[pullquote cite=”” type=”left, right”][amazon text=Amazon&template=carousel&chan=That Film Guy&asin=B003AQC1CQ][/pullquote] Having done the seemingly impossible and turned J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, into a feature film Peter Jackson set about editing The Two Towers ready for release in 2002. He had filmed the three films back-to-back as a money-saving procedure, allowing them to be released December in consecutive years rather than the previously popular Star Wars method of releasing them every 3 years. He had wowed audiences with Fellowship and now had the tough task of linking the superb opening with the epic finale.
The Two Towers follows the fragmented groups from the original fellowship in their various quests. Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Samwise (Sean Astin) are carrying the ring into Mordor to try and destroy it once and for all, but are accompanied by the wretched and bi-polar Gollum (Andy Serkis). Meanwhile Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Gimli (John Rhys-Davis) go in search of the missing hobbits Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd) who have been kidnapped by a band of Urak-Hai working under the influence of corrupted wizard Saruman (Christopher Lee) whose gaze falls upon the people of Rohan whom he intends to conquer.
The stakes are much higher in The Two Towers, which means a slight sacrifice in the personal characterisation that made The Fellowship of the Ring so astounding. Gone are the green pastures of The Shire and the elegant and intriguing spires of Rivendell, replaced with the sweeping plains of the horse-lords and the craggy, aggressive route that Sam and Frodo take. The scenery is just sumptuous throughout the whole series and clearly Jackson spent a long time giving great thought to how each place should look and feel. The results are breath-taking and it’s no wonder that New Zealand’s tourism has benefited from the films as a whole.
The Two Towers was always going to be the toughest film to realise. The Fellowship of the Ring had the most rounded story beginning to end, whereas The Return of the King had the climatic ending to the saga. The Two Towers has to rely on a growing sense of dread and the final battle at Helm’s Deep. Jackson clearly saw this as an opportunity to create a memorable moment and it has to be said he did such a good job that the last-ditch attempt from the people of Rohan to survive the Urak-Hai onslaught might just be the most exciting action scene in the whole trilogy, with real heart-breaking and fist-pumping moments throughout.
Jackson’s custom-built sets are beautiful and the WETA workshop used every new technical treat in their arsenal to make every seen look glorious. It’s a testament to the care and attention that went into making the film that thousands of pounds were spent on sets that feature for only the briefest moments. Combine this with Howard Shore’s memorable score and superb performances from all the cast, including newcomers Faramir (David Wenham), Wormtongue (Brad Dourif) and Eomer (Karl Urban). But the real star of the show is Andy Serkis who somehow gives completely computer-generated Gollum real character and life. In fact it is a shame that the Oscars over-looked such a powerful and engaging performance, but there’s every chance that the man who went on to play King Kong and Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, might just have opened the door to a nomination in the future.
With every element of detail hand-crafted, incredible performances, amazing score and wonderful story-telling, The Two Towers stands head and shoulders above almost every middle-trilogy film, perhaps only surpassed by Star Wars: Episode IV “ The Empire Strikes Back.