The Two Towers, a review
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I must say right off the bat that this film is superb for the most part. Like the The Empire Strikes Back with Star Wars, it expands upon events and characters introduced in the Fellowship of the Ring. Despite some popular opinion out there, the book and the film are by no means intermediary filler to be glossed over on the way to The Return of the King.
The film is never boring, it never drags out any particular scene or event.
Nonetheless, to any that have read the books, the film is going to appear like a condensed version in several places. Like with The Fellowship of the Ring, Peter Jackson takes license with many events and people. In the main, this is not a negative thing.
The Two Towers introduces us to several new characters, the most influential of whom is King Théoden of Rohan. Bernard Hill plays Rohan's beleaguered leader with aplomb and defiance. His people, the Rohirrim, come first, a point he makes at every turn to Aragorn. The battle at Helm's Deep tests his mettle, and the courage of all around him.
Brad Dourif plays Wormtongue the way only Dourif could. I love Dourif's acting; he has a twitchy and frenetic style that is engaging to watch. Wormtongue is Théoden's principal advisor, but is a tool of Saruman.
Karl Urban plays Éomer, nephew to Théoden. Éomer doesn't get anywhere the screen time he deserves. This is one facet of the film that disappointed me. Éomer is a central player in the The Two Towers book. Much of what happens and what outcomes do happen, are the work of Éomer. Alas, Jackson has made him a minor character.
Miranda Otto excels at Éowyn, sister to Éomer. She's a good actress who now has the chance to exhibit her skills to a larger audience. She plays the role of Éowyn precisely, shield-maiden of the Rohirrim, desiring to do battle against Saruman's horde.
David Wenham plays Faramir, younger brother of Boromir. Wenham plays Faramir a little too matter-of-factly for my taste, and like Éomer, doesn't get the time on screen that his character warrants.
The film perpetuates the nonsense introduced in the Fellowship of the Ring that Saruman is allied with Sauron. There is no "union between the Two Towers". Makes a great movie idea, but it rankles with fans of the book, like myself. It does carry on the modern fantasy idiom that all dwarves are gruff and resolute. Gimli's character is definitely given more breadth here, but an Everquest "dorf", he is not. Seriously, read the books and you'll see Gimli in a much different light.
This instalment of the Lord of the Rings is decidedly more action-oriented. Reflects the book for the most part. The battle scenes at Helm's Deep are mind-bending and brilliantly done. Portrays a siege to a tee. The ambush of the Southrons by the forces of Faramir is great. We see the vaunted Oliphaunts or mûmak as they're called in the Southron tongue. Giant elephants in other words. The battle of Saruman's warg-riders against the forces of Rohan is well done.
I've saved the best for last, and that is Gollum. Gollum is depicted and acted out in such resplendent living colour that Tolkien himself would be impressed. He is exactly how you would imagine him; a twisted and thin hobbit, mutated by centuries of corruption from the One Ring. His debates with himself are a classic; the "angel" and the "devil" parts of Gollum are always in contention, but his sick desire to possess his "precious" is the one driving force of his persona. He really is up there with ET, the Alien and Jabba the Hutt when it comes to "memorable non-human personalities". If you leave the cinema with one impression only, it'll be of Gollum. Kudos to Jackson's team and especially to Andy Serkis.
- Gandalf's fall with the Balrog down the abyss in Moria. That was well done.
- The scene at the Morannon; gates opening etc,
- the dead in the Dead Marshes.
- The entire siege of Helm's Deep.
- The Ents busting the dammed up Isen at Isengard.
- The warg-riders battle with the Rohirrim.
- Gollum. He is exceedingly well-done. Three cheers for CGI-generated bad guys!
The Book and the Film :: The Differences and other Points
- Éomer is not banished from Edoras by Wormtongue. In fact, he and his men had gone out without his uncle Théoden's blessing, but was never banished.
- Éomer did not order his men to ride north. In the film, they wouldn't have gotten far as they were upon the eaves of Fangorn Forest anyway (which was to the north).
- It is Gandalf who gives the speech to Wormtongue about being Saruman's lackey, not Éomer.
- Treebeard is well-aware of the destruction of the trees at Isengard; he knew this before Merry and Pippin did.
- The Elves send nobody to Helm's Deep. Legolas is the sole member of their race there. Made a nice touch though.
- Aragorn doesn't fall over any cliff with a warg.
- Wormtongue is cast out of Edoras and reaches Isengard after the Ent's rampage, not before it.
- Wormtongue wouldn't be giving Saruman ideas or strategy on Rohan, as Saruman knows Rohan far better. He's been resident at Orthanc for centuries.
- The Elves are not abandoning Middle-Earth like the film portrays. They're very much aware their fate is bound to the One Ring as much as it is for the other races.
- Elrond was against Arwen and Aragorn's troth-plighting, but made their marriage conditional that Aragorn becomes King of both Arnor and Gondor first. Elrond had long since relented on his daughter marrying Aragorn.
- Éomer plays a pivotal part in the defense of Helm's Deep and is there for the entire battle. In fact, he's pivotal to the entire book. Alas, he's reduced to nearly an extra in the film. Shame, Peter Jackson, shame!
- Ditto for Gandalf. This aspect and the Éomer one disappointed me the most.
- Hama is killed by the orcs at Helm's Deep, not by wargs.
- Gamling is an old man in the book, not youngish as the film shows. He was also the garrison commander at Helm's Deep and didn't travel to Helm's Deep with Théoden.
- Treebeard had ideas to do something about Saruman before Merry and Pippin encountered him.
- Théoden wasn't under any debilitating spell from Saruman. It was the "leechcraft" of Wormtongue and the death of his son Théodred that had driven him to near-dotage.
- It isn't the arrival of Gandalf and Éomer that wins the day for Helm's Deep; it was the arrival of Gandalf and Erkenbrand, and the forest of Huorns that Treebeard had sent south.
- Faramir does not take Sam and Frodo to Osgiliath.
- Faramir is a lot more understanding of Frodo's cause and intentions in the book.
- Faramir and his men ambush the Southrons after they'd met Sam and Frodo.
- The film actually ends two-thirds the way into the book. After Helm's Deep, Aragorn, Théoden, Éomer and the others make their way to Isengard to parley with Saruman. Gollum leads Sam and Frodo up Cirith Ungol where they meet Shelob and become separated. Since The Return of the King is a shorter book (minus the appendices) it was probably done to pad out the third film.