Main cast: Elijah Wood (Frodo Baggins), Ian McKellen (Gandalf the White), Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn), Sean Astin (Samwise 'Sam' Gamgee), Billy Boyd (Peregrin 'Pippin' Took), Liv Tyler (Arwen), John Rhys-Davies (Gimli), Dominic Monaghan (Meriadoc 'Merry' Brandybuck), Christopher Lee (Saruman the White), Miranda Otto (Éowyn), Brad Dourif (Gríma Wormtongue), Orlando Bloom (Legolas Greenleaf), Cate Blanchett (Galadriel), Karl Urban (Éomer), and Bernard Hill (King Théoden of Rohan)
Director: Peter Jackson
A good movie, in my opinion, is that I can say after the credits have rolled that the movie has entertained me, and most importantly, it made me feel. The Two Towers has a lot to live up to: the residual and inevitable backlash from the success of The Fellowship Of The Ring and the fact that The Two Towers is book two of a book published as a trilogy. It has no beginning and no ending.
Peter Jackson and the rest of the writing crew has taken many liberties here, and I'm sure purists will howl when this movie stops short at a point before the book ends. But to me, this movie strikes a well-done balance between entertainment and staying faithful to the essence of the story. It humanizes all the characters as it drives home to futility as well as the tragedy of war. It tells a very good story, and for that, this movie is a near-masterpiece.
Anyway, from where we left off in the last movie, Frodo and his boyfriend Sam are on their way to Mount Doom to destroy the Ring in Frodo's possession. Any doubters take note of the opening scene when Frodo wakes up from a dream and Sam comes up from behind him and places his paws on Frodo's shoulder, comforting spouse sleeping together style. Check out the beautifully melodramatic closing scenes, when it is all I can do to yell at those nose-to-nose closeted lovers, "Oh just kiss already!" Frodo may be the hobbit with the biggest neck and the creepiest eyes in this side of the Shire, but it's so beautiful to see stumpies in love.
To get there, they find an unexpected guide in Gollum, a beast who just wants the Ring. Gollum will finally find a cure for his schizophrenia in the hands of Hobbit love - will it?
The Gollum is amazing, from its animation to its uncanny emoting that actually makes me feel for it rather than put it in the Die Die Die list along with Jar Jar Binks and Dobby and Rob Schneider. Gollum is one of the two best things of this movie, the other one being who else but Gandalf, played with perfect pitch and a knowing twinkle in his eye by Ian McKellen.
The human Aragorn, the elf Legolas, and the dwarf Gimli are trying to save the other two hobbits, Pippin and Merry, but they find themselves defending the people of Rohan in a desperate and futile battle against Saruman the White's bestial hoards in the mountain fortress of Helm's Deep. This war encompasses most of the movie. While I feel that the war scenes tend to drag on for too long, I find myself moved to tears by idealism and sacrifices performed by the people of Rohan. The special effects are breathtaking, but there is nothing better than men finding courage they never know they have to perform heroic deeds.
This time around, some characters fare very well. The Gollum is funny and sympathetic all at once, while Gandalf prances around with enough camp so as for us to not take him too seriously. Gimli is a better character this time, despite being cast as the obligatory Short Funny Guy, and I love that stumpie. Even King Théoden is a superbly drawn character - underneath the crown, he turns out to be a flawed human being, alas. But the most memorable are Pippin and Merry, dead weights whose heartbreaking corruption of their optimistic nature still makes them perform a heroic deed that turn the tide of battle in favor of the good guys.
Frodo doesn't have much to do, and neither does Sam, except both heat up the screen with Midget Homoerotic Love. Maybe they will shine in the next movie. They have to, it's their story as much as everybody else's. Aragorn is still not prince-like enough for my liking, but he's okay. Poor Legolas - he is reduced to being Mr Obvious. When they walk into the Forbidding Forests of walking trees, he tells everybody, "This is a very old forest." After a scene of battle, he looks up at the sky, and tells everybody that the sky is red, so there is blood shed during the night. Uh, Leggy, see those smokes rising over the horizon? That's where the villages are burning. Tell us something we don't know.
Purists, beware - there are more modern Americanized dialogues in this movie than the previous. Liv Tyler is still irritating, and my hubby swears that Cate Blanchett is playing Gollum - dear Gollum looks a lot like a mutated Ms Blanchett, he swears. "Computers nowadays can do these things, you know," he insists.
There's a love triangle blooming between Aragorn, Legolas, and Frodo - sorry, I mean, Aragorn, Arwen, and Éowyn, the King's niece. While the scriptwriters gave Éowyn a bigger backbone and some feisty nature the way they gave Arwen in the first movie, Éowyn still doesn't have much to do here other than to sigh over Aragorn or hug crying kids to her bosom. I wish they have made the women more proactive in this movie. Then again, if they do, people won't be calling this movie or the book Queers Of The Ring.
The first half hour is a bit rough, and there are times when the movie chooses to do voice over expositions instead of showing the relevant scenes, but by the heart-pounding, draining finale, I have cried and cheered and am all drained up by the sheer heroism of the heroes in this movie. I am not too fond of the books, because I find them dry and filled with too many annoying and distracting geographical/historical tidbits that distract from the story (I almost gave up on Fellowship Of The Ring after struggling through the history of the hobbits, it reminds me of dull history lectures I've sat through in school). This movie brings out the heroism and pageantry of the story, making heroes out of men while bringing out the humanity in them, and exposing the tragic side of war instead of glorifying it completely.
A sheer epic spectacle of finest fantasy, The Two Towers is simply a movie to experience at least one more time. I've never been this invigorated by an epic fantasy movie since, oh, I sat down and watch Star Wars for the first time. It is a testament of how much I love this movie that I really didn't want to leave when it's over. I want to watch Return Of The King now.
Oh, and the soundtrack's much better too.
It's going to be a long wait until next December.
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