Sunday, 1 March 2009

The Two Towers - Movie Review

After speaking to a fellow blogger, I've decided to put all my movie and DVD reviews from Epinions onto this blog instead of just linking to them. Unless I notice glaring errors I'm not going to edit them. If I want to make any additional comments about the movie I will do so in a "PS" at the end.
I'm doing this in order of when I wrote the reviews, starting with...

The Two Towers

Wow! This is an amazing film. It's a fair bit longer than most films, but you just won't notice the time go by.

Okay, before I actually review the film, a quick plot outline for those who don't know / have forgotten the storyline to the second LOTR book...

The plot basically follows two lines: Frodo (the Ring-bearer) and his faithful sidekick Sam, who are trying to reach the evil land of Mordor to throw the Ring back into the fires of Mount Doom (where the ring was forged - this is the only way of destroying the ring, and thus the only means of defeating the forces of evil). On the way they encounter Gollum, a strange creature with a fixation for the Ring, who they have to trust to an extent, although they can't really trust him at all.

The second plot follows Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli as they track their hobbit friends who were taken captive by orcs, the subsquent battles of the orcs of Saruman (a previously good wizard) and the Riders of Rohan, the re-appearnace of Gandalf, and much more. Even though there are many major plot details revealed there, the film is so grand in scope that it barely touches the surface. In fact, the magnificence of the books is the richly detailed surroundings and history, and the films do not disappoint on this score.

I can't quite come up with enough superlatives for this piece of cinemamatic magnificence. Almost everything about the film is fantastic, and I thought it was significantly better than Fellowship of the Ring. The half-hour long battle scene at Helm's Deep is superb, with humour provided by brilliant John Rhys-Davies as Gimli stopping the tension from becoming unbearable. In fact, throughout the film, it is this fine balance of not overloading any one aspect that makes it such a brilliant movie. Humour, tension, excitement, love, fear, wonderment and morality are perfectly blended into a homogenous whole, whereby at the end of the film you realise you have witnessed a work of genius. Or, rather, a work of many geniuses.

The only part of the film that really jarred was the scene with Faramir, who in the book is portrayed as almost diametrically opposite to his brother Boromir and distrusted his father Denethor, whereas in the film he is portrayed as very similar, in fact almost identical, to Bormoir. While this doesn't really fit as far as the book goes, within the film it is made with a definite purpose in mind, to show the viewer the city of Osgiliath, which there would have been no reason to do without the plot change. Much more forgiveable was the change made with the Ents, which made sense and was actually very clever, and quite in keeping with the spirit of the book. There were a couple of other bits and bobs which I seem to think are deviations from the book itself, but I'd have to read it again to really know!

In the first film, it rather irritated me that the Hobbits were given Irish accents, Gimli (and thus by extension all dwarfs, as he's the only one in the film - not sure if any more will surface in the last one) was Welsh, etc, but this time round they really worked well. Whether it was just because I was expecting them this time I don't know, but the cheeky Irish well fitted Merry and Pippin, while the gruff Welsh of Gimli also fitted. To my friend, who is obviously much more of a purist than myself, these things ruined the film. But I don't think many will worry about it overmuch.

All of the actors do well, but the star of the show has to be Gollum. The scene where he battles with himself (the good and bad parts of his mind, that is - the old "Smeagal" and "Gollum") is particularly well done, and the imagery of the battle between good and bad from the large scale - all of Middle Earth - to the small scale - within one person - graphically stands out. The facial expressions of Gollum (mapped from sensors on the actor's face onto the CGI face of Gollum) are particularly impressive.

Speaking of CGI, all of the special effects are superb, with Gandolf's battle with the Balrog being particularly striking. The music score is excellent, costumes and weapons are brilliant, what more can I say? Terrific entertainment. Only one slight word of warning: It really helps to have read the book. If you haven't read the book, however, you will still enjoy it - there just might be things you don't understand if you haven't. A quick word of warning to parents - for youngish children, it may be a bit too gory.

PS - After seeing all of the LOTR films more than once, The Two Towers remains my favourite of the trilogy. I don't care how much acclaim Return of the King got, to me The Two Towers was the best!)

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