Sauron's forces increase. His allies grow. The Ringwraiths return in an even more frightening form. Saruman's army of Uruk Hai is ready to launch an assault against Aragorn and the people of Rohan. Yet, the Fellowship is broken and Boromir is dead. For the little hope that is left, Frodo and Sam march on into Mordor, unprotected. A number of new allies join with Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas, Pippin and Merry. And they must defend Rohan and attack Isengard. Yet, while all this is going on, Sauron's troops mass toward the City of Gondor, for the War of the Ring is about to begin.
Directed by: Peter Jackson
. Starring: Bruce Allpress
, Sean Astin
, John Bach
, Sala Baker
, Cate Blanchett
, Orlando Bloom
, Billy Boyd
, Jed Brophy
, Sam Comery
, Brad Dourif
, Calum Gittins
, Bernard Hill
, Bruce Hopkins
. Music by: Howard Shore
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Starring: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Christopher Lee, Viggo Mortensen, Brad Dourif, Sean Astin Rating: PG-13 Runtime: 2:59
There are two types of people who will watch this movie: Those who read the books and wand to see the visions brought to life, and those who saw the first movie in the trilogy (The Fellowship of the Ring) but haven't read the books (and perhaps don't plan to do so).
The latter group will be more receptive to The Two Towers than the former, because director Peter Jackson takes some major liberties with the plot. As most people are aware, there are three books (The Return of the King is the final in the trilogy). There are scenes in the second book that will appear in the third movie, and vice versa. This is perfectly reasonable, in my opinion, as it would be difficult - and perhaps not nearly as entertaining - to present the movies in exactly the same order as the books.
That said, there are some major plot deviations in The Two Towers, scenes and situations that appear in none of the books. If one has read the books, this can be quite disconcerting, as one might be expecting the movie to follow the basic plot of either The Two Towers book or The Return of the King book. If one hasn't read the books (but did see the first film in the trilogy), this might not be so disconcerting - one might not even notice a problem. So this isn't a complaint, exactly, as much as it's an observation.
The movie picks up right where the last one left off. Now, I'm going to assume here that people reading this have seen The Fellowship of the Ring. When that movie concluded, the original Fellowship had lost two (Boromir was slain by orcs after attempting to gain The One Ring, and Gandalf fell into the abyss beneath the mines of Moria), and the remaining seven were separated. Frodo, the Ringbearer, and his servant Sam have decided to continue their quest alone and are making their way to Mordor. Their fellow Hobbits Merry and Pippin have been kidnapped by those orcs that had slain Boromir; the orcs are under orders to capture alive any Halfling, since they don't know which one has The One Ring. Aragorn the Ranger, Gimli the Dwarf, and Leglolas the Elf are now tracking the horde of orcs, hoping to rescue Merry and Pippin.
The first movie clearly belonged to Frodo, who unlike most of his companions is slight, timid but fun-loving, hardly the hardy adventurer. He alone is entrusted to carry the eminently corrupting Ring to its demise in Mount Doom. But the second movie shifts focus to another character, one who was seen only very briefly in the first movie: Gollum. Gollum has a long history with the Ring, and he's now a complete slave to it. He wants it, his Precious, back in his possession. He joins up with Frodo and Sam to lead them to the Black Gate, the terrible entrance to Mordor itself, home of Sauron, the maker of the Ring (who desperately wants it back). Gollum likes Frodo, but he's plagued by split personalities; one side of him wants to help the Hobbits, the other side wants to kill them and eat them - and regain The Ring. It's interesting to note that Gollum, unlike the other major characters, is completely computer generated. This isn't all that new in and of itself, but it's Gollum's emotional expressions that make you think he's as real as the actors playing Frodo and Sam. In fact, director Jackson had Andy Serkis (who voices Gollum) act in the scenes with Sam and Frodo, then had him digitally removed and replaced with a computer-generated Gollum. The result is much more seamless than your run-of-the-mill computerized character.
But the story's not just about Frodo and his quest. Sauron knows the Ring's out there, and that a Halfling has it, but he has other matters to attend to. His goal is to wipe out mankind forever. That might be tough in today's world, but in Middle-Earth man was just gaining a foothold; elves and the like had ruled for eons. Saruman, as seen in the last movie, has been breeding legions and legions of superfighters, mutant orcs called Uruk-hai. The Uruk-hai are sent to attack the kingdom of Rohan, which has already been attacked from the inside through a silver-tongued advisor to the king, a Wormtongue (Brad Dourif). By casting a spell on the king, Theoden, Wormtongue is able to render him invalid; his kingdom is shortly weakened. Wormtongue is working for Saruman, who's working for Sauron (even though he thinks he's working for himself). In addition, the kingdom of Rohan has been set against that of Gondor, the other remaining Man kingdom. Together, they might be trouble for the Enemy; separate, they can be picked apart.
One of the most prolonged scenes in the movie is the battle at Helm's Deep. After being removed from his spell, Theoden takes his people there for shelter and safety, determined to fight, aided by Aragorn, Leglolas, and Gimli. The Uruk-hai, some ten thousand strong, attack. There have been many excellently staged epic battle scenes in cinematic history, but they all seem to pale to the extravagance and sheer power of this one. It's an awe-inspiring scene, guaranteed to make one cheer.
Now, as I said, there are some differences between the books and this movie. I don't mind if certain scenes or sequences are left out, because you can only cram so much into a three-hour movie. But when scenes appear in the movie that never appeared in any of the books, I have a problem. These books have been around for a long time, and it just seems foolhardy to add plot that doesn't need to be added, while at the same time omitting plot that seems necessary. I won't go into details here about what "new" scenes are in the movie that aren't in the books, but I was scratching my head after a few of them (and I had just reread The Two Towers a month or so ago).
There's even less attention paid to female characters this time around. Arwen, the Elvish beauty who had a thing for Aragorn in the first movie, is seen in dream sequences only - although this is indeed an important plot point, as it explains Aragorn's motivations a bit more lucidly. There's a new female character as well: Eowyn, the daughter of the Rohan king, who (surprise, surprise) also has a thing for Aragorn.
There are some funny moments as well, most of them involving Gimli the Dwarf, who appears to be along for comic relief - even more so than in Fellowship. This can, however, have the unintended consequence of marginalizing Gimli's character; after all, he's a strong, steadfast, and tough Dwarf, yet he's pigeonholed into a "comic" character. The chemistry between him and Leglolas the Elf is excellent, however.
One thing that we must all be thankful for is that the movie does shift away from Frodo himself. Elijah Wood continues to prove he's a terrible actor, incapable of expressing emotion adequately. As the story wears on, Frodo is supposed to get weaker and more beaten - although at times he can rouse himself to complete his quest. But Wood always has that scared look, that deer-caught-in-headlights look, the look that says, "Why am I here with these actors?" The performance is flat and ineffectual. And although the focus of the movie as a whole does shift away from Frodo, because his scenes basically involve just him, Sam, and Gollum, Wood's inadequacies are that much more accentuated. Luckily, these scenes are dwarfed (pardon the pun) by the battle scenes.
It's never easy to make the middle movie in a trilogy - you want to build on the first movie and lead to the third. Remember Back to the Future II? Wasn't quite as charming as the first one or as action-packed as the third one. It was just kind of there. The Two Towers suffers this indignity, to an extent. Unlike the first one, there's no opening narration that gets everyone up to speed, and like the first one, this one just sort of.... ends. And not necessarily in the same manner as the second book did, either.
This movie isn't as good as The Fellowsip of the Ring, but it's still very, very good. I'm giving it three-and-a-half stars out of four, but bear in mind it was a tough three and a half to get. It's not as bad as a three-star movie, but it's not quite the masterpiece of the first movie, either.
Review by Dan Franzen from the Internet Movie Database.