of them, there isn’t much of a problem. I would have preferred a bit more action, but considering that’s not what the book was like, I’m not going to complain much.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is still a very enjoyable film, although it’s not as good as its predecessor in large part because it feels like it doesn’t go anywhere. It begins in the middle and ends in the middle, with a lot of talk that leads to nothing. The Helm’s Deep battle is magnificent, and I’ll watch these characters for hours on end, but I would have liked for a bit more to happen. It does make you want to see the third film right away, though.

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