When we last left young Frodo and his companions, Gandolf the Grey had fallen, Pippin and Merry had been captured by the Orcs, and Boromir had redeemed his mortal weaknesses with heroic sacrifice.  Frodo and Sam had ventured forward alone, or so they thought, and left Aragon, Gimli, and Legolas behind.  The Fellowship of the Ring had been broken.
    Now, the remnants of that Fellowship must regroup to form new alliances, avenge those who have fallen, and above all, restore peace to Middle Earth.  Meanwhile, the hold of the Ring strengthens upon its bearer, and those who would possess its great powers of evil are drawn ever closer.  You see, the Ring wants to be found.
    And then the story gets really good!  Yes, director Peter Jackson and his team have done it again.  As the Ring's influence grows, so do the epic proportions of this movie!  The triumph here is that, as the scope of the plot widens, the focus on each character's journey narrows, giving The Two Towers a more intimate tone than that of Fellowship.  The real credit, of course, goes to J.R.R. Tolkien for such magnificent storytelling!
    As this is the second of three films, based on the second book of one epic story, The Two Towers cannot stand on its own as a separate motion picture.  Some would see this as a shortfall, but remember, The Two Towers isn't supposed to stand on its own!  It is not a sequel.  It's a continuation of The Lord of the Rings.  Jackson wisely assumes that everyone seeing this film has already seen or read The Fellowship of the Ring, and wastes no time in plunging us back into the action and adventure.  That this movie has no beginning and no ending is of little consequence to all who are familiar with the story thus far.
    Of little consequence to all except, perhaps, the Academy, who may present a 'been there, done that' attitude toward The Two Towers when Oscar-time arrives.  Sure, it will rightly garner a handful of technical nominations, but I fear the coveted 'Best Picture' shall elude The Lord of the Rings once again.  Should the Academy nominate The Two Towers?  The answer is yes!  Will they?  Don't count on it, since that would be the most daring nomination ever!  If there's one thing the Academy is not, it's daring.*
    As for those technical merits, along with more of the same brilliant attention to detail first seen in Fellowship, WETA treats us to some fantastic new effects.  Most impressive is the digital work done for the character of Gollum/Sméagol, voiced and reference-acted by Andy Serkis.  Once, a long time ago, on a computer far, far obsolete, I wrote that I never wanted to see another computer-generated, speaking character in a movie ever again.  Sméagol has changed my mind with a startlingly fine digital performance!  A bit less impressive, and I know I'm asking for trouble here, was the character of Treebeard.  Mind you, I wasn't the only one in the audience overly-amused by Treebeard and his leafy friends.  Comic relief is one thing, but this went a stump, er, a step too far!  However, I wouldn't have known a better way to tell this part of the story, either.  Perhaps it's just that walking, talking trees are inherently silly!
    So, despite my tree-quibble, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers film is still an absolutely exquisite telling of Book Two of The Lord of the Rings.  Tolkien's fans should rejoice!  This is one of the best movies of 2002. 
  *Well, whadayaknow? 
    The Two Towers WAS nominated for Best Picture!!!
    Way to go, Academy!  Quite impressive!
In association with Amazon.com
Review published
December 12, 2002
A.J.'s Rating:  5 Stars - A Towering Achievement!
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Directed By:  Peter Jackson
Written By:  J.R.R. Tolkien (novel) / Frances Walsh, Philippa Boyens,
Stephen Sinclair, Peter Jackson  (screenplay)
Starring:  Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Billy Boyd, Liv Tyler, John Rhys-Davies, Dominic Monaghan, Christopher Lee, Miranda Otto, Brad Dourif, Orlando Bloom, Cate Blanchett, Karl Urban, Bernard Hill,
David Wenham, Andy Serkis, Robyn Malcolm, John Leigh
Rated:  PG-13 (epic battle sequences and scary images)
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