Oh where to begin. Just a small bit of back story, I suppose. I was supposed to go see Star Trek: Nemesis with J—-n, but due to a change in plans, he wasn’t able to make it. So, I decided to go see The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers instead, with Messrob, who was so excited to see it that I thought he might have an aneurysm. Thanks to the kind folks at New Line Cinema, I got into the reserved (i.e. taped off) area of the theater, and since we got there early enough, we got (basically) the best seats at the Mann National. Booyeah!
I will try to keep this as spoiler-free as possible. The film starts off with a really cool flashback segment, then picks up more-or-less right where the first film ended. The pacing is rather brisk in the film; it did not feel like it was three hours long. The new characters are good, and the story flows along nicely, intercutting between the three story threads. But it didn’t feel like the same type of movie as the first. As a result, it was rather jarring – and I think it would be difficult to watch both films in one sitting (aside from the bathroom issues that would arise from sitting down for 6.5 hours).
“The Two Towers” is a rather shallow story, on the whole, which basically is meant to get us to the third part, “Return of the King”. However, key events need to unfold, and unfold they do! There is very little character growth in this film (with the possible exception of Frodo and Sam, who seem to be getting a little too close, if ya know what I mean), and so there seemed to be a few “forced” moments of character-analysis. This is why Arwen (Liv Tyler) makes a prolongued appearance in the films. They also have a bit of stuff with King Thoeden and his problems. It works, on the whole, and that’s fine by me.
But by far the two most fascinating aspects of the film relate (more or less) to the visual effects. First off is the character of Gollum. While not completely photorealistic, this is by far the most realistic animated character ever to grace the screen. The subtle nuances in the performance (both motion captured and keyframe animated) are amazing, and you can almost tell what the little schizo bugger is thinking. The other part is regarding Massive, the AI-driven system that allows for the massive battle sequences to be realized. So many times, in the past, it was easy to watch an “epic battle” and know where to look, since everyone was pretty much doing the same thing, and there was a particular spot you were supposed to focus on. Here we have 10,000 uruk-hai warriors battling a much smaller army of humans and Elves. And when Peter Jackson isn’t cutting too fast, or moving the camera too quickly in disorienting closeups (as he did in the first film) we’re treated to some amazing encompassing overview shots, and you don’t know where to look – because everyone is doing something different. It’s truly an epic battle.
Musically, it’s all good stuff – there wasn’t much in the film that I felt wasn’t represented in some way on the album, and dare I say the “Riders of Rohan” theme might be a tad overplayed. The “Isengard Unleashed” segment though was VERY cool, though, and it’s still one of my favorite tracks.
A few highlights from the film: Legolas has the coolest horse-mounting maneuver I’ve seen. Gimli has a few great one-liners. Gollum killing the fish is just funny, but not as cool as his schizo conversation with himself. Almost anything involving “Massive” is kickass. Gandalf, of course, in his battle with the Balrog, and then later as the White Rider. Treebeard and the Ents attacking Isengard. Any more, and I’d ruin it all. So, go see it next week, and tell me what you think!