Editor’s Notes: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug opens wide Friday, December 13th.
Diving straight back into the juicy narrative, Jackson doesn’t leave us dying with anticipation in The Two Towers. Although deemed the worst of the trilogy, The Two Towers, with respect to its difficult position as the middle film, is possibly the best. To add some perspective, The Fellowship of the Ring had the easier charge of establishing the story and each of its characters. The Return of the King has the yet easier task of depicting the narrative’s natural, epic climax. But The Two Towers is lumped as the piggy in the middle; undoubtedly poised to fall dangerously into the realm of monotonous inter-bridges, Jackson superbly and masterfully molds this intermediate undertaking into a three hour masterpiece of stellar proportions. The narrative reaches a stunning climax in the final hour that feels natural and appropriate – nothing is forced or contrived. Furthermore, the scope of the story widens substantially, and nobody thought that was possible after the truly grand marathon that was the establishing installment. No longer are we confined to the quest and characters of the fellowship alone; trickily branching out across Middle Earth, the audience is lavished with multiple excursions to Rohan, Isengard, Fangorn forest and Osgiliath. We accompany pivotal characters on three colossal journeys, each as satisfying as the last. Nobody thought that The Fellowship of the Ring could be topped – but it just might have been.
Although deemed the worst of the trilogy, The Two Towers, with respect to its difficult position as the middle film, is possibly the best.
As previously mentioned, no time is wasted in the opening scenes of The Two Towers. Alas, we are not treated to Cate Blanchett’s enticingly morose retrospections but go on to garner something much more valuable; closure. Gandalf’s supposed death in The Fellowship of the Ring was both abrupt and unforeseen; a loss that to this day still stings the eyes. It’s not ideal to have to wait an entire film to learn the details of this character’s demise but the wait is unequivocally worth every second of such waiting. The sequences of man versus Balrog are memorable, gripping and utterly compelling; it’s impossible to peel one’s eyes away from the screen. Jackson succeeds one hundred percent in grabbing the attention of the audience in the first twenty seconds and holding it for the rest of the film’s duration, all three hours of it.
Adding to the uphill battle that The Two Towers is fast seeming to appear, Peter Jackson and his team of design specialists furthermore had the tricky task of attempting to depict a walking and talking tree with a beard onscreen without any comical effect whatsoever; perhaps some expectation shifted towards their absence in The Two Towers, as Tom Bombadil had been in the previous installment but Jackson seems to dodge the bullet of extreme Tolkien aficionados by offering a thoughtful and considered depiction of the Ents onscreen. In a well-developed and extremely satisfying side-story, the Ents become a crucial force in the narrative that, like a snug jigsaw puzzle piece, fit comfortably alongside the main narrative arc. The same can be said of the much-anticipated Gollum; played to nonsensical perfection by Andy Serkis, the visual display of this enigmatic character is wholly fitting. He bears the resemblance of a drug addict desperate for the next hit – his addiction, of course, being the Ring. He also provides one of the most thought-provoking arcs in the film. As exhibited repeatedly by Frodo, Gollum tickles our empathy glands, stirring conflict of morality in his wake. Do we, the audience, feel sympathy for this poor creature? Or do we recognise the disturbing fact that he is clearly willing to do anything to be reunited with his beloved Ring? Either way, it’s certainly an intriguing and engaging aspect of The Two Towers that Jackson executes with masterful precision.
As with The Fellowship of the Ring, Howard Shore once again crafts a music score that has surely been borrowed from heaven itself. Avoiding the easy fall into repetition, Shore works with the direction of the story, creating specific music for themes and settings. The theme of Rohan is particularly memorable, embodying a medieval ambiance that oozes finesse and sophistication. Everything about The Two Towers is new, and honed to a fine, polished finish.
The Battle of Helms Deep is one of the most ambitious and grandly epic scenes ever attempted in film, on par with the similar scenes in Ben-Hur that have gone on to receive similar praise.
Infinite praise can be barked at the first two hours of the film; hours of well-paced character and story-development with not a single boring second in sight would be an apt description. But the same words applied to the third and final hour would be, succinctly put, inconceivably inadequate. The Battle of Helms Deep is one of the most ambitious and grandly epic scenes ever attempted in film, on par with the similar scenes in Ben-Hur that have gone on to receive similar praise. In the modern age of film, no such scene has been attempted with such totally incredible results. The sheer scale of the scene is breath-taking; ten thousand Uruk-Hai pitted against a feeble fort of men with broken courage. Jackson and his team have spared no cost or time in pedantically and meticulously depicting every aspect of this huge battle and many people will be agape to learn that the scene, the solitary battle scene, was filmed over a grueling four months of rainy night shoots – now there’s devotion. The scene is everything an epic climax ought to be; thrilling, heart-breaking and utterly, entirely gripping – I dare you to look away. Many a surprising emotional punch is delivered to top off the scene and a real sense of urgency is propagated as Jackson has once again played his hand in the art of atmospheric manipulation – the man certainly knows his mise-en-scene.
To compare The Two Towers to The Fellowship of the Ring would be to compare day to night – although including the same story and characters, the film takes off in entirely different directions. Since the Fellowship is split, there is undoubtedly more ground to cover with the beloved characters – a challenge that Peter Jackson and his incredible team rise to. The Two Towers offers a wider scope on the mystical land; featuring intriguing and thought-provoking characters, gloriously inter-twining subplots and scenes of a more grand and epic scale than can possibly be fathomed, the film is a success in every sense of the word, that may arguably be the best in the series.
[notification type=”star”]98/100 ~ MASTERFUL.The Two Towers offers a wider scope on the mystical land; featuring intriguing and thought-provoking characters, gloriously inter-twining subplots and scenes of a more grand and epic scale than can possibly be fathomed, the film is a success in every sense of the word, that may arguably be the best in the series.[/notification]