TTT Review From: Albertine

A thrill of delight and a shiver go down my spine as Howard Shore’s music accompanies me straight back to Middle-Earth. I feel like I never left and am being reunited with friends wandering in a far-away land. However, I wonder with a slight apprehension how director Peter Jackson managed to make a fluid – and lenghthy (179 minutes) – movie out of a transitional book that is a patchwork of stories.

While Gandalf (Ian McKellen) battles with the Ballrog, Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Gimli (Jonathan Rhys-Davies) follow the tracks of the Orcs that captured Pippin (Billy Boyd) and Merry (Dominic Monaghan) at the end of “The Fellowship”. Frodo and Sam have wandered away, fleeing their companions, to try and destroy the One Ring on their own. Very early on in the movie, the two hobbits find out that they are not alone: they catch Gollum, obsessed with his “precious”, which Bilbo Baggins took from him long ago. Welcome to, definitely, the most amazing and powerful character of the “Two Towers”: the scenes with Gollum, created digitally after the acting of Andy Serkis, who lends the character his voice, are out of this world, especially the swamp and river ones. The creature makes Yoda look like a nineteenth century puppet, not to mention the ridiculous Potter-like troll of the first batch. (By the way, I hear there is a giant spider in the new Potter movie. How about Shelob? Well, I’ll let you discover for yourselves.) Gollum-Sméagol’s inner torments and sufferings and his bodily moves are incredibly well rendered, filling the audience with both repulsion and compassion, and having it in stitches. Mixed feelings felt by the two hobbits themselves, as Frodo decides to trust the creature, to Sam’s disapproval.

But there is a comical device that wants no compassion: even Eowyn has to laugh before the sight of the clumsy, ever-grumbling Gimli. Throughout the movie, the dwarf’s lines crack the audience up. His strengthening brotherly relationship to Legolas (Orlando Bloom, as picture-perfect as ever) is well rendered, as are the elf’s and Aragorn’s (Viggo Mortensen) mutual respect and friendship. Aragorn himself is the other major character of “The Two Towers”. “Strider” – can he get more brave and manly ? – moves more and more center-stage, whereas Frodo (Elijah Wood, a bit too plump for a hobbit on the run – ) slowly fades away, drawn towards the power of the Ring, and stirs up less sympathy, although his own understanding of Gollum’s submission is very good. Again, a special motion to Sean Astin’s interpretation of Samwise, the ring bearer’s faithful companion.

Special motion, too, to the flesh-and-bones new characters, Eomer (Karl Urban), Faramir (David Wenham) and especially King Theoden (Bernard Hill) and malicious Wormtongue (Brad Dourif), all smoothly introduced in the plot by powerful scenes. Eowyn is beautifully played by Miranda Otto, and her rising feelings for Aragorn more powerfully rendered than the embarrassing elvish-spoken scenes between Aragorn and a slightly too-etherial Arwen (Liv Tyler).

Of course, “The Two Towers” would be nothing without the special effects. Characters – Gollum and a Treebeard which should delight all children big and small – and scenes leave you gasping for breath. If the fight between Gandalf and the Ballrog is whirlwinding, the destruction of Isengard by the ents right out of a children’s book, and the Black Gate phenomenal, the epitome of the whole movie is undoubtedly the formidable battle of Helm’s Deep, much more powerful than in the novel. I was clinging to my seat, as I was litteraly swept off my feet. One wonders how Jackson will manage to outgrow himself – as he undoubtedly will – for “The Return of The King”.

However, the movie does have its flaws. The overusing of slow-motion and close-ups make some scenes, such as the arrival of Shadowfax or Legolas’s ridiculous horse-jumping, heavy and unsubtle. The movie at time lacks the novels’ finesse. The beautiful filming of Arwen’s escape scene from “The Fellowship” is repeated too often, as are the – breathtaking – aerial landscape shots. Edoras castle looks shabby, and Sam’s fall before the Black Gate is unconvincing.

“The Two Towers” is less emotionnal and moving than the introductionnal “Fellowship”, and the shere wonder I felt last year has left room for more expectation, as I’ve read the “Two Towers” in the meantime. But the second batch is wittier, filled with irony and a sense of desperate urge. Whereas “The Fellowship”’s end was slow in coming, “The Two Towers” just dashes before your eyes.

The remaining question is, will I read “The Return of The King” before Christmas 2003? Having seen “The Two Towers”, I’ve decided to wait and see the movie. The best testimony I could give to Peter Jackson’s achievement.